An open letter to the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, theAfrican Union, the European Union, delegates from Somalia and all those partaking in the London Conference on 23/2/2012.
Somaliland was a British Protectorate for 76 years when on 26th June 1960 it gained independence from Britain, with approval and recognition from 35 member States in the United Nations (a majority at this time). Somaliland was recognised at this time with defined and established borders. As a British Protectorate, Somaliland was ruled at an arm’s length and the British did very little in terms of building infrastructure or leaving behind social institutions that Somalilanders could build upon.
On the 1st of July 1960 Somaliland voluntarily joined with Italian Somalia, who also gained independence on that same day on the 1st of July 1960. Somalilanders championed this ill fated union in the search of bringing together the remaining 3 occupied Somali territories to create a greater Somalia, but this never happened and would remain a dream. It is worth noting that at the time, Britain was also in favour of this union and actively encouraged it, but at the same time played a role in ensuring that the 5 Somali territories would not come together by holding on to what at that time was called the Reserve Area and is now part of Federal Ethiopia.
During 30 years of union with Somalia, Somalilanders suffered inequality, injustice and were treated as second class citizens. This was a bitter pill to swallow considering all the sacrifices they made to help create the new Somalia. The last 21 years of this union were the most difficult for the people of Somaliland because of the brutality of the Siad Barre regime, which went so far as using its military (one of the strongest in Africa at the time) to bomb the people of Somaliland with military jets. The people of Somaliland fought back through the Somali National Movement, which was established in 1981 with the aim of getting rid of the Barre regime.
After much suffering and complete destruction of the main cities of Somaliland, Barre’s regime was finally ousted in 1991 and later that year attempts began to reconcile the people of Somaliland whom Barre had suppressed using ‘divide and rule’ tactics. Through traditional conflict resolution techniques, Somalilanders were able to work through their differences and unanimously decided to on 18th May 1991 to regain their independence and return to their original borders as established on 26th June 1960. This decision was the final nail in the coffin of this dark chapter in Somaliland’s history and the end of the ill fated union with Somalia.
Somaliland set on the difficult road of building a democratic State with very limited resources and no help from the international community. Its people held a fair and free referendum in 2001 and voted 97% in favour of re-gaining their independence and thus proving their commitment to be a democratic and peace loving people. .
Somaliland has its own democratic system of governance, its own currency and its own flag. Children born after 1991 (who are now in their early 20s) know nothing but the Somaliland flag, which proudly proclaims the Arabic verses ‘that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah, and Mohamed (PBUH) is His messenger’. Just as United States currency would be invalid if it did not say ‘In God we trust’, so too would anything other than the Somaliland flag with its declaration of Islamic monotheism be seen as invalid by Somalilanders.
As we approach the London Conference on Somalia, which Somaliland is taking part in without prejudice to its sovereignty, we urge the international community to give the people of Somaliland their dignity and basic human right to self determination as set out in the UN Charter on Human Rights. Recognising Somaliland is a victory for democracy. Recognising Somaliland is a victory for stability in the Horn of Africa. Recognising Somaliland is also ultimately a victory for a long lasting peace in Somalia.
Somaliland is here to stay and will not be forced to live in the past, a past in which it was part of Somalia. They used to say ‘the sun never sets on the British Empire’ but it did and it is now assigned to history. In the same way, those who say ‘Somaliland is a part of Somalia’ are talking about a long closed chapter in history.
Abdi Hussein Maraykan (Abdi Flosy)