Somaliland Still Captive for AU Hypocrisy

While in the rest of the world, the self-determination of enormous nations, who were once part of a sovereign unions, have been accepted with an open heart and without reasonable delay and scrutiny when they had chosen to leave, the Republic of Somaliland is still held as hostage by the African Union for legally leaving, at the discretion of its citizens, a faulty union once it had with the Italian Somalia. An  indifferent attitude towards their strong case has been the responses of these two world and continental bodies respectively for the past 28 years..

One pretext that is mainly mentioned in denying the aspiration of the Somaliland people is the preservation of “Doctrine of Greater Somalia”, which has been, in reality,  buried in 1963 when Northern Frontier District (NFD) was handed over to Kenya.

Self-Determination and Secession in Africa: The Post-Colonial State:

“In sum the decision to join together Somaliland and Italian Somalia into the Somali Republic was never a goal in its own right, but a strategic decision meant to pave the way for the inclusion of the other three Somali territories in the fold.

So when the British decided in 1963 to award the mainly Somali-inhabited Northern Frontier District (NFD) to the newly independent Kenya — thus disregarding their pledge to respect the findings of an independent commission that an overwhelming majority of the people in the (NFL) sought unity with Somalia — the foundation of ‘Greater Somalia’ on which the initial Act of Unity was built was dealt a major blow.

Although Somalia is currently claiming to be the heart of Greater Somali nationalism, the reverse was the case at the time of the merger. During the fateful year of 1960, Somaliland was the hub and the heart of the Somali nationalist movement. The south, and especially its capital Mogadishu, had plunged into complete clan-based competition and fragmentation following the introduction of the Trusted Italian Administration of Somalia (Administrazione Fiduciaria Italiana della Somalia (A.F.I.S.) in 1950, a development that distracted from the larger task of nation building.”

In violation of international law as well as the very basic laws governing the existence of every sovereign state, the Republic of Somaliland has been subjected to an unprecedented process of re-confirming its prior status as statehood since 1991 for merely exercising its basic right for self-determination by terminating its unification with Somalia.

Continuing ignorance of Article four (b) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union as well as Cairo Resolution 16(I) from 1964 that SOLEMNLY DECLARES that all Member States pledge themselves to respect the borders existing on their achievement of national independence is a shame on African Continent. An illustrative example of the grievous hypocrisy of African Union is the inaction of the report of its own fact-finding mission conducted between 30 April to 4 may 2005 that concluded and recommended that the African Union should “find a special method for dealing with Somaliland” and confirmed that Somaliland’s status was “not linked to the notion of opening a Pandora’s Box” in Africa 

There is no shred of doubt that Somaliland and Somalia were two sovereign states united voluntarily on July 1, 1960, after each state gained its independence from their European colonial powers – Britain and Italy respectively, as documented without any ambiguity in the world history. Furthermore, when sovereign states join and create unions and federations, they never gave up and surrender entirely their sovereignty for good, and the same is true for Somaliland case.

The Republic of Somalia ceased to exist as unified Republic in 1991 and split into its original states. Since then, Somaliland governments have been the sole supreme authority within the territory of Somaliland.

Somaliland case comes down to two fundamental questions concerning the resumption of its sovereignty after the disintegration of the Somali Republic: was the Act of Union that made possible the birth of a new sovereign state termed as the Republic of Somalia, in all international legal documents,  was duly executed? In addition, whose authority has the final say in deciding the withdrawal of that union and in what manner?

In today’s world, sovereign and supreme power that dictates the faith of every nation rests in the choices and decisions of the people of that nation. Substantial precedents illustrating this point are abundant in the modern history of the world where the will of the people was the sole force behind the formations and dissolutions of many mergers and unions around the globe,  including quite a few in the African Continent.

United Kingdom is sovereign union resulted from Articles of the Treaty of Union (London 1709), and made of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland went to polls to vote on Independence Referendum on Sept 19, 2014 and decided to remain in the United Kingdom by a very low margin of 55% to 45%. Had the results been other way around, Scotland would have been, by now, an independent new nation in Europe because of the will of the majority of Scottish people. Another striking example is the breakup of Yugoslavia into six smaller modern nations (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro) in 1991 in the heart of Europe on  ethnic lines, who have never been before a sovereign nation.  Another victory close to home is South Sudan, a new nation, slashed from Sudan in referendum in January 2011, as part of a peace agreement reached with Sudan in 2005, demonstrating the respect accorded to their wishes by the world communities.

The attitude accorded to Somaliland’s ambition is unjustifiable in any logic. The national referendum on May 31 of 2001 for the new constitution of the Republic of Somaliland served as the direct voice of the Somaliland people indicating their overwhelming decision to sever ties with the Somali Republic and reinstate their sovereignty and statehood again, since the constitution adopted and consented on that day with 97% approval rate clearly states in its Article 1 the sovereign nature of this state that began in 1991.

