Commentary on History of Somaliland's Unification With Somalia
BBC Monitoring Africa, 2009-04-01
Text of report in English by Somali newspaper The Somaliland Times website on 19 February
This article is about Somaliland's fanatical, hasty unification with Somalia in 1960 and how Somalia doomed the union with political deprivation (1960-1982) and atrocities (1982-1990). It also states reasons of why the union can not be revived. In this article, North is referred to Somaliland and South is referred to Somalia as used in the three decades of the union.
A union, when it is about countries, is an act of uniting two or more countries with the objective of enhancing strength and advancing common interest. However, any union succeeds only if its initiative is fully deliberated, its constitution is well-thought of and defined and all sides respect and abide by it with real commitment to put it forward. The voluntary unification that took place between Somaliland and Somalia on July 1st, 1960 was driven by chauvinism (blind patriotism) from the part of Somaliland people who failed to foresee that such hasty act in Africa without deliberations on possibilities could result in devastating consequences as happened in the 1980s.
The successive, South-centred governments throughout the history of the union clearly indicated that Somalia was not ready for the unity but just took advantage of the fanatical patriotism of the North which carelessly threw its independence to unfriendly place.
In the thirty years of the union (1960-1990), Somaliland people have learned a lot from Somalia that dismisses any chance of reviving the doomed union in the future. The following past actions of Somalia that failed the union and make it impossible to revive in the future are:-
When the first government was formed in 1960 for the New Republic of Somalia, emerging from former British Somaliland and former Italian Somalia, the South took the president, Mr Aden Abdulle Usman (1960-1964), the prime minister, Mr Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the ministers of foreign affairs, interior, finance, Commander of the National Armed Forces, and the National Police Chief. The union parliament was sham too for the South taking unfair number of seats. This political hijack by the South was the first political blow to the power-sharing of the freshly formed union. Mr Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal, who was prime minister of the North at the eve of unification, was denied of the premiership which he had as a right after the South took the presidency. President Aden Abdulle Usman was re-elected in 1964 (1964-1967) and repeated the same political blunders by giving the prime minister to Mr Abdirisak Haji Husayn (South-born) and other major cabinet posts to the South again.
The North was treated as an ordinary region in Somalia like Mudug or Banaadir [Mogadishu] ignoring the fact that the North became independent state, taking independence on June 26, 1960, before the South, which became independent on July 1st, 1960, and that the North initiated the unification of the two newly independent countries in the Horn of Africa. The political betrayal and humiliation by the South angered the politicians, traditional leaders, intellectuals, business community as well as military officers of the North.
This deep resentment influenced North-born young military officers, at the command of Hasan Kayd, to lead the unsuccessful military coup in Hargeysa on December 10, 1961 to reclaim independence and dignity of the North from the South-breached union.
Instead of addressing the grievances that led to the Northern mutiny and starting national dialogue for reconciliation, president Aden Abdulle Usman immediately transferred South-born military to North and North-born military to South to suppress and repress Northern people socially and politically to punish them for the rightful military mutiny.
The Southern troops turned Northern Regions into semi-colony with no freedom at all. Northern people were forced to travel to Mogadishu for school certificates (Even middle school certificates), passports, health care, business licenses etc.
In such situation of political deprivation and lack of investment in the North, General Siyad Barre (South-born ) overthrew the civilian government of the shaky union through bloodless coup on October 21, 1969 dissolving the constitution and the parliament immediately after the assassination of president Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke (South-born) on October 15, 1969. Many people believed that president Abdirashid (1967-1969) was murdered for giving prime minister post to the North and that is why General Siyad Barre toppled Egal's two-year old government too (1967-1969). President Abdirashid gave the prime minister to the North to control the damage inflicted on power-sharing by president Aden Abdulle Usman. General Siyad Barre ruled Somalia for 21 years with iron-fist dictatorship (1969-1990) that curtailed all civil liberties. He continued the political deprivation and suppression of the North and strengthened the political domination of the South.
Worse than South-centred civilian governments, General Siyad Barre grossly breached the agreement of the union which was shared between the North and the South only by making it a union shared by all Somalis in the five Somali-territories (Somaliweyn) in the Horn of Africa. He gave special political and military privilege to the Ogaden tribe inhabiting in Western Somalia (Occupied by Ethiopia) and in Somalia Northeastern Region (Occupied by Kenya) thus adopting refugees as citizens and making citizens, especially those in the North, as second class citizens. General Bile Rafle, born in Somali Galbeed, became the governor of Hargeysa and Burco in the 1970s, and General Aden Gabyow, born in N.F.D [North Frontier District] of Kenya, became once the minister of defence of the then Republic of Somalia. These refugees-turned citizens widely participated in the atrocities and displacement of the central tribes in Somaliland (Isaaq Clan) during civil wars. Northern officials in South-owned governments were symbolic and powerless. Their posts were intended to mislead Northern public perception to believe in power-sharing that did not exist. If the Northern officials in the government had real power, they would prevent injustices and crimes committed against the North.
During the disastrous union, Darod and Hawiye clans dominated the government. Isaaq clan (The biggest clan in the North) was alienated throughout the union to eliminate political rivalry from North. It was also political hostility focus for challenging the hijacked union. The middle clans and the minorities were not in the radar of the political system of the union. Southern governments also practised "divide and rule" policy in the North turning native clans against each other politically before the civil wars and finally arming them against each other during civil wars.
