June 20, 2012 ·33 Comments
Relics of war: A Russian tank belonging to Somalia’s armed forces lays near Berbera, Somaliland. (Eric Lafforgue photo)
LONDON — The British government is set to inaugurate a preparatory meeting between feuding neighbours Somaliland and Somalia later today in London.
The EU nation hopes this two-day direct deliberation will find enough common ground to press on with future talks so as to ensure the two clarified their relations.
The two parties have not had any face-to-face dialogue for the past two decades after a temporary union collapsed in 1991.
The Somaliland party says that they want a similar deal to Sudan and South Sudan where the two sides agreed to their split and statehood. They argue that their country existed twenty years without them and there was no need for them to go back to conflict and marginalization.
A referendum held in Somaliland in 2001 was almost unanimous, over 97% opted for independence in the ballot box. Hargeisa insists that it is willing to conduct another one should the international community request one.
Hargeisa said it was ready to shape talks for cooperation with its southern neighbour should they accept the fact that union is long gone. The foreign minister of Somaliland said that their priority in these negotiations is to present a case for his territory’s full international recognition.
Meanwhile the team from Somalia claims that Somaliland as an integral part of a united Somalia but one which will administer its own affairs under a proposed federal system. According to sources close to Somalia’s president Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, Mogadishu wants a similar union to that of United Arab Emirates with Hargeisa. After these two-day preparatory talks are concluded, Mr. Ahmed is expected to meet Somaliland President Ahmed Silanyo in the UAE, which promised to fund a similar system to her own.
Both designated teams of five core members have arrived for the meeting, which will kick off behind closed doors in the British capital. Representatives from Norway, the African Union, European Union, and Italy will be present for this inaugural dialogue.
The Somaliland Republic became a British protectorate in 1884. Two decades later it was ruled under the British India control between 1905 and 1960 until it gained its independence, on 26 June 1960.
Similarly, Somalia became under the Italian rule in 1889 and it lasted until in 1941
when the British military defeated Italy. Following the formation of the United Nations, the former Italian territory was placed under the UN trusteeship and was to gain independence in 1970.
After Somaliland’s independence, it requested that the UN mandate be terminated and the two Somali territories be allowed to form their own union under the Somali Republic banner. Following the merger on July 1960, the majority of political and administrative power was allocated to Somalia, leaving Somaliland to regret its decision.
The thirty year old marriage collapsed in 1991 when Somalia’s last dictator Mohamed Siad Bare was defeated by armed rebels. The conflict lasted almost a decade and is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands people and rendered close to a million homeless and displaced in Ethiopia.
It also consumed Somalia’s central government and the state has not recovered ever since.
June 20, 2012
Somalilandpress is running a live update below as the event unfolds.