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Position of the Republic of Somaliland

1. Introductory note

On 1 July 1960 two separate and sovereign territories Ė Somaliland (a former British Protectorate) and Somalia (the former Italian Somalia) formed a political union that was officially named the Somali Republic. The Somali Republic, as such, became a member of the United Nations, the OAU, and a host of other intergovernmental organizations and was registered under that title.

The official title of the union did not last long, as had been the case of other constitutional arrangements that were intended to safeguard the interests of Somaliland. Taking advantage of their majority, the representatives of Somalia lost little time in dropping the official nomenclature of the union and replacing it with the name of their own territory Ė Somalia. The change was entirely political. Its objective was the complete absorption of the territory and people of Somaliland into Somalia, and the subsequent eradication of all traces of Somaliland from the map. This move was not publicized at the time, and it was done without the knowledge and consent of the other party of the union, namely Somaliland.

The political and diplomatic ramifications of this unilateral change in nomenclature did not become apparent until after Somaliland had successfully overthrown the brutal rule of Siyad Barre in 1990, and declared a few months later Somalilandís withdrawal from its union with Somalia. When Somaliland representatives attempted to establish contacts with the United Nations and other members of the international community, they were told that their country was part and parcel of Somalia, and that the United Nations could not accept any change that would affect the unity and territorial integrity of the State of Somalia. The resultant confusion that has followed the misreading of Somaliaís true identity has been detrimental to the inherent rights and interests of Somaliland and its people.

The international community should be aware of a number of important historical facts pertaining to Somalilandís political development, viz. The achievement of independence on June 26, 1960, its subsequent union on July 1, 1960 with Somalia (ex-Italian Somalia) as two equal partners, its long years of struggle for liberation from the union, its eventual victory in December 1990 and its withdrawal from the union in 1991. Somaliland has reverted to the status ante quo 26 June, 1960, and is determined to maintain that status until a more attractive political alternative acceptable to the people of Somaliland can be found.

2. Somalilandís position on the Djibouti Initiative

Somaliland appreciates that the Djibouti Initiative was inspired by the speech of the UN Secretary General and that the Initiative was launched as a possible measure to help Somalia recover from its current chaos and anarchy.

Somaliland is not opposed to the Djibouti Initiative despite its many shortcomings which it could have helped to remedy had it been consulted adequately and sincerely. Hasty and inadequate organizational arrangements for an extremely complex problem, coupled with Djiboutiís quest for advance endorsement of its plan of implementation even before the invitees from Somalia have even met to discuss the proposal outlined therein, may well be a recipe for failure.

Somaliland objections to the Djibouti Initiative arise from the fact that it ignores the political status of the country. Moreover, Somaliland is aware that some elements ostensibly supporting the Initiative is attempting to draft Somaliland into a reconciliation conference which is of no direct concern to Somaliland, and in which Somaliland has no role to play. There is no party or grouping in Somalia to which Somaliland needs to be reconciled.

Somaliland is aware that the same elements are mischievously exploiting the opportunity given to them by the Djibouti Initiative to undermine the success that has attended Somalilandís efforts at nation-building and at re-establishing a peaceful and stable state. Somaliland will resist to the utmost any attempt to drag it into the quagmire of the anarchy and chaos that characterizes current conditions in Somalia.

Somaliland will have a role to play when inhabitants themselves solve Somaliaís problems, and some form of central authority has been firmly established in that country. Somaliland would be prepared to make contact with the new Somalia authorities to discuss, as equal partners, a future relationship appropriate for the welfare of the people of the two countries.

Somaliland has achieved through a series of nationwide conferences (Berbera and Burao in 1991, Sheikh in 1992 and Borama in 1993) peace, internal stability, a democratic system of parliamentary government, an independent judiciary and the development of a private sector where free enterprise reigns supreme. This promising situation has been achieved without any help, aid or assistance from the international community.

Somaliland has already achieved for itself what the Djibouti Initiative is attempting to do for Somalia, only that Somaliland has done it much better than what is being proposed and has done it successfully.

Somaliland has accomplished a lasting peace between all sections of the population; it has established peaceful cooperation with its neighbors, and it has put in place a democratic governance which is effectively running the country with the consent of the governed.

