Somaliland Forum            SLF: MRG R: #3

Immediate Release 10 July 2006


TO: H.E Mr. Alpha Oumar Konare, Chairman, African Union

Cc: H.E. Mr. Patrick Mazimhaka, Deputy Chairman, African Union

SOMALIAND: The AU must accept Independent Somaliland

AU Mission to Somaliland

1. In May 2006, the Republic of Somalilandwelcomed the African Union’s fact-finding Commission, led by His Excellency Patrick Mazimhaka, Deputy Chairman. Since the Commissions departure, Somaliland has celebrated the 15th Anniversary of its resumption of independence declared in May 1991. This was also the 46th anniversary of the birth of the independent State of Somalilandin June 1960. Somaliland Forum believes, just as all Somalilanders do, that the time has come for African nations to finally understand the reality of the Republic of Somaliland. This is an opportunity to welcome back into your fold a unique African independent state whose recognition poses no threat to Africa and will strengthen peace and security in the region. As the AU’s fact finding mission learnt in its visit to Somaliland, we would like to reiterate the facts about Somalilandwhich have long been hidden under misconceptions and misleading statements. We urge the AU and all its member countries to consider the unique position of the Republic of Somaliland and to look favourably at the recent application for membership submitted by the Somaliland Government.

The Independent State of Somaliland

2. Somaliland was a separate British Protectorate, with clear internationally delineated boundaries until 26 June 1960 when it became the independent State of Somaliland. Of the 18 African countries, which became independent in 1960, Somaliland was the fourth country in that year and was welcomed by 35 nations including 5 United Nation Permanent members.  Somalia[1] (former Italian trusteeship) was the seventh African country to become independent that year (with Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo receiving their independence in between). 

3. The people of the independent State of Somaliland were at that time imbued with a desire to create a union of the Somali inhabited territories, which were French Somaliland (now the Republic of Djibouti), the Ethiopian regions inhabited by Somalis, Italian Somalia and the Northern Districts of Kenya. The State of Somaliland therefore promptly and hurriedly, without any pre-conditions, formed a union with Somalia on July 1st, 1960 presuming the affection they had for Somali nationalism would be reciprocal.

The ill-fated union 

4. The folly of this ill thought and precipitate union became clear to the Somaliland people almost immediately when the legal formalities of the union were never completed properly; a constitution which was unacceptable to Somaliland was pushed through by the in-built majority of Somalia; and Somaliland was quickly reduced to the status of a far flung region in a country governed by and from the Somalian capital city of Mogadishu. 

5. Worse was to come, however, when a Somalia dominated dictatorship ruled the whole country with an iron fist and set out to obliterate what was left of the distinct nature of Somaliland well before it started the torture and killing of the Somaliland people. Other Somalis have suffered under the Dictatorship, but the Dictatorship declared a war on the Somaliland people which led to, as documented by Amnesty International in 1990, “ the deaths of 50,000 people, the aerial bombardment of major cities and the exodus of nearly million people to desolate refugee camps.” To this day, the seasonal rains expose the mass graves of Somaliland women, children and men.

The end of the union

6. With the collapse of the dictatorship and the clear attempts by Somalians to carry on business as usual, the people of Somaliland exercised their right to self-determination in the light of the genocide that was visited upon them. In May 1991 the union of the two states ceased to exist after Somalilanders waged a liberation front to reclaim their independence. All the communities (clans) in Somaliland were represented at the meeting in which the decision was made and at the subsequent peace making conferences organized by Somalilanders on their own. History is replete with examples of unions of states that have not worked. The people of Somaliland therefore reasserted their sovereignty and the second independent Republic of Somaliland was re-born. 

Building a peaceful & democratic country

7. For the last 15 years, Somalilanders have established peace in their country, and without much help from outside have built a democratic state with a two House legislature, an executive headed by a President elected on a national vote, and a Judiciary. Somaliland held a popular national referendum in 2000, which endorsed the Constitution, nation-wide local councils election in 2002, presidential elections in 2003 and parliamentary elections in 2005. There is a free press and Somalilanders value and exercise their rights of __expression and assembly in a region where such rights are not so readily allowed.

