Thousands of enthusiastic Somalilanders have celebrated by the Somaliland National Independence Day, 18th May every year, in the capital of Hargeisa, major cities of the country, and all around the world.
Also called the 18 May, people from all over Somaliland celebrate their independence from the Somali Democratic Republic for the whole day. In this strictly Muslim country, where alcohol is very frowned upon, that means wearing the colors of Somaliland, green, white, and yellow, blasting loud music and dancing.
It is an honor to take part in the parade and all corps of the army, police, and other social services as well as clubs and associations send delegations to walk on the drag. The parade goes on for almost a kilometer and all participants pass in front of a stage where the president of the Republic as well as dignitaries and government members sit and watch it.
For a small, unrecognized country, Somaliland has a sizeable army and its navy and infantry takes no small part in the parade. All sorts of guns, vehicles and soldiers are exhibited. We were told, however, that this is only a small part of the army, as another, bigger part, needs to stay stationed at the border, in case Somalia decided to use this opportunity to invade and take back the country. Some parts of the parade are quirkier than others, for example, a lion in a cage was paraded this year.
Somaliland is not Somalia, as the names of their countries suggest, there’s little ethnic or linguistic difference between the people of Somalia and Somaliland. The entity that today calls itself the Republic of Somaliland owes its existence to two main factors: its proximity to Yemen and its abundance of sheep. In the late 19th century, Britain (with the support of Italy) and France (with the support of Russia) were locked in a struggle for control of the Nile. As a means of both countering French influence and ensuring a regular supply of mutton for its garrison at the Yemeni port city of Aden, Britain signed a series of agreements with tribes in northern Somalia.
In the words of the historian Ioan Lewis, “in relation to its size and significance” Somaliland was “one of Britain’s least rewarding possessions”. Yet there’s a good case to be made that its marginal status as a colony benefited the country in the long run. Whereas Somaliland had been considered a backwater by the British and therefore left mostly to govern itself through the existing clan structure, Italy considered Somalia an integral part of its short-lived ambitions to build a North African empire that also included modern-day Libya and parts of Egypt.