Tuesday, 19 May 2009

fighting for recognition

18th May is the independence day of Somaliland from Somalia; girls are so colorful and proud to be Somalilanders.


Somaliland Independence Day 18th May: Fashion Day or a Chance to Reflect About Whom We Are and Who Want to Be?Each and every year on the 18th May, we the people of Somaliland remember, we will always remember the mothers and fathers who laid down their lives for peace and progress of this honorable nation. We always remember these fallen heroes and heroines because of their loyal contribution. Today the history of our beloved country is written as a result of their hands, we remember them because our history is written by their toil and misery. We remember them because their hunger to give us equal opportunities is unmatched, we remember because they taught us to change the world with words and not with guns, we remember because we cannot afford to forget. It is my greatest hope that this year’s anniversary (18th May 2009) could be different in that we can remember our duties to continue writing and teaching our history to the young and the frail, so they can take pride in their historical identity as the people of courage and wisdom, because those who fell taught them better. Anniversaries are not supposed to be fashion shows or just happy moments, but a chance to reflect about whom we are and who we want to be. When the 18th May 09 arrives (insha allah), I hope we could all of us remember where we come and where we want to go as the people of Somaliland. When we celebrate we must ask ourselves: “how will history remember us?” will it remember us as fashionable people who gathers to entertain large audience by dancing or just singing with no modest, or as people of duty to a country? Will people in centuries to come speak about our names or they will never know we existed? As the founder of Somaliland Anniversary in Southern Africa, I will commemorate and remember the befallen this year because it is the right thing to do. I believe that when this year’s anniversary comes we all must ask ourselves what we can do for Somaliland. Personally I think we can do more as the people of the Diaspora. I think we can make significant changes to the lives of the many and millions by constantly talking and urging other nations to take cognizance of our strides as the Somaliland people in as far as peace stability is concerned and economic attempts in reconstruction.The theme on the forth coming 18th May, should be CHANGE, I am ardent believer in socio-political and economical change in Somaliland and civic duty and I believe we have the resources to foster change from where we are. We can do more together. I believe Somaliland is fortunate to have us in the Diaspora in order to strengthen foreign relations and support, but to do that we must have common vision.Long Live Somaliland…..Long Live Somaliland.
By
Samira Hassan

SOMALIA: Al-Shabab's pyrrhic victory?

Al-Shabab militiamen: Local observers say the militia group has yet to gain popularity among locals

NAIROBI, 19 May 2009 (IRIN) - Somalia's Al-Shabab militia have recently captured several strategic towns near Mogadishu, but the group has yet to gain popularity among locals, observers said. The onslaught has sent thousands of displaced civilians on the run again and crippled aid operations in the southern regions. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that 40,000 people have been displaced since fighting intensified on 7 May. Other aid workers say at least 150 people have been killed and more than 400 injured. "The capture of Jowhar goes to the heart of the problem in Somalia and demonstrates that indeed the government in Mogadishu is by and large extremely weak," Timothy Othieno, an analyst at the London-based Overseas Development Institute, told IRIN. "The government needs to engage with the people who matter, including hardliners, who include Al-Shabab," he added. Al-Shabab has continued to expand its control of southern and central Somalia and captured Jowhar, 90km north of Mogadishu, on 17 May. According to a political observer in the capital, however, the capture of Jowhar may be a sign that Al-Shabab has peaked. "In my opinion this is as far they will reach," he said. "They have entered hostile territory, where they are less popular than even the Ethiopians [troops] were." The Ethiopian soldiers were invited by the Transitional Federal Government in December 2006 to help oust the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). Pointing to the recent defection of prominent opposition figure Sheikh Yusuf “Indha Cadde” to the government side, which he described as a boost, the observer said Mogadishu's apparent weakness "may in fact work to the benefit of the government by galvanising supporters to take the offensive". Separately, a regional analyst, who requested anonymity, said: "The fall of Jowhar is less a sign of Al-Shabab's strength than the government's apparent disarray and paralysis. "Either the opposition will maintain the initiative, fatally eroding the government's authority and cohesion; or the crisis will provoke a determined and unified reaction from the government." Al-Shabab is a militant Islamist group that was part of the UIC and gained prominence during the Ethiopian military presence.
Farhan Ali Mahamud, the Minister of Information, told IRIN the government promoted reconciliation and would pursue dialogue. "We will not undertake any action that will add to the suffering of our people," he said. "Their [Al-Shabab’s] actions have led to the population rallying around the government. Elders, religious leaders and ordinary people are coming forward to defend their government," he added. The current fighting has had a devastating impact on the population and the fall of Jowhar will make it even more difficult to access those needing assistance, aid workers said. "For those who depend on them [aid workers] it means no help for now," one Somali civil society leader said.