The unique case of Somaliland

8. Somalilanders therefore emphasize that the case of Somaliland is unique and the recognition of Somaliland will not set any precedent or infringe any AU/OAU rules. There is no other former independent state in Africa, which is now wishing to leave that union. There were territories, like the Cameroon and Eritrea, governed by different colonialists that may have merged or were annexed before or at independence, but that is not the case of Somaliland. However brief the life of the independent State of Somaliland was, it was juridical and, as a matter of fact, a separate state with a constitution, a prime minister, an elected parliament, which under the Constitution was to serve for 3 years (see Article 18), a judiciary and a fully functioning police and civil service. More importantly, Somaliland entered into international agreements with Great Britain that deposited at the United Nations under Article 102 of the UN Charter. Even the final Act of Union which was passed by the national assembly of the Somali Republic a year and half (31 January 1961) after the union of Somaliland and Somalia took place makes it clear that the only treaties and obligations that will be adhered to by the Somali Republic are the obligations set out in sections 57 and 58 of the State of Somaliland Constitution and the treaties entered into by the independent governments of Somaliland and Somalia. As Somalia had no independent government before 1 July 1960, this clause applied only to treaties entered into by the independent State of Somaliland, yet, time and time again, this simple fact is unknown to many Africans and is deliberately overlooked by Somalians opposed to Somaliland independence. 


Somaliland boundaries 

8. The significance of the existence of the independent State of Somaliland in 1960 is also that its international boundaries became, on its independence on 26 June 1960, the boundaries, which were in accordance with the OAU’s 1964 Cairo Declaration calling for respect for international boundaries on independence. This principle of "respect of borders existing on achievement of independence" is again enshrined in Article 4(b) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.  It is a re-statement of the principle of uti possedetis which simply provided that states emerging from de-colonization shall presumptively inherit the colonial administrative borders that they held at the time of independence. An argument advanced by Somalia is that the borders referred to in the 1964 Declaration are those of the united Somali Republic in 1964, but that flies against common sense and the simple words of the Declaration and Article 4(b) the Constitutive Act  unequivocally say boundaries on independence i.e. in the case of Somaliland, on 26 June 1960. In any case, it is ironic that the Somali Republic never accepted this Declaration because of its irredentist policies towards all its neighbors, and it is so incongruous that those in Somalia who are now against the recognition of Somaliland pray in aid the Cairo Declaration which is not applicable, at all, to the border between Somaliland and Somalia and was not even accepted by Somalia. In contrast, the Somaliland position is that it supports fully the Cairo Declaration and the doctrine of uti posseditis for not only its boundary with Somalia, but also, for its other international boundaries with Ethiopia to the south and the Republic of Djibouti to the east.

Boundaries in unions of states

9. Indeed the international boundary between State of Somaliland and Italian Somalia remained as an internal administrative border [2] during the democratic period of the Somali Republic, when the territory of Somaliland became known as the "Northern Region" which was sub-divided into Hargeisa and Burao regions, the latter covering the eastern parts of Somaliland right up to the international boundary, beyond which was Majertenia, the first of six regions comprising the "Southern Region" or Somalia. This boundary at the 48th Meridian continued to remain as the administrative line that separated the Sanaag Region of Somaliland and the former Majertain region of Somalia, which was renamed "Bari" (I.e. Eastern) region until the end of the Siyad Barre regime and the re-assertion of Somaliland sovereignty in 1991. The importance of the continued use of the international Somaliland/Somalia border as an internal administrative border during most of the period of the existence of the union, is that the practice of the Eastern European states (in the former Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union) on their dissolution and emergence of new states has been to extended the doctrine of uti possedtis[3] to the former internal administrative lines of the dissolved unions or states as international borders of the new states[4]