Somaliland simply asks that its achievements should not be sabotaged or threatened by a proposal which seeks to draft Somaliland into a scheme which runs contrary to its interests and in which it will take no part.

Somaliland, in summary, will not be involved with the Djibouti Initiative and, consequently, will not participate in any of the deliberations outlined in its plan of implementation. This position has been confirmed by Somalilandís House of Representatives and by the public at large.

President, Republic Of Somaliland

Mohamed H. Ibrahim Egal

The New York Times

26 November, 1999

Somalia's Oasis of Peace Seeks Status of a Nation

by Ian Fisher

BURAO, Somalia -- It has been nearly nine years since the people of northwest Somalia gathered here to declare themselves separate from the chaos of the rest of their country. They created a government. They rebuilt their villages and businesses. A young veterinarian named Mohammed Nur Arale saw enough peace recently to invest in a luxury unknown in this town since 1988: a gas station with a pump that actually works.

"The mentality of the people is not the same," he said. "Now everyone has put down their arms. Everyone was just fed up with all of it."

The self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland has become one of Africa's fledgling success stories -- but a success the outside world has been reluctant to help because no one is quite sure what to do with it.

Somaliland presents a quandary because it wants to be recognized as an independent nation. Its people argue that this would acknowledge their land as an island of peace separate from Somalia, a country so lawless that Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary-general, recently referred to it as a "black hole."

African leaders hold few notions as sacred as the usually arbitrary borders drawn by and inherited from their European colonial rulers, because those frontiers define their power. But in this case, if Somaliland -- whose desired borders exactly mirror those of an old British protectorate -- becomes independent, what might happen to the borders of Nigeria, whose vast territory is riven by ethnic and religious differences? Or to Congo, Sudan and Angola, where competing factions and countries have exploited civil wars to carve fiefs that are essentially self-contained states?

Is Africa to go the way of the old Yugoslavia, or Indonesia, where violence and strivings for independence have redrawn frontiers and led to new states?

And so, with another round of peace talks on the whole of Somalia scheduled to begin this month, Somaliland is caught in what its foreign minister calls a "twilight zone," in which it exists in nearly every way as its own state, but survives on a mere trickle of foreign aid and cannot get access to international loans or banks.

The rest of the world, and the United States in particular, has done its best to forget Somalia since 1993. That year, 24 peacekeepers were killed in an ambush in June and, four months later, 18 U.S. servicemen died in a battle in Mogadishu during the U.N. effort to bring food and stability to a starving Somalia.

The United States, which had entered Somalia with great fanfare in 1992, proclaiming this the sort of intervention that would define the new world order that was supposed to follow the Cold War, pulled out soon after those killings. So did the United Nations. Outside help dried up to nearly nothing. And Somalia became a symbol for anarchy, the disaster of misplaced foreign aid -- and an example of how costly it can be for the West to intervene in conflicts it does not understand.

Now, a new consensus has begun to emerge among many outside nations and certainly among Somalis themselves: Something needs to be done.

Certainly, that is the view of people in Somaliland, from businessmen like Mohammed Ahmed Barji, who trades in television sets, generators and mopeds and must load up suitcases with up to $50,000 in cash to go on buying trips abroad, to its president, Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, who says simply: "We want to be let in from the cold."

"After nine years we feel frozen," Egal, 69, a big man with a gray goatee, said in an interview. "Today it is a question of pride sustaining them," he said of the 2 million people of Somaliland. "But it may not be that way in five years. How much longer will they be able to be sustained by pride but on an empty stomach?"

For the outside world, there is another motive to attempt to restore something resembling order to Somalia, which has been without a central government since 1991, when the dictatorship of Siad Barre was overthrown after 22 years of misrule and an interminable civil war. The warlords and militias -- though substantially weakened -- continue to block peace.

In this power vacuum, diplomats and other experts say, Somalia is becoming a center for Islamic fundamentalism, for the smuggling of arms and drugs and the export of terrorism. Parts of the bombs that exploded in August 1998 at the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania reportedly passed through Somalia, as did the bombings' suspected mastermind, Osama bin Laden, supposedly sometime later.

"We share the concerns that this place is in a state of chaos and is definitely a breeding ground for all kinds of trouble," said one U.S. official.