http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=84450



Ethiopia troops 'back in Somalia'

Ethiopian military forces have crossed back into Somalia, four months after leaving, witnesses told the BBC.

Their reported return comes as Islamist militants continue to seize towns from the fragile Western-backed government.
One resident said he saw Ethiopian troops digging trenches in Kalabeyr, a key junction that links much of Somalia to the Ethiopian border.
An Ethiopian spokesman denied the reports. Its troops left Somalia in January after two years in the country.
They entered Somalia in 2006 to help oust Islamist forces from the capital Mogadishu but withdrew under a UN-backed peace deal.


When its troops left, Ethiopia made it clear it did still reserve the right to intervene in Somalia if its interests were directly threatened.
There have been several reports of the Ethiopian military crossing into Somali territory for hot-pursuit operations, or to check vehicles moving in the border area.
The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says the latest reported troop movements may well be part of a similar, limited operation.
But Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Wahade Belay denied the reports.
"This is a totally fabricated story. We have no plans to go into any of Somalia's territory," he told Reuters news agency.


Language

Kalabeyr resident Fadumo Du'ale told the BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan on Tuesday: "They have crossed the border late last night and they are here now. They look to be stationing here."
The town lies 22km (14 miles) from the Somali-Ethiopian border.
Another resident, Tabane Abdi Ali, told the BBC: "We recognise them because of their military uniform and the language they were speaking."
Bus driver Farah Ahmed Adaan told our correspondent he had spotted "a lot" of Ethiopian troops with 12 military vehicles.


"Some of them were digging trenches while others were guarding the whole area," he said.
"They stopped me and checked my car and then ordered me to move."
On Sunday, fighters from the al-Shabab group, which is linked to al-Qaeda, took the key town of Jowhar from government forces.
This is the home town of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and now that the country's rainy season has arrived, Jowhar is the only passable route into central Somalia from the capital.
Since withdrawing at the beginning of the year, Ethiopian troops have kept up a strong presence along the Somali border.
Ethiopia, a US ally, invaded its war-torn neighbour in December 2006 to prop up the transitional government and initially everything went according to plan.
Rebel resistance melted away before the 3,000-strong Ethiopian advance and the Somali government was able to set up in Mogadishu.
But the government did not extend its control and the Islamists continued to launch deadly attacks on both Ethiopian and Somali government forces.
About 4,300 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers from the African Union have arrived in Mogadishu, where they have taken up positions vacated by the Ethiopians in January.
But analysts say they are only in effective control of the presidential palace, airport and seaport in Mogadishu, while the Islamist guerrillas control chunks of the capital, along with swathes of central and southern Somalia.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8057115.stm

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Mogadishu engulfed by more mayhem

Heavy clashes have resumed in Somalia's capital as some of the fiercest clashes in months show no sign of abating.

Pro-government forces in the city are exchanging fire with rebels from the radical Islamist group al-Shabab. Thousands of civilians have fled.
It came a day after the guerrillas and pro-government forces fought a deadly battle in central Somalia.
Meanwhile, the UN warned the Horn of Africa nation was facing its worst drought for at least a decade.
At least two people have been killed and 10 injured in Wednesday's fighting near the presidential palace in the Wardigley district and in the north of the city at the Bondere and Karan areas.
Five people died a day earlier during clashes in the village of Mahas, about 300km (180 miles) north-east of the capital.


