Greater Somalia

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Greater Somalia
The flag of Somalia symbolizes Greater Somali aspirations: the five points of the star stand for Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland, Ogaden, Djibouti and northeast Kenya
Map of the political situation in the Somali inhabited area (as of May 2007)

Greater Somalia ( Somali Soomaliweyn ) - an entity that is said to encompass all areas of the Horn of Africa inhabited by ethnic Somali - is sought as a target by Somali nationalists. In addition to present-day Somalia , it would also include the present-day Ethiopian region of Ogaden or Somali , Djibouti and northeastern Kenya .

The pursuit of a Greater Somalia is known as Pan-Somalism .


In the 1940s and 1950s, political parties emerged in the Somali areas that turned against colonial rule and sought political unification in a nation state. Somalia, which gained independence in 1960, made corresponding demands on its neighbors. Since the collapse of Somalia in 1991, these efforts have lost much of their importance. In the 2000s, they were picked up again by some Islamist groups in Somalia.

The area inhabited by the Somali was never politically united in pre-colonial times, but divided between the various Somali clans and city-states on the coast, which also fought each other. The extent to which the Somali nevertheless represented a " nation without a state" due to their common language, religion and culture or were economically, ethnically, linguistically and culturally too heterogeneous to be considered as a unit is assessed differently in historiography.

At the end of the 19th century, the region experienced its colonial division, which still has an impact today: Ogaden was conquered by the Ethiopian Empire under Menelik II . The south and east of today's Somalia was colonized by Italy as Italian Somaliland , the north (today's separatist Somaliland ) became the British protectorate of British Somaliland . The south-eastern Somali areas became part of British East Africa and the crown colony of Kenya, while Djibouti in the north-west became French. It was only after this division that the Somali began to seek political unification in a nation state .

Unification efforts in colonial times

From 1899 to 1920 Mohammed Abdullah Hassan led the mainly religiously motivated uprising of the “Dervishes” ( Darawiish ) against the incipient British, Italian and Ethiopian foreign rule over the Somali. He was elevated to a national hero by later, secular Somali nationalists and the uprising was interpreted as at least "proto-nationalist". Jon Abbink, however, criticized this term as misleading and anachronistic .

The later efforts for political unification of the Somali were predominantly modern-secular in orientation.

In 1940/41, the unification of all Somali territories was almost completely achieved (except for French Djibouti) when fascist Italy occupied Ethiopia as well as British Somaliland and incorporated it into Italian East Africa during World War II .

Great Britain, which ended the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in 1941, initially also took over the administration of Italian Somaliland and eastern Ethiopia. During this time several political associations emerged among the Somali, of which the Somali Youth League (SYL) became the most important supporter of the demand for a Greater Somalia. The SYL quickly gained support, especially among educated Somali, and became active in British and Italian Somaliland as well as in Ogaden and northeastern Kenya. It had supporters across clan boundaries, but enjoyed the most support from the Darod , who, as the most widespread clan family, had the greatest interest in uniting the territories. In British Somaliland, the Somali National League (SNL) of the Isaaq Clan and the United Somali Party (USP) were the strongest parties, they also advocated Greater Somalia.

During the negotiations on the future of Italian Somaliland, British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin proposed in 1946 that Ogaden, British and Italian Somaliland should continue to be united and jointly make them a trust territory. This "Bevin Plan" found no support from the other great powers and was vehemently rejected by Ethiopia, but it brought Ernest Bevin a high reputation among the proponents of a Greater Somalia.

In 1948 Great Britain returned a large part of the Ogaden to Ethiopia, and in 1954 the Haud border area was also returned . When the UN General Assembly decided in 1949 to make Italian Somaliland a trust territory under Italian administration for ten years, the SYL initially resisted, but then cooperated with the trust administration. Before the independence of Italian Somaliland, which was scheduled for July 1, 1960, the parties in British Somaliland also called for independence in order to unite with Italian Somaliland. British Somaliland became independent on June 26th and merged into Somalia on July 1st .

After Somalia's independence

The new state laid down the striving for a unification of all Somali territories in the preamble of its constitution: "The Somali Republic is promoting the unification of (Somali) territories, by legal and peaceful means" ( The Somali Republic promotes, by legal and peaceful means, the union of the territories ). The SYL had originally aimed for the formulation " by all means necessary" .

