Possible Ways Forward on Somalia & Somaliland Dialogue


Somaliland was a colony of Great Britain up to her independence on June 26, 1960, while Somalia was an Italian colony up to her independence on July 1, 1960. An immediate union followed, the two entities forming the Somali Republic. Briefly after the inauguration of the new government, the people of Somaliland’s dissatisfaction with the union emerged, culminating in the attempted coup of 1961. However, the new civilian government reigned only a few years, and then came the October 1969 military coup led by General Mohamed Siyad Barre. During the military rule, many atrocities including extrajudicial killings and massacres were exacted on the central and north (Somaliland) regions. The military ruler lasted up to 1991 when armed opposition groups deposed him through gunpoint. This resulted in a widespread disastrous civil war and tremendous bloodshed.

Negotiations are given a higher priority in the world and are particularly beneficial for Somaliland, Somalia, and the whole region. That is why the world is interested in both sides (Somalia and Somaliland) to seek dialogue. That is the route taken by most of the separated countries, like Czechoslovakia which split into two independent countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Similar are many other countries, including East Timor and Indonesia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Serbia and Montenegro, and the latest case of Sudan (north) and South Sudan.

In all these cases, difficult but amicable separation resulting in the completely independent world-recognized sovereign entities was achieved by negotiations and dialogue. On a similar note, negotiations and reconciliation resulted in south and north of Yemen achieve reunion. The case of Scotland’s independence demand from the United Kingdom ended in negotiations that resulted in a referendum vote won by the unity side.

Somaliland is a political reality that cannot be ignored, though not a world-recognized country. It has been a self-governing defacto state for 29 years and was part of Somalia about 31 years before. Though Somaliland’s people are satisfied with it anyway, there is a strong debate on how to transition into a fully recognized independent state. As stated by Najah Aden Farah in his recent analysis, “Generally, the prospect of transitioning a de facto state into an independent de jure republic needs hard work, according to the political state of the world today.”

On the same note, historical precedencies paint a brighter prospect on the inalienable right of self-determination. For example, a survey conducted by Adrian Florea shows 34 former de facto states existing between 1945 and 2011. Only 18 of them survived, while 16 got entangled in a hard struggle for independence that was later negotiated and settled. 12 out of the 16 reunited amicably with their motherlands through peaceful negotiations. It is quite notable that only 4 out 16 managed to transition into fully recognized states; Eritrea, East Timor, Kosovo, and South Sudan. Therefore, Somaliland could be one of the currently de facto states that survive as they are, but this is just an unpredictable wild guess.”

Somalia and Somaliland Dialogue were based on the willingness of both sides and the suggestions of the London Conference which was attended by more than 50 government delegations and the Istanbul Conference. Both conferences produced similar communique highlighting that Somalia and Somaliland should engage in a constructive dialogue on their future relations. Continuous follow-up conferences were held, the first in the UK; then in the UAE, Turkey, and Djibouti.

Negotiated settlements are achieved in several ways: through a third-party facilitation process where the negotiating parties talk face to face on their own, through the mediation process, through the arbitration process, or the ruling of the International Court of Justice. Somalia and Somaliland chose facilitated face to face negotiations in which the Somalis can talk among themselves. The two sides saw it necessary to use the services of international technocrats and negotiation experts. As stated in article 5 (clause 4) of the London Conference communique, “Called on the international community to continue to facilitate the talks, including providing the two sides with external experts on legal, economic and security matter.”

These negotiations yielded considerable positive results:

1.      They became a bona fide internationally facilitated process lasting eight conferences. The conference held at the famous Chevening House was attended by the hosting UK government, Norway, and the European Union. The second article of the final communique stated, “The meeting was hosted by the UK and cohosted by Norway and EU, at the request of the two sides.” The foreign affairs minister of state, Mr Anwar Gargash, attended the Dubai meeting. The Ankara conference was attended by the Turkish president and the prime minister. The Djibouti conference was attended by the president of Djibouti and all final declarations were read loud and clear for whole world media.

2.    As evident in the article 5 (clause 4) of the London Conference, it was agreed that the negotiations should be between the two concerned parties. “agreed that the talks would take place between two sides ‐ the TFG (or its replacement) and Somaliland, in accordance with paragraph 6 of the London Conference Communiqué and paragraph 10 of the Istanbul II Conference Communique.”

3.    Article 4 of the Ankara Conference states that it was agreed to encourage aid delivery, “agreed to encourage and facilitate International Aid and development provided to Somaliland.” This resulted in the successful arrangements of Somaliland Special Arrangement and Somaliland Development Fund.