'Rotting on the streets'
"Al-Shabab fighters ran into a mosque for refuge, but residents kept firing at them with rocket-propelled grenades," local man Aden Hussein told Reuters news agency by telephone.


But al-Shabab spokesman Sheik Ahmed Abu-Yahya said pro-government forces had lost the battle, telling AFP news agency by telephone: "Many of their dead are rotting on the streets."
It is estimated more than 120 lives have been lost since the latest round of bloodletting erupted on Thursday.
Somalia's fragile Western-backed interim government has been fighting radical Islamist groups like al-Shabab since 2006.
A moderate Islamist president took office in January but even his introduction of Sharia law to the strongly Muslim country has not appeased the guerrillas who battle pro-government and African Union (AU) forces in the capital almost daily.
Meanwhile, the UN special representative for Somalia warned against treating the upsurge of fighting as just another round in a civil war, with faction fighting faction.
Ahmed Ould Abdallah told a meeting at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, that Somalia now had a legitimate government and the current fighting should be viewed as an attempted coup d'etat.
He said: "There is no civil war any more in Somalia. What we have in Somalia is a government - weak, fragile - but it is a government and we have a moral, political obligation to help it. We cannot treat the aggressor and the victim at the same level."


Sierra Leone surprise
The AU announced a boost for its peacekeeping effort in Mogadishu - with the unexpected offer a battalion from Sierra Leone, which would raise the strength of the force to more than 5,000 troops.


The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says the AU peacekeeping force in Somali lacks manpower and is under-resourced.
Although it has been able to keep the port and airport open it cannot stop fighting on the present scale or provide more than very limited protection to civilians, she adds.
The AU is still hoping for wider support through the UN, but every new outbreak of fighting makes it more likely the outside world will write off the problem as unsolvable, according to our correspondent.
The UN meanwhile warned that drought had left nearly half the Somali population malnourished and some 3.2 million people in urgent need of food aid.
Somalia, a nation of about eight million people, has experienced almost constant conflict since the collapse of its central government in January 1991.
It is estimated that more than 16,000 civilians have been killed by fighting since the start of 2007 and more than one million are internal refugees.

You Are Being Lied to About Pirates

Who imagined that in 2009, the world's governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy - backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China - is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labeling as "one of the great menace of our times" have an extraordinary story to tell -- and some justice on their side.Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the "golden age of piracy" - from 1650 to 1730 - the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage thief that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda-heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: pirates were often rescued from the gallows by supportive crowds. Why? What did they see that we can't? In his book Villains of All nations, the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence to find out. If you became a merchant or navy sailor then - plucked from the docks of London's East End, young and hungry - you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off for a second, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the Cat O' Nine Tails. If you slacked consistently, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages. Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied against their tyrannical captains - and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls "one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the eighteenth century." They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed "quite clearly - and subversively - that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal navy." This is why they were popular, despite being unproductive thieves.The words of one pirate from that lost age - a young British man called William Scott - should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: "What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirating to live." In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia's unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a 'tax' on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and it's not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was "to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters... We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas." William Scott would understand those words.No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters - especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But the "pirates" have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason. The independent Somalian news-site WardherNews conducted the best research we have into what ordinary Somalis are thinking - and it found 70 percent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence of the country's territorial waters." During the revolutionary war in America, George Washington and America's founding fathers paid pirates to protect America's territorial waters, because they had no navy or coastguard of their own. Most Americans supported them. Is this so different? Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn't act on those crimes - but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world's oil supply, we begin to shriek about "evil." If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause - our crimes - before we send in the gun-boats to root out Somalia's criminals.The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today - but who is the robber?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Somaliland youth risk death in search of better life

