Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July 2014, 17:47 GMT

Somalia: Somali National Movement from its inception through the present

Publisher United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Author Resource Information Center
Publication Date 25 August 1999
Citation / Document Symbol SOM99001.ZLA
Cite as United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Somalia: Somali National Movement from its inception through the present, 25 August 1999, SOM99001.ZLA, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a6b5f.html [accessed 1 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Query:

What is the history of the Somali National Movement?

Response:

One of the first and most important organized guerilla groups opposed to the Siad Barre regime, the Somali National Movement was created in 1981 in the United Kingdom by Isaaq Clan exiles from the northwestern part of Somalia. In 1988, fearing a decisive assault by Barre forces, the SNM launched its own all-or-nothing attack. Though not a military success, the SNM strike catalyzed a vicious cycle of clan warfare throughout Somalia that over the next several years eviscerated Barre's power. In January 1991 Barre was forced to flee. By then the SNM had acquired control over the whole of the former British Somaliland (the former provinces of  Northwest, Togdher, Sanag, and part of Nugal). In May 1991 the SNM declared its secession from Somalia and the establishment of the independent state of Somaliland (Prunier 1995). Subsequently the international community has refused recognition, despite Somaliland's being the only part of what was known as the country of Somalia that has maintained a functioning government (AP 7 April 1996; Flint 1993).

The SNM includes non-Isaaq members but its core leadership operates along Isaaq Clan lines (Press 1 March 1993). Mohamed Ibrahim Egal has been President of Somaliland since May 1993, winning elections among clan elders in 1993, 1995, and 1997 (AFP 20 Apr. 1995; AP 24 Feb. 1997). According to the Somalia Desk Officer at the Department of State, the SNM views Egal as its legitimate leader (DOS 25 Aug. 1999).

Egal, a former Somali Prime Minister ousted and imprisoned by Siad Barre, presides over a Pennsylvania-size patch of scrub with approximately 1.2 million people (AP 7 April 1996). His ascension to office resulted from a clan elders' compromise to defuse internal clan disputes over the port of Berbera, which almost degenerated into a Somaliland civil war in 1992 (Flint 1993). SNM factions opposed to Egal, however, continued to resist his authority and have undertaken sporadic but occasionally significant armed attacks against his government. In 1994 rebels threatened control of Somaliland's capital, Hargeysa. By various estimates the fighting displaced tens to hundreds of thousands of people (Somali News Update 1, 14 December 1994). In 1995 rebels again pressed Hargeysa, particularly around the airport (BBC 21 Aug. 1995). The most prominent rebel leader, Abdurahman Ali Tour (Tur), the first president of Somaliland whom Egal succeeded, was put on trial for treason in October 1995, for "leading a guerilla movement against the present government" and for "opposing Somaliland's self-declared independence (Radio Hargeisa 6 June 1995)." The issue of Somaliland's relations with the remainder of Somalia and whether there should be any attempt at reunification is particularly sensitive. Tour and his associates, by having allied themselves with General Mohamed Farah Aideed's unrecognized government in Mogadishu (Aideed is now deceased), compounded the allegations of treason. More recently, in August 1999 members of an SNM executive committee strongly criticized the Egal government for its proposed changes to the Somaliland constitution (Jamhuuriya 15 Aug.1999).

A search of Lexis back through 1981 and the entire FBIS database failed to turn up articles directly associating the SNM or Somaliland government with persecutions, a lack of evidence in marked contrast to many articles on abuses by clans in other parts of the former Somalia. Apart from the 1995 treason trials, which appear to have been properly conducted and legally justified, two indirect mentions of abuses appear in the record. The BBC and other sources reported clashes between Somaliland armed forces and the Issa clan (a sub-clan of the Dir) in a small area bordering Djibouti in August 1995 (Radio France International 10 Aug.1995). The Issa, according to Radio France, suspect the Isaaq of attempting to suppress their political rights. And in a 1996 report to the Canadian Documentation, Information and Research Branch an expert on Somalia stated that the Midgan clan was no longer being targeted for earlier actions against the SNM and "are now living peacefully and intermingled in [the] North Somali community (IRB 8 Oct. 1996)." All of which is not to say the SNM or Somaliland government are boy scouts but, as the Somalia Desk Officer put it, "We have no knowledge of repression." 

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References

Agence France Presse (AFP). "Somaliland president's two-year term extended" (20 April 1995) – as reported on NEXIS.

Associated Press (AP). Davies, Karen. "Peace in Somaliland goes unnoticed" (7 April 1996) – as reported on NEXIS.

Associated Press (AP). Jelinek, Pauline. "Heavy Fighting Reported in the Northern Breakaway Republic" (16 November 1994) – as reported on NEXIS

Associated Press (AP). "Somaliland president reelected by clan leaders" (24 February 1997) – as reported on NEXIS.

