Zooming in Somaliland                           







President Dahir Rayaale






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.






July 12, 1994


Radio Hargeisa in Somali

1200 GMT July 03, 1994



The president of the Republic of Somaliland, Mr Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal, addressed members of the press in his office in Hargeisa city today [3rd July]. The presidential press briefing was attended by both local and foreign journalists. In his address the president discussed the political situation currently prevailing in the country.


The president discussed his forthcoming visit to Egypt at the invitation of the Egyptian president, Mr Muhammad Husni Mubarak. He said he had asked the Egyptian government to postpone the visit until the end of July [1994] because of the absence of the vice-president of the Republic of Somaliland, Mr Abd al-Rahman aw Ali Farah, who is still recovering from illness in the Jibuti forces'hospital. The president and the vice-president cannot be away from the country at the same time. Regarding the issues to be discussed with the Egyptian government, we shall attempt to convince that government that it is wrong in the way in which it regards this country, and at the same time make it realize that the Republic of Somaliland is independent and free.


On the recognition of the country Mr Egal said that the eyes of the world were now focused on our country because the earlier positions of many world leaders had changed. The president added that the recognition of this country had taken longer than expected and that this issue could only be resolved by the people of the Republic of Somaliland and especially by the way in which they conducted themselves. He added that the chief requirements were unity and struggle for progress in development. Mr Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal said he had called for a meeting of all the elders of Somaliland as a step towards unity and progress in the country. In his address to the press, Mr Egal discussed in detail issues related to the political, economic and social situation of the country.


1994 BBC Monitoring Summary of World Broadcasts.









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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