The self-declared state of Somaliland celebrated its 28th independence anniversary from Somalia on Saturday, May 18, at the independence square in the capital, Hargeisa. The event, led by President Muse Bihi Abdi, was for the first time attended by foreign dignitaries and the media who joined citizens in the celebration marked by speeches and a march-past.
“Contrary to what the world can say about Somaliland, Somalia is a failed state and we are not ready to reunite again with the failed nation. On behalf of Somalilanders (home and abroad), I sincerely thank those who have been with us in this time of trial. We shall sail through together,” said President Bihi.
“We are ready to co-operate and strengthen our diplomatic ties and bilateral relations most especially with regional governments of Uganda and Kenya respectively, and any other governments interested in working with us to achieve common national, regional and international developmental goals,” he added.
Somalilanders draped in the red, white and green colours of their national flag marched gallantly before the dignitaries who included government delegates from Uganda, Kenya and Djibouti.
Vice-chair of the Ugandan parliament’s foreign relations committee, Violet Akurut, called for the establishment of diplomatic relations with Somaliland which she confirmed was peaceful. She is part of the fact-finding team from Kenya and Uganda who spent four days in the country.
“We have witnessed today the true demonstration of a serious independent state. We shall go back home to work toward the international recognition of Somaliland. And by the time we come next year, the whole world shall witness complete recognition of Somaliland by international communities,” Ugandan MP Komakech Lyandro is reported to have said.
Security officials, women, children, workers and Somalilanders of all backgrounds were part of the celebration and they shared on social media their photos and desire for international recognition. Other Somalilanders in the diaspora also joined the celebration by posting pictures draped in their national flag as a sign of support for their independence.
Somaliland is the only self-declared independent state that has survived years of diplomatic isolation by international bodies. The country is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia.
Somaliland, with a population of about 4 million, can boast of an army, its own currency and legal system and is appreciated for holding credible elections. They made history in 2017 as the first country to use the iris biometric voting system.
The Somali National Movement (SNM) declared Somaliland independent of Somalia on May 18, 1991, after they fought against the government of the Somali Democratic Republic’s military ruler Siad Barre who ruled from 1969 to 1991 following a coup.
Four militia groups including SNM led a rebellion that ousted the Barre regime. The SNM declared the northwestern Somali regions independent and established the Republic of Somaliland after disagreements with the other rebel groups.
The territory has been under pressure for decades to hold unity talks with Somalia. The United Nations and the African Union have refused to recognize Somaliland as an independent country as they work on uniting the two states when peace is restored in neighbouring Somalia.
Somaliland cannot get foreign aid without recognition and its economy is largely dependent on diaspora remittances.
“If our country, our president, recognizes Somaliland, it will be so easy for Uganda to lobby at the African Union for the recognition of Somaliland,” said Ugandan parliament’s foreign relations committee, Violet Akurut, who is quoted by Afroinsider.com.
Here are some photos of the independence celebration as shared on social media.