Zooming in Somaliland                           






President Dahir Rayaale







In the last 16 years, the history of northern Somalia is troubled by tensions within the sub-clans.  In mapping a way through this region, Roobdoon Forum argues that sub-clan rivalries, combined with artificial borders inherited from the colonial European powers, forms part of the responsibility for today’s crisis in Sool, Sanaaag, and Cayn regions (SSC) in Somalia.


In these regions, a belief grew up, particularly in Laas Caanood, that the current skirmish is an Isaaq plot, with its undertones of securing the so-called “Somaliland” borders. The conflict actually began with forces loyal to “Somaliland” invading outskirts of Laas Caanood on September 17, 2007.


We remind our readers that the latest outbreak of fighting in northern Somalia, extent of which remains unclear, killed civilians and forced dozens to flee from Laas Caanood.  The numerous times that armed conflict occurred in SSC regions, in the last 16 years, was described as a “Somaliland” military actions against an area considered hostile to the self-declared republic of “Somaliland”.  However, the inhabitants of SSC, who think the region is part and parcel of Federal Somalia, are in favour of being part of Puntland State of Somalia, as the efforts of the current reconciliation government gets underway.  Making no attempt to be comprehensive, here are glimpses of selected news coverage of the nineties that depict a mixture of hope and despair in northern Somalia.



Egal: The Unification of the Nation under One Flag was an Emotional Thing

The Dallas Morning News

July 17, 1994


M. I. Egal


Mohamed Ibrahim Egal's Republic of Somaliland was once a part of that troubled nation known to the world as Somalia. But as fighting and political anarchy continue to plague southern Somalia, Somaliland enjoys relative peace and political stability.


This country of perhaps 2 million people, about the size of England and Wales, is struggling to revive its livestock economy and rebuild. Many buildings were destroyed in the fighting that led up to the ouster of Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.


But beyond its borders, even the existence of the Somaliland Republic is disputed. No established nation has granted formal recognition. Somaliland's political leaders have staunchly resisted - and resented - attempts by the United Nations and Western powers to encourage a reunification with the south.


Somaliland declared its independence shortly after the Siad Barre regime was toppled. Mr. Egal, 65, became the president of Somaliland in 1993. He was Somalia's last prime minister, when Gen. Siad Barre seized power in 1969. Mr. Egal spent 12 years as a political prisoner. Pressure from the United States helped free him.


Dallas Morning News staff writer Ed Timms recently interviewed him by phone in Hargeysa. The following are excerpts from their conversation:


Timms: How do you explain the level of peace found in the north while the south is still haunted by violence?


Egal: There was no sustained, prolonged war against the oppressive dictatorship of Siad Barre in the southern regions. In Somaliland, our people had fought the dictator for 10 years. Over this prolonged resistance to a common enemy, our people acquired a common identity, a common aspiration. And when the dictator was ousted, they were not enemies, they were comrades in arms. They came together in a peaceful conference in May 1991, declared their separation from Somalia, and started nation-building.


Timms: There was a time when you contemplated and even supported the idea of a unified Somalia. Why did you abandon that idea?


Egal: The unification of the nation under one flag was an emotional thing. For many years, we were saying that we were one culture, one language, one religion, one people. That was all true. But there was something else also. We had different colonial experiences, the French colonial experience, the British colonial experience, the Italian colonial experience. We acquired certain embellishments to our pure Somali culture.


We became different people. Our ethics were different, our attitude to work was different, our attitude to women was different. I came to realize the gap between us, that there was no hope of ever coming together.


Timms: How does the north and south differ politically?


Egal: We have conquered the anarchy that is reigning in Mogadishu. And we have established a democratic society, with a two-chamber parliament and an executive president. We are establishing regional administrations.


Timms: Many of the problems in Somalia that came after Siad Barre's ouster were blamed on the large number of young men with guns, still a common sight in the south. What happened to them in Somaliland?


Egal: The majority of our tribal militia disarmed peacefully. There are only two pockets left of the former militia. My government today is capable of eliminating these pockets in a day, but we don't want that. That is not the way we started building this republic. We must use persuasion and consensus. If it wasn't for the constant interference of UNOSOM (United Nations in Somalia), we would have finished the job by now.


Timms: What is your solution for disarming these gunmen?


Egal: These were young boys who left school and went to fight in the early 1980s. Our plan was to open vocational training schools for them. Our country was almost totally destroyed and we need artisans to rebuild. But we haven't got the resources to maintain all these people. Nobody is helping us. We are trying to make do with what we have."


Timms: How are your efforts to get formal recognition for Somaliland received?


Egal: We are still being isolated deliberately. The Security Council feels itself beholden to its own secretary general and to its own creation, UNOSOM, which oppose our independence. But no nation or former nation should be forced into a union that it doesn't want.


Timms: Why is it important that Somaliland obtains formal recognition?


Egal: Without recognition, we are denied access to international financial institutions and donors. We will not be able to do any substantial development. But I think we will be able to struggle along for a considerable period of time. Of course my country has a small economy, pastoral-agrarian trade, and all around us there is a lot of chaos and anarchy. And that is inhibiting trade. But our volume of trade is improving.


Timms: How are the people of Somaliland doing?


Timms: What have your dealings with U.S. State Department officials and other diplomats been like?


