In February 2012, representatives from the Somaliland region and
Somalia met for the first round of bilateral talks in 20 years during
the Somalia conference in London, producing a resolution that called for
clarifying "future relations".
At a June 2012 meeting in Dubai, Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed
Silanyo and then-Transitional Federal Government (TFG) President Sheikh
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed agreed to continue bi-lateral talks, but the two
sides have not met since.
As Silanyo and his delegation were leaving for Turkey on Monday
(April 8th) -- where Turkish government-hosted talks with Somalia are
expected to start April 13th -- the Somaliland leader said his
administration was not ready for full unity with the Somali federal
government and that it was still pursuing recognition as a sovereign
"The points to be agreed upon are clear and we can all guess what
they are. Somalia wants a reunion and for all of us to be part of
Somalia, [but] Somaliland wants its independence to be recognised and
agreed to by the world," Silanyo said. "That is where the conflict lies,
but we will not shut the door on the world. We will state our
objectives, we will present and defend our case, and clearly state the
position of our people."
Since the September election of Somali President Hassan Sheikh
Mohamud, the federal government has repeatedly stated that it believes
firmly in keeping Somalia united through mediation. Under Somalia's new
federal system of government, Somaliland would be one of several
semi-autonomous regions under the national government.
"Today Somalia is not united, but we want to unite it and we will
unite it. We will unify it in a peaceful manner," Mohamud said last
month at the al-Jazeera Research Centre for Studies in Doha, according
to Hargeisa-based Geeska Afrika Media Centre. "We do not want to unite
it using military might or diplomatic pressure. We want talks to take
place between Somalis."
Nonetheless, in February, a week after the arrest of a
parliamentarian for treason against his native Somaliland for working in
the federal government, Silanyo repeated that Somaliland is prepared to
open conditional dialogue over its relationship with Somalia as long as
Somaliland's independence is not up for discussion.
During his annual constitutional address
before a joint session of parliament on January 30th, Silanyo reiterated
Somaliland's desire for independence and said there is no other option.
Somaliland unilaterally declared independence from Somalia in 1991,
but is still regarded as part of Somalia by Mogadishu and the
"Like I have said before, if it takes 100 years to reach, the
objective of Somaliland's independence is sacred, and I am confident we
can overcome any challenge that we face together," Silanyo said.
"I would like us to have good relations with the new government of
Somalia. I want to tell everyone that they are not the government of
Somaliland, they do not govern us, and we re-established our government
in 1991," he said.
"Today, we are engaged in developing our nation and getting
recognition from the world. We hope that the Somali government and its
people will acknowledge that we made a decision regarding the destiny of
our people, that we have a right to do that and no one can force us."
Along those lines, on March 15th, Silanyo said Somaliland would not
participate in the Somali conference in London scheduled for May 7th.
"It is an invitation issued to the Somali government and we will not
take part in an invitation extended to Somalia, for it is none of our
business," he said.
Somaliland political parties, however, have not been united in
supporting Silanyo's statements. While the Justice and Welfare Party has
supported them, Wadani has criticised them, calling for consultations
on the matter since it is an issue "linked to the people's destiny".
Remarks may hinder compromise:
The contrast in rhetoric from leaders of the federal government and
the Somaliland regional administration on their future relationship may
damage the likelihood of any solution coming out of bilateral talks,
according to University of Hargeisa professor of economics and commerce
Sharmarke Abdirahman Ibrahim.
There remain weighty issues, including the belated timing of the
talks, the long-term conflict with al-Shabaab in Somalia and some
Somalilanders' negative attitudes towards the Mogadishu-based
government, he told Sabahi.
According to the latest estimates, more than
75% of the Somaliland population consists of youths who grew up with the
notion of an independent Somaliland, Ibrahim said.
"That long time [it took to start talks] resulted in a change of
opinion, because young people were raised in a separate system, and this
is what they think a government is," he said. "They generally do not
understand the importance of an official nation-state. Therefore, if a
referendum is held, it is clear where the youth vote will go."
Politicians have alienated the public, which has made it harder to
bring the two sides together, said former parliamentarian Hassan Omer
"All the problems suffered by the northern provinces have to be
attributed to the government of the time," he told Sabahi, referring to
former President Mohamed Siad Barre's order to bomb cities resisting his
control in the 1980s, which resulted in thousands of casualties.
"The Barre government included many politicians who were originally
from Somaliland working for it, some of whom are in the current and
former Somaliland administration," said Hussein, who served under TFG
President Ahmed's administration.
People in Somaliland should embrace the new Somali constitution,
which allows regions greater autonomy under a federal system, but does
not allow secession, Hussein said. "The federal [system] is beneficial
to Somaliland because there will not be the previous level of
assimilation, and they will get their share of any aid Somalia
receives," he said.
Ismail Hussein Mohamed, an international relations student at the
Hargeisa campus of New Generation University, said he has witnessed
first-hand attempts to encourage Somaliland citizens' distrust towards
Some of the methods used to instil distrust include constantly
reminding Somalilanders of the past using imagery of fighter jets flying
over Hargeisa and bombing its people. "It is the symbol of the hatred
cultivated against the people of [southern] Somalia," he told Sabahi.
Politicians should refrain from inflammatory statements that can foster mistrust between the two sides, he said.
Somalia and the Somaliland region should continue the dialogue to
clarify their future relationship, but Mohamed said he expected a final
resolution to come through a vote. "It is inevitable that a public
referendum will be held, which the global community will witness," he