Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

AU supports Somali split

Hopes of recognition for Somali-land’s 15-year independence have been raised by the favourable report of an African Union mission that visited the territory last year.

The report, a copy of which the Mail & Guardian has obtained, comes at a time when signs of a new flexibility in African thinking on boundary issues are emerging. It suggests that official African aid be tapped by this country of 3,5million people that was effectively destroyed by the Somali dictator Siad Barre.

With the fall of Barre in 1991, the former British colony broke its union with southern neighbour, the former Italian colony of Somalia. Since Barre’s departure, Somalia has been without an effective government.

But Somaliland has pulled itself up by its bootstraps. It has had a referendum to adopt a democratic Constitution and has organised presidential and parliamentary elections. Independent international observers have endorsed all of these.

The Organisation of African Unity refused to recognise Somaliland’s independence, citing the maxim that there would be chaos if colonial boundaries were not observed in post-independence Africa.

Unions between Senegal and Gambia, and Egypt and Sudan, among others, have been broken without affecting the recognition of these countries.

The AU mission accepts this, stating in its report that Somaliland’s ”case should not be linked to the notion of ‘opening a Pandora’s box’. As such, the AU should find a special method for dealing with this outstanding case.

”The lack of recognition ties the hands of the authorities and people of Somaliland, as they cannot effectively and sustainably transact with the outside to pursue the reconstruction and development goals.

”Furthermore, given the acute humanitarian situation prevailing in Somaliland, the AU should mobilise financial resources to help alleviate the plight of the affected communities, especially those catering for the internally displaced persons and the returnees.

”Finally, given also the high potential for conflict between Mogadishu and Hargeisa, the AU should take steps to discuss critical issues in the relations between the two towns. That initiative should be taken at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Iqbal Jhazbhay, an Africa analyst at the University of South Africa, says the report illustrates a new mood in the AU, an organisation Somaliland has officially applied to join. ”The AU-sponsored peace deal in Sudan allows for a referendum, five years from now, on whether the south wants to go it alone. This could not have happened if it were business as usual. The AU now goes for results, and takes account of subjective facts and practical realities,” says Jhazbhay.

”The AU clearly recognises the stability created in Somaliland and the infrastructural development. It is determined to bring peace to the horn. It is looking at post-conflict reconstruction and it has the capacity to handle these issues.”

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Coko vs S ruling: The case against a subjective test...

Acting judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi’s acquittal of a rape suspect has raised controversy, but legal experts say the fault lay with legislators and not the court

DA’s egregious sexual harassment case finally begins

The party is accused of protecting a councillor, who’s also implicated in R1.2m graft

More top stories

Coko vs S ruling: The case against a subjective test...

Acting judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi’s acquittal of a rape suspect has raised controversy, but legal experts say the fault lay with legislators and not the court

Defend journalists and media freedom in Eswatini

Journalists are censored through cruel and illegitimate detention, torture and the removal of means to disseminate information to citizens crying – and dying – for it

It’s safe to open the beaches, says UPL after chemical...

Agrochemical producer UPL said it has paid R250-million in chemical spill clean-up

Former spy boss Fraser objects to Zondo’s nomination as chief...

The former director general of intelligence’s character assassination of the deputy chief justice is straight out of the Zuma playbook

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…