Historical Landmarks in Somaliland, Somalia, and Greater Somalia


Prof Abdisalam Yassin MohamedBy: Abdisalam Yassin Mohamed

Somalilandsun – Since we are in a period in which an intensified international effort is being made to make peace and find a lasting solution for the “Somali Problem”, I reckon that it is important to show some historical landmarks in Somaliland, Somalia and Greater Somalia. These historical landmarks are factual events that must be considered in any efforts to reach a lasting and an acceptable solution for the “Somali problem.”

Historical Landmarks in Somaliland

1866 Khedive Ismail Pasha, the ruler of Egypt, claimed that Somaliland was part of the Red Sea coastal area that the Turkish Ottoman Empire transferred to his jurisdiction.

1869 The Egyptian Governor of Sudan, Mohamed Jamal Bey, visited Zeila and Berbera to consolidate the Egyptian claim to rule Somaliland.

1870 The Egyptian Government appointed Abdirahman Bey as the Governor of Somaliland. He was based in Berbera, and from there, he ruled the rest of the country indirectly with the help of local sultan ands aqils.

1877 Seeing as favourable to her colonial interests in the Horn of Africa, Britain signed a convention with Egypt by which Britain recognized the Egyptian jurisdiction.

1870-84 The Egyptian-cum-Turkish rule was brief and lasted only 14 years. It ended when Egypt evacuated Berbera, Zeila, and Harar after the Mahdi revolt in Sudan.

1884 By the end of this year and after the Egyptian withdrawal, clan elders, representing most of the clans of Somaliland, signed protection agreement with Britain. The preamble of the agreement stated that, “Whereas the garrisons of His Highness the Khedive are about to withdraw from Berbera and Bulhar, and the Somali coast generally, we, the undersigned elders … are desirous of entering into an Agreement with the British Government for the maintenance of our independence, the preservation of order, and other good and sufficient reasons.” This agreement established the British Somaliland Protectorate, which lasted 76 years.

1960 Somaliland as a British Protectorate came to end on 26 June 1960 when Somaliland gained its independence. As part of the drive for the unification of all the five Somali-populated territories (symbolized by the five-pointed white star on the blue Somalia flag). Somaliland formed a union with Somalia on 1 July 1960.

1991 After only 30 years marked by political upheavals and turmoil, the ill-fated union ended in May this year when Somaliland declared the restoration of its independence and sovereignty after the collapse of the Somalia state.

Historical Landmarks in Somalia

1856 Italy made direct claims to the Somali coast on the Indian Ocean to the east of the British sphere.

1889 Italy completed its claim on the entire Somali coast on the India Ocean when the Imperial British East Africa Company sublet the Benadir ports, which it held in lease from the Sultan of Zanzibar, to Italy.

1892 The Sultan of Zanzibar had given up the ports of Barva, Merca, , Mogadishu, and Warsheikh directly to Italy for a term of 25 years for an annual rent of 160,000 rupees. The Italians were free to profit from the coast, but it still remained the property of the Sultan of Zanzibar.

1891-93 After it consolidated its claim on the Indian Ocean coast of Somalia, Italy had intensified its effort to claim inland territories in Somalia as parts of its protectorate. It sent Italian colonialists to sign protectorate agreements with clans in the Shebelle and Juba areas.

1894 An Anglo-Italian protocol, defining the boundary between Somaliland and Somalia, was signed.

189-96 Two Italian companies V. Filonardi Co. and Benadir Company respectively governed the Somalia territories claimed by Italy as its protectorate.

1905 After these companies failed to run the Somalia territories claimed by Italy, the Italian Government assumed direct responsibility to govern them.

1920 All the Somalia territories that Italy claimed were brought together under a single Italian colonial administration, which took Mogadishu as its capital.

1941 During the Second World War, Italy lost its Somalia colony, which came under British rule until 1950.

1950 Somalia became a UN Trusteeship, and once again Italy was chosen by the UN to run the country on its behalf.

1960 On 1st July 1960, Somalia became independent. On the same day Somaliland and Somalia formed a union (though no Act of Union was ever signed by either country), paving the way for the anticipated unification of the five Somali territories symbolized by the white star on the blue Somalia flag.

Historical Landmarks in Greater Somalia

1945 After the end of the Second World War and the defeat of the Italian forces, Britain found itself governing all the Somali-populated territories except Djibouti, which was a French colony.

1946 While the UN was struggling with what to do with the former Italian Somalia, Britain’s foreign secretary at the time, Mr. Ernest Bevin, proposed that all the Somali-populated areas should be put together as “one trust territory” that can be administered for the UN by Britain. Although this proposal was rejected by the other colonial powers, the idea of “Greater Somalia” was born.

1946-60 The idea of “Greater Somalia” became a national sentiment that inspired the vision to establish a one nation-state for all the Somalis. The sentiment and the vision were pushed forth by two national political parties, SNL in Somaliland and SYL in Somalia, until the first ill-fated union was formed in July 1960.

1960-7 The union between Somaliland and Somalia did not lead to the realization of “Greater Somalia”. It met the strong opposition of the neighboring countries (i.e. Ethiopia, Kenya, and the French Colonial administration of Djibouti) that saw the Somali-populated territories as integral parts of their countries. This led to bloody wars in the region between the local Somalis in Kenya (1963-67) and Ethiopia (1964-65 and 1977-78), supported by the Somalia government, and the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments respectively. It also led to political turmoil and unrest in Djibouti (1967-75).

1976 The idea of Greater Somalia was killed in 1976 when Djibouti became independent and decided not to form a union with Somalia but remain an independent and sovereign country.

1977-78 The attempt of Siyad Barre’s dictatorial regime to resuscitate the idea during the war between Somalia and Ethiopia in 1977/78, while deflecting public attention from the failures of his bogus Marxist-Leninist policies, also abysmally failed. And that put an end to the unrealistic and nightmarish dream of Greater Somalia.

Lessons Learned

The lessons that we have learned from this terrible saga is that in spite of their linguistic and cultural affinity the Somalis did not ever constitute a single political unity. In their history, they had never come under a unified traditional rule, nor had they formed a modern nation-state.

This is in line with the realistic political view that sharing language and culture does not necessarily give rise to political unity any more than language and cultural diversity prevents it. The sad irony, and the clear proof of this political reality, is the collapse of the Somalia state, which after more than 22 years cannot still function as a state, and the utter failure of Greater Somalia – the vision to unite the one homogenous ethnic group in sub-Saharan Africa.

It has been proven in many countries that effective political unity depends upon cultivated solidarity and consciousness of a group or groups of people with shared interests and shared concerns.

As we have learned the hard way, Somalis in the five territories of the Horn of Africa do not have shared interests and shared concerns. Therefore, it is best that each territory suffices to make its own cohesive political unit. That is best for all the Somalis and it is also best for the Horn of African region and for the rest of the world.

Other recent articles by Abdisalam Yassin Mohamed include    What does Britain want?  , Brits can go home and stay home    and Compare Scotland to Somaliland