March 25, 2008
Status: Unrecognized territory
Population: 3.5 million
Areas: 68,000 sq miles
Language: Somali, Arabic, English
Religion: Sunni Islam
Ethnic Groups: Somali, Swahili, Oromo
UNPO REPRESENTATION: Government of Somaliland
The Government of Somaliland has been a member of UNPO since 2004
Somaliland is situated on the eastern horn of Africa, and is roughly the size of England and Wales. It shares its borders with the Republic of Djibouti on the west, Federal Republic of Ethiopia to the south, to the north the Gulf of Aden, and Somalia to the east. Somaliland comprises of a total area of 137,600 square km with a coastline of 850 km. The region has a monsoon type climate, with a distinct rainy spring season, and dry summers.
The population is estimated at 3.5 million, with an average growth rate of 3.1%.
55% of the population is nomadic or semi-nomadic, with 45% living in urban areas or rural towns. The average life expectancy for males is 50 years old, and for females 55. The population is dispersed in Hargeisa, the capital city, and other main towns and cities such as Burao, Borama, Berbera, Erigabo, Gabiley, Baligubadle, Saylac, Odeweyne, and Las Anod.
Currency: Somaliland shilling (SISh).
The regions main source of income comes from the export of livestock (camels, cattle, goats, and sheep) to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States through the port of Berbera. Produce from agriculture are sorghum and maize, with the Hargeysa highland being best suited for dry-farming, whilst the Haud region is more suitable for animal grazing.
The traditional practice of livestock exports is no longer feasible as a strong contributor to economic stability, as it no longer sufficiently supports a growing population. Saudi Arabia’s ban on the import of Somaliland livestock, following its claim that it is contaminated, has greatly affected the region. Somaliland finds itself relying on money sent by relatives and members of the Diaspora who fled the country during the 1980’s civil war. The estimated value of their contribution is estimated at 300million US$ a year.
With Somaliland remaining unrecognised in the international arena as a legitimate state, it cannot appeal to the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) or other international support, which gravely increases its susceptibility to poverty and unemployment amongst its population.
Somaliland is caught in a vicious Catch-22 position. They are being told, "Destroy your nation by joining destroyers in the south (Somalia), and we will recognise you. Stay outside, with stability and democracy, and we will ignore you." The region has been lobbying relentlessly for the past seventeen years to win support for its claim to be a sovereign state.
The aim of unifying Somali factions continues today as the Arta Conference in Djibouti in 2000 created a Transnational National government (TNG), claiming to represent Somalia and Somaliland as one entity. Having been lobbying for sovereign recognition, Somaliland opted not to participate in the negotiations. Moreover, Somaliland rejects the TNG, arguing Somaliland’s strive for independence to be nonnegotiable.
Today Somaliland has received greater support in trying to assert its independence as legitimate to the global community. One of such supports is the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), and think-tank Senlis Council. The Council argues that since Somaliland was granted independence as a British protectorate in 1960, despite it being only for five days, the same recognition of its independence needs to be re-instated into global politics.
In response to Somaliland’s plea, the previous Bush Administration argued the issue of Somaliland to be one needing resolution by the African Union. That is, the United States refuses to recognise the regions independence, yet continues to investigate possible suspects within Somaliland, believed to be linked to al-Qaeda attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The African Union remain timid on the matter, suggesting the alteration of African countries borders to potentially elicit uncertainty within the continent, and thus considers it best to keep colonial borders in-tact. Whether this implies Somaliland should accept its fate as part of Somalia, or whether it should operate under the backdrop of sovereignty, following its acquisition of independence from Britain, remains unclear.
Furthermore, the Somali President Abdullah Yusuf Ahmed is strongly in favour of the union of the two territories; to the dismay of Somaliland, such attitudes have to date gained greater influence amongst other countries. Whilst Somaliland remains a ‘State-in-waiting’, it simultaneously continues to encapsulate all that which is a state; the presence of a military force, a national population, distinct borders, anthem, flag, constitution and government.
Somaliland has undergone a remarkable struggle from defeating the tyrannical leadership of Siad Barre, to creating and encouraging a society fiercely dedicated to the preservation of its cultural heritage, and the promotion of a political arrangement that acknowledges equality and representation for its people.
UNPO MEMBER PERSPECTIVE
Government executive power:
Somaliland declared itself independent following the overthrow of military dictator Said Barre in 1991. Since, the former British protectorate has created a transitional form of government which relies heavily on the use of clan elders in mediation, appointments and the equal representation of clans. Equal representation for all clans is paramount to governments mandate, in the 1993 elections the Guurti (council of elders) encouraged such by electing the then president (Mohamed Ibrahim Egal) to represent the Issaq clan, whilst also electing Abdirahman Ali Farah (from the Gadabursi clan) as vice- president.
The death of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal saw him succeeded by the now President Dahir Riyale Kahin. Term in office is set at five years, however, despite Mr Riyale leadership officially ending as of May 2008, it has been controversially extended by the Guurti. The most recent election was in 2005 where voters elected a new parliament. Previously, members of parliament (MP’s) were appointed by clans through a process of consultation; the alteration of such is aimed at strengthening the democratic process so as better their chances of international recognition.
