President Muse Bihi Abdi

Address on Somaliland-Somalia Relations at a Consultation Summit in Djibouti

delivered 14 June 2020, Djibouti, Republic of Djibouti


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio -- some minor stylistic allowances given the speaker's non-native English language delivery]

[Arabic Greeting]

Your Excellency, Ismail Omer Gelleh, The President of the Republic of Djibouti; Your Excellency, Dr. Abiye Ahmed, The Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; Your Excellency, Mohamed Abdillahi Farmajo, President of Somalia; Your Excellency, Hassan Ali Khayre, The Prime Minister of Somalia; Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union (They are here); Your Excellency, Dr. Wrkneh Gebeyehu, The Executive Secretary of IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development [for Africa]); Your Excellency, Donald Yamamoto, The U.S. Ambassador [to Somalia and Somaliland]; excellenc[ies], distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen; all protocols observed, good afternoon:

Mr. President and Chairman as well,

First and foremost, let me say that it's a great pleasure to be here with you today, and to participate [in] the continuation of the dialogue between Somaliland and Somalia. Allow me to extend my sincere appreciation to the regional, continental, and international community for your presence here today to discuss a topic of great importance to the Horn of Africa.

Allow me to further thank His Excellency, President Ismail Guelleh and the people of Djibouti for their warm and brotherly hospitality in welcoming us in this beautiful country. Though we may be separated by land and sea, nothing will diminish the importance for -- the important role you all play, and will continue to play, in your efforts to bring peace and stability to the African continent.

The region is suffering from a combination of unprecedented challenges, which range from the COVID-19 to environmental and socio-economic issues. Regional cooperation and hegemony is urgently required to steward the vulnerable to a more prosperous and stable future.

Restarting of these mediation talks with international support is an important factor in securing a more sustainable future in the fulfillment of [the onerous] and worthy duty of building a safe, secure, and stable relationship for the people for Somaliland and Somalia.

Excellencies, allow me to stress the current phase that we are entering  is crucial in shaping the future -- the future bilateral relationships between our two neighboring countries, regional stability, and a sustainable and prosperous future for the Horn of Africa. However daunting or important such a task is, I remain confident and optimistic that through our and your attention, commitment, hard work, and dedication we will be able to contribute to the peace and security landscape across the continent of Africa.

Excellences, allow me to present a brief historical background on how we got to where we are today. Republic of Somaliland received its independence from the United Kingdom [on 26] June 1960. Notification of that independence was duly registered with the United Nations and 35 countries recognized Somaliland. Somaliland voluntarily united with Somalia [on 1] July, 1960 to form the Somali Republic. The union was not legally binding, as the Act of Union was never formally signed. Therefore, the unification effort fell short of the requirements mandated by domestic and international law.

From the beginning, the union malfunctioned as Somaliland people were hugely oppressed. The people of Somaliland expressed their displeasure with the union by overwhelming[ly] voting against the new constitution in the referendum held in 1961 and followed full-scale struggle against the Somali Republic. Th[is] result[ed] in the collapse of the Somali Republic in 1991 and the restoration of the independence of -- of the Republic of Somaliland, 18 May 1991.

Since restoring our independence, Somaliland with its scarce resources, and with limited international support, has embarked on a steady, incremental, and progressive agenda of conflict resolution, peace building and state building, and established good governance and functioning government institutions. We conducted a constitutional referendum in which 97 percent of Somalilanders voted to support the constitution and the independence [of] Somaliland. During that period Somaliland has made rounds of multiparty free and fair elections, including three rounds of presidential elections, two rounds of local council elections, and a parliamentary election. Republic of Somaliland created a conducive environment that enabled a thriving private sector and an in-flow of international investment. Somaliland has played an important role in the peace and security of the region and has been [a] reliable partner in the fight against terrorism, piracy, human trafficking, money laundering, and other forms of organized crimes.

Unfortunately, instead of appreciating all those efforts and contributions made by the Somaliland people for the last 30 years, Somalia was in a constant war against the development of Somaliland -- economically, security[-wise], investment[-wise] and this deepened the mistrust and animosity between the two countries. Ever since Somaliland entered hastily into a voluntary union with Somalia, the -- the Somaliland people ha[ve] been at the receiving end of injustice, discrimination and state sponsored genocide at -- at the hands of the Somalia government.

Evidence of the widespread war crimes committed against the people of Somaliland has been fully documented1 by the United Nation[s] Special Rapporteur for human rights, and [a] forensic team from Physicians for Human Rights, and Somaliland War Crimes Commission.

The acts of genocide perpetrated by the Siad Barre regime are -- are memorialized in more than 200 mass graves in our country. The mass graves, which are still being unearthed, will forever testify to the crimes against humanity committed by the government of Somalia against the people of Somaliland.

Therefore, in approaching the present situation in Somaliland and Somalia, it's necessary to have a proper regard to the past and learn lessons from it. The legacy of oppression against the people of Somaliland cannot be easily swept away. Rather, they must be acknowledged and taken into account when considering Somaliland peopleís right to self-determination and independence.

