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Constitutional Developments


An Overview of main constitutional documents/events

1.  Protection Agreements between the United Kingdom and various Somaliland Clans leading to the Somaliland Protectorate.

2.  Constitutional developments in Somaliland (1946 to 1960) and the London Somaliland Protectorate Constitutional Conference May 1960.

Royal Proclamation (dated 23 June 1960) terminating on 26 June 1960 protection over the Somaliland Protectorate 

3. The first Constitution of the independent State of Somaliland 1960.

4. Constitutional documents relating to the union of Somaliland and Somalia and the period of the union:

Note (2006) on the Somaliland version of the Act of Union with Somalia (Law No:1 of 1960). (A Copy of the Somaliland Union of  Somalia and Somaliland Law  as passed by the Somaliland Legislative Assembly  on 27 June 1960 and published in the Somaliland Gazette is attached  herewith).  This Somaliland Law of Union was disregarded even though the agreement was that two similar laws of union should be passed by the independent State of Somaliland legislature and the soon to be independent Legislative of Somalia. No union law was formally passed as a law until 7 months later on 31 January 1961 - see the Act of Union, Law No. 5 of 31 January 1961. Article 10 of Law made  Act of Union retrospective and stated that it “shall be deemed to have come into operation on the 1st day of July 1960”.  Article 9 repealed formally the Somaliland Act of Union except for Article 11(4) relating toe the international agreements Somaliland has entered as a sovereign country, and also repealed the independent State of Somaliland’s first 1960 Constitution (see above for a copy of the Constitution).

The Constitution of the Somali Republic 1960.  This Constitution was drafted in Somalia (and not Somaliland ) initially between October 1957 and May 1959 by a Somalian technical committee. A revised draft was prepared in November 1959.  Between 4 April  and 9 May 1960, both drafts were examined in detail by a drafting committee (of 50 Somalian members) which approved a new draft  that was submitted to the 90 member Somalia Legislative Assembly (augmented with  additional 20 members) and was finally adopted by them on 21 June 1960. It was “promulgated by the Provisional President of the Republic and came into force on 1 July 1960. (Source: Contini  “The Somali Republic - An experiment in Legal Integration” pp. 3-4.)

The symbols of the new Somali Republic set out in the Constitution (flag and emblem) were also all adopted in Somalia well before the union with Somaliland-  The flag was that of Somalia adopted on 1 July 1954 by the Somalia Territorial Council - see  Ordinance No. 17 of 6 September - Bandiera della Somalia - Flag of Somalia. The emblem was also the Somalia emblem adopted in 1956 under Law No. 11 of 10 October 1956.

 Referendum on  the 1960 Constitution on 20 June 1961. The majority of the Somaliland districts (4 out of 6) where the majority of the population lived rejected the Constitution with a No vote ranging from 72% to 60% whilst in Somalia, with the exception of Hiran, all the five regions returned Yes votes ranging from 98% to 88%. There was blatant ballot rigging as illustrated by    the district of “Wala Weyn” which returned a near 100% Yes vote of  68,994 - a figure which exceeded by over 50% the total number of persons who voted at the capital city of Mogadishu which was recorded as  42,583. From then onwards, the Somaliland people referred to the Somalia(n) people as “Wala Weyn”!

A short note and a Copy of the Official Figures of the Referendum and extracts of the Northern Regions (Somaliland) as compared to the Southern Regions (Somalia).

The Abrogation of the 1960 Constitution by Siyad Barre’s Supreme Revolutionary Council Coup 1969 - First Charter of the Coup and Abrogation of the Constitution (in Italian) and also expressly by the Decree of the Supreme Revolutionary Council No. 38 of 24 February 1970. Despite Article 71(2) of the 2004 Somalian TF Charter statement that the provisions of the 1960 Constitution may “apply in respect of all matters not covered and not inconsistent with the Charter”, the 1960 Constitution remains abrogated and was, regardless of the illegality of the 1969 military coup, replaced  in May 1979 by a new Constitution (Law No. 16 of 20 May 1979).

Siyad  Barre Constitution 1979.  A Referendum on the 1979 Constitution was held on 25 August 1979 . The outcome of a referendum on the 1979 Constitution was reported as having been a Yes vote of 99.79% (3,597,592 Yes votes).

5. The Re-assertion of the Somaliland Sovereignty on 19 May 1991 at Burao Grand Conference of the Somaliland Communities.

