The AU: Time to remove obstacles to Somaliland Recognition
From: Somaliland American Guild
To: H.E. Mr. Alpha Oumar Konare, Chairperson, African Union Commission=
Somaliland American Guild urges the African Union to shift its current policy of noncommittal towards the Republic of Somaliland and address Somaliland’s fulfillment of all criteria required for statehood. Somaliland has legal validity to reclaim her independence under international law. The internationally recognized right to self-determination is attained when a distinct group is able to exercise its inalienable right regarding its political and economic future. The inhabitants are the indigenous people of the land which, in accordance with international law, is the indicator of territorial integrity, thus sovereignty. Somaliland had recognized borders in June 1960. These facts are not in question, therefore why is the AU ignoring the astonishing achievements Somaliland has made in just 14 years?
The objectives of the AU, as stated in Article 3(b), is to “Defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence” of African nations. Somaliland won independence before any of the original ethnic Somali territories of Eastern Ethiopia, Northeast Kenya, ex-French Somaliland Djibouti and ex-Italian Trusteeship Somalia. In 1960, Somaliland was recognized by 35 Nations (including 5 Permanent Members) as an independent country which demonstrates her independence pre and post colonization. Given this fact, Somaliland cannot be treated as if it were an integral part of an original Somalia State that existed before The Act of Union in 1960 (which was intended to balance the union) and therefore is today asking to divide a nation that was whole at its inception.
The Act of Union was itself subverted from the beginning as it was (a) changed more than few times without Somaliland Assembly participation primarily due to Italian tampering, (b) the Somalia Assembly annulled the Union of Somaliland and Somalia Law and passed their own version of the Act of Union in 1961 and (c) when the former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in a coup d’etat in 1969 and willingly eliminated the Act altogether. Conjunctionally, in the exceptional situation where in essence a state within a state, as was the case with Somaliland in a greater Somalia Republic existed and had a bitter divide with a failed “banded together” or parent State, the AU is left with little choice but to right the previous wrongs and accept these intrinsic circumstances and support Somaliland independence. The AU must have dialogue with Somaliland and give them a chance to make their case.
Additionally if one isn’t convinced of these irrefutable facts, Somaliland has the Remedial Right, again under international law, to exit or regain her independence when genocide was committed against her people. The mass murder of over 50,000 Somalilanders, exodus of nearly a million people to desolate camps and the aerial bombardment of its cities gave the people the right to vote overwhelmingly to rescind the failed union. The AU does not dispute these facts so why ignore the people of Somaliland and essentially scapegoat them for a failed Union when they were the victims?
Every society has the inalienable right to self-determination. Yugoslavia, for instance, split into six Independent nations which were immediately welcomed to the United Nations. Czechoslovakia, recognized in 1945, split in 1992 into Czech Republic and Slovak Republic respectively. Egypt and Syria each an independent nation, established a union in 1958 but split just after 3 years. Norway left Sweden (1905), Ireland left the United Kingdom (1921) and Eritrea left Ethiopia (1993). Lastly but surely not least, Gambia and Senegal formed a union for just 6 months before it came to an end. Why, therefore should Somaliland be held to a different standard? The AU acknowledged that it never addressed the grievances of Somaliland before. What better time than now when all Somaliland needs is access to international markets and loans for development. The AU could help stabilize the Horn region by assisting Somaliland with the needed investments. In 2003, the European Union's sponsorship of the country's road rehabilitation program was a major first step in foreign financing for developmental projects. This was a critical sign that the West was amicable to a likely recognition of Somaliland. Mr. Chairman, if the European Union is able to work with Somaliland, why isn’t the African Union?
Somaliland, to this day, continues to unearth the mass graves committed against her and even though the dictator has since died, many of his cronies who were complicit in the crimes against Somaliland, are in the Federal Transitional Government (TFG) of Somalia. Is it logical to expect Somaliland to just forgive and forget? Since this could never be a reality, is it not prudent for the AU to help get Somaliland out of this uncertainty? Since 1991, Somaliland has satisfied all conditions the AU considers legitimate. The country's achievements are profound. Schools and hospitals have been rebuilt and the country has a working Constitution. The new Parliament was just seated in 2005. The Judiciary and Press function freely. All this accomplished without much assistance from other nations and organizations.
Mr. Chairman, in the 21 Century, Africa must demand Nations to be at peace with their citizens and neighbors so the continent could finally heal from a century of chaos and despair. It is to the mutual benefit of the Horn, as well as Africa, to finally recognize Somaliland. The Republic of Somaliland's aim is to advance its nation, contribute to the prosperity of the continent and promote democracy and help uplift the people of Africa through equal and fair representation for all.
Mohammed A. Ali Baranbaro
Somaliland American Guild