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The illusory "Somaliland" setting the record straight

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Executive Summary


Somalia never had a secessionist movement throughout the thirty-year period prior to the downfall of the dictatorial regime of Siad Barre in 1991. There were movements fighting that regime but none of them – not even the Somali National Movement (SNM) – was secessionist.  This is a significant fact because it shows that the unity of the country was never challenged or even questioned.  However, one of the unfortunate by-products of the civil war and the collapse of the state in Somalia is the emergence of a divisive, clan-based opportunistic group who spared no effort in the last fifteen years to turn the clock back and to rewrite the history of our country so as to hoodwink the international community into believing in a mirage of a state which they call “Somaliland”.  In pursuing that mirage and in vain attempts to turn it into reality the secessionists have used every stratagem, including distortions of historical facts and the propagation of outright lies, in order to create a favorable climate of opinion for their discredited agenda of splitting Somalia into two separate, independent and sovereign republics based on the erstwhile colonial divisions. In furtherance of their unholy cause the secessionists have recruited the support of foreign sympathizers who are either ill-informed about the state of affairs in Somalia and the nature of Somali society or are, simply, in the game for their own mercenary interests.

The secessionists and their foreign collaborators have certainly been making use of one of Gobbles’ principles of propaganda, namely: that a lie continually repeated over and over again for a long period will ultimately establish itself as a truth. The aim of this brief information pamphlet is to set the record straight so that the long- established lies and distortions of the secessionists will not by default finally pass as the truth.

Some of the blatant lies the secessionists and their foreign collaborators have been propagating are:

  1. That there was an independent sovereign state called ‘The Republic of Somaliland’ recognized by 34 countries and admitted into the United Nations as a member;

  2. That the clans in the North of Somalia have agreed on their own free will to ‘reclaim’ the independence of their erstwhile ‘state’ and thereby secede from the rest of Somalia;

  3. That the secessionists control and administer the entire territory of what used to be the North or Somaliland Protectorate;

  4. That there are democratic institutions set up to include a bicameral legislature and an independent judiciary.

These claims have no basis in fact. In the first place, there is no, and never was, a country called “Somaliland” which is independent, sovereign and recognized. British protection of the clans in what used to be “Somaliland Protectorate” was withdrawn on 26 June 1960 at the request of the clans each of whom had signed a separate treaty with Britain. There was a transitional period of only four days, consumed by the inevitable euphoria, pending the merger with the former U.N. Trust Territory of Somalia.  There was no Somaliland flag, no Somaliland national anthem, no Somaliland emblem, no Somaliland constitution, no Somaliland Head of State and no Somaliland Cabinet.  All these paraphernalia belonged to the Somali Republic, which was born out of the merger. And when the Union Jack (U.K flag) was lowered in Hargeisa (the capital of British Somaliland) it was the flag of the Somali Republic, which was hoisted.  The question may then be asked: which 34 countries sent recognition letters to a country that had no President, no Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and even no national flag? The secessionists will never answer, for they know that the truth is not on their side.  As for the membership of the United Nations one has simply to check the records of this world body to see that there never was a member-state called “Somaliland”.

 Clearly, the secessionists have been building their case on a pack of lies; for they also make the claim that the clans of the North (the defunct Somaliland) came together and agreed on their own volition to break away from the rest of Somalia, and that in a subsequent ‘constitutional referendum’ 97% of the voters approved the secession.   The so-called referendum was a sham: it was organized, conducted and supervised by non other than the secessionists themselves; it was preceded by a heavy propaganda campaign for secession while those who were in favor of unity were put behind bars and condemned as ‘traitors’ if they dared voice their opinions in public; there was no voting at all in a large number of areas particularly those inhabited by the northern Daarood clans (the Dhulbahante and Warsengeli); yet it was reported that almost all the voters in those areas voted for the secession – a stark-naked lie; those are areas which are closed to the secessionists. It is not true therefore that the so-called Somaliland covers the entire area of what used to be Somaliland Protectorate. The secession is spearheaded by opportunistic elements from the Isaaq clans but the other clans consider the secession to be a blatant and shameless betrayal of the original inter-clan agreement on uniting with the rest of the country – Somalia.

The democratic institutions, which the secessionists brag about, exist only in form but not in substance.  Behind the façade of institutions, there is an oppressive regime, which is accountable to no one.  Many events have lend support to this observation:  first, the so-called President summarily dismissed the last ‘Chief Justice’ for his own personal reasons and without observing a procedure of any kind because the latter serves in a very literal sense, at the pleasure of the former; secondly, the legislature was about to impeach the President for all sorts of violations and improprieties but the ‘President’ just closed the legislature and did not allow it to meet until he managed to bribe or twist the arms of the majority of the members, and the legislature was not reopened until the motion was dropped.  What else did anyone expect from a man who was the head of Siad Barre’s dreaded National Security Service in Berbera and stands accused of crimes against humanity?

One of the chief complaints of the secessionists is that the union between the North and the South of Somalia was ‘disastrous’.  But they fail to give a clear-cut analysis of the costs and benefits of the Union. Truth be told, the facts show that their complaint has no substance whatever.  On the contrary, the truth is that the stronghold of the secessionists received an undue share of the development projects in the northern regions.

In light of this refutation of their claims, we feel that any recognition of this rebellious enclave in the northwest of Somalia will set a dangerous precedent, not only in Africa but also in the rest of the world. Such a step will complicate national reconciliation in Somalia and will definitely export the civil war currently ebbing in the South of the country to the relatively peaceful and quiet regions in the North East and North West.

There is actually no valid reason to separate since the federal structure calls for genuine devolution of powers to the regions.  The trend in the current national reconciliation in Somalia is for a weak central government and strong regional governments. Such arrangement should take the wind out of the sails of separatism.  It is prudent therefore to observe the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions, which have repeatedly called for the unity, sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Somalia.  Rewarding secession will have far-reaching implications for Africa and will throw our country – Somalia - further into the abyss of anarchy and mayhem.  It is imperative therefore, as the British Minister for Overseas Development, Mr. Hillary Benn, said in Nairobi on May 16, 2006, to strengthen the Transitional Federal Government as the promoter of peace and the catalyst of the nation’s healing process.

Contact person: Jamal Hassan
E-mail: [email protected]

The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

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