• President: Dahir Riyale Kahin
• Vice president: Ahmed Yusuf Yassin
The legislative assembly is comprised of two chambers- an elected elder’s chamber, and House of Representatives. The elected President and Vice-President are Heads of government, whilst the President nominates cabinet members who subsequently approve legislation. In addition, Somaliland has an independent judiciary.
• Speaker of parliament: Dulbahante (Clan chief)
Political Parties and Leaders:
The country has three main political parties:
• Allied Peoples Democratic Party (UDUB) - Party of both current President (Dahir Riyale Kahin) and vice- President (Ahmed Yusuf Yassin)
• Justice and Welfare Party (UCID)
• Kulmiye Party (Peace, Unity and Development Party)
In 1884 the now Republic of Somaliland was known as the Somaliland Protectorate under British rule. On June 26th 1960 the United Kingdom granted independence to the people of Somaliland, resulting in Somaliland qualifying and being acknowledged as an independent country by some 35 states. The United Kingdom signed several bilateral agreements with Somaliland on this day, in addition, the then U.S. Secretary of State, Christian Herter, sent a congratulatory message. However, independence was short lived; independence lasted a mere five days.
On 1st July 1960 despite much dispute, Somaliland joined the former Italian Somalia to form the Somali Republic. The union failed almost instantly mostly due to issues of representation and power. The union would result in almost all key political and economic opportunities being concentrated in Southern Somalia, at the disadvantage of other regions. The strained relations within the country eventually escalated into a civil war by the 1980s. This paired with the already tyrannical rule of Somalia’s Said Barre since 1969, both Somali and Somaliland were nearing collapse. Both phenomenons’ came to an end in 1991 following the overthrow of Barre by Isaaq opponents from the Somali National Movement (SNM). The SNM met at Burao in May 1991 and declared unilaterally that Somaliland would henceforth become the independent Republic of Somaliland.
Somaliland has done amazingly well in managing the electoral process. On the 31st of May 2001, Somaliland conducted a referendum which endorsed a new constitution and reaffirmed its status as an independent state. The Initiative and Referendum Institute, an international non-profit organization based in Washington D.C, concluded that the referendum was conducted "openly, fairly, honestly, and largely in accordance with internationally recognized election procedures."
Ninety-seven percent of the voters approved the constitution.
On the 15th of December 2002, six political parties took part in the municipal elections in which Somaliland women where able to participate for the first time. In April 2003 Dahir Riyale Kahin, from the ruling Unity of Democrats (UDUB) party, won Somaliland's first multi-party presidential elections.
The second parliamentary elections held on the 5th September 2005, saw to the re-instatement of Dahir Riyale Kahin leadership.
CULTURE AND LANGUAGE
Somali is the official language, including Arabic and English. It is mandatory that Arabic be taught in schools and mosques, with English too being spoken and taught in schools around the country. Somali is one of the Cushitic Languages of the Afro-asiatic family.
Majority of the population consists of Sunni Muslims; Islam is the principle faith and religion. Religion informs social norms and practice, such as women wearing a hijab (a veil covering the body except for the hands and face) in public, and all Somalis abstaining from gambling, the eating of pork, or drinking of alcohol, as is discouraged in Islam.
There pertains a freedom of marriage, but both people must be Muslim. Arranged marriages are not as popular as before, but when they occur, the bride is often much younger than the groom. Optionally, marriage to a cousin from the mothers’ side of the family is also encouraged as a means to strengthen family alliances.
Somali peoples daily breakfast consists of bread called laxoox (La’hooh), liver, toast, cereal or porridge. Traditionally the main meal of the day is eaten at lunchtime, and includes a combination of rice or noodles with meat and sauce. Commonly it is considered polite to leave a small portion of food on ones plate when visiting homes. The understanding is; the remaining food signifies that you been given enough food. Today this practice is not entirely mandatory, but does form part of the Somali people’s cultural heritage.
MAIN NATIONAL HOLIDAYS
• Labour Day (1 May)
• Restoration of Somaliland Sovereignty (18-19 May)
• Independence Day (26 June)
• Mawlid Nabi - Birthday of Holy Prophet Muhammad
• Mi’raaj Nabi - The day of the bodily ascension of Holy Prophet Muhammad
• Eid ul Fitr - Marks the end of Ramadaan; the Islamic holy month of fasting
• Eid al Adha- The religious festival of sacrifice; the day commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. Muslims all over the world, where possible, sacrifice a goat or sheep as a reminder of Ibrahim’s obedience to God.
• Islamic New Year
Somaliland Government: http://www.somalilandgov.com/
Somaliland Chamber of Commerce:http://www.somalilandchamberofcommerce.com/
Somaliland Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture:http://www.somalilandchamber.com/
Somaliland Times Newspaper: http://www.somalilandtimes.net/
Somaliland Law: http://www.somalilandlaw.com/body_index.html
Somaliland Upper House of Parliament: http://www.guurti.org/
Somaliland Forum: http://www.somalilandforum.org/
Somaliland National Election Commission:http://www.somalilandelectoralcommission.org/
UCID Party: http://www.ucidparty.com/
Kulmiye Party: http://www.kulmiye.com/index.asp
UDUP Party: http://www.xisbiga-udub.com/
Somaliland Policy & Reconstruction Policy Institute: http://www.sopri.org/