Secession of Somaliland from Somalia. Conundrum to Peace and Security in the Horn of Africa

Seminar Paper 2007 16 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Region: Africa



1. Introduction

2. Voluntary Fusion of Somalia and Somaliland: A Poisoned Chalice

3. Somaliland Secedes from Somalia: Quest for self-determination and statehood

4. International Situations Emboldening Somaliland

5. Conclusion



Failure to satisfy Somaliland ’ s desire for peace, security, stability and peaceful co-existence with Somalia which are the tenets of Westphalian statehood, resulted in the collapse of the ambitious project designed to merge Northern Somalia (Somaliland) and Southern Somalia (Somalia) into Republic of Somalia. Since the inception of the Republic, elites from Northern Somaliland complained about Southern Somalia ’ s dominance in governance where the national flag, national anthem, capital city, Presidency and Prime Minister ’ s position have been contributed by the Southerners. To rub salt into the wounds of the Northerners, Siad Barre assumed power by means of a coup and installed draconian, discriminative and oppressive laws against the Northern clans generally and the Isaac clan in particular. These appalling conditions experienced by the Northerners cajoled them to hold the bull by its horns and confront the situation. They formed the Somali National Movement (SMN) which protected the Northerners against Barre ’ s oppressive machinery. Subsequently Somaliland declared unilateral independence because it satisfied Article I of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1933) which explains that: [t]he State as a person of international law should possess: Permanent population; Defined territory; Government and Capacity to enter into foreign relations.

1. Introduction

The Horn of Africa has over the past decades experienced incessant traumas resulting in economic decline, health hazards and increased civil wars which became an albatross on people of that region. Those civil wars have affected people psychologically and physically. Psychological effects have been: repulsive, immoral, and uncivilized while Physical ones have been bloody, destructive and expensive. It is anticipated that a new round of protracted conflict is likely to resurface in Republic of Somalia as a result of Somalia fighting against Somaliland to maintain authority in the Republic of Somalia in 1991. This is because Republic of Somalia will be fighting to assert its position and [re]incorporate into the Republic. Should that occur, it would compound the already existing intermittent conflict among clans and warlords in the Republic of Somalia.

The paper focuses on: the formation of the Republic of Somalia; Somalia’s secession from Republic of Somalia; and International experiences emboldening Somaliland to fight for self-determination. The paper concludes that Somalia’s case for self-determination remains valid because no international law has been violated. However, the main problem is that both parties, Somaliland and Somalia did not reach any agreement or participate in the drawing the road-map to institute secession. If secession has been successful in Kosovo and South Sudan what will be impossible with Somaliland whose action does not violate any international law.

2. Voluntary Fusion of Somalia and Somaliland: A Poisoned Chalice

According to Ahmed (2013) Somaliland is a small country in the Southern part of the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa; bordering Djibouti, Ethiopia, Puntland State of North East Somalia and Yemen across the Red Sea. The inhabitants of Somaliland, Somali ethnic share numerous attributes with other Somalis around the Horn of Africa. Some of these common features include inter alia common language, religion (Sunni Islam), and a traditional livelihood system premised around nomadic pastoralism. Numerous ethnic clans exist in Somaliland and the dominant one is the Darod clan federation comprising Isaac, Dir (Gadabursi and Iise), and Harti (Warsengeli and Dulbahante). The capital city of Somaliland is Hargeisa.

Heretofore, Somaliland and Somalia obtained independence separately. The Northern part of Somalia acquired her independence from Britain on 26 June 1960 as the state of Somaliland. Four days later, Italy granted Somalia, the Southern part her independence as Somali Republic. The proximity and common history shared by the newly established states encouraged them to merge into one independent state, called Republic of Somalia. That occurred on 1 July 1960 (Andrew, 2007). Duale (2013) points out that the unity between Somaliland and Somalia was rooted on weak foundation, different interests and the political and economic domination of the North by the South. That was because positions of the President, Prime Minister, and key cabinet positions were occupied by members of the Somali Youth League (SYL) from the South. Matters were further aggravated by the fact that the south provided the national flag, location of the capital city, the national anthem and the constitution. The Northerners perceived the Southerners’ action as absorption of their country into the Republic for domination by the Southerners and that became an albatross round the neck of the Northerners.