The case for Somaliland independence is not [sic] unique. This fact is also acknowledged by the AU mission to Somaliland in 2005 that concluded the situation was sufficiently "unique and self-justified in African political history" that "the case should not be linked to the notion of '[opening a] Pandoraís box.'"2 It recommended that the African Union "should find a special method of dealing with this outstanding case" at the earliest possible date.3

Furthermore, the 2005 African Union fact mission to Somaliland reported that the "plethora of problems confronting Somaliland [are in part] the legacy of a political union with Somalia, [which] malfunctioned [and] brought destruction and ruin thereby overburdening the population" of Somaliland.4 Somalilandís claim to independence depends on part [upon] its circumstance, including [its] brief, but legal, period of independence in 1960 -- it[s] claim to recognized international borders relating to that period. As can be surmised from Somalilandís case [it is] is unique and demands unique solution. It does not create precedent for other unresolved conflicts in Africa or elsewhere.

Somalilandís legal case for independence is in conformity with international law. Somaliland satisfies the statehood criteria as set out in [the] Montevideo convention of 1933. Somaliland fulfils the conditions set out in article 4(b)5 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union which enshrines respect of borders existing on the achievement of independence since Somaliland borders correspond to those received upon independence from the Great Britain.

Somaliland is fully aware that [in] the African context, the exercise of the right to self-determination is linked to the principle of respect for [pre-]existing boundaries [uti possidetis juris]. Somalilandís case for independence involves resorting -- restoring possessed both as a colonial entity [and] as an independent state.

Between 1991 and 2000, the Organization of African [Unity] consented to the break-up of two other unions. In 1989, Senegal opted to terminate the [seven-]year merger with Gambia as Senigambia federation and 1993 Eretria formerly seceded from Ethiopia. Furthermore, in supporting the comprehensive peace agreement signed in 2005 and subsequently independence of South Sudan and its admission to the African Union, the African Union has accepted the break-up of Sudan -- Southern Sudan.

The International Court of Justice in its legal opinion on Kosovo declared in 10 to 4 vote that the declaration of independence of Kosovo of the 17th of February 19 -- 2008...did not violate general international law because the international law provides no prohibition on declaration of independence.

Furthermore, the Arbitration Commission of [the] Peace Conference [for] Yugoslavia produced a series of opinions on the validity of new statesí claim to independence and conditions for recognition. The Commission determined, inter alia, the break-up of Yugoslavia was [as case of dissolution rather than secession.

Somalilandís pursuit of independen[ce] is not a case of secession but rather dissolution of voluntary union between [two] independent states. A number of African Union member states are also the product of a failed union: Mali, Senegal, Gambia and Egypt have all withdrawn from unions with their borders intact. The African Union has also accepted the independence of territories [that] never previously enjoyed full sovereignty.

Following the failure of the unity government, Republic of Somaliland exercised its inherent right to self-determination which are consistent with the preamble of UN 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Somaliland has long argued that Somali Republic was two united countries. The failure of the unity government provided adequate ground for the restoration of our independence.

We believes in that the key to sustainable and peaceful future lies in the honest and sincere dialogue between Somaliland and Somalia under the auspice of [a] neutral and impartial international mediation mechanism and a guarantor.

Somaliland remains committed to peaceful co-existence with Somalia. However, Somaliland insists in that the dialogue should be [a] two state process with a substantive agenda that addresses the core issues of the dispute. Today, how can we proceed to this dialogue if the previously signed agreements in London, Istanbul, and Djibouti were not implemented yet? We cordially propose that a serious mediation mechanism and a guarantor should be in place for this new round [of] dialogue.

We thank Somalia for their sincere apology [for] the horrors of yesteryear committed in Somaliland. The current generation of Somalia was of course not responsible for what the previous generations did but its acknowledgement of the wrongdoings of [the] previous generation is significant and heartfelt appreciated by...all Somalilanders.

But with acknowledgment also comes responsibility -- responsibility for the damage that horror caused. Words are not enough. Again, words are not enough. The horror of the past requires more than words -- it requires actions. The act of recognizing and supporting the independence of Somaliland would go a long way to heal the wounds of the past and enable our [two] states to embrace each other in our independent but closely interwoven futures.

I am confident that we can build a bright future together as brotherly, neighboring nations and for our own people and our region.

Thank you very much.

1 For passing reference, as it is likely that this is the authoritative document to which the speaker refers

2 Allusion to the Greek myth which may be summed as a "source of extensive but unforeseen troubles or problems" [Source:]

3 AU Fact-Finding Mission to Somaliland.pdf

4 Ibid.

5 Article 4(b): "The union shall function in accordance with the following principles...respect of borders existing on achievement of independence" [Source:]

6  Somaliland was a British Protectorate (1884-1940, 1941-1960)

See also: Al Jazeera Documentary "Kill All but the Crows"

Page Updated: 1/27/22

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