History of Somaliland

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The History of Somaliland encompasses a wide range of historical Somali issues and archaeological sources which date back to Prehistoric times. It is widely regarded in Somaliland as an important factor and a key significance in the Culture of Somaliland. Many scholars and historians viewed that Somaliland's history dated back to colonial times but with the recent discoverey of cave paintings outside Hargeisa, there is now a chance that Somaliland is a succesor state to a once great and mysterious civilisation.


[edit] Prehistoric Somaliland

The Laas Geel cave paintings outside Hargeisa
The Laas Geel cave paintings outside Hargeisa

The region that today encompasses Somaliland was home to the earliest civilization that roamed this modern day country. Unlike Somaliland, these people weren't Muslims because Islam was first brought to the region in the 7th century therefore making it a Prehistoric era in which these people prospered.

The only great masterpiece that these ancient civilization produced is thought to be the most significant Neolithic cave paintings in the Horn of Africa and the African continent in general - The Laas Geel rock paintings. These cave paintings are located in a site outside the capital Hargeisa. These paintings were untouched and intact for nearly 10,000 years until it was discovered recently. The paintings show these indigenous people worshiping cattle. There are also paintings of giraffes, domesticated canines and wild antelopes. The paintings show the cows wearing ceremonial robes while next to them are some of these people prostrating in front of the cattle. The caves were discovered by a French archaeological team during November and December 2002. Hence, the Laas Geel cave paintings have become a major tourist attraction and a national treasure.

[edit] The Land of Punt

Somaliland together with Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti (also known as the Horn of Africa.) were known to the Ancient Egyptians as the Land of Punt The earliest definite record of contact between Ancient Egypt and Punt comes from an entry on the Palermo stone during the reign of Sahura of the Fifth Dynasty around 2250 BCE it says in one year 80,000 units of myrrh and frankincense was brought to Egypt from Punt as well as other quantities of goods that were highly valued in Ancient Egypt. between the Thirteenth and Seventeenth Dynasties, the contact between Egypt and Punt was broken. This was due to the fact that Egypt was invaded by the Hyksos The fifth ruler in the Eighteen Dynasty of Egyptian Pharaohs was Queen Hatshepsut, daughter of Tutmose III. She became Queen in the year 1493 BCE and made a landmark expedition to the land of Punt which is recorded on the walls of the Deir ci-Bahari temple located in Alexandria. Her eight ships sailed to Puntland and came back with cargoes of fine woods, ebony, myrrh, cinnamon and incense trees to plant in the temple garden.

[edit] Axumite Somaliland

Main article: Kingdom of Axum

The Kingdom of Axum encompassed modern day northern Ethiopia, Djibouti, Yemen and western Somaliland from the 1st century to the 3rd century CE. Unfortunately little is known on the monarchy's impact and cultural significance, therefore there are no archaeological findings from the Awdal and Wooqoyi Galbeed regions which could have proven if there were traders and settlers in the western regions of Somaliland.

[edit] Somaliland Sultanates

[edit] Early Islamic States in Western Somaliland

With the introduction of Islam in the 10th century in what is now the Afar-inhabited parts of Eritrea and Djibouti, the region began to assume a political character independent of Abyssinia. Three Islamic sultanates were founded, initially subservient to the Emperor of Abyssinia, named Shoa (an Afar sultanate in today's eastern Eritrea and northern Djibouti, capital Aseb) Ifat (a Dir sultanate in todays southern Djibouti and Somaliland's Awdal region, capital Zeila) and Adel (an Isaaq sultanate in Somaliland's Saaxil and Woqooyi Galbeed regions, capital Berbera).

Over time, rebellions against Abyssinia (14th and 15th centuries) and political unification of the three sultanates under the Walashma dynasty of Adel created a strong Islamic state capable of achieving full independence from Abyssinia by the mid 15th century. In the 16th century Adel conquered the great city of Harar, and moved the center of their Sultanate out of Somaliland, and embarked on a great conquest of Ethiopia, with disastrous results. After the collapse of Adel, the three Sultanates became provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

[edit] Eastern Somaliland under the Garad

In the east, a completely different political dynamic existed. The Warsangeli and Dhulbahante Sultanates under the Garad dynasty emerged a few centuries after the Three Sultanates of the west, and rose to prominence in Somaliland's Sool, Sanaag and Togdheer by the 13th century. Unlike Adel, which was a direct successor of Axumite civilization with a wildly diverse ethnic makeup and a political system entirely based on Islam, the Garad Sultanates were very much Somalian clan-based states who happened to be Muslim. This is not to say the Warsangeli and Dhulbahante were not as pious as the Adel, as records show that their warriors formed a significant percentage of the army that invaded Ethiopia under Ahmed Gragn. After the Majerteen Sultanate formed and and Adel collapsed in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Garad state became much more of an eastern-oriented state.

