Hargeisa, 14 July 2009 – The Somali Sections of VOA and BBC Radios sometimes hold political debates on Somaliland cause and its quest for diplomatic recognition. Some participants in the debates raise insincere arguments about the legitimacy of Somaliland national borders calling it “Colonial Borders.” These individuals are either ignorant of the historical origin of current borders of African States or purposefully mislead the listeners. The United Nations, African Union, and African States did not draw or make the current borders of African States. All the borders of African independent states had been drawn by the colonial powers of Europe in the 19th century, before or after The Partition of Africa in 1884, and the independence and recognition of each African State today depend upon its own colonial demarcations or borders. Likewise, all the borders of Asian and South American States also emerged from colonial boundaries drawn by Britain, France and Spain.
It is hypocritical that these anti-Somaliland debaters recognize the legitimacy of the border between Somaliland and Djibouti but challenge the legitimacy of the border running between Somalia and Somaliland knowing that both borders were drawn by colonial powers. The borders of Somalia, Somaliland and Djibouti have the same status and legitimacy because they were all drawn by European Colonizers. Most of such debaters are easily overwhelmed by unattainable ambitions for tribal state that does not exist in Africa or elsewhere and their denial of the legitimacy of Somaliland borders is completely in contrary to the historical realities of African borders. Anyone who opposes the legitimacy of Somaliland borders, its independence and its diplomatic recognition is challenging the borders and sovereignty of all African independent states (54 states) whose borders rose from their colonial borders or demarcations.
Some people confuse Somaliland with Puntland for either ignorance or for futile political reasons. Puntland is an integral part of Somalia because it is located within Somalia
s colonial borders (Italian-drawn borders) with which Somalia achieved independence on July 1st, 1960 and shares people and history with Somalia. Unlike Somaliland Republic, which has the rightful claim of independence and recognition for having its own, unique colonial borders with which it achieved independence and diplomatic recognition on June 26, 1960, Puntland can not be recognized as independent state because it is part of Somalia and because it does not have its own and unique colonial borders that promote independence and recognition in Africa, but it can be federal region within Somalia. If tribal boundaries or tribal states were recognized in Africa, the whole continent would collapse and be plunged into endless, devastating clan wars. That is why the Organization of African Unity solemnly declared in 1964 that all member states pledge themselves to respect the borders existing on their achievement of national independence. Here the borders existing on their achievement of national independence are the colonial borders on which Somaliland achieved independence on June 26, 1960. Another point to make, Somaliland Republic can not let Puntland Administration integrate with it because that would violate Somalias sovereignty and borders.
Somaliland was the first of the five-Somali territories to achieve independence from the British Empire on June 26, 1960 based on its existing borders and, before the merger with Somalia on July 1st, 1960, the first Somali country to be recognized by the UN and 35 member nations immediately after independence like the rest of African States. Independent Somaliland was also the first to pioneer the unification between Somaliland and Somalia in quest for Greater Somalia in the Horn of Africa. The union was doomed after Somalia hijacked the governments for the thirty years of its existence (1960-1990) and then committed atrocities against Somaliland people when they rebelled against injustices perpetrated by Somalia. Injustices and atrocities were the major causes that forced Somaliland people to withdraw from the union with Somalia in 1991. The failure of the union does not alter or change the status of Somaliland for claiming legitimate borders, independence and diplomatic recognition.
The Somaliland Congress held in Burao on May 18, 1991 unanimously proclaimed the withdrawal of the Somaliland from the union with Somalia and reclaimed its independence of June 26, 1960 renaming itself: Somaliland Republic. The referendum held in Somaliland on May 31st, 2001 reaffirmed Somaliland sovereignty from Somalia. Somaliland is not a secessionist or a breakaway region from Somalia as anti-Somaliland groups would like to portray it. It just withdrew from the union it joined as an independent state on July 1st, 1960 after it failed in the hands of Somalia. Djibouti, Somaliland and Somalia have the same status and legitimacy for independence and diplomatic recognition.