Associated Press (AP). "Fighting Flares in Capital of Breakaway Republic of Somaliland" (16 October, 1994) – as reported on NEXIS.

BBC World Service. "SNM Claims To Capture of Most of Hareysa" (21 August 1995) – as reported in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) web site.

Flint, Julie. "Somaliland Fights a Lonely Battle," The Guardian (UK: 15 October 1993), p. 13 – as reported on NEXIS.

Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), Documentation, Information and Research Branch. Somaliland: Information on the present situation and composition of the Somaliland government. (Ottawa: 10 November 1995), 5p.

Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), Documentation, Information and Research Branch. Somalia: Information on the relationship between the Midgan and the Tumal, including whether the Midgan or other Somali ethnic groups might consider the Tumal to be a subgroup of the Midgan, and on their current situation. (Ottawa: 8 October 1996), 2p.

Indian Ocean Newsletter. "Somaliland – Treason trial," (10 June 1995) – as reported on NEXIS.

Jamhuuriya. "Somali National Movement rejects new draft constitution for Somaliland," (Hargeisa: 15 August 1999) as reported in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (26 August 1999) – as reported on NEXIS.

Press, Robert M. "Elders of North Somalia Meet to Preserve Peace," The Christian Science Monitor (Boston: 1 March 1993), p. 6 – as reported on NEXIS.

Prunier, Gérard. "Somalia: Civil War, Intervention and Withdrawal 1990-1995" Writenet (UK: July 1995) [Internet] http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country/writenet/wrisom.htm

Radio France Internationale. "Forces on berder alert after Issa rebels clash with Somaliland troops" (10 August 1995) – as reported in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) web site.

Radio Hargeisa. "Treason trial opens in Hargeisa," as reported in BBC Summary of  World Broadcasts (6 June 1995) – as reported on NEXIS.

Somalia News Update. "Hargeysa: Rebel Forces Defeated" (Sweden via electronic mail: Vol. 3, No. 27, 1 December 1994) p. 1. – archived at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Newsletters/SNU27.html.

Somalia News Update. "Hargeysa: The Numbers Game" (Sweden via electronic mail: Vol. 3, No. 28, 14 December 1994) p. 1. – archived at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Newsletters/SNU_28.html.

U.S. Department of State (DOS), Somalia Country Desk. Telephone Interview (Washington, D.C.: 25 August 1999).

Attachments

(Not available in electronic format)

Agence France Presse (AFP). "Somaliland president's two-year term extended" (20 April 1995) – as reported on NEXIS.

Associated Press (AP). Davies, Karen. "Peace in Somaliland goes unnoticed" (7 April 1996) – as reported on NEXIS.

Associated Press (AP). Jelinek, Pauline. "Heavy Fighting Reported in the Northern Breakaway Republic" (16 November 1994) – as reported on NEXIS

Associated Press (AP). "Somaliland president reelected by clan leaders" (24 February 1997) – as reported on NEXIS.

Associated Press (AP). "Fighting Flares in Capital of Breakaway Republic of Somaliland" (16 October, 1994) – as reported on NEXIS.

BBC World Service. "SNM Claims To Capture of Most of Hareysa" (21 August 1995) – as reported in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) web site.

Flint, Julie. "Somaliland Fights a Lonely Battle," The Guardian (UK: 15 October 1993), p. 13 – as reported on NEXIS.

Indian Ocean Newsletter. "Somaliland – Treason trial," (10 June 1995) – as reported on NEXIS.

Jamhuuriya. "Somali National Movement rejects new draft constitution for Somaliland," (Hargeisa: 15 August 1999) as reported in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (26 August 1999) – as reported on NEXIS.

Press, Robert M. "Elders of North Somalia Meet to Preserve Peace," The Christian Science Monitor (Boston: 1 March 1993), p. 6 – as reported on NEXIS.

Prunier, Gérard. "Somalia: Civil War, Intervention and Withdrawal 1990-1995" Writenet (UK: July 1995) [Internet] http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country/writenet/wrisom.htm

Radio France Internationale. "Forces on berder alert after Issa rebels clash with Somaliland troops" (10 August 1995) – as reported in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) web site.

Radio Hargeisa. "Treason trial opens in Hargeisa," as reported in BBC Summary of  World Broadcasts (6 June 1995) – as reported on NEXIS.

Somalia News Update. "Hargeysa: Rebel Forces Defeated" (Sweden via electronic mail: Vol. 3, No. 27, 1 December 1994) p. 1. – archived at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Newsletters/SNU27.html.

Somalia News Update. "Hargeysa: The Numbers Game" (Sweden via electronic mail: Vol. 3, No. 28, 14 December 1994) p. 1. – archived at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Newsletters/SNU_28.html.

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