Bereketeab (2012) adds that during preparations for the establishment of the Republic of Somalia, the Southerners proceeded cautiously and slowly for unity because they were busy trying to settle pending matters, while the Northerners hastened for its achievement. The North’s going off halfcocked for unity jeopardized their position and eventually they paid heavily where they had to accept the Southern constitution, southern flag, southern capital, southern Head of State and Prime Minister in the Republic of Somalia. Matters were aggravated by growing marginalization and alienation of the Southerners from Government by the Southerners. The newly established and weak democratic system faltered rapidly and corruption became rampant meanwhile divisive clan politics plagued the system internally.

Omer in Duale (2013) adds that prevalent friction between the two parties began when Abdullah Osman Daar and Mohamud Ibrahim Egal both from SYL occupied positions of President and Prime Minister respectively. Conversely, the North has been allocated fewer cabinet positions and parliamentary seats which degraded and patronized them. Subsequently 33 members representing the South in the 123 member national assembly voted against the acceptance of the new constitution arguing that they did not participate in its crafting and therefore it was imposed on them. However that did not deter other Members of Parliament (MPs) who voted for the adoption of the new constitution as the Supreme law of the Republic. Domineering exercise of political and economic space of the Republic of Somalia by the Southerners cajoled the Northerners to develop numerous means from withdraw from the Republic. That included: resignation from cabinet by Northern Cabinet Ministers;, walking away from the National Assembly and boycotting it.

According to Ahmed (2013) the situation in the Republic of Somalia degenerated in 1969 when Siad Barre seized power through coup d `etat. Upon assuming power, Barre instituted a Marxist regime and became a close ally of Soviet Russia where he controlled and consolidated power for the benefit of his own clan. Barre then incarcerated the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohamud Ibrahim Egal, including the ruling civilian elite. The military aggravated matters by resorting to authoritarian and repressive regimes to the detriment of other clans, especially the Isaac clan from the North and illtreated its members as second class citizens. That degenerated Northerners into a quagmire of poverty, underdevelopment, dismay, and hopelessness.

Farley (2010) explains that Barre’s repressive regime alienated itself from the majority of the people forcing him to depend on his clan for support. Continued political repression by the regime and the accompanying economic and security deterioration provoked widespread dissatisfaction and rebellion undermining state building. Meanwhile Barre was involved in internal repressive exercise, Ethiopia invaded Somalia and that orchestrated the beginning of the downfall of his regime. Officers of his army from Merjeeteen clan led by Abdilahi Yusuf attempted to remove him during Ethio-Somali war; however their complicity was crushed in 1978. That propelled Barre to revenge by perpetrating atrocities on the Merjeeteen clan situated in Mudug and Bari regions. Barre’s actions persuaded defenseless communities to form defensive groups along clan lines and one such was the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF).

Jama (2000) explains that Northern people developed numerous measures to address marginalization and atrocities carried by Barre. Subsequently Somaliland’s business and political elites residing in the United Kingdom supported by Ethiopia formed the Somali National Movement (SNM) in 1981. SNM’s aim was to represent and protect Northern clans, especially, the Isaac clan which was the principal subject of Barre’s perpetual atrocities such as: summary executions, arbitrary arrests, targeted assassinations, expulsions, freezing of commercial activities, as well as bulk starvation of millions of nomads whose livestock and water points have been destroyed by Barre ’ s forces. The SNM operated primarily in the Northern part of the Republic where it gained control of the entire region until the collapse of Barre in 1991.

Kant in Betts (1994) explains that “the civil constitution of every state should be republican. The only constitution which derives the idea of the original compact and on which all juridical legislation of a people must be based is the republican. The republican constitution, besides the purity of its origin (having sprung from the pure source of the concept of law), also gives a favourable prospects for the desired consequence, which is perpetual peace. Conceptualising Kant’s idea, the constitution in republic of Somalia was lopsided and it did not encapsulate the compact. Unilateral decisions of the South in developing the flag, national anthem and capital city among others confounded matters.

