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26 June 1960 -Betrayal of a Vision

By Osman Hassan
Sunday June 26, 2022


The demand for independence and union

The Somali Youth Club, the forerunner of the Somali Youth League, were the fathers of the independence of Italian Somaliland, the champions for the freedom of other colonised Somali territories and the unity of the partitioned five Somali territories. Somalis everywhere embraced their message. But it was British Somaliland that  put into practice the quest for Somali unity.

As the independence of Italian Somaliland approached for 1ST July 1960, it sparked widespread demand among all the clans of British Somaliland for independence in order to unite immediately with Italian Somaliland on its date of independence. In response, Somaliland Legislative Assembly, acting on this popular demand, unanimously adopted the following resolution:

“That it is the opinion of this House that practical steps should be taken forthwith for the immediate unification of the Protectorate and Somalia, That prompt action is essential to achieve this most cherished aim, and can be fully justified by the special importance which popular support in the country attaches to its early achievement, That the day of independence and unification with Somalia must be 1st July 1960, the date which Somalia will attain its full freedom”.(see Report of the Somaliland Protectorate Constitutional Conference held in London May 1960)

Following the adoption of this Motion, Mr Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, as leader of the Legislative Assembly led a delegation to London in May 1960 to seek the requested independence from the U.K. in order to unite with Italian Somaliland. Britain reminded them that it had separate protectorate treaties with the clans except one and the would have unsubscribe from these treaties and independence. However, it went along with the demand when assured by its governor in the territory that the Legislative Council were acting on the wishes of the clans in adopting its resolution demanding independence. On this basis, Britain granted independence on 26 June and subsequently united with Italian Somaliland on 1st July1960 in line with the wishes of all the clans. No one clan forced others to this union just as none can take others from it.

On June 27, 1960, the Legislative Assembly of Somaliland passed the Union of Somaliland and Somalia law, which states in Article 1(a) that:

“The State of Somaliland and the State of Somalia do hereby unite and shall forever remain united in a new, independent, democratic, unitary Republic the name whereof shall be the Somali Republic”

This article has become verbatim Article 1(a) of Somalia´s Act of Union, promulgated by the National Assembly on 31 January 1961. As from that date, the Act of Union set out the new Republic´s administrative components as consisting of the “Northern Regions” and those in the South referred to as ”second-named Regions”. As of that date, the name “Somaliland” of the former British and Italian colonies has ceased to be applicable and therefore any who adopted it to any part of Somali Republic (Somalia) would be in contravention of the Act of Union (as SNM has done).

The facts about the independence and union

The secessionists have falsified the truth about the history of British Somaliland, the facts about its independence and the union. It is therefore necessary to restate the facts:

·       That, as the Report of the Somaliland Protectorate Constitutional Conference held in London May 1960 verifies, the clans of British Somaliland collectively decided in April 1960, well before independence, to unite with Italian Somaliland and not after independence as secessionists falsely claim;

·       That the independence sought from Britain was not an end itself but for the sole purpose to unite with Italian Somaliland;

·       That Somaliland’s five days independence was merely a transition meant to lead to the union of 1st July 1960;

·        That, contrary to the secessionists’ claims, no country bothered to recognized a country that would only remain independent for only 5 days;

·       That, the union of 1st July 1960 was between independent Somali people, sharing one flag and one aspiration to unite, irrespective of their geographical location in those territories;

·       That all the northern clans were equally behind the move for the union unconditionally;

·       That no one clan forced others to seek independence, be part of the Union and hence no one clan has the right to force others to secede from the Union.

The Secession

The first to try to dismantle the union were sections among northerners. With them, the euphoria for the union gave way to disenchantment, not so much that they lost out in the Union since they had their fair share but harking back to the good old days under British rule when the clan was the top dog among its subjects. So began efforts on the part to put the clock back and unchain from the Union.

First, a group of military officers staged a failed coup d’état in 1961, aiming to break up the union. Following in their footsteps, the Somali National Movement (SNM), a rebel militia from the clan, taking advantage of the collapse of the Somali State in January 1991 and the ensuing disintegration of the Somali National Army, and laying their hands on its massive arsenal, unilaterally declared the secession on 18 May 1991, not of their own clan enclave, but of all the Northern Regions. They renamed it once again Somaliland, contrary to the Act of Union.

The oft repeated justification for the secession is attributed to crimes committed against the clan  by the ousted military regime. Needless to say, they are not alone in having misgivings against the military regime of Somalia or leader. But others did too. And others had misgivings against other clans who committed war crimes against them. But all preferred to bury the hatchet for the sake of building a new Somalia in which they could all be better off. Only one clan is the exception to that grand national reconciliation

One would have thought the secessionists would share that common vision adopted by the rest of Somalis and see the secession as irrelevant now that their detested military regime and its leader are gone, and that Somalia has become a federal State where its regional members are semi-autonomous and federal power shared along 4.5 system in which they enjoy a lion´s share (as the semblance of the unity has to be maintained). Such equality under the federation however remains unappealing to them when in the North they are more equal to others as the realities attest to. As they see, they have the best of both worlds - de facto a separate country on the road to recognition while still sharing power in Somalia and using it to weaken and de stabilise it, and ensure it is no threat to their aspirations for a separate independent country.

