afrol News, 5 June - The support of the new Somaliland Constitution and thereby independence in last week's referendum was almost universal. As the self-declared independent Somaliland government of northwestern Somalia published the final results, it showed over 97 percent had voted in support.
As the new constitution in its first paragraph contains the clause, which confirms Somaliland's independence, the referendum indirectly, also was about this issue. Somaliland declared unilateral independence in May 1991, but has so far received no overt international recognition. Somaliland draws its independence claims from the fact that Italian and British Somalia were two separate colonies, and that Somaliland was independent before entering into a union with (Italian) Somalia in 1960.
Abdi Idris Du'ale, press secretary to Somaliland's President Muhammad Ibrahim Egal, yesterday said that the results were announced at a ceremony in the Somaliland parliament, and will be officially endorsed by Somaliland's Supreme Court at a later date. Du'ale said the court was likely to certify the results in the "next few days", but was not sure exactly when, according to the UN media IRIN. The regional breakdown of votes would be released after the Supreme Court certification, he said.
Meanwhile, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reported on 4 June that a yes vote in the referendum was highly unlikely to change foreign attitudes. EIU said donors continued to hope for a reunited Somalia and were "highly unlikely to give Somaliland international recognition", as long as the Transitional National Assembly (TNA) in Mogadishu existed.
The TNA, set up in the Djibouti-hosted Somali peace conference last year, and which was boycotted by Somaliland, opposed the referendum. Maryam Arif Qasim, a TNA member, told IRIN on 29 May that the referendum was "a foreign-inspired conspiracy..." whose only purpose was to "dismember Somalia".
The referendum was also opposed by the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, in northeastern Somalia, in a press statement on 26 April, which described it as "unwise and provocative" and likely to lead to violence.
The human rights group Amnesty International however lamented the arrest of an outstanding oppositional, former presidential candidate Suleiman Mohamed Adam, which remained detained during the referendum. Amnesty reported that Suleiman Mohamed Adam appeared to have been accused by the authorities of "treason" or "plotting to sabotage a planned referendum". He was said to have also been accused of having met in Djibouti with President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who is known not to support the referendum.
After the almost universal support for the new Constitution, questions have been raised about the necessity of risking the country's reputation abroad by arresting the most outspoken oppositional. Reports about this human rights violations seriously tainted international news coverage of the Somaliland independence poll.
Sources: Based on IRIN, UN sources and afrol archives