By Ibrahim Hassan Gagale
Somaliland is not breakaway or separatist or secessionist. Somaliland was separate British Protectorate Colony for nearly 80 years (1884-1960) and achieved independence on June 26, 1960 with immediate diplomatic recognition from more than 30 countries while Somalia was still Italian colony.
Because of chauvinistic jubilation in 1960s (The year of Africa), Somaliland hastily and unthoughtfully shared unrectified union with Somalia. In October 1969, General Siad Barre took over the country in military coup and established brutal dictatorship. Siad Barre’s Regime of Somalia waged devastating war against Somaliland committing genocide against its people, leveling major cities of Somaliland on the ground and destroying the livelihood of rural areas. The Barre’s criminal Regime slaughtered 50, 000 or more Somalilanders in the years between 1984-1990.
SNM led fierce armed resistance against the fascist regime of Siad Barre and defeated in January 1991. After the victory, Somaliland people withdrew from the disastrous union and reclaimed its independence of June 26, 1960. For unknown reasons, Somaliland Republic is still awaiting international diplomatic recognition
Unions or federations between two or more countries are not eternal. If the sides disagree, the union or federation is simply dissolved and each country retains its original independence and recognition. Senegal and Gambia shared federation called Senegambia Federation in 1982 but dissolved it in 1989. Egypt and Syria shared union called United Arab Republic in 1958 and dissolved it in 1961. Each country regained its independence and recognition it had before the federation or union. Why not recognizing Somaliland after dissolving the union with Somalia in 1991? South Sudan is recognized in 2011 without having colonial borders of its own. Why not recognizing Somaliland which has its own colonial borders like any other African country?
Some leaders of African countries believe in what they call “disputed land” in Somaliland. There is no disputed land in Somaliland as Sool Region and Eastern Sanaag located within the colonial borders of former Somaliland British Protectorate. The sovereignty and recognition of every African country depend on European colonial borders and Somaliland is not an exception. No African country or African leader would accept that part of their country, which is within its colonial borders, would be called “disputed land.” If some of African leaders do not stop calling part of Somaliland “disputed land” then it is fair game to call part of their country “disputed land” in future. The territory of every African country is defined by its colonial borders. If these colonial borders are not respected and protected, then every African country will have disputed land in its country and the whole continent would be plunged into chaos, anarchy and tribal wars.
Also, there is no African country that needed approval for its independence and recognition from another African country or even referendum. Likewise, Somaliland does not need approval for independence and recognition from Somalia or even referendum as Somaliland became independent nation before Somalia on June 26, 1960 while Somalia became independent on July 1, 1960. There should be no condition at all for Somaliland recognition.
If AU does not recognize Somaliland Republic on its own colonial borders like any other African country, then AU conference in 1964 for reaffirming African colonial borders will be obsolete and internal conflicts may dismantle Africa to create small tribal states. Denying Somaliland to be recognized on the basis of its original British Protectorate colonial borders is absolutely wrong and may put the whole African continent in crises. The diplomatic recognition and independence of all African countries depend on their colonial borders and Somaliland have equally the same status and not an exception.
This continuous denial of Somaliland recognition will encourage the rise of internal insurgents seeking independence, like South Sudan, in any African country or separatist forces rejecting colonial borders seeing it as wrong borders or demarcations drawn by divisive colonialism that should not exist any more in order to reunite tribes divided and separated by colonial powers. This is stern warning to AU and to every African country which wants to keep its territorial integrity and national unity in future. AU must recognize Somaliland Republic to preempt continental disaster.
Peace and stability of African countries depend on respecting and protecting colonial borders of Africa. The colonial borders of Africa are not different from those of Asia, South America and Arab World. Independence and recognition of each African country are based on colonial borders. If AU continue ignoring the legitimate colonial borders of Somaliland and deny it of recognition, then colonial borders of all African countries may be disregarded and African tribes in any country may ignore it and advocate for secession. AU will be solely responsible for the consequences if crises of African colonial borders arise if not respected and recognized as they were drawn by colonial powers.