10. The Republic of Somaliland is committed to peaceful co-existence with its African neighbours, and having laid to rest the irredentist Greater Somalia tendencies, believes that genuine co-operation and closer relations between the states in the Horn and also within the wider region and throughout Africa is actually better served by the recognition of the Republic. Somalilanders are painfully aware that the Greater Somalia dream died when the Northern Districts remained with Kenya on its independence and French Somaliland remained an independent country on its independence from France in 1978. Somalis as an ethnic group now live in five different countries and that is no different from other ethnic groups, like Arabs who, for example live in a number of North African countries. The fact that in some of the countries, ethnic Somalis are a minority, whilst in others they are a majority is no different from the situation in many other African countries, where some ethnic groups are scattered over a number of neighbouring countries.  Recognizing Somaliland formally will, at one stroke, lay to rest, for ever, Somali irredentism which has brought so much chaos and bloodshed to the Horn, and will send a message to those in Somalia who are still hankering after Greater Somalia that their efforts will be better spent in building peace and stability in their own country.

Somali Clans and boundaries 

11. Just in the same way that people of Somali ethnic origin straddle the boundaries of the countries of the Horn, it remains the case that Somali clans in each country are also likely to straddle the borders of two or more countries. Somalilanders in the far west of the country have kinsfolk in the neighboring Republic of Djibouti and almost all Somaliland clans live and move across the Somaliland/Ethiopia border. In the same way, in the east of Somaliland, some of the clans have kinship links with others across the border in Mijertenia (Puntland). These links do not, in any way diminish the sovereignty of either Somaliland or its neighboring countries over their respective territories and indeed Somaliland’s commitment to peace and co-operation with its neighbours will ensure that these kinship links and traditional nomadic(s) are dealt with in a modern and conflict free manner. Recognition of Somaliland is more likely to engender such cross border co-operation than an inevitable fall back to "Greater Somalia" nightmare. The invasion and occupation of parts of eastern Somaliland by the current non-elected Somalia President Colonel Yusuf, when he was President of "Puntland" is an illustration of what is in store for other neighboring countries if Somaliland is restrained from exercising her right to defend its borders. Allowing such naked aggression to succeed or to diminish the right of Somaliland to recognition and its territorial integrity will send a wrong message to all the ethnic/clan groups that straddle the many "colonial" borders of Africa.

Criteria for statehood & non-recognition 

12. Above all, Somaliland has shown clearly that it fulfils all the international requirements for statehood [5]. The Republic has a permanent population of approximately 3.5 million; a clearly defined territory over which it has and had control for the last 15 years (bar for an small area which has been illegally occupied by militia from Punland for the last 3 years); and despite the lack of formal recognition, Somaliland has and continues to enter formal and informal relations with other states and international organizations. Also, despite all the constraints brought about by lack of recognition and the imposition of unjustified ban on livestock exports, Somaliland is building its democracy and respects human rights and the rule of law.

13. Some International jurists have argued that if a state fulfils all the criteria for statehood that this raises an obligation for other countries to recognize Somaliland. Clearly in reality, recognition depends on the practice and, often, the interests of specific states. Withholding the recognition that Somaliland justly deserves is not a neutral act because it has serious implications for the people of Somaliland. Besides the denial of the right to self determination, non-recognition for 15 years also meant that continue to be denied direct access to financial institutions, direct aid between countries, freedom to travel and to expand the entrepreneurial skills, and among other things access to markets, education etc. It is also means that there are extremely limited resources for re-building a country that has gone through a war and consequently more unnecessary deaths of young and sick people that might well be saved with more investment in basic services. Somaliland has weathered the benign neglect of the majority of the international community, but it is has and continues to face continually the deliberate undermining of its sovereignty by a few countries, which are pursuing their own interests. 

