Since Somaliland declared its independence in 1991, there have been falsehoods peddled across the world about our intentions.
The falsehoods have hinged on the size of our territory as being "too small" yet Somaliland is bigger in size than 80 countries including England and Wales combined. With a population of 3.5 million, Somaliland has a larger population than 83 countries that are full members of the United Nations. On the other hand, Somalia became independent from Italy one week after Somaliland following which the two independent Somali ‘states’ united to become the Republic of Somalia, from 1960 to 1991.
Because of these differences, conflict between Somaliland and Somalia was inevitable and became apparent very soon after union. It was aggravated further when the capital was moved to Mogadishu, taking with it the economy and everything else that mattered to the people of Somaliland. Our schools, hospitals, and other public services gradually lost importance or became totally shut down. This caused discontent and eventually led to open hostility.
The disappointment of the people was such that it prompted the Sand Hurst-trained army officers of Somaliland to attempt a military coup as early as December 1961, to separate the two countries. Regretfully, the coup failed and over the years, generated even more hostility and punitive measures against the people of Somaliland.
The conflict between the people of Somaliland and the government of Somalia worsened and culminated into an all out war. By 1988, the government resorted to the aerial bombardment of the major cities of Somaliland, and indiscriminately killed the inhabitants, destroyed civilian dwellings, schools, hospitals, and mosques. The report of the American Human Rights Watch described the brutality they witnessed as ‘a Government at war with its own people’.
Finally by 1991, Somaliland was free again and its people began to rebuild the country. It is important to appreciate that this reconstruction, and Somaliland’s political maturity, have been achieved without the international recognition on which nearly all other nations under the sun expect and receive.
Somaliland’s lack of recognition means that we cannot receive more than a few crumbs from the table of international community. We receive no assistance from the World Bank, no aid from international agencies; only a few international NGOs are present in Somaliland. We are indeed in all respect the envy of many African countries!
The generally accepted criteria for statehood, as laid down by the Montevideo Convention of 1933, are as follows: A permanent population, defined territory, government that controls most of the country, capacity to enter into relations with other states.
The territory of Somaliland is defined by the borders of the former British Somaliland Protectorate, which are defined by the following international treaties: The Anglo-French Treaty of 1888, the Anglo-Italian Protocol of 1894 and the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1897.
We have our own passport, our own currency, our own judiciary, and our system of tax collection from which we generate the resources we need to run our country.
We all know that ‘defined territory’ does not mean that boundaries are undisputed. Many states in Africa or elsewhere have un-demarcated or disputed frontiers with their neighbours. Somaliland’s boundary dispute with northern Somalia neither invalidates the treaties that defined our colonial borders, nor detracts from Somaliland’s claim to a defined territory.
Somaliland stands neither for secession nor for the revision of Africa’s border. The prime task of the government of the Republic of Somaliland is to protect the territorial integrity of the nation and the inherent interest and dignity of its citizens as we have done successfully, peacefully, as a democracy, for the last 15 years.
Somaliland enjoys cooperative relations with a variety of foreign Governments and intergovernmental organisations on a broad range of security, immigration, economic and developmental issues. These partners include, but are not limited to Denmark, Holland, Djibouti, the European Commission, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the United Nations.
Regarding our failed union with Somalia, we are by no means the first African State to have entered into a voluntary union with another and subsequently withdrawn from that union intact. Other African countries have all done likewise and have never been punished for it as Somaliland is being punished. Independence and sovereignty for Somaliland is a reality with no turning back the clock.
* The author is the Foreign Minister of the Somaliland Republic.