After all talks and negotiations between Northern leaders and Siyad Barre's regime to reverse the anti-North policies failed, the Northern people had no choice but to challenge the unabated injustices of the South with armed resistance. A group of Isaaq emigrants living in London founded the Somali National Movement (SNM), with political and military wings, in April 1981 to overthrow Siyad Barre's dictatorship. The military wing of SNM waged relentless attacks against Southern troops of oppression, suppression, and repression based in the North. It launched its first operation, operating from bases in Ethiopia, in February 1982 against the government troops. These military operations of SNM successfully continued and devastated the government troops until the major offensive of SNM in 1988.
Claiming that Isaaq clan were supporters of the SNM guerrilla movement, Siyad Barre's government unleashed all sorts of human rights abuses against them such as killings, detentions, rapes, torture, unfair trials, confiscation of private properties, curfews and checkpoints in cities, towns, villages and rural areas in the North. Constraints on freedom of movement and employment and business discrimination against Isaaq were also common.
Even Isaaq community living in the South suffered the same human rights abuses equally. Siyad Barre also sent Northern prominent leaders and politicians such as Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal, Umar Arte Qalib, Ismail Ali Abokar, top military officers and scholars to prison arbitrarily.
The military wing of SNM launched major offensive against government forces based in Hargeysa and Burco in May 1988 destroying most of the troops and arsenal stationed there and crippling Siyad Barre's administration in the North. In Response to SNM offensive, Siyad Barre declared all-out war against Isaaq clan and started bombarding Hargeysa and Burco brutally and indiscriminately with artillery, tanks and war planes, some of them piloted by mercenaries from former Rhodesia, forcing the population of these cities to flee into Ethiopia for sanctuary leaving Hargeysa and Burco in ruins. Tens of thousands of civilians were murdered, massacred or executed summarily.
In July 1989, Forty-seven (47) people, mainly from Isaaq clan, were slaughtered at Jasiira Beach near Mogadishu by Siyad Barre's Red Berets. In February 2000, the bodies of more than 700 people were discovered in mass grave near the Airport of Berbera. Other mass grave sites were also found at Malko Durduro in Hargeysa, near Burco, Gabiley and Ceerigaabo. These mass graves held Isaaq victims of massacres and mid-night executions carried out by troops loyal to Barre's regime in the years 1988 and 1989. It was brutal military campaign of ethnic cleansing against the entire Isaaq clan. In January 1991, the heroic armed struggle of SNM and USC finally ousted Siyad Barre and his dictatorship simultaneously in the North and in the South. Siyad Barre fled the country on January 26, 1991.
Having seen the political deprivation and atrocities against the North and its people, the Northern Congress held in Burco on May 18, 1991 unanimously proclaimed the withdrawal of the North from the union with the South and reclaimed its independence of June 26, 1960 renaming itself: Somaliland Republic. The referendum held in Somaliland on May 31st, 2001 reaffirmed Somaliland sovereignty from Somalia. Somaliland is not a secessionist or breakaway region from Somalia as anti-Somaliland groups claim. It just withdrew from the union it joined as an independent state on July 1st, 1960 after it failed in the hands of Somalia. Djibouti became independent state in 1977 and rejected to join the union after witnessing how the South mistreated the North. Somaliland, Somalia and Djibouti are independent with equal status and legitimacy.
The Somaliland people shall not revive the doomed union with Somalia for the following 7 (Seven) reasons:
1 -The above history of political deprivation and atrocities committed against Somaliland people during the union have no justification or excuse at all.
2 -Somalia does not admit those injustices and heinous crimes against Somaliland people. It purposefully denies or covers them up by claiming that the people of Somalia suffered equally. What they do not want to hear is that they were responsible for the injustices and atrocities in Somaliland but the destructive civil wars in Somalia were self-inflicted. President Aden Abdulle Usman and General Siyad Barre can not be blamed for the injustices and crimes against the North alone because they were supported by Southern politicians, military commanders, troops and tribes loyal to Siyad Barre's regime.
3 -Any federal government shared with the tribes inhabiting in the central regions of Somalia (Mudug and Galgudud) is unlikely to survive long because they are power-obsessed, self-aggrandizing and uncompromising. Some of these tribes hijacked the union in the first decade of its age, some other supported and defended Siyad Barre's brutal dictatorship and another is blamed for the endless anarchy and violence in Somalia.
4 -Somalia still believes in government shared by Somaliwein (greater Somalia that includes all in Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti, Somali Northeastern Region (Kenya) and Western Somalia (Ethiopia). This is no man's government that leads to political chaos and socio- economic setbacks. Somaliland belongs to Somalilanders only.
5 -The place is Africa where democracy, fair elections and rule of law are not respected. Chronic tribalism, brutal dictatorships and crippling corruption are common and normal practice of the day. Any federal government can be easily overthrown at any time by military coups, just like General Siyad Barre did, with the immediate dissolution of elected parliament and constitution. No one can guarantee or trust that this will not happen again.
6 -Neither Somaliland people nor the people of Somalia can afford to have another risky unity that leads to brutal dictatorship or despotic turned-elected governments that plunge both peoples into other violent, atrocious civil wars. They need to have separate, safe, sisterly states with mutual relations like the 18 Arab countries that also share religion, language and culture but living in peaceful, prosperous independent states. Both nations must reject blind patriotism that led them to devastating civil wars in the past.
7 -The place is Africa where the laws of the jungle rein, where tribalism and localism are more important than nationalism and patriotism and where poverty and ignorance drive people to seek living in tribal corrupt or dictatorial governments instead of making sacrifices and hard work for better life and for self- sufficiency.
The critics of Somaliland independence, who advocate for reviving the disastrous unity, are either blind or indifferent to these political betrayal and appalling atrocities in this article. Their reckless, chauvinistic approach for unity must be rejected by Somaliland.
Originally published by The Somaliland Times website, Hargeysa, in English 19 Feb 09.
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Publication Date: 2009-04-01
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