Somaliland and Somalia are not the first two countries in this world whose union ceased to exist. The Soviet Union of 15 Socialist Republics and created by the Bolshevik Revolution led by Vladimir Lenin in 1917 broke up after social upheavals with deep political discontent and came to an end peacefully in 1989 with new countries emerging from it such as Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia etc. They are all recognized by the UN and international community on the basis of their original borders existing before the union. The federation of former Yugoslavia that had 8 countries broke up after bloody civil wars (1991-1995) and new countries such as Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia, Kosovo etc emerged from its ashes. All are recognized diplomatically too for their original borders existing before the federation. This shows that the unity among countries in a union is not sacred if they disagree but the unity within a country like Somaliland, Djibouti, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda etc is sacred because each country is bound together by its own national borders inherited from colonial powers.
Some Somalis believe that Somaliland should not withdraw from the union with Somalia claiming that all Somalis share language, religion, color, and culture. If this claim were true, the Arab World (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Sudan) which has 17 separate independent countries with the same language, religion, color, and culture would have one union today. They do not have any federal union for disagreeing to share one. Over 14 South American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador etc) also share religion (Catholic Church), language (Spanish), culture, and color but they are not required to share union. Sharing language, religion, color, and culture is not convincing factors to share or remain in a union. Justice and fair power-sharing are the most important factors for a union to survive and that is what Somalia failed to understand in the years of the union. Islamic religion commends unity for enhancing strength and power but does not support one that brings death and destruction upon its partners like Somalia did to Somaliland in the decade of 1980-1990, particularly in the years 1988, 1989 and 1990. “Greater Somalia” is like “Greater Arab World” or “Greater South America” which no one knows when such dreams will come true. Some other Somalis believe that only Somaliland and Somalia constitute “Greater Somalia” excluding Djibouti and the occupied territories for opportunistic reasons. Somaliland will not be an easy target again as in the years of the old union.
The occupied Somali territories are of different case. For being a devout Christian Kingdom, Ethiopia survived the European colonization and with the European approval and military support, it annexed the far Western Somalia in 1889 that includes Diridhaba, Harar, Hawas etc. The near region of Western Somalia, which is Hawd and Reserved Area, was colonized with Somaliland and then amalgamated to Ethiopia in 1954 by the Britain. The Somali Northeastern Region (N.F.D) was colonized by Britain too then amalgamated to Kenya in 1963 by Britain. Ethiopia and Kenyan governments are black colonizers in the Horn of Africa today. The peoples of these two regions have the right to struggle for their self-determination.
The place is Africa where tribalism and localism are more important than nationalism and patriotism and where democracy, fair elections, and rule of law are not respected. Chronic tribalism, brutal dictatorships and crippling corruptions are common and normal practice of the day. Any federal government can be easily overthrown at any time by military coups, just like General Siad Barre did in 1969, with the immediate dissolution of elected parliament and constitution. No one can guarantee that this will not happen again in restive Africa. Neither Somaliland people nor the people of Somalia can afford to have another risky union that leads them to another military brutal dictatorship or to a government led by a despot turned-elected president that plunges both peoples into other violent, atrocious civil wars. After the departure of colonial powers from Africa (Between 1950-1970), it fell to brutal African dictators and leaders who killed all hopes and aspirations of African masses that liberated it from Europe, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel yet. Because of the past painful experiences, peoples of Somaliland and Somalia need to have separate, safe, prosperous sisterly states with mutual relations like the Arab countries. Both nations must reject blind patriotism for “Greater Somalia” which is not practical today.
Somaliland Republic will only discuss future relations with a government of Somalia (Former Italian Territory) which is democratically elected and which represents and controls the entire people and territory of Somalia. Somaliland will not meet with a government or parliament that includes individuals claiming to represent Somaliland. Any meeting or discussions with Somalia without fulfilling these two conditions would violate the basics of Somaliland`s sovereignty.
Somaliland, as any African state, has the right to be diplomatically recognized by the United Nations and international community for its current borders that rose from colonial borders. If the African countries do not recognize Somaliland Republic for its own colonial borders as soon as possible, they should know that they put their statehood and sovereignty based on their colonial borders in question. For faster diplomatic recognition, Somaliland needs good governance and fair elections held on time. Somaliland people do not bow to external threats or give up their sovereignty for outside pressure.
Ibrahim Hassan Gagale
Date: July 14, 2009
Views expressed in the opinion articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the editorial