Mutual laws, rules, acts, statues, accords, and agreements govern the world today, whether they be relating to in the realm of political, economic, security, or interest issues. These laws can be either global and/or regional in scope and reach. The implementation of these laws is in the best interest of the whole world in terms of maintaining stability and co-operation among sovereign nations, and they should never be selectively and conveniently applied otherwise, at any case and circumstances. But, unfortunately, in the case of Somaliland, it has been exactly done so.

“The union between Somaliland and Somalia has always been a de facto union rather than de jure union. In other words, something that exists in reality but that is not necessarily lawful. British Institute of International and Comparative Law, a prestigious organization that exists to this day in the UK, published a journal article in July 1963 titled “Legal Problems Arising out of the Formation of the Somali Republic” pointing out the nature.”

Executing a crucial legal instrument establishing “Articles of Union” that explicitly stating the agreed terms of the two States and reconciling the two Act of Unions has been willfully omitted by the Southerners, thus rendering the union illegitimate and unlawful.

Before the independence of Somaliland and Somalia, it was decided in a conference convened in Mogadishu, 16—22 April 1960 that a merger agreement should be concluded by the two political units on 1 July l960. On 27 June 1960, the Legislative Assembly of Somaliland passed ‘the Union of Somaliland and Somalia Law.’ Because the Somaliland Government did not sign that legislation into law, the Legislative Assembly of Somalia approved, on 30 June 1960, another bill of its own making, the ‘Atto di Unione’ (The Somalia Act of Union, in the form of Presidential Decree, was approved “in principle” but never enacted into law).  Consequently, instead of one merger treaty, two different instruments were drawn up separately and were not exchanged. To overcome this difficulty, on 31 January 1961, the National Assembly that was constituted of the two legislative bodies repealed ‘the Union of Somaliland and Somalia Law’, and decided that the ‘Act of the Union ’ comes into effect retroactively as from 1 July 1960

According to States-Within-States: Incipient Political Entities in the Post—Cold War Era: “following the de facto unification of the two territories on July 1, 1960, the Somaliland government contends that the arrangement was never consummated de jure. Instead, two discrete Acts of Union were signed. On June 27, 1960, the Somaliland legislature passed the Union of Somaliland and Somalia Law. However, since the authorized representative of Southern Somalia never signed this treaty, it remained without force in the South.  Meanwhile, on July 1 the legislature of Somalia approved a significantly different document entitled Atto di Unione (Act of Union).

On January 31, 1961, the new National Assembly repealed the Unity of Somaliland and Somalia Law and introduced a new Act of Union, to come into force retroactively from July 1, 1960. The Somaliland government (established after 1991) argues that the act of repealing could not have been effective in both parts of the Somali Republic, presumably on the grounds that the new National Assembly did not yet exercise its jurisdiction in the State of Somaliland. In support of this view, Somaliland cites the acquittal, in March 1963, of a group of northern officers tried for treason before the Mogadishu Supreme Court. The British judge presiding over the case, according to the Somaliland government, dismissed the charges “on the grounds that there was no Act of Union between the North and South, the alleged offence having taken place in the North.”

An excerpt from Somaliland: The Way Forward Vol. 1: Achieving its Rightful International Status reads as follows:

“The validity of the Act of Union is anyway unclear. In June 1960, representatives from Somaliland and Somalia each signed different Acts of Union, and therefore agreed to different terms of unification; the official Act of Union was passed retrospectively in January 1961 by the new National Assembly, and in a referendum on the new Constitution of the Somali State, held in June 1961, an extremely low turnout in Somaliland (less than one sixth of the population), and an overwhelming rejection of the document by those who voted, demonstrated discontent with the union. The 1960 unification of Somalia and Somaliland failed to meet domestic or international legal standards for treaty formation, and the Act of Union falls short of the Vienna Convention’s legal requirements for a valid international treaty.”

“The separation of fused states into their former territories has precedents in Africa: Egypt and Syria were joined as the United Arab Republic (UAR) from 1958-1961; the failed Federation du Mali united Senegal and Mali for just over a year in 1960; the Senegambia Confederation was the result of a brief merging of the now separate countries of Senegal and Gambia; and Eritrea separated from Ethiopia in 1991.”

Today, Somalia and Somaliland are two distinct nations that are not comparable at all in any respect. The true images of both Somalia and Somaliland are well known to the rest of the world as well as to these prestigious bodies. The world has been trying for the past 28 years to establish a functioning government in Somalia, with billions of dollars invested and African peacekeeping troops deployed but unfortunately no progress has been made so far and no hope on the horizon either. On the other hand, Somaliland has recovered from a complete destruction without any meaningful outside help and managed successfully to establish a full-fledged government and functioning economy with a track record of peaceful power transfers, unlike many in other parts of the world.

African Union Secretariat and African Head of States must come out of their closets and err on the side of reality and enforcing the rule of their own laws, as the whole world is observing  on their front to make the first move of acknowledging and endorsing the statehood of the Republic of Somaliland

Ahmed J Yassin

Advancing Somaliland case from Jacksonville, Florida, USA

Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed are those of the author/authors and do not reflect the views of Somaliland Intellectuals Institute (SII) and/or its sponsors. SII reserves the right to edit articles before publication. If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to August 3, 2019