One interesting factor in the collapse of Adel is the flow of cultural influence reversed, flowing from the rest of Somalia into Adel, and the areas occupied by the Ottoman Empire became heavily Somalian-ized, while the previous, strongly Afar and Axumite identity faded away. This created the current cultural makeup of the region.

[edit] Colonial period

[edit] Ottoman Somaliland

On 1548 CE,the port city of Zeila was annexed and became part of the vast Ottoman Empire. The reason for this was that Zeila is situated in a stragetic location on the Red Sea because it is near the Bab el Mandeb strait; a key area for trade with the East. For 300 years, Zeila enjoyed trade with other countries and was home to Arab, Persian and even Indian merchants. On 1884, when the empire was on the brink of collapse; Egypt occupied western parts of Somaliland, the other regions being controlled by Somali tribesmen. Then, During the Scramble for Africa era, the region now claimed by Somaliland was the British Somaliland Protectorate.

[edit] British Somaliland

See also: British Somaliland
The British Somaliland flag
The British Somaliland flag

The British Somaliland protectorate was initially ruled from British India (though later on by the Foreign Office and Colonial Office, and was to play the role of increasing the British Empire's control of the vital Bab-el-Mandeb strait which provided security to the Suez Canal and safety for the Empire's vital naval routes through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Resentment against the British authorities grew: Britain was seen as excessively profiting from the thriving coastal trading and farming occurring in the territory. A full-blown guerrilla war had begun by 1899 under the leadership of religious scholar Mohammed Abdullah Hassan. By 1920, with the help of aerial support from the British Royal Air Force, the situation in Somaliland had stabilised and the British had re-established their dominance over the territory. Sporadic uprisings were to occur for decades afterwards, however on a much reduced scale with improved British infrastructural spending and a more benign, less paternalistic set of public policy.

[edit] Independence and unification with Somalia

Shortly after gaining independence from Great Britain as the State of Somaliland on 26 June 1960, Somaliland merged with Italian Somaliland on July 1, 1960 to form the Somali Republic. The Prime Minister of the State of Somaliland, Ibrahim Egal, became a minister in the new Somalia. He became Prime Minister in 1967 but a coup deposed him in 1969. The coup elevated General Muhammed Siad Barre to power. Siad Barre instituted a Marxist regime, and became a close ally of the Soviet Union.

Although initially enthusiastic about forming a union with Italian Somaliland, the euphoria quickly changed to disenchantment as many in the north-west of Somalia felt increasingly marginalized in government and other sectors of society. While the authoritarian government of Siad Barre was becoming increasingly unpopular with Somalis, no where was the regime more resented than in the north-west.

Following an unsuccessful attempt by Somalia to capture the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia in 1977, Somalis from the north-west (primarily the Issaq clan) living in the United Kingdom formed the Somali National Movement in 1981. The SNM was one of a growing number of groups which aimed to topple Siad Barre.

As the 1980s unfolded, the Siad Barre regime became increasingly unsteady, and the SNM expanded its control in the north-west region. Mogadishu responded by instituting draconian measures in the north-west to suppress the SNM. When these failed, the government indiscriminately used raids and bombing campaigns to assert control. Nonetheless, by the end of the 1980s, the SNM controlled virtually all of the north-west, including the major towns of Hargeisa and Burao. The Siad Barre regime was on the verge of collapse.

The region, like the rest of Somalia, was marred by political instability and differences in culture, both due to regional feuds and the markedly different societies created by the British and Italian colonial authorities.

[edit] Second Independence

In 1991, after the collapse of the central government in Somalia in the Somali Civil War, the territory asserted its independence as the Republic of Somaliland, although it has received no international diplomatic recognition.

The economic infrastructure left behind by British, Soviet Union, and American funding and military assistance programs has been largely destroyed by war. The people of Somaliland had rebelled against Siad Barre dictatorship in Mogadishu which prompted a massive reaction by the government. Tony Worthington wrote of his first visit to Hargeysa, in 1992, at the time of Somalia's great famine, saying that he had never seen such devastation, after bombing by the ousted Siad Barre dictatorship had left 50,000 dead in the city alone. However, the country was re-built during the years that followed.

Abdurahman Ahmed Ali Tur was sworn as the first president of Somaliland, although he died just a year later. Egal was elected president in 1993, re-elected in 1998 and remained in power until his death on May 3, 2002. The vice president Dahir Riyale Kahin was declared the new president shortly afterwards.

Since independence Somaliland has been trying to extend its domination to Sanaag and Sool regions. Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf's Puntlander forces have led several invasions to defend these areas considered to be a part of Puntland State.

Siad Barre portrait
Siad Barre portrait

Somaliland is trying to declare independence but without Sanaag and Sool it lacks the land needed to make the state economically viable.

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