Commentary from Victor Anant: The Colony That Rejected Freedom

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This piece was first published on Wednesday June 29, 1960 in the Daily Herald Paper in London, UKSomaliland a barren, barely inhabitable and wholly pointless British colony for nearly 60 years, became independent last Sunday.

And on Friday after four days of freedom, this obsolete British outpost will surrender its sovereignty and merge with the other state, Somalia

Unique

It has decided not to remain in the Common-Wealth. Somaliland, eastern gateway to Dark Africa, was rarely worth a sniff in the world’s press until four days ago. Now it has become an area of historical significance. And the reason is that its merger with Somalia is unique, as Somalia itself is not yet free.

Somalia, once known as Italian Somaliland, is still technically under UN Trusteeship, and becomes formerly free in December. Why has this eastern wing of Africa suddenly became important? I was making this question exactly a year ago. I had just flown across to Aden from the port of Djibouti, in French Somaliland. I was looking for a man whose name has been given to me in a whisper in Djibouti back street.

THIS MAN, I had been told, was the only one who could truly explain the Somali dream of things to come. THIS MAN was to be for the Somalis what Banda was to be to other Africans – a Messiah. His name? Mohammed Harbi. I found him in Aden after a secret message had been slipped to me that Mohammed Harbi would like to talk to me. He would tell me all.

Smaller

I found him lounging in an air-conditioned bedroom in the Crater- centre – of Aden. With him was a member of the Afro-Asian secretariat in Cairo. Mohammed Harbi is from French Somaliland, which is smaller than Somaliland, just vacated by the British, and Somalia, once Italian.

Harbi was on his way to Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, to organise the first all-Somali People’s Conference. Like all Somalis, he is wiry and sensitive, with saucer sized eyes.

Unlike them, however, he has a massive forehead and does not easily become agitated in conversation. Only, occasionally, did I see a wild Somali glitter in his eyes. Harbi is the son of a wealthy French Somaliland merchant.

Exile

But two years ago, he resigned and asked his people to vote against General de Gaulle – to vote for leaving the French land’s independence

Late Somaliland President: Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal addressing the same issue