All these matters laid the foundation for conflict between the two societies. In this context, the South’s dominance in the Government of Somalia as well atrocities experienced by the Isaac clan during Barre’s regime threatened peace and emboldened the SNM to liberate Somaliland from Somalia. Kant’s argument in this regard is that if there is an agreement among societies that will form the foundation of law and order to be respected by the society. In the case of the South and North, there was no compact including juridical legislation which enjoyed support of all people. Furthermore, other people such as the Isaac clan experienced atrocities which were executed by people who were supposed to protect them. Subsequently Somaliland was left without any alternative and withdrew from the union to establish a state based on the constitution and a pact within juridical framework.

In executing their plan, during May 1998, SNM guerilla fighters attacked major cities of Hargeisa and Burao. As a counter to SNM’s brave attack, Barre unleashed substantial force and wantonly bombard civilian targets and methodologically destroying cities and human habitats. About 50 000 people were killed while 750 000 were displaced. Barre’s preoccupation in protecting interests of his clan’s created a power vacuum and that degenerated Somalia into a failed stat where there was no central legal authority able to provide basic state functions such as: freedom, justice, security, order, welfare as well as collecting taxes (Pham, 2012).

Within that failed state, anarchy reigned supreme. For example, in the capital city Mogadishu weapons such as machine guns, anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades were sold to the public in an open arms market (Itorkteh). Those weapons have been tried and tested in the open air and they became the symbol of unity and division. People have been living in perpetual fear. The city of about two million people has been under the control of heavily armed militias and individuals amid sporadic incidences of violence. That state of anarchy and continued conflict collapsed Republic of Somalia and subsequently SNM seized the moment and declared the independence of Somaliland on 18 May 1981 (Lewis, 2002). Through that, SNM reclaimed Somaliland according to borders inherited from the British Government on 26 June 1960.

3. Somaliland Secedes from Somalia: Quest for self-determination and statehood

Somaliland’s return to its previous arrangement as an independent state has been encouraged by state of the nature existing in the Republic of Somalia. Hobbes in Lacewing (2013) defines state of the nature as “a war of all against all, in which human beings constantly seek to destroy each other for the pursuit of power. Life in state of the nature is nasty, short and brutish”. In this regard, Barre seized power and exercised it over other people to destroy them for the benefit his clan. Natural law of the Republic rendered people unequal and Barre’s associates held the executive power of natural law and used it to suppress others. During his reign of terror, Barre executed perpetual atrocities such as:

summary executions, arbitrary arrests, targeted assassinations, expulsions, freezing of commercial activities, as well as bulk starvation of millions of nomads whose livestock and water points have been destroyed by Barre ’ s forces Locke (2013) adds that a state is established by people who relinquished their sovereignty and gave to the state to execute in on their behalf. In such a situation the state is empowered to make laws for the protection and regulation of property and these laws are backed by the community for public good. Statehood allows its occupants to harmonise their interests and work towards establishing a just and equal society, however these aspirations have been nonexistent in the Republic of Somalia where one group became a dominant force. Nasir (2011) adds that Somaliland’s secession from Somaliland is neither an anomaly nor violation of inherited colonial boundaries because that was Somaliland’s re- installation as an independent state.

Somaliland’s declaration of independence in 1991 coincided with the collapse of the ideological confrontation between the West and the East, affectionately known as the Cold War. Fukuyama in Betts (1994) referred to that period as the End of History. That marked, “ the endpoint of mankind ’ s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government ” . Coincidentally, people of Somaliland consciously released themselves from an oppressive, authoritarian regime to install a liberal democratic government espousing the values of security, peace, stability, cooperation and development embodied in the Westphalian order and Kampala Declaration of Africa (1991). Those issues formed cornerstones for development of statehood in Somaliland. The events in the Republic of Somalia including Somaliland’s unilateral declaration of independence are succinctly captured by Hegel in Fukuyama (1994) who explains that any historical development comprises three levels which are: the beginning, middle and the end. In this regard, the ambition for expanded statehood drove Somalia and Somaliland form a Republic (beginning). In that Republic the Northerners experienced marginalization and atrocities and that failed to harmonise interests (middle). Subsequently Somaliland seceded from the Republic (end).

Somaliland’s secession from Republic of Somalia and its self-determination has over two decades being internationally regarded as a de facto state because of continued failed attempts to gain international recognition.



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Title: Secession of Somaliland from Somalia. Conundrum to Peace and Security in the Horn of Africa