HARGEISA, 30 March 2009 (Somalilandpress) - Harir Omar Yusuf, about to finish high school, should be choosing a degree course and deciding on a career direction; instead, he spends most of his time planning a perilous escape from his hometown of Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland in the northwest of Somalia, to Europe.
“As soon as I finish high school I will go there, because I have nothing to stay for in Somaliland,” he told IRIN, adding that his parents could not afford university fees and he was not assured of a place even if they could.
Yusuf has many friends who have made the journey - first through Ethiopia, then Sudan and Libya and finally to Italy via the Mediterranean Sea - and are now living as illegal immigrants in Italy and other European nations. He also has many friends languishing in Sudanese or Libyan jails, arrested for entering the country illegally, and knows of many who died making the trip, but he remains determined.
Tens of thousands of Somalis also try to cross the Gulf of Aden into Yemen every year aboard small vessels run by people-traffickers operating from Somali ports; according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), one out of every 20 people attempting the journey in 2007 died.
Yusuf says he would rather risk death than live a life of certain poverty in Somaliland.


Unemployment

“The issue of young people running away is very problematic in Somaliland,” said Omer Ali Abdi, the director of the youth department in the Ministry of Youth and Sports. “Year after year, graduates from secondary schools are increasing and our universities just don’t have the capacity to take in all of them - and even when they graduate from university, there is no guarantee they will get a job.”
According to Ahmed Hashi Abdi, vice-minister in the Ministry of Planning and Coordination, only 10-20 percent of people under 35 are employed.
“Because it is unrecognised internationally, Somaliland has no access to bi-lateral funding, which has caused our economy to suffer, especially after the livestock ban of 1999, which destroyed the main source of income of most of our people,” Abdi said. “For the same reason, international scholarships and higher education exchange programmes are not open to our students.”
An outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in Saudi Arabia in 1999 resulted in a regional ban on imported livestock from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, and Djibouti; the ban on Somalia remains in place and now includes several other Middle Eastern nations.
After the ban, remittances became the main foreign exchange earner; thousands fled the country during an outbreak of war in 1988, and regularly send money to their families. The Ministry of Planning estimates remittances account for US$500 million - or about 80 percent of Somaliland’s economy.
“When people leave the country legally, we are happy that they are able to send back money, but as much as possible we try to discourage young people from leaving illegally - then it becomes a matter of life and death and we cannot encourage that,” Abdi said.
Despite the risks, many families scrimp and save to send their children on these journeys. Over the past year, Amina Rooble (not her real name) has spent more than $6,500 on transport, communication, paying traffickers and bribing prison officers, all in an effort to get her son Hashim to Italy.
Although his boat sank, Hashim survived and is now seeking asylum in Italy. “Even though my son was rescued, two other members of my family died on that boat,” Rooble said.


Incentive to stay

The government and local NGOs have run campaigns to discourage young people from leaving, but according to Yahye Mohamoud Ahmed, head of the Somaliland National Youth Organisation NGO, unless the government can provide some motivation, young people will continue to escape in droves.
“They have no incentive to stay - no jobs and no businesses, so it is fairly futile to tell them to stay,” he said. “They need to be given the capacity to feed themselves here.”
Ahmed added that many young men were now taking swimming lessons and using hi-tech communication equipment - such as satellite telephones to make SOS calls - to make their trips safer.
“When they hear about their friends and relatives in London or Italy, they get encouraged to go; even when their relatives have no jobs there, they still think they have a better life than here,” he added.
According to Ahmed Abdi, the national development plan includes the creation of two vocational training institutes in every region of Somaliland to boost the number of tertiary institutions and the variety of courses available.
“We also intend to set up micro-finance schemes to enable them to be self-supporting,” he added.
He noted that despite the continued livestock ban, a few countries in the Arab world were starting to buy Somaliland’s meat, and the government hoped the Saudi ban would be lifted, restoring the industry.


Youth policy

The Ministry of Youth and Sports, in partnership with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is drafting a national youth policy - due to be passed by parliament in 2011 - that hopes to address issues of youth emigration, unemployment, education and political participation.
“What we need more than anything is resources from our international partners focused on development rather than strictly emergencies - resources focusing on education and building the economy would encourage young people to stay and build their own nation,” the Ministry of Youth’s Abdi said.


The political legacy of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal (the seventh annivesary of the death of beloved late president)


Introduction


The aim of this essay is to piece together the political philosophy of the late President of Somaliland, Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, into a set of principles and values that underpinned his political outlook and his actions. This seventh anniversary of his death provides an appropriate context to examine Egal’s political legacy, with the distance afforded by time, hopefully, enabling a measure of objectivity in the analysis. As with all such endeavors, this enterprise is fraught with the dangers of simplification of complex domestic and foreign policies on one hand and over-analysis of actions dictated by the practical exigencies of the day on the other. In this context, we must remain aware that Egal always viewed himself, first and foremost, as a practical politician and was generally suspicious or skeptical of the grandiose claims of political ideologues. Nevertheless, it is a fact that, his flair for realpolitik and focus upon practical governance notwithstanding, Egal believed passionately in certain philosophical principles which grounded his political beliefs and guided his policies, and which can and deserve to be presented as a coherent political philosophy. It is this underlying essence of his political legacy that this essay will attempt to explore and elucidate. For want of a better phrase, we shall call this set of core, political beliefs and principles, or philosophy if you will, Egalism.
A major constraint in the research for this essay, not to mention a sad loss for students of Somali and African politics, is the woeful dearth of published work by Mohammed Ibrahim Egal himself. Much of the research for this essay is, therefore, based upon Egal’s speeches, letters to various organizations and individuals, conversations with the writer over many years after his release from prison, correspondence with the writer during and after his stints in prison, and discussions with his friends and contemporaries. It is a great pity and a tremendous loss for scholars of African politics and history that Egal was not able to finish a book he had long been planning on Africa’s post-independence political history and his vision for the continent’s future. His detailed and personal knowledge of many of the principal players in Africa’s post-independence political history, not to mention his personal participation in many of the defining moments of post colonial African history, would have provided his views with a unique and definitive insight.
Somali Nationalism & Pan-Africanism
Anti-colonial nationalism was certainly one of the principal foundations of Egal’s political ethos and evolution. He spent the late 1940s and early 1950s studying in Britain and was exposed to the anti-colonial fervor prevalent throughout the British Empire at the time. Among the African students he met at this time with whom he became close friends and who would go on to lead the independence struggle in his own country (much as Egal did in British Somaliland) was Tom Mboya of Uganda. Egal also got introduced to the Pan-Africanism of Nkrumah, the tenets of which seemed to him to offer an African and nationalist remedy to the problems inherent in the colonial borders bequeathed the continent by the European powers. Indeed, Egal was to strike up a close friendship with Nkrumah that was only broken years later by the exile of Nkrumah and the imprisonment of Egal.
After completing his formal education in Britain, Egal returned to the British Somaliland Protectorate in 1957 and immediately got involved in the nationalist struggle for independence, quickly becoming the leader of the Somali National League (SNL) - the independence party of British Somaliland that formed the first government of Somaliland. The people of British Somaliland were very susceptible to the idea of political independence and the drive for independence from Britain found fertile ground in the national psyche.
The SNL was not the only political party agitating for independence in the British Somaliland Protectorate. There was also the United Somali Party (USP) which had a socialist perspective. Although, there was a clan element to the differences between the SNL and the USP, it is also true that there were ideological differences. The philosophical orientation of the SNL in ideological terms was pro-western and in favor of market economics, while that of the USP was pro-eastern (i.e. USSR and China) and favored a socialist, command economy. This leads us to one of the defining principles of Egalism – a belief in market economics and the limitation of government in economic activity principally to regulation and supervision. Another important difference between the two parties relates to Somali nationalism and Egal’s different perspective to most, if not all, of his contemporaries regarding union with Somalia and how to achieve the dream of Greater Somalia. Egal opposed the immediate union of Somaliland and Somalia which was promoted by all the other nationalist leaders of Somaliland and which was enthusiastically supported by the public. He had found the leaders of the Somali Youth League (SYL), the principal nationalist party of Italian Somalia, somewhat cooler to the idea of union and he found their proposed conditions for the proposed union effectively subsumed Somaliland into Somalia.
He, therefore, proposed that Somaliland defer the proposed union for a period of six months during which period the two sides would negotiate terms for union which would be acceptable to both sides. He envisaged the creation of Greater Somalia as a process whereby each specific territory would unite with a core Somali Republic (to be formed by the union of British Somaliland and Italian Somalia) through negotiations on the terms of such proposed union. Accordingly, he believed that it was essential that Somaliland and Italian Somalia negotiate terms for union which would serve as a template for the other territories that would accede to the union in the near future, i.e. Djibouti, NFD and Haud & Reserved Area. Upon the independence of Somaliland, when the SNL won the elections to form Somaliland’s first government, Egal’s political opponents decried his proposal as an attempt to cling to power at the expense of the dream of Greater Somalia. As the independence of Italian Somalia on 1 st July 1960 approached, the nationalist fervor in Somaliland became an unstoppable torrent that could not be contained, and Egal reluctantly acceded to popular demand and Somaliland united with Italian Somalia unconditionally on 1 st July 1960 to create the Somali Republic. The terms of the union were those proposed by the SYL which Egal had found unpalatable.
Egal’s vision of a Republic established through negotiation and dialogue and characterized by power sharing, regional autonomy and equality was replaced by the voluntary takeover of Somaliland by Italian Somalia. The inequitable terms of the union soon became apparent to the population of Somaliland, once the heady effect of the nationalist fervor of independence had abated. The union had to be ratified by the people of both Somaliland and Italian Somalia through the adoption of the constitution of the new Republic in a national referendum in 1961. While the new constitution was overwhelmingly ratified in the erstwhile Italian Somalia, it was soundly defeated in Somaliland evidencing the dissatisfaction of the populace there to the terms of the union into which their nationalist fervor had precipitously impelled them. While his opponents had characterized Egal’s opposition to the terms of the union proposed by the SYL in the context of his personal political interests, the fact is that his opposition was motivated not only by the inequity of the terms of union, but also by a different vision of Greater Somalia. Egal understood much more clearly than his fellow Somali politicians the great difficulties that would be faced in obtaining the acquiescence of other African nationalist leaders to the creation of Greater Somalia.
He understood very clearly that that both Ethiopia and Kenya would characterize the quest for Greater Somalia in terms of an irredentist Somali Republic seeking to annex contiguous regions of it neighbors in direct opposition to the central tenets of the African nationalism, i.e. Pan-Africanism. He believed that the only way that Somalis could successfully make the case for Greater Somalia within a Pan-African context was by reference to the core anti-colonial principle of self determination. To this end, he proposed that the Somali people had been divided by the colonial carve up of Africa and that with the liberation of Africa, the Somali people themselves freely and voluntarily wished a union of the territories they inhabited. On this basis, Egal reasoned that it would be impossible for fellow Africans to deny Somalis their inalienable right to self government. For this reason, he argued that the Republic established through the union of Somaliland and Italian Somalia embody this principle by enacting a constitution that guaranteed a significant degree of regional autonomy through regional assemblies and protected the rights of minorities. He was convinced that this was the best way to attract the other Somali inhabited territories to join the union voluntarily and also overcome the objections of other African leaders.
However, events overtook the internal debate over the union as Britain reneged on its promise to hold a plebiscite supervised by the UN in the NFD on union with Somalia and to then abide by the wishes of the majority in the territory as evidenced by said plebiscite in the independence negotiations for Kenya. The result of the vote was an overwhelming majority in favor of union with Somalia, which the British government ignored by granting independence to Kenya without making any provision for respecting the wishes of the people of the NFD. The new Republic of Somalia responded by walking out of the British Commonwealth amid condemnations of “the perfidy of Albion”. Tensions between the new Republic and Kenya and Ethiopia steadily worsened and in 1964 the first war between Ethiopia and Somalia over the Haud & Reserved Area, which Britain had ceded to Ethiopia, despite promises to the contrary to Somaliland prior to independence, broke out.
Another attempt to reconcile the perceived irredentism of Somali nationalism with the continental nationalism of Pan-Africanism, which is a another defining element of Egalism, is evident in Egal’s foreign policy during his brief period as Prime Minister of the Republic between 1967 and 1969. Almost immediately upon assuming office in 1967, Egal embarked upon a policy of d├ętente with Somalia’s two neighbors, i.e. Ethiopia and Kenya with whom relations had been tense, and often bellicose, since the Republic was established in 1960. He was successful in establishing cordial, personal relations with both Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and these warm personal friendships were translated into a significant easing of tensions on both borders. Somali trucks and property which had been confiscated by Ethiopia as well as individuals who had been imprisoned in that country for violating border regulations were freed and propaganda directed by both sides against each other was stopped. Similar confidence building measures were taken between Kenya and Somalia. Egal embarked upon a charm offensive throughout Africa designed to counter Somalia’s negative image in the continent as a recalcitrant, warlike irredentist bent upon wresting away land from its neighbors.
His close, personal relationships with many African leaders, including Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Kaunda, Nyrere and Tafawe Balewa helped immeasurably in this effort and he was largely successful in reintegrating Somalia into the mainstream of African politics. It is important to point out here that Egal had spent three years in the political wilderness in Somalia from 1964 (when he resigned from government) until 1967 when his candidate won the Presidential elections and he became Prime minister. During this time, in addition to planning and executing his political comeback, he developed a rationale for reconciling the unification of Somali people and territories with Pan-Africanism. He foresaw that the best hope for economic development and advancement for the newly independent states of Africa lay in regional groupings that would not only create larger markets with economies of scale for investment and trade, but that would also enable African countries to negotiate with foreign countries and companies on a more equal footing.
To this end, he proposed enlargement of the East African Community (grouping Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) to include Somalia, Ethiopia and Zambia. This proposal, which was positively received by his contemporaries, was to be announced at the East African Community (EAC) summit meeting in Arusha in 1968. Egal had been charged by the other leaders, namely Haile Selassie, Kenyatta, Obote and Kaunda, with the responsibility to prepare the statement however, in the event, Egal was unable to attend the said meeting in order to defeat a no-confidence vote in the Somali Parliament orchestrated by his opponents, and it fell to Julius Nyrere of Tanzania, as the host, to present the proposal in Arusha. Nyrere chose not to do so. Later that year, 1968, Nyrere announced the implementation of his personal vision of African Socialism, “Ujamaa” to the party congress of his TANU party in Arusha, and the famous Arusha Declaration that the world remembers today is Nyrere’s proclamation of “Ujamaa” and not the expansion of the EAC to reshape East Africa that was the brain child of Egal. In the context of Somalia’s quest for the union of the Somali people, Egal’s vision was as simple as it was practical. Since the Somali people were pastoralists, migrating seasonally with their herds of livestock in pursuit of pasture and rainfall, the fundamental problem faced by them as a result of their division between various nation-states related principally to crossing the borders of mutually hostile countries.
Once Somalia and Ethiopia became members of the new, enlarged EAC the immigration and customs controls at the borders would be greatly minimized enabling the nomadic Somali pastoralists to move freely with their herds across national boundaries, much as the Masai and other pastoralists move back and forth between Kenya and Tanzania. Thus, the single greatest source of friction between the Somalia and its neighbors, Ethiopia and Kenya, would be removed. Secondly, Egal reasoned that the close economic and political cooperation between Somalia and its two neighbors, which the new treaty relationship envisioned, would create the conditions that would encourage these two countries to afford their Somali regions greater autonomy. In this perspective, he was indeed ahead of his time, as evidenced by the federal constitution granting a significant measure of autonomy to the individual regions adopted by Ethiopia after the overthrow of the Mengistu dictatorship. Egal also reasoned that by replacing the constant friction over the border, not to mention the armed belligerency that characterized Somalia’s relationships with its neighbors, with free movement of people and trade, the Somali people would shed their traditional hostility and suspicion of Ethiopia and Kenya. Again, Egal was far ahead of his time, as is evidenced by the open borders between Ethiopia and Somaliland and the amity between the peoples of these countries. This is all the more remarkable since the Somaliland was the part of the erstwhile Republic that was most belligerent to Ethiopia.
Rgds,
Samira