Thus, the Siyad Barre alleged ill-treatment of the clan seems to be a red herring. The secession has been in the mind or in the making not long after independence and SNM succeeded where its predecessor failed.

A Union failed by its government

While one-clan secessions in other African countries lasted for only short times, the one-in Somalia is with us for more than 30 years. The contrasting fate of these sessions is indicative of the different ways they have been dealt with by their respective governments and international community. In the former case, they were put down by forceful government action. In the case of Somalia, they did the opposite - aiding or abetting it in one way or other. That permissive, if not collaborative, stand by Mogadishu towards the enclave gave green light to some members of Somalia´s international partners (IPs), (some sharing the secessionists´ goal), to deal with it as a de facto separate country from Somalia. It is these combined support, from Mogadishu and the IPs that are more than anything responsible for its longevity.

If the Union is alive today, at least in spirit if not in practice, it is only thanks to the Northern Regions for their indomitable commitment to it, notwithstanding the price they pay under SNM occupation and oppression wherever its writ reaches. And yet for all that sacrifice, they never get mentioned let alone commended by Somalia´s government leaders (always Southern) other than to give the Union lip service on anniversary dates for public consumption rather than conviction.

The unionist Northern Regions did not expect to be liberated by a government in Mogadishu itself struggling for its survival. But they are constitutionally entitled to political and material support, all the more when Khatumo and Makhir are in control of around 90 percent of their lands, and a willing central government could have easily extended its presence and services to these parts. That modest action would have gone a long way to undermine the secession, That it did not do so shows how it is more amenable to the sensitivity of the secessionist enclave and its redline that the north is out of bounds for Mogadishu than it is responsive to its constitutional obligations to defend the union and to be seen to be doing so.

From Northern Regions back to Somaliland

Far from getting help in one way or other to maintain the union, the unionists are tarred separatists when they are unconstitutionally lumped with the real secessionists as part of “Somaliland” and under SNM suzerainty, and no longer exist as part of the “Northern Regions” as per the Act of Union, or worse part of Somalia since they are denied to be part of the federal system.

As part of its conversion to the SNM “Somaliland” perspective, leaders in Villa Somalia do not see the secession as one pursued by one clan in the Northern Regions but, much to the delight of SNM, look at it as one between the central government and “Somaliland”, making no distinction among the clans as to which is a secessionist and which is a unionist. It signifies a return to the pre-union two States in which one secessionist clan is now given veto power to deny the rights of unionist regions or even of Somalia as a united country. .

The Status of “ Somaliland” vis-à-vis Somalia has been set first by President Sheikh Sheriff Ahmed as one between two equal “parties”. But it was President Hassan Mohamoud, more than any other president, who in his first term in office, overrode  the constitution willy-nilly, and set “Somaliland” on the road to a de facto separate country. And for that reason, blocked Khatumo´s admission into the federal system, notwithstanding its qualification, on the ground that the federal system has been completed. His rationale was that no part of “Somaliland” can be part of Somalia, and for that reason Khatumo was excluded from the federation:

Judging by his supportive statements since his return to the Presidency, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud shows all the signs of continuing with his pro-Somaliland leanings, all the more when he is in hock to them, having been re-elected with the votes of their  secessionist MPs polling in block. It is a mark of how much, and how fast, things are changing under him in favour of “Somaliland” that their MPs are now brazenly defending the secession with impunity inside the federal Parliament, supposedly the very custodian of Somalia´s unity

Even if he has no power to override the constitution and formally let them go, he can still facilitate their recognition by turning a blind eye to those countries wishing to do so, a process once it reaches a certain critical mass renders any need of divorce from Somalia irrelevant. Parliament would not be a saviour. Remembering the way they were chosen, only cash matters and that is in no short supply.  

Parallelly, foreign governments, taking full advantage of the country´s chronic weakness, or its servile venal leaders, prey on it and pursue their different agendas. An example is the USA Senate going through the motions of a bill calling for the USA to establish security protocol treaty with what is technically part of Somalia but still over the head of its government and people. Hopefully, President Biden will veto this half-baked inept plan.


26 June 1960 was the time when the unity of two Somali territories was round the corner and Greater Somalia itself was on the horizon. In contrast, 26 June 2022 arrives when the unity of the first two are on the ropes. Foreign governments had been the main obstacle to Somalia´s unity or greater Somalia in the past (and still are). But now, the worst enemy to Somalia´s unity are, first and foremost, those leaders in Mogadishu, who are at best ambivalent about it, or worst work hand in hand with Somalia´s enemies.

A recognition of “Somaliland” by any country is bound to unleash clan wars in the north. Its unionist clans, betrayed by their government in Mogadishu, are likely to declare their clan independent regions in the footsteps of “Somaliland”. When that process starts, it could unleash a Pandora box syndrome in southern Somalia. It could too equally breaks up into separate clan enclaves. It could affect even neighbouring countries, such as Ethiopia, already in the throes of ethnic-based civil war. Or Kenya whose mumbo-jumbo clans have even less to hold them together. In all this, there will be no winner except perhaps al Shabaab. When supporting the secession can lead to all these nefarious scenarios, it is time not only to stop supporting it but to face up to it and end it, a win-win for all, even for the misguided secessionists..

Osman Hassan
[email protected]


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