That is exactly how the rest of Somalia is viewed by the people of Somaliland, who consider themselves different from the south.

Since the days of colonialism -- when the Somali people were divided into five different states -- Somaliland has had its own history: Until 1960, it was a British protectorate. Although it united with the Italian Somali colony four days after independence, creating modern Somalia, Somaliland was never happy with the arrangement.

So in 1991, after Barre fell, a group of elders, intellectuals and other leaders came to this town to create the independent Somaliland republic. Progress was slow -- two civil wars were fought since then -- but over time the clan militias disarmed. The people created an unusual parliament, mixing democracy with the traditional leadership of elders and clans.

And Somaliland has largely been blessed with peace.

"There was fighting five years ago and lots of banditry," said Muhammad Ahmed, 34, who calls out prayers in the biggest mosque in Hargeysa. "But it has completely changed. It's like the difference between the ground and the sky."

Ahmed Abdi Edan, 30, said he could never find work during the years of war. But in 1995 he got a job as an English teacher in Hargeysa.

"I really do think it is peace that let me find a job," he said. "Without peace you cannot live."

On a recent day, he was wandering around downtown Hargeysa -- still littered with what is left of the buildings bombed by the Barre government in 1988 -- to do a little investing: He was buying up U.S. currency in the hope that it will rise against the Somaliland shilling.

That entrepreneurial spirit is perhaps the greatest strength of the Somalilanders, half of whom still live as nomads with their camels and goats.

In a few years, businessmen there have created one of the cheapest telephone systems in Africa: International calls are $1.50 a minute in the day and only 80 cents at night. Traders are working to export frankincense and myrrh, and exploration has begun for oil and gemstones.

But the success of Somaliland rests on a shaky foundation. Its greatest accomplishment is undoubtedly peace, though the price is high: Over 70 percent of the national budget (itself only $20 million) goes to maintaining a huge army and police force -- composed of former militia members who have agreed not to fight each other in return for their jobs.

That leaves nothing for education, health or roads. Many Somalis are thus becoming impatient with Egal and his government.

"Of course they can do more," said Hussein Egeh, a 59-year-old livestock trader who fled Somalia 20 years ago but has returned to do business because of the peace in Somaliland. "What is a government for? When you have peace you don't just sit back."

Moreover, many in Somaliland distrust Egal, fearing that he may compromise on Somaliland's independence -- and may, as many foreign powers have urged him to do, find a way to reunite with the south.

"That will be the end of him, if he says we're going to the south," said Ismail Hirsi, a 30-year-old street businessman who changes as much $1,000 a day, money sent from Somalis living abroad. "He can't do that."

Egal argues that the answer to Somaliland's problems lies in recognition from other nations, which would open the floodgates for foreign aid and borrowing. As it stands, the United Nations and European Union are the biggest investors in Somaliland's recovery, but the money is "peanuts," as one European aid worker put it.

On a recent trip abroad, Egal and his ministers argued their case with senior officials in Italy, Libya and the United States. They received lots of sympathy but little success. The international community, Somaliland leaders say, has promised a peace dividend for parts of Somalia that find stability. But without recognition, Somaliland has been unable to get money from institutions like the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.

"They are very generous in dishing out promises," the foreign minister, Mahmoud Saleh Nour, said. "But very stingy in delivering."

Both Annan and American officials have discussed a kind of compromise -- a special status, similar to the West Bank or Kosovo, that would allow Somaliland to gain loans and more aid from outside nations without full recognition. But that seems unlikely to happen as long as a new peace initiative, led by the neighboring nation of Djibouti, still holds promise.

This initiative is different from previous efforts because it is looking for leadership in the south, not among the warlords, but from elders, intellectuals and women's groups as well as businessmen and religious leaders. Still, few experts hold much hope that even after nearly a decade of anarchy Somalia is ready to find peace -- or that Somaliland will go along.

And if these talks do not find answers, many experts say, it may finally be time to think seriously about the question of recognizing Somaliland. If Somaliland is not rewarded for its accomplishments, they ask, what incentive does the rest of Somalia -- and African countries beyond -- have for finding its own brand of peace?

"If this thing fails," a European diplomat said, "it means that the international community has to go to some completely different approach to Somalia."

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