Resolution of the Elders at the Burao Grand Conference signed by 17 Elders from all the Somaliland Regions and confirming the six agreed points including the independence of “The North” (Somaliland). The source of the copy of the Resolution is the publication titled “Peace in Somaliland: An Indigenous Approach to State-Building” by the Academy for Peace & Development.  The Resolution was endorsed by the SNM and announced on 18 May 1991 - For extracts (in Somali) of the SNM Central Committee Chairman and SNM Chairman on 18 May 1991 confirming the Resolution declaring the re-assertion of Somaliland’s independence,  click here.

Formation of  a Somaliland Government headed by a President & Vice-President.

6. The Somaliland National Charter 1993 adopted at the Borama Grand Conference of the Somaliland Communities. Election of President and Vice-President by the constituent assembly.

7. Extension of the period of the National Charter and the term of office of the President 1995.

8. The Somaliland Interim Constitution 1997 (Somali version) and available also in an  English Translation  adopted at the Hargeisa Grand Conference of the Somaliland Communities.

9. Extension of the period of the Interim Constitution.

9A. Amendments to the 1997 Constitution:

10. The national Referendum on the Constitution of the Somaliland Republic held on 31 May 2001.  See the independent IRI report.

11. The formation and registration of political parties and the competition among the parties for the coveted award of becoming one of the three parties allowed under Article 9(2) of the Constitution through the popular vote in the first nation-wide (local) elections in Somaliland since 1969.

12.  The nation-wide Somaliland local district elections held in December 2002.

13. Extensions of the Term of office of the President for one year in 2001 and again for for a shorter period in 2003.

14. Transfer of office of President to Vice-President Rayale Kahin on the death of President Mohammad Haji Ibrahim Egal on 

15. Election of President through national poll- May 2003.

16. Extensions of the Term of Office of the House of Representatives for:

17. Extension of the Term of office of the House of Elders 2003 and again in  2005.  For a discussion of the constitutional questions raised by  the extensions of term of the Houses of Elders, in particular, see the following article written in 2003.

18. Election of the House of Representatives through a national poll - 29 September 2005.

19. Extension of the Term of office of the House of Elders for a further four years from October 2005 by a vote of the House of Elders on Sunday, 6th May 2006. The Elders received a proposal from the President and an ex parte advisory opinion of the Supreme Court. The decision has proved to be extremely controversial and the House of Representatives and civil groups have declared it unconstitutional. The Representatives who were already considering the House of Elders Election Bill have continued debating it and intend to pass the bill on the return from the summer recess in September 2006.  For an example of the issues raised in this constitutional controversy, see the position paper by the Somaliland Forum: A term extrension too far May 2006

20. Extension of the term of office of the District Councils: There are no constitutional or legal provisions which give the House of Elders power to extend the term of office of local councils (or for that matter their own term of office), but the House assumed such a power, at the request of the President, and on 12 December 2007 passed a motion (on a vote of 47 for, 1 against and 2 abstaining) to extend the term of office of the District authorities which was due to expire in December 2007 to 1 July 2008, so as to bring it in line with the terms of the SNEC/political parties accord. No similar proposal was put to the House in connection with the delayed presidential election - the House has the power under Article 83(5) of the Constitution to extend the term of office of the President & Vice President but only in exceptional circumstances where the election cannot be “because of security considerations”. This has raised concerns that a longer extension of the presidential term of office may be in the offing!

It has been my consistent view that all these (and the past) extensions of the terms of office necessitated by failures to arrange the elections on time should be dealt with by either constitutional amendments or, where appropriate, as in local councils, by amendments to the relevant laws. Both of these options involve decision making on the part of the President and BOTH Houses and not just the President and the House of Elders only (Editor)

21. House of Elders’ Controversial Extension of Presidential Term of Office: On 10 April 2008, the House considered proposals submitted to them by the President and decided (on a vote of 63 for, 1 against and 3 abstaining) to extend the term of office of the President, which is due to expire on 15 May 2008, by one year to 6 May 2009. The House relied on Article 83(5) of the Constitution which allows a term extension ONLY if the election cannot be held because of security considerations. Here is a copy of the House resolution.

The Presidential Election finally took place on 26 June 2010.  The second nation-wide local elections took place in November 2012.

For information on the extensions of the terms of office  of the two Houses of Parliament since then, see this page (HoE).



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