The demands for a Greater Somalia contradict the principle of the Organization for African Unity , according to which the colonial borders in Africa should not be changed in order to avoid border conflicts. For example, other African states were most likely to support Somalia's demand for the decolonization of Djibouti, but not the claims against Ethiopia and Kenya. These claims were also directed against Haile Selassie and Jomo Kenyatta and thus against two of the most prominent African statesmen of the time.

When the imminent independence of Kenya became apparent, Somalia and representatives of the Kenyan Somali called for the north-eastern part of the country to be connected to Somalia. However, the area remained part of Kenya, which became independent from Great Britain in 1963. Somalia supported Somali rebels who were waging a guerrilla war with arms deliveries. The Kenyan state then imposed coercive measures against the entire population of the northeast. This so-called “ Shifta War ” threatened to escalate into a war between Kenya and Somalia at times. At the intergovernmental level, it was ended in 1967 with a peace agreement, because Somalia's new Prime Minister Mohammed Haji Ibrahim Egal maintained the territorial claims, but tried to relax relations with neighboring countries. However, the state of emergency in northeast Kenya was not lifted until 1991.

In Ethiopia, Somalia founded the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) to enforce its claim to the Ogaden area . However, the activities of the WSLF never became a threat to the Ethiopian government in the 1960s. In 1964 fighting broke out on the border between Somalia and Ethiopia. In the same year Kenya and Ethiopia signed a defense agreement against Somalia, which was renewed in 1980 and 1987. But they could hardly stop the arms deliveries from Somalia to the Somali rebels.

In the French Djibouti, the Issa also began to strive for independence, but a referendum in 1958 was clearly in favor of remaining with France. Mahamoud Harbi, the spokesman for the independence movement, then fled to Mogadishu . The majority of the Afar ethnic group preferred French rule and was supported by France and Ethiopia, who did not want the Djibouti – Addis Ababa railway to fall under Somalia's control. When the Issa again made demands for independence when Charles de Gaulle visited in 1966, another referendum was held in 1967. This also resulted in a majority in favor of maintaining French rule, also because the administration mobilized the Afar and expelled Somali immigrants from other areas.

Somalia under Siad Barre

Siad Barre, who became president of Somalia through a military coup in 1969, initially formally dissolved the WSLF, but maintained territorial claims against Ethiopia. When Ethiopia was internally weakened after the fall of Haile Selassie and the seizure of power by the communist Derg regime in 1974, Siad Barre re-founded the WSLF. He made agreements with elders of the Ogadeni Darod clan who, in return for liberation from Ethiopian rule, assured their clan's political loyalty. There were also plans to have Djibouti conquered by the Issa division of the WSLF, but this project was not implemented later.

In 1976, the WSLF began guerrilla activities from Somalia, and from 1977 soldiers of the Somali army also took part . In mid-1977 this covert invasion turned into open war, in which Somalia initially conquered large parts of the Ogaden. However, massive support from the Soviet Union, Cuban and South Yemeni troops for Ethiopia led to Somalia's defeat in the Ogaden War in 1978 .

The Issa in Djibouti achieved independence from France in 1977, but not annexation to Somalia.

The WSLF remained active with the support of Somalia even after the Ogaden War. It was not until the beginning of the 1980s that it was largely dismantled after offensives by the Ethiopian military.


Since the fall of Siad Barres in 1991 and the subsequent collapse of Somalia, aspirations of the Greater Somali region have lost much of their importance. The former British north of Somalia is de facto independent as Somaliland , as is Puntland in the northeast. Southwest Somalia , Galmudug , Maakhir and other parts of the country also declared their independence or autonomy at times.

In the Ethiopian Ogaden and today's Somali region, parts of the Somali population, especially the dominant clan of the Ogadeni- Darod , continue to strive for greater autonomy or for secession . The Ogaden National Liberation Front , founded in 1984, has been waging an armed struggle for secession from Ethiopia since 1994. However, their goal today is more independence than annexation to Somalia. The conflict between the ONLF and the Ethiopian Army has intensified since 2007.

The various interventions by Ethiopia in the Somali civil war are also related to efforts to prevent actors who maintain territorial claims from gaining power in Somalia. According to a widespread view in Somalia, this means that Ethiopia either wants to maintain Somalia's political fