[Documents menu] Documents menu

An Appeal To Respect The Will Of The People Of Somaliland

Somaliland Forum, press release, 29 December 2000

London—In May 1999, the president of the Republic of Djibouti, Mr. Ismail Omer Guelleh, announced at the United Nation’s (UN) General Assembly that he was going to host a peace conference for the Somalis, who have been without a government since 1991 when the Dictator Siad Barre fled the country. The international community broadly welcomed this conference, the 13th attempt to bring peace to Somalia after 12 previous peace conferences failed.

Mr. Guelleh, however, in his quest to host this conference filled the conference hall with people that he had handpicked himself, including his staunch friends from the Barre dictatorship. Many people and as well as the majority of the Mogadishu factions who control large parts of Somalia rejected Mr. Guelleh’s conference as another attempt to impose on Somalia another hand-picked president by Djibouti after the first made-in-Djibouti government of Ali Mahdi Mohamed in 1991 led to the present quagmire.

The Republic of Somaliland, on the other hand, which in 1960 entered into a voluntary union with Somalia which it terminated in 1991 by reinstating its sovereignty, initially supported the conference. Somaliland’s support for the conference, however, as stated by its leaders, was conditional upon two things. First, the factions and parties who are warring with each other need to be reconciled, as Somaliland is not at war with anyone and has been peaceful for the past decade. Secondly, the people of Somalia proper should choose legitimate representatives and a government. Only after these conditions were met will Somaliland be able to have a dialogue with Somalia proper. Such were the conditions.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ismail Omer Guelleh, who was hosting this conference, refused to consider any of these conditions and instead opted to treat the population of the ex-Somali Republic as his pawns to be manipulated as he pleases. As a result, the outcome of Djibouti’s attempts to manipulate Somali affairs is the creation of a government without any territories to attest to and one that threatens the fragile peace and stability of the entire Horn of Africa.

In view of the above facts, the Somaliland Forum, an independent organization that represents the Somaliland diaspora, believes that the made-in-Djibouti government of Mogadishu will try to destabilize the Republic of Somaliland, as is evident from its current rhetoric of denial of the existence of Somaliland, a country whose people decided through their own free will to step back from the disastrous 1960 union with Somalia.

Currently, Mr. Salat, the head of the Djibouti-appointed government, known locally as the Arta faction, is engaged in a wide plan to garner sufficient funds from international sources, and most importantly from Italy, the country that colonized Somalia proper. The whole aim of the search for international funds by Mr. Salat and his Arta faction, the so-called provisional government is to create a huge militia army, composed of freelance militiamen as well as soldiers from the ex-Barre army, so as to wage war against three targets perceived to be standing in the way of Mr. Salat’s power quest.

These are as follows: 1) The Mogadishu factions and as well as the ordinary people in that region; 2) The autonomous federalist regions of Somalia such as the Southwest region of the Digil and the Mirifle, the Puntland State of Somalia, as well as the just announced autonomous region of Hiiraan. These regions and the people who live in them reject the outcome of the Djibouti-initiative as illegitimate and unrepresentative; they also reject it because the Somalia they want is a federal republic in which the regions govern themselves; from bitter experience they know that the centralized state was the instrument that allowed dictator Barre and his lieutenants, such as Mr. Salat, the very head of the Arta faction, to plunder and kill at will for over 20 years until apopular uprising threw them out.

3) The independent Republic of Somaliland, whose people simply reinstated their sovereignty within the borders of the State of Somaliland of 1960, as inherited from the British Protectorate of Somaliland in 1960. It is evident that Mr. Salat’s strategy will create unnecessary wars and upheavals, first within Somalia proper itself, and this has actually started, as Mr. Salat’s militia is battling now the older faction militias of Mogadishu. In light of the unfolding events in Mogadishu, the Somaliland Forum believes that the renewed Somali political conflict, if Mr. Salat and his group have their way, will inevitably spillover into the other neighbouring countries in the region, including Djibouti itself, and would tend to destabilize the entire Horn of Africa.

To avoid such an outcome, the Somaliland Forum would like to impress upon the international community that the pre-1991 state of the Somali Democratic Republic no longer exists and cannot be reestablished because the union of its composite states has been dissolved. Moreover, we urge all countries to refrain from doing anything that can be construed as supporting the claim of the Djibouti-manufactured government to assume the role of the defunct state. The truth is Mr. Salat’s group, far from being a legitimate government, are a new faction—the Arta faction, and Mr. Salat is a new warlord, grafted into a city, Mogadishu, already contested by several factions and warlords.

We also warn against everyone in the international community not to fall for any fake imitations of the defunct Somali union, as the Republic of Somaliland regained its sovereignty and fulfils all the criteria of statehood as set out in article 1 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States. Somaliland has a permanent population, a defined territory (inherited from former British Somaliland) with clear international boundaries of which it has an effective control, a democratic government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Although they have not been applied outside Europe, Somaliland even meets all the guidelines for the recognition of new states set out by the European Community in 1992.

We also would like to remind the world that the people of Somaliland have determined their destiny and are asking for an acceptance of their right to self-determination, which, in this particular case, does not contravene the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) principle of the inviolability of colonial frontiers—Somaliland gained independence from Britain in June 1960 while Somalia proper gained independence from Italy in July 1960. We stress, again, and in particular to our African brethren, that because of the above-mentioned specific reasons, the existence of the Republic of Somaliland will not set any precedent for the breakup of states. On the contrary, it will enhance peace in the Horn of Africa region, as it will forestall future fighting between Somaliland and whatever entity comes to govern Somalia proper.