Runs By Jamal Ali Hussien UCID Party Presidential Candidate. It was last January 28 when I boarded my plane from Newyork to London on my way to South Africa. I was reading the Financial Times when I noticed an article about Kosovo declaring statehood, and how the European Union (EU) is setting the stage for Kosovo to be an internationally recognized State.
I could not help asking myself questions like why the African Union (AU) is not playing the same role on my birthplace of Somaliland? On May 18, Somaliland Republic (former British Somaliland) celebrated 16 years of self-rule and thriving democracy since it has decided to re-instate its sovereignty from Somalia after the fall of Siyad Barre’s regime in 1991.
As a Somalilander, who ran away from Barre’s atrocities as a young man in the late 1980s and settled in the United States, I had mixed feelings as I saw my people celebrate the 16 th anniversary of Somaliland’s birth. On the one hand, I was extremely proud of the people of Somaliland, and its leaders for what they have been able to achieve for the past 16 years.
On the other hand, I am less excited and amazed by lack of AU’s role in leading the way to promote Somaliland’s cause by sending a strong signal to other African countries that they do care and reward peace, stability and democracy (acknowledging people’s choice).
It is very clear why EU is very serious about the status of Kosovo. EU is planning to avoid the risk of war and violence that would again destabilize the Balkan region. The million-dollar question is why our own AU is not far sighted enough to avoid a potential war between southern Somalia leaders and Somaliland that will undermine the stability of the whole region?
Somalia leaders are not known to respect the rule of law and the wishes of their citizens. This is the main reason that Somaliland people are fully determined to fight for their sovereign status on the basis of independence from Great Britain on June 26, 1960.
Thirty-one countries that are members of the United Nations recognized Somaliland as an independent state before uniting with the Italian Somaliland on July 1, I960 to form what was known as Somalia Republic. Somaliland is only seeking recognition within the borders inherited at that moment.
Somaliland , not officially recognized by any state, has been functioning as a constitutional democracy with a president directly elected by the people, aided by a parliament and local government also directly elected by the people.
Some people do not truly understand why people of Somaliland decided to go alone, and broke its partnership with the south. Some of the people even speculate that the issue of Somaliland istied with the stability of southern Somalia, and the union will be back when the rest of the south becomes stable.
As a matter of fact, there are many reasons why Somaliland reclaimed its independence by breaking its partnership, but in my personal view, I would only focus on two important reasons:
One, British Somaliland voluntarily entered a union with Italian Somaliland in pursuit of irredentist dream of “Greater Somalia” (including parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti). It was very clear to everybody in both regions that it was never intended to stop with the union of the two regions, but to pursue the other three remaining regions.
That dream, therefore, effectively died when Djibouti got its independence in 1977 and decided to go alone without joining the existing union. If Djibouti people had the freedom to make that choice, it is only fair that the people of Somaliland can make a similar choice to over their fate.
The main argument here is that the Somali union in 1960 did not achieve the reason for which it had been formed which was a greater Somalia, and Somaliland’s voluntary union at that time was based on that. And if that dream did not materialize, Somaliland could go it alone like the other regions did where Somalis live including Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Two, Somalilanders decided to break from the south because of the suffering and injustices that the people of Somaliland endured for 31 years of marriage. They suffered at the hands of southern governments particularly during Barre’s 21-year rule. The whole world knows that those governments even bombarded Somaliland cities. Therefore, it is a trust issue.
If you had a business partnership with another person and you have suffered and lost everything, and you re-start your business, would you again create another partnership with that person? It is fair to say that the people of Somaliland have a trust issue with their brothers in the south, and will not join them again despite a lack of recognition by the international community.
Most Somalilanders, who only know Somaliland because they were either young or born after Somaliland re-took its independence in 1991, would tell you that if there was such a southern domination in the past, it is certainly history, and only refers to unity in the past tense.
It is important to note that AU sent a fact-finding mission to Somaliland in 2005 in order to respond to the concern that Somaliland recognition would create a fragmentation of Somalia, or other AU member states. The AU fact-finding mission concluded that the case should not be linked to the notion of “opening a Pandora box”. The report recommended that AU “should find a special method of dealing with this outstanding case” as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, AU actions stopped there. Why can’t we Africans decide for ourselves, while Europeans are doing so and the EU is leading the way? I hope I can one day be proud of our African leaders through the AU leadership when I see that they are taking a far sighted approach like the EU in Kosovo.
The more the African Union delays in dealing with the Somaliland case, the more it makes the situation in East Africa difficult, and risk a war, and, even equally importantly, the more the AU credibility is put into question. Somaliland’s case is a time bomb that the AU and the international community could not really afford to ignore.
On the other hand, Somaliland’s multi-party democracy system is rarity in Africa and the Muslim world, and the AU needs to seriously consider Somaliland’s formal application of AU membership to reward the people’s choice. Somaliland is a state where the power truly belongs to the people and facts are there for everyone to see.
Jamal Ali Hussein, The author is current presidential candidate during 2015 for UCID party in Somaliland.
– The article appeared first on Kenyan newspapers, and internet in 2007