Before the 19th century when the first colonial foot stud on Somali soil, Somalia was a stateless society that lacked a common political and legal system. Political and legal systems were found in Somali history, but every clan developed and had its own. This was the nature of Somalia and its people for centuries. The first time that Somalia saw itself under a common rule was in the colonial era. The two main parts of Somalia (Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland) were colonized by Italy and Great Britain. Each colonizer changed the structure and nature of Somali society, especially the political and legal structure. The colonizers introduced a unitary system to their colonies and therefore for the first time, made a common political and legal system.
In the late 1950s when independence was near, the Somali people of both sides decided to unite and form a unitary state. The new republic would have a parliament that consisted of 123 parliamentarians, 90 from Italian Somaliland and 33 from British Somaliland which would elect the speaker of parliament and the president, who will later appoint a prime minister. After gaining independence and forming the republic, representatives from British Somaliland didn’t manage to equally appear in the top positions of the executive. The consequence was after a year, a number of British Somaliland military officers attempted to stage a coup in order to demand secession.
In the late 1980s when the Siad Barre regime was at its worse, another group of military officers from British Somaliland attempted to overthrow the regime, but this time they were stronger and well equipped. After failing to crush them with ground forces, the regime ordered the national Air force to bomb two of the major cities in British Somaliland (Hargeisa and Burao) where the militias had a stronghold causing thousands of lives and properties in each city.
After several years of war and destruction, in 1991, British Somaliland finally managed to secede and declared independence from Somalia. Since then, Somaliland managed to form a democratic political system and maintain peace. In 1991, all of Somalia entered a period of instability and darkness, but Somaliland managed to surpass all the challenges and come out as the most peaceful and democratic entity in the Horn of Africa, whereas still, the other part of Somalia (Italian Somaliland) faces security threats from ongoing civil war and terrorism and unable to attain political stability. So, the question is, how can Somaliland expect to reunite with Somalia again? Somaliland can only reunite with Somalia when Somalia gains permanent security and political stability and a political system that will guarantee what happened in the past will not happen again.
Security is a priority for Somaliland. As mentioned earlier, Somaliland managed to form one of the most secure and stable societies in the Horn of Africa. I personally lived in Hargeisa (the capital city of Somaliland) when I was young and experienced its peace and stability. The biggest vivid memory that I have of Somaliland’s security was seeing money changers walking through the city with their bags full of cash in the middle of the night without any fear for their lives and properties. On the other hand, Somalia is still dealing with security issues, and terrorism is a major problem the country faces. By uniting with Somalia in its current situation, terrorism and instability could pass on to Somaliland and ruin its main accomplishment in the past three decades. Political stability is also one of the uniqueness of Somaliland compared to other Horn of African countries. For the past three decades, Somaliland managed and still manages to hold free and fair elections where citizens vote for their representatives at national, regional and local levels where all elections are nearly held without any political crisis.
For the past thirty years, Somalia had a culture of political instability, especially during election periods where citizens don’t have the right to vote and corrupted selected delegations elect parliamentarians who subsequently elect the speaker of parliament and the president. The other issue comes from the constitution and the constitutional court. Somalia still functions with a provisional constitution and is yet to establish a constitutional court. On the other hand, Somaliland has a constitution that was passed through a referendum and also has a functioning constitutional court and a judicial system that checks on both the legislation and the executive branches. The constitutional crisis in Somalia can be seen in its daily political life, from the central government trying to extend its tenure by interfering in regional elections by using force and intimidation, to federal member states behaving and making decisions out of their constitutional capacity, this isn’t a political environment where Somaliland would choose to enter.
The biggest mistake that was made in 1960 was that the two sides united unconditionally, without making any formal agreements on how the future republic will function. After uniting in 1960, an indirect clan-based power-sharing system was implemented, which meant the bigger the clan, the more power it received. Compared with clans in Italian Somaliland, clans that reside in British Somaliland are quite smaller which caused other major clans in Italian Somaliland to exploit much of the power.
Somaliland doesn’t see itself as part of Somalia, but rather it sees itself as an independent sovereign state that is equivalent to Somalia which will have a huge influence on future negotiations. In future negotiations, Somaliland will demand power to be shared equally between her and Somalia, by not recognizing the current clan-based power-sharing system. This is a trap that Somaliland is aware of and will never fall for, demanding the power to be shared between her and Somalia equally, will never come off the table.