May 31, 2011

Somaliland: Marking Years of Struggle

Diaspora in Saudi Arabia celebrates the sacrifices of Somaliland national heroes to inspire younger generations and reinforce their history and cultural identities.

Below is an article published by Somaliland Press:

Somalilanders here in Saudi Arabia marked their national day on May 18 with festivities lined up the whole day, which was highlighted by nationalistic speeches, songs, dancing, and lectures on the country’s history and struggle towards independence. In the Eastern Province, the center of celebrations was in Dhahran.

The event – the declaration of the birth of the Republic of Somaliland on 18 May, 1991– is celebrated annually all over the world by the people of Somaliland in every country where they have settled since the partition of Africa into five separate countries – the British Somaliland, the Italian Somaliland (which is still in conflict), the French Somaliland (now Djibouti), Ogadenia under Ethiopia, and Kenya Somaliland, referred to as the Northern Frontier District (NFD). The present-day Republic of Somaliland was the British Somaliland.

The coup d’etat in 1969, led by the Mohamed Siad Barre, further forced many Somalilanders to leave their country. Most Somalilanders have found new life and opportunities in capitals of the world like Washington, Toronto, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Oslo, Stockholm, and within the Gulf States. But they have never forgotten to remember May 18 as the day they declared the birth of their country.
There are over four million Somalilanders living overseas who form Somaliland’s Diaspora; about 1.5 million of them live in the United Kingdom. In Saudi Arabia, there are about 15,000 Somalilanders who have settled in Jeddah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province.

Most Somalilander expatriates in the Kingdom are employed in government institutions and top companies. Many who served in the Kingdom’s government service for years have become Saudi citizens.

“The celebration is a day of remembrance – that we are indeed independent, though we are not yet declared by the United Nations as a new nation but already recognized by 34 nations,” said Abdulrahman M. Omar, a senior member of the Somaliland community in the Eastern Province and organizer of the Independence Day celebration. “The May 18 event is meant for the young generation of Somalilanders in this country, many of them born and raised here, to remember the sacrifices of our national heroes, like Abdulrahman Ahmed Ali, the liberator of Somaliland and the first president of the Republic of Somaliland and the man who announced the independence of Somaliland.”

Omar added: “We have our own flag; we have our laws; we have a government elected by the people and for the people; and we are the second nation to establish and claim a democratic government after India.”

Omar arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1976 as a fresh high school graduate and has since resided in the Kingdom. He works for a large French company, has five children who were all born in Saudi Arabia, and has been the driving force in the annual celebration marking his country’s national day.

Mohamed Jama Yassin, another community leader and business executive who left Somaliland 24 years ago and settled in the Kingdom, said he is proud of the young generation of Somalilanders who are not forgetting the history of their country and the struggle of the past generation. “Every year when the anniversary of our independence comes, I am gratified and happy to see young Somalilanders taking pride of their historical identity as a people with courage and fortitude; our young people now know who we are, where we come from, and where we wanted to go as a people with our own identity”, Yassin said. “Our diaspora has strengthened our relations with many nations.”

Omar was joined by other community elders and leaders, like Abdullah Bihi and Abdullah Sulub, in the celebration.