Somaliland and Somalia Convergence – It is Time for Reconciliation This paper aims to start a discussion on future relationship that Somaliland and Somalia could possibly have.
The paper intends to start a dialogue for reaching a final settlement on the two contentious principles: self-determination and unity held by the two sides, Somaliland and Somalia, respectively.
The paper will not dwell much on the history and background of the argument as it assumes the reader is well informed about it. It is worthy to remind readers the current Somali state was born out of the merger of British Somaliland and Italian Somalia after their independence 26th June and 1st July 1960 respectively.
The Somali state survived until its collapse in early 1991; which triggered the people of Ex British Somaliland to declare their independence from the rest of Somali Republic, without the consent of the other partner of the union, and established their own de facto state within the boundaries of the former British Somaliland. Since then, Somaliland has been seeking for an international de jure recognition with no avail; and in 2012, the two sides started talks facilitated by United Kingdom and Turkey; but unfortunately collapsed in 2015 with no tangible outcomes. Here the failure is attributed to the approach of beating around the bush, and talks mainly were only about technicalities such as sharing international aid, aviation etc.
They failed addressing the real issues that mattered most, that is to say, about the final settlement, the destiny of the two people and the reconciliation of the twoprinciples: Self- determination versus Unity – but never irreconcilable. We have to learn from where Israel and Palestine experiences of avoiding the final settlement, which ended up the perpetual, conflict that we see on the television screens with ongoing human suffering of immense proportions. Somalis could easily circumvent this course with the good will and the support of the international community.
Let me start with few facts that need to be stated: The state of “Somali Republic” that joined the international community on 1st July 1960 was born out of the merger of Somaliland and Somalia. The colonial states of Somaliland and Somalia ceased to exist from that day onward and the name “Somalia” was a shorthand informal notation of the new republic – Somali Republic – but never been the official name. Even at the time of the collapse it had the name of Somali Democratic Republic; and since then subsequent governments in Mogadishu called themselves as Transitional National Government (TNG), and currently “Federal Somalia “of about 5constituents (Puntland, Galmudug, HirShabelle, South West and Jubbaland) Worth noting Somaliland was not a party of this federal arrangement but have had a separate approach, the failed negotiations in Turkey.
Having established above, it is now 27 years since Somalilandself-declared its independence and, so far no sight of possible international recognition; noting the new generations of both sides had never have known any time Somaliland was part of the polity of the Somali Republic/Somalia. It is a wonder how Mogadishu could impose its will of unity on Somaliland populations and bring it into the fold of Somalia.
Hence as time goes by, the chance of peaceful re-union or divorce of the two constituents will remain remote and may inevitably, in the longer term, end up in violence, unless political courage and leadership come to the fore. Obviously, no one with the right mind wants to foment bloodshed for the future generations; and thus parties concerned are to be pressed to start political convergence now while at the same time remaining divergent as reality dictates.
This posits the question on how to bring the de facto state of Somaliland and the de jure state of Federal Somalia together. I suggest that the first stage to be a brief temporary arrangement of convergence – Joint Sovereignty – and that should include among others: sharing the defence of air and territorial space, mutual ratification of international agreements, managing the foreign affairs and international together. In such arrangement a joint council, with a limited frame-time will have the aforementioned remits.
It should not be an open ended. The second stage of convergence points to the direction of “confederation”, with a constitutional arrangement between the two entities, which allows each party, with mutual agreement of the other, on holding a referendum on seceding from the other.
The referendums shall happen under the aegis of the African Union (AU) and/or United Nations (UN). It is not the remit of this paper to speculate on how such confederation arrangement be constructed, or would look like, nor on how the referendum question will be worded. These details are better left to the negotiators and their mediators (the international community). Free of expression and unhindered discussions and debate shall precede the referendum. Somaliland has not only have the tendency to suppress unionist voices but shows extreme intolerance of minute expression for unity.
Free expression of the thoughts is fundamental individual right enshrined in all human rights conventions. I would like to underscore that Somali population in the Horn of Africa tend to be very young and most of them had never known one Somali state; therefore there should be a careful choreograph of convergence process as necessary. They (Somaliland and Somalia) are in limbo state and is no longer tenable and not fair to the future generations. I strongly believe the outcome of a temporary confederation arrangement and holding a referendum within certain period, mutually approved, will lead to a win-win outcome for both sides.
Mohamud Ahmed, London, UK – comments on Somali community cohesion in the UK Email: firstname.lastname@example.org London 14/01/2019