A symbol is born; The Raising of the Somali Flag
by Mohammed Abdullah Artan
This is a historical piece accounting the process that lead and gave birth to the Somali National flag, a symbol of unity and Pan-Somalism. Something perhaps unfamiliar with many Somalis living today, be they in the motherland or in the diaspora. It is a linear tale of struggle and jumping over hurdles. Having said that, history is not a cozy and colourful place, it does not start with Once-Upon-Time narrative and most surely does not end with They-Lived-Happily-Ever-After closure.
But if you don’t know where you have been, you will never be able to know where you are going. A fact we can all testify to today is the sense of divide that is symbolised in the multi-flag states of Somalia, with its multi-presidents followed by entourage of supposed cabinets and ministers. In the same fashion we are honouring today our founding fathers and their overlord(s)-in the shape of Italian Trusteeship-we have today a British Trusteeship. One can only hope for a quick betterment or better yet a quick action to a better tomorrow.
In a stunning defeat of the British by the Italians in World War II, the British Somalilands was lost to the Italians as the later moved in, effectively controlling the entirety of Somalia for the first time. The first time in history that the Somalis were ruled under one flag. (Salwe, 1996)
25th of February 1941:
On this day the Allied forces, led by the British seized control in Mogadishu from the fascist Italians, in what was a defeat for the Italians in World War II, effectively putting Somalia under the British rule. The Union Flag was hoisted from Northern Somalia to Southern Somalia. This lasted for almost a decade. (Salwe, 1996).
2nd February 1950:
The UN mandates a UN Trusteeship for Somalia.
1st of April 1950:
The British do officially the handover. The Italians return to Somalia and take over from the British as UN Trusteeship with a ten year plan to facilitate the independence of Somalia. The British flag is pulled down as the Italian and the UN flag is hoisted.
6th of September 1954:
In the early hours of a Monday morning, at the Golaha Latashiga Dalka convened a meeting, which was its third sitting wherein the floor was opened for what would be the historical search of a unifying banner for the state of Somalia; Its Flag. This meeting was fully attended by all the stake holders. Some of those present at the front line row were;
– Mr Gasbari; the chair of the meeting, secretary of the UN-Trusteeship and his two co-panellists;
– Aadan Abdulle Usman,
– Abdinur Hussain,
– Badine Confalonieri; the deputy minister of Italia’s Foreign Affairs,
– Martino, the Italian ambassador,
Those who had spoken or delivered speeches were as follows:
– Islaw Omar Ali; one of the political parties leaders,
– Hiddaayad Sulayman,
– Haji Farah Ali Umar; SYL
– Mallim Umar; S.D.M party
– Suldan Abdirahman Ali Isse; The Biimaal Suldaan,
– Haji Mohammed Ubayd
– The Arab Community,
– Mr Buna
– The Indo-Pak community,
– Shaykh Faqi Shaykh.
– and many more others.
Aadan Abdulle Usman has put a motion to the floor wherein he detailed the vision of sky blue flag with its white five pointed star in the middle. Exactly at 11 am the same morning this motion was unanimously accepted with cheers and applauds. (Liiqliiqato, 2000). Later on, a decree instituting the Somali flag was presented to the United Nations by the Italian President of the Republic. (Trunji 2015)
12th of October 1954:
On a Monday morning at 9am: The Somali flag has been raised for the first time, at the top of the House of assembly which was witnessed and saluted by 60 police officers, led by Mohammed Ibrahim Mohammed (Liiqliiqato). The other two flags at display were the UN and the Italian flag. To celebrate and finalise the process, Abwaan Abdullaahi Qarshe sang what would be forever known in the annals of Somali history as the Somali National Anthem.
To commemorate the institution of the flag, Ambassador Martino made a brief statement: “O Somali people. In a few minutes’ time and for the first time in your history, rising up in the sky will be the symbol that you have chosen to manifest the ardent wish to be a free and independent nation and in whose shadow you wish to march united, as a people, in order to achieve material and spiritual progress.” Concluding his speech he said: “O people of Somalia, after twenty-four months of work in this Territory, it will shortly be a moment of deep emotion for me as I see the blue flag with the five-point white star being hoisted. With a felicitous intuition you chose the unequalled colour of your sky and the blazing lights of your nights as a symbol and guide for you. Viva la Somalia!”
26th of June 1960:
In Hargeisa, an immense and cheerful celebrations were held that welcomed and ushered a new era for the Somalis and Greater Somalia. For the first time in its independence the Somali flag has been raised and the British colonial flag was lowered.
June 28, 1960:
At 6 o’clock in the afternoon, in all centres of Somalia, the Italian and UN flags were for the last time lowered. Mario Di Stefano, the Italian Administrator for the UN, left Mogadishu on board a plane bound for Nairobi, Kenya.
30th of June 1960:
This date was formally the ending of the Trusteeship administration in Somalia at 16hrs. (Trunji)
Britain, in its capacity as a former colonial power, accorded diplomatic recognition to the newly born Republic of Somaliland; however it did not establish an embassy in Hargeisa, but rather a consulate subordinated to the British Embassy in Mogadishu. A message from the Queen was delivered to Hargeisa by Mr T.E. Bromely, British Consul General in Mogadishu, on the occasion of Somaliland independence. The message read:
“I, my government and my people of the United Kingdom wish you well on the day of independence. The connection between our people goes back some 130 years and British administration of the Protectorate for 60 years. I look forward to continuing and enduring friendship between our two countries.”
A number of other foreign countries, including Egypt, Ghana, Libya and Israel, are known to have extended diplomatic recognition to the former British Protectorate of Somaliland. The United States of America was most reluctant to go to the trouble and expense of independence celebrations and establishing an embassy in Hargeisa, in a country whose separate existence was going to be ephemeral. “The United States did not extend official recognition to the newly independent State of Somaliland on June 26, 1960 partly to avoid embarking on a lot of paperwork for a country with an estimated life of five days and for fear of upsetting the Ethiopians” However the US sent a short message of congratulations to the Somaliland Council of Ministers, delivered to Hargeisa by a diplomat from the American Consulate General in Mogadisho. Similar messages were sent to the Prime Minister, Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, by a number of foreign dignitaries including the Prime Minister of Somalia Abdullahi Issa, Mr P. Herton of the USA, Field Marshal Ayoub Khan, Dag Hammarskjold, Mario di Stefano, Haile Selassie, Nehru, and Chancellor Adenhauer. (Trunji 2015)
1st of July 1960:
The Legislative Assembly of Somalia and the Somaliland Legislative Council, sitting together for the first time as a national assembly, acclaimed the Act of Union between the two territories, thus creating the Republic of Somalia. In what was a celebratory four days in the north, the south followed suit with its celebration of independence which was partaken by more than 70 nation delegates. Many envoys were given platform to speak amongst them being the British and the Italian.
A new day was born and Somalia started its journey as a nation, free from the yokes of colonial powers. The rest is history I guess, though I wished we had learned few lessons from history.
By: Mohammed Abdullah Artan.
12th of October 2015
Abdisalam M. Issa Salwe, Cold War Fallout; Boundary and Conflict in the Horn of Africa, Haan Publishing, 2000.
Abdisalam M. Issa Salwe, The Collapse of the Somali State, Haan Publishing, 1996.
Muxamed Ibraahim Muxamed Liiqliiqato, Taariikhda Soomaaliya (Dalkii Filka Weyna ee Punt), Author published, 2000.
Mohamed Trunji, Somalia: The Untold History 1941-1969, Looh Press, 2015.