Egal: I have met in Djibouti with the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, but as far as senior American officials, none of them came here to Hargeysa. There are a few people in Mogadishu who have come on a flying visit - they remain with us for a hour or two, just to see me or one of the ministers, and then they fly back again. They don't even bother to look around or take a walk in the market area. We've never really had any serious visitors to Somaliland.


Timms: Some have suggested that your approach to diplomacy and in dealing with internal problems was influenced by the years you spent in prison.


Egal: My 12 years in solitary detention has actually changed me a great deal. I am a much more serious man. I am much more a thinking man. I don't react without first trying to think what I am reacting to. I give myself time. I have mellowed a great deal. I know that. But I think I was a patient man all along. I was a great admirer of Gandhi and people like that. I think my patience with my people and the peaceful process that I am following were always a part of me.


Timms: At one time General Mohamed Farrah Aidid was viewed as an ally in the fight against Siad Barre. Now he is one of the chief warlords in the south. How do you view his actions?


Egal: Judging from his attitude now, it gives me the impression that he was not liberating the country from Siad. He was just trying to oust Siad to take his place and perhaps become more oppressive than Siad was.


Timms: Do you have any fear that the violence of the south may spill across your borders?


Egal: None whatever. Aidid and all the other bloodthirsty warlords are too far away from us, and I think they also know that a substantial amount of arms from the old dictatorship is in the hands of Somaliland. The other day a group from UNOSOM came to me and asked if I would surrender the arms so they could destroy them. I said that I'm prepared to do that provided that you give me a guarantee that nobody in the south is going to try to persuade us to go back by force. As long as there are irresponsible people like Ali Mahdi (Ali Mahdi Mohammed, another major warlord in the south) who have made a habit of making pronouncements about the feasibility of our secession, as long as that is going on, we cannot surrender our arms.


Timms: If the Cold War was still active, would you have any problem getting more attention?

Egal: In 1960, when we had this idea of a greater Somalia, we wanted to build an army, and the Americans flatly refused to equip an army for us. That forced us to go to Moscow. And we have never stopped regretting that. Eventually they built a monster for us, a Frankenstein which has swallowed us and destroyed our country. So I am not weeping over the fact there is no Cold War. But the irony is that at least in the short-term we might have gotten recognition much earlier.


Timms: What would you like people in America to know about Somaliland?


A: This is a country which has no phobia about the United States. This is a country which from its inception, has accepted and valued the ideals and the freedoms that made America great. We are not mesmerized by the power of the United States. We are not mesmerized by the wealth of the United States, but we feel an affinity with the spiritual qualities that the United States stands for. We don't offer any wealth. We are offering something much more substantial - human affinity.


© 1994 The Dallas Morning News.


Somaliland president speaks at Princeton, emphasizes need for sovereignty

14 October 1999


PRINCETON, N.J. -- Somaliland president Muhammad Ibrahim Egal, the leader of a nation that does not exist in the eyes of the international community, spoke yesterday at Princeton University about why the world should recognize the secession of his homeland from the Somali Republic.


In his speech, "The Sovereignty of Somaliland," Egal explained that his homeland is a tribal and primarily agrarian society located in the northern region of the Somali Republic, which is often called Somalia. Since its secession in 1991, Somaliland has been trying unsuccessfully to gain the world's attention, which has been focused on the political and humanitarian crisis to the south, he said.


Egal immediately tried to strike a chord with the audience by paralleling the plight of his breakaway nation with that of another, more familiar republic. "George Washington was the first president of a self-declared republic. I am the first president of another self-declared republic," he said.


But while the United States asserted sovereignty by declaring war, Somaliland seeks sovereignty through international recognition, Egal said. He described his country's ambitions, however, as no less than those of colonial America. "Like they stayed the course, we are going to stay the course, whatever the stakes," he said.


Egal is travelling in the United States, shuttling between Washington, D.C. and New York City in pursuit of recognition from "the world's only superpower," he said. "Nothing in the world can be done anywhere in the global village without the blessing of the USA."



He said his disillusionment with the Organization of African Unity also played a part in his strategy of courting United States assistance. "OAU is not a place where we can look to for redemption, recognition, or understanding," he said, going on to call it a "society of dictators."


Egal said his generation may not see an independent Somaliland. "The world today is conducted on interests. We hope that someday someone will take an interest in our recognition," he said.


Civil war


In the past decade, Somaliland has suffered from the civil war and protracted violence that have wracked the southern region of Somalia. "A group of circumstances has turned people in the south into something less than human and worse than beasts," he said. "Thousands of people have been killed without reason or compassion."


Egal said Somaliland does not feel malice toward its southern neighbor. "Despite the genocide attempt against us, we are compassionate to our brothers in the south. Unfortunately there is no central authority with which we can have a dialogue. The warlords are irreconcilable," he said.


© 1999 U-Wire. All Rights Reserved.


[Note: Egal’s presentation was organized by Princeton University’s African Studies Program.  The Speech took place in Dodds Auditorium at Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs, Princeton University; date October 13, 1999.]




Somaliland Flag






A Somali trader Shukri Ismail, 46 (R) sells her wares at a big trade fair in the centre of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland


Women line up to vote in Hargeisa during first multiparty parliamentary elections in breakaway Somaliland


U.N. emergency relief coordinator Egeland meets Somaliland President Dahir Ryale Kahin in Hargeisa.





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