Somaliland: Colonial Boundaries Demarcation

The Tukaraq skirmishes have finally erupted into an all-out war last week. The argument is centered on the status of Somaliland following the latter’s declaration of independence way back in 1991. The historic background of Somaliland independence is well documented and there is no point in narrating it in details.. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that Somaliland has gained its independence from Great Britain in 1960, and joined ex-Italian Somaliland to form the Somali Republic during that same year. In 1991, and after 31 years of ill-fated union with the Italian South Somalia, Somaliland has unilaterally decided to restore its independence gained from Great Britain in 26 June 1960 and withdraw from that union.

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At present, Somaliland contends that their boundaries are the original demarcations resulting from colonial treaties they have inherited from Great Britain.

Colonial powers demarcated the current boundaries in Africa, Asia, and many other parts of the world. They are internationally respected and recognized as legitimate ones and Somaliland boundaries are different from those

The international boundaries of the Republic of Somaliland are set out in Article 2 of the Somaliland Constitution

The boundary of Somaliland with Djibouti is set on Anglo-French Agreement dated Feb 29, 1888. The boundary of Somaliland with Ethiopia is set on Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty June 4, 1897. The boundary of Somaliland with Somalia is based on the Anglo-Italian Agreement of May 5, 1894.

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It is interesting to note here that Somalia has no dispute over the demarcation of the borderline with Somaliland, but they claim that Somaliland is part of Somalia. They do not recognize the Somaliland declaration of independence in 1991. The dispute between Somalia and Somaliland is, therefore, a political issue and could be resolved through political means.

Puntland, the regional administration of Somalia that borders Somaliland, framed the real confusion in this conflict. They adopted a rather funny definition of the conflict and claim that their borderline with Somaliland must be based on the land inhabited by the family of related tribes. This thinking or mentality almost resembles the behavior of African lions when marking their mating domains with the reach of their urine. Besides, the Somali people are nomads and real boundaries must not be confused with the tribal grazing lands where their livestock roam in the autumn or winter seasons in search of nourishment and water. Therefore, the Somali tribal grazing lands crosses many neighboring boundaries and it is absurd to regard it as a legitimate and internationally observed boundaries.

The late President of Abdillah Yusuf first proclaimed the argument of Puntland by saying: “the territory of Puntland is where my tribe’s herds reach in the autumn”. This claim is the basis of all disputes in the Somali peninsular and indeed the entire Horn of Africa. Therefore, we appeal to the international community to restrain Puntland before it is too late.

In fact, the Puntland authority disregards the international boundaries of the entire Horn of Africa and the treaties that established them in the Pre-Independence Era. If the international community fails to put an end to Puntland’s Tribal Ambition, it would metastasize to some parts of Ethiopia and Kenya where their tribe inhabit. It will not be that far when we end up in quagmire of disputes in the Horn of Africa that will take decades to resolve.

Hassan Abdi Yousuf
Head of Horn of Africa Economic Research Center
Hargeisa, Somaliland
Hassan_ayousuf@hotmail.com