Questions posed by the International Crisis Group

14. In their recent report titled "Somaliland: Time for an African Union Leadership" (Africa Report N°110 – 23 May 2006), the International Crisis Group posited "four central and practical questions" which we address briefly: 

 -- Should Somaliland be rewarded for creating stability and democratic governance out of a part of the chaos that is the failed state of Somalia?

Surely, the answer is yes. This would be very much in line with the principles of NEPAD and would be also be an incentive to those countries that fall into disorder and anarchy that Africa rewards democracy and good governance and abhors the opposite situations given the Continents state of anarchy this past Century.

-- Would rewarding Somaliland with either independence or significant autonomy adversely impact the prospects for peace in Somalia or lead to territorial clashes? 

No. The prospects of peace in Somalia lie with the efforts and actions of the Somalian people. Whether or not Somaliland is recognized is not going to bring peace to Somalia – peace can only come to that country when its people decide that enough is enough and work together for conciliation and consensus. Peace cannot be imposed from outside and the cause of Somaliland has no bearing whatsoever on the attainment of peace in Somalia. If anything, it is a distraction to them and sometimes the only thing Somalians appear to agree upon is their position on Somaliland – perhaps if that distraction is removed, they may become more serious about peace-making. 

The ruling elements in neighboring "Puntland" whose militia currently occupy parts of eastern Somaliland are unlikely to remain when Somaliland is recognized as the inhabitants of the region has had long and lasting links with the rest of Somaliland and would want to benefit from the fruits of a recognized and a democratic country. In our humble view, clashes are more likely if the situation is allowed to drift the way it is now and "Puntland" and the rest of Somalia decide to use force as they have done before.

-- What are the prospects for peaceful preservation of a unified Somali Republic? 

None, whatsoever, as indicated by not attending a single one of the many reconciliation conferences held for Somalia Somaliland will never surrender its sovereignty again as Somalilanders agree on the creed that says “fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me!”. 

-- What would be the implications of recognition of Somaliland for separatist conflicts elsewhere on the continent? 

We have explained above that the case of Somaliland is unique. We do not believe that there are any "separatists" with a similar claim who have the historical facts Somaliland has. Somaliland’s chronological events are documented.

The ICG warning

15. The ICG’s Africa Director [6] puts the challenge before the AU thus:

"The African Union's challenge is to provide timely, neutral leadership in order to ensure a just, peaceful and enduring settlement, before confrontation and violence become the only option imaginable by both parties." 

We add, will the AU and the African countries rise to this challenge or will the few countries who have an interest in re-creating a greater Somalia for their own strategic considerations encourage whatever government that succeeds to establish itself in Somalia to use force against Somaliland? Somaliland would rather see the peace and prosperity in a region that deserves both, but would defend its independence and territorial integrity at al cost, as it has once before.



Somaliland Forum is an independent Diaspora think-tank that advocates for the Sovereignty, Democracy and socioeconomic development of the Republic of Somaliland. We work with Somaliland communities, supporters, governments and NGO's. For more information please contact: or


[1] References to Somalia in this note denote the territory of "former Italian Somalia" in direct comparison to Somaliland. The term "Somali" denotes ethnicity and covers all ethnic Somalis who live in the various countries of the Horn or abroad. Somalis who are citizens of Somalia are referred to as "Somalians" in contrast to "Somalilanders" .

[2] See Presidential Decree No: 218 of 20 August 1963 and the Law on the Territorial Organization of the State adopted by the National Assembly on 10 January 1967.

[3] Based on the Roman Law edict of Uti Possidetis, ita possidentis – "As you possess, so may you possess".

[4] See, for example, Ratner S, Drawing a Better Line: Uti Possidetis and the Borders of New States, American Journal of International Law. Vol 90, pp 590 – 623. Also Conference on Yugoslavia (Badinter Commission), Opinion No:3 (11 Jan 1992), 31 ILM 14999 (1992).

[5] As set out in the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States

[6] Baldo S Africa Insight - Somaliland: The other Somalia with no War Daily Nation 6/30/2006