4.    It was also agreed on joint air traffic control and revenue sharing. Article One of the Istanbul Conference states, “[1] Agreed to the return of the air traffic management from the UN and decided to establish a joint control body that is based in Hargeisa to lead the air traffic control of both sides. It is also agreed that this body will propose a mechanism for equitable revenue-sharing.”

5.     Also, see article 6 and 7. “Agreed to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, extremism and serious crimes. Agreed to cooperate in the fight against piracy at sea and on land, maritime crime, illegal fishing and toxic dumping.”

6.    Two sides agreed and condemned the atrocities committed by the military regime, article 9 of Istanbul II conference says “We condemn all the atrocities committed by that regime throughout all Somali people particularly the people in Somaliland”

If the political leaders of both sides could not come up with a viable solution, they should not render the situation worse than they found it.

The dialogue between Somalia and Somaliland; one side demands complete independence while the other is steadfast on the union. Although considerable positive development was realized by merely starting these negotiations and the resulting agreement points, there remain critical obstacles to mature negotiations. Obstacles that still need proper addressing which is important for Somaliland side are:

1.      There are ethical and moral obstacles concerning crimes against humanity and atrocities committed against people of Somaliland. The opinions of the two sides could be on the extreme opposite ends. The people of Somaliland claim genocide committed against them by Somalia’s former military dictatorship. Besides armed casualties of the war between the Somalia regular army and the armed SNM movement fighters, the people of Somaliland are claiming genocide against innocent civilians. Few examples are: the 45 businessmen rounded up from their homes in Burao city and then shot on a public square. The women and children shot indiscriminately, and some taken to jail at the Dhagaxtuurka venue in Hargeisa. The innocent civilians round-up at the dark of the night in Mogadishu only to be forcibly taken to the Jazeera beach and shot in cold blood.

2.    innocent people rounded up from the Kal-Sheekh area who were buried by pouring a load of rocks from a damper vehicle. The air force fighter jets purchased by the taxpayer’s money flown from the Hargeisa airport for bombarding Hargeisa, Burco, and other places where fleeing women and children were not spared, all the way to the Ethiopian border, in addition to other un-Islamic and inhumane human rights violations, and the 240 mass graves discovered so far.

3.    The binding of the Somaliland Constitution where 97% of the people voted for independence leaves no room for reconsidering a reunion with Somalia. The constitution enshrines that, “The Protectorate formerly known as the Somaliland Protectorate which gained its independence on June 26, 1960, from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which then united with Somalia on July 1, 1960, to form the Republic of Somalia, in which it regained its independence from Somalia upon the resolution of the Somaliland Clans Conference in Burao, on April 27, 1991, hereby becomes, according to the Constitution, an independent country with all rights and honors of its nationhood called the Republic of Somaliland. The power and honour of nationhood are determined by the people, following the Constitution and other rules and regulations that apply.”

 Obstacles from the Somalia side are:

the interim draft constitution of Somalia dictates that the unity and territorial integrity of Somalia are untouchable. “The independence and unity of the Federal Republic of Somalia are inviolable.”

I believe that dialogue is the best way forward. A Somali proverb says, “If one disputes the ownership of your clothes, there is no other way but to defend it in front of jurists.” Therefore, if negotiations are not given a chance, the road to violence and war is inevitable. Whoever itches for war is up to them, but I believe that to break with the current impasse, healthy and honest negotiations in which both parties should field truly mandated representants is inevitable.

 Somaliland side should focus independence as their main goal and the Somalia side should fairly focus on unity as their main goal, but both sides must respect each other’s stance in order not to backpedal into the current impasse and give a chance to a brighter future. Also, a clear plan for successful détente and cooperation on all possible fronts must be put in place during the dialogue process. Implementation of the previous agreements is also critical; more international facilitation and witnessing observers for future negotiations and agreements are also important. Possible points that could generate mutual agreement include:

1.       A genuine binding referendum vote in Somaliland for independence or union.

2.    A limited agreement with simultaneous conditional independence and conditional union, in which Somaliland should be recognized as an independent state to obtain a guarantee of nationhood. The parties will share a single union jack flag, foreign affairs, defence, currency and passport, to guarantee Somalia unity with federal status. After the time limit expires, a general referendum should be held for all combined citizens of both sides.

3.    Another middle way suitable for both sides in which limited responsibilities are shared (Somali Union).

These are not my political stance but possible solution points that may come up on the negotiation table, so I, therefore, represent my opinion with those who agree with me. 


By: Hersi Ali Haji Hasan of the Waddani Party, Somaliland


  [1] A Foreign Policy Lines for Somaliland: Learning from experience (South Sudan, Kosovo, Eritrea, East Timor) Najah A. Adan.

[2] Adrian Florea “De Facto States: Survival and Disappearance (1945–2011)”, in

International Studies Quarterly, Volume 61, Issue 2, June 2017, Pages 337–351.




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