2.1 Introduction

In chapter one, a brief background of the study was delved into and this gave a pointer to the research problem which was raised. The study seeks to analyze the diplomacy that is involved in the recognition of states in the IS. It was ascertained that Somaliland has all the qualities of a state in the current day and age but it has failed in its attempts to obtain international recognition. This state of affairs attracts pertinent questions that this study will seek to contribute to answering.


This chapter aims to provide an in-depth overview of the history of Somalia and by extension Somaliland. This will help in providing an understanding of the journey that Somalia has taken in the course of time up until Somaliland began to seek international recognition. The historical overview will be classified into three viz. pre-colonial and colonial period; the post-colonial era, and the period after secession from Somalia.

2.2 Pre-colonial and colonial period

Because of its clan system, it would be a faux pas to try to understand the history of Somaliland without going into that of Somalia or that of the Somali as a people. Mohamoud provides an important analysis of the Somali people. He suggests that the social structure of the Somali pastoral nomads has some key characteristics. First, the Somalis are highly egalitarian because of the absence of exploitation and domination in their power relations. Second, the Somali society is stateless, lacking centralized institutions and formalized authority. Third, the primary social networks of the Somali people are regulated by a web of lineage segmentation, which provides the fundamental basis for identity formation.[49] Accordingly, it must be the persistence of this primordial kinship segmentation that prevented Somali society from developing a single political unit during the pre-colonial period. Mohamoud’s analysis is that in the contemporary postcolonial era, the tenacity of this lineage segmentation is what perpetuates social divisiveness and political fragmentation among the Somali population.[50]

Kieh argues that European colonialists formalized the incorporation of Somali societies into the global capitalist system and completed the process of the commodification of social relations by shifting from clan-based to class-based interests.[51] Under the new relations of production, the upper class consisted of the colonial agents, the middle stratum consisted of Somali compradors and the lowest tier comprised the subaltern classes consisting primarily of pastoralists and farmers. Characteristically, the colonial state was used as a vehicle for legitimizing and maintaining the mode of production and its associated relations of production and system of unequal exchange and lopsided power arrangements.[52]

Fitzgerald affirms that Somalia is steeped in thousands of years of history and that the ancient Egyptians spoke of it as “God’s Land” (the Land of Punt).[53] Chinese merchants frequented the Somali coast in the tenth and fourteenth centuries and, according to tradition, returned home with giraffes, leopards, and tortoises to add color and variety to imperial menagerie. According to Fitzgerald, Greek merchant ships and medieval Arab dhows plied the Somali coast. The Arabs referred to the Somalis, along with the related peoples, as the Berberi.[54]

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 increased European involvement and interests in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, by the eighteenth century, the Somalis essentially had developed their present way of life, which is based on pastoral nomadism and the Islamic faith. As colonialists divided up the Somalis, Ethiopia emerged as the master of the hinterland, especially after defeating Italy in the 1896 battle of Adowa and thereafter assuming control of the Ogaden region.[55] From 1897 and during the colonial period, the Somalis were separated into five mini-Somalilands: British Somaliland (north central), French Somaliland (east and southeast); Italian Somaliland (south); Ethiopian Somaliland (the Ogaden); and what came to be called the Northern Frontier District of Kenya.[56]

Easton observes that in the 1880s Britain, France, and Italy were disputing their spheres of influence in Africa with one another, and with the then Abyssinia. Easton adds that in the circumstances then prevailing, it was necessary for the Somalis who lived in the Horn of Africa to obtain some protection. The Somali chiefs of the protectorate sought British protection and signed treaties with Great Britain, who Easton affirms that for a long time administered the territory through Aden which was itself a dependency of the government of India.[57]

As Page notes, European colonialism first arrived in Somalia in 1887 when the British, attempting to safeguard their trade interests in the Indian Ocean, proclaimed the British Somaliland Protectorate.[58] Juang, however, offers different dates. He posits that in 1884, the first British political agent was appointed to the country and that the British protectorate called British Somaliland was established in 1885 but was initially governed from India.[59] Shortly thereafter in 1889, the Italians established their own protectorates over the Obbia and Mijertein sultanates and continued expanding southward toward the Juba River such that by 1892, Italy had laid claim to all of Somalia outside of British Somaliland. Even though both the British and the Italians made efforts between 1892 and 1899 to consolidate their control over their spheres of influence, it is the Italians who managed to institute any semblance of formal administration.[60] In 1899 there arose formidable resistance movements which challenged the British and the Italians. One notable rebellion was led by Muhammad Abdullah Hassan (also known to the British as ‘Mad Mullah’), a religious leader from the north who attracted a huge following among like-minded Somali.

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