This is an account of the merger of former British Somaliland with the former Italian Somalia into the Somali Republic, which brought about the attempt to construct a unified law out of diverse legal systems. 

This friendship treaty was properly designed to maintain the independence of different clans who were living in northern Somalia and a large measure of sovereignty was enjoyed by the clans.

Yet authorities in Southern Somalia did not send their own treaty to the authorities in Somaliland. The draft treaty sent by the Somaliland authorities was never approved by the Southern Somali authorities and rather they drafted their own, the Act of Union, and approved by the national legislature. When all the process happened, the authorities in Somaliland were never consulted and did not give their consent for the newly approved Act of Union.


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The Somali Republic: An Experiment in Legal Integration

By Paolo Contini

The Somali Republic An Experiment In Legal Integration
Mohamed Ibrahim Egal (right), Welcomed in Mogadishu by Abdullahi Issa on April 16 1960. The officer in the middle is Siyad Barre.

First published in 1969 by Frank Cass and Company Limited

67 Great Russell Street, London WC1


ON June 26, 1960, the British Protectorate of Somaliland became the independent State of Somaliland. It was probably the shortest independence on record. Five days later, Somaliland joined with neighboring Somalia, a United Nations Trust Territory under Italian administration, which achieved independence on July 1, 1960, and together they formed a unitary State called the Somali Republic.

The Somali Republic has a total area of approximately 250,000 square miles and a population estimated at about 2.5 million. The size and population of the Northern Regions (the former British Protectorate of Somaliland) account for about one-fourth, whereas those of the Southern Regions (the former Trust Territory) account for approximately three-fourths of the country as a whole. About 70 percent of the people are nomadic or semi-nomadic herdsmen whose principal measure of wealth is the camel. The others are settled in the capital city of Mogadiscio, other towns, and in the agricultural areas bordering Somalia’s two rivers, the Juba and the Uebi Shebeli.

The Somali language, with minor variations, is spoken throughout the country. About 99 percent of the inhabitants are Muslims adhering to the Shafii school of Islam.

For three-quarters of a century before the union, the two territories comprising the Somali Republic had been administered by two different European states. The Northern laws and institu­tions were those of a British dependency; the South followed the Italian system developed during the colonial and trusteeship period.

For the new Republic to become a truly unitary state it was essential to bring about the legislative unification of the two parts of the country. In order to assist the Somali government in this endeavor a Consultative Commission for Integration (later re-named Consultative Commission for Legislation) was appointed in October 1960 by Presidential decree, and I had the honor of serving as chairman of the Commission from its establishment until the end of 1964.

After a survey of the steps leading to independence and the formation of the Somali Republic, I have sought to describe the progress made in the process of legislative integration. This study attempts also to illustrate the interaction among the different legal systems coexisting in the country (common law. civil law, Islamic law, and customary law) and their respective impact on the constitution, the laws, and judicial decisions. Finally, there is a discussion of the role and rule of law in the Somali Republic.

This study is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of Somali law. It is based largely on the experience gained during my two assignments in Somalia, the first in 1957/58 as a member of the Technical Committee on the constitution and the second, after independence, as United Nations Legal Adviser to the Somali Government and chairman of the integration commission.

This bias is reflected both in the selection and in the treatment of the material included in this work. In describing the legislative and judicial developments since independence the main emphasis is on significant problems arising from the co-existence of different legal systems, and on the solutions adopted.

I should like to acknowledge my indebtedness to Dr. Haji N. A. Noor Muhammad. Legal Adviser to the Prime Minister of Somalia and formerly Vice-President of the Supreme Court, for making available his manuscript ‘The Development of the Con­stitution of the Somali Republic’ and other source material. I am also indebted to Mr. Martin Ganzglass, who was in Somalia from 1966 to 1968 with the Peace Corps as a legal adviser, for his helpful comments on the draft of this study. My special gratitude goes to my wife Jeanne for her patience and an invaluable aid in editing and deobfuscating the text.


Gobannimo dhowaatay

Oo labadan is u geynay e

Freedom and dignity have reached us,

We have brought together the two lands.

Anonymous Somali Poet

Reprinted from Somali Poetry by B. R. Andrzejewski and I. M. Lewis, pp. 148-149, Clarendon Press 1964.

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