THE HISTORY OF SOMALILAND:
A BRIEF TIMELINE
• 1887: The Somaliland Protectorate was proclaimed following treaties between Great Britain and the various Somaliland clans in the early 1880s.
The international boundaries of the Protectorate were delineated by treaties with France (Djibouti) in 1888, Ethiopia in 1887, and Italy (Somalia) in 1894.
• 26 June 1960: Somaliland became an independent, sovereign state.
As in alI countries that were decolonized in 1960, the State of Somaliland immediately received congratulatory telegrams from 35 countries, including alI five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
As an independent state, Somaliland entered into various treaties with the UK.
• 1 July 1960, Somaliland chose to unite with Somalia with the aim of creating a “Greater Somalia” that would unite all Somalis in five countries in the Horn of Africa including Northern Kenya, Italian Somalia, French Somaliland (Djibouti), and Eastern Ethiopia.
• 1961: Somalia betrayed the treaty that joined it with Somaliland by passing a different Act of Union in its National Assembly.
The original, agreed formalities of a treaty of union to be entered into by both Somaliland and Somalia were not completed properly.
The version passed as a Law by the legislature of the State of Somaliland was not passed by the Somalia Legislature.
• The people of Somaliland had no say in the making of the constitution of the new Somali Republic. In a majority of Somaliland districts the 1961 referendum on the constitution was boycotted and the constitution rejected. One legal expert commented that the legal validity of the legislative instruments establishing the union were “questionable.”
• The early years of the union saw the steady political and economic isolation of former Somaliland. Political and military positions were awarded disproportionately to “southern” Somalis. The 1961 attempted coup by a group of highly qualified Somaliland military officers was an indication of the disenchantment with the union that Somaliland had entered into.
• October 1969: Mohamed Siad Barre assumed power in a military coup. Barre led a brutal military dictatorship marked by widespread human right abuses.
• 1981: The Somali National Movement was formed in present-day Somaliland amid growing discontent with and oppression by Barre’s leadership.
• 1987-1989: In response to growing opposition, the Barre regime waged a targeted war on Somaliland, killing an estimated 200,000 civilians and displacing an estimated 500,000. Somaliland towns Hargeisa and Burao were shelled and bombed. Government forces laid over one million unmarked land mines in Somaliland. Human Rights Watch described the Barre regime as “a government at war with its people.”
• 27 January 1991: The Barre regime collapsed under pressure from armed opposition militias that formed in Mogadishu and its surrounding regions in the late 1980s. Various groups in Mogadishu attempted to form their own governments and the country sank into anarchy.
• 18 May 1991: Somaliland community leaders determined to re-assert Somaliland’s sovereignty and independence. Leaders of the SNM and Somaliland clan elders clans met at the "Grand Conference of the Northern Peoples" in Burao. The legal union with Somalia was revoked and the territory of the State of Somaliland (based on the borders of the former British Somaliland Protectorate) formally became the Republic of Somaliland.
• Somaliland’s withdrawal from the union and re-assertion of its sovereignty did not breach any international law. The UN Security Council saw no reason to interfere.
• Through indigenous peace-making procedures, Somaliland communities held many local meetings and national conferences to lay the foundations for local security and governance, in tandem with state-building and national governance. These meetings enabled Somaliland to establish and maintain peaceful governance.
• 1993: The development of the Somaliland constitution began with a National Charter. An Interim Constitution was issued in 1997 and culminated in the adoption of a final constitution in 2001.
• 31 May 2007, 97.9% of Somaliland’s population voted in favor of the new constitution in a referendum endorsed by international observers as free and fair.
• Somaliland’s constitution establishes the separation of power between the three branches of government, balances representative democracy with traditional governance institutions, ensures the existence of active opposition political parties, a free and pluralistic media, and fundamental human rights and freedoms.
• Nation-wide local elections took place in 2002 and 2012. Presidential elections took place in 2003, 2010 and 2017, and parliamentary elections in 2005 and 2021. International and local observers have stated that all these elections were free and on the whole fair. in both cases the losing side accepted the outcome gracefully.
• Despite a lack of international recognition since 1991, in large part due to the international community’s preoccupation with establishing peace in Somalia, Somalilanders are confident that they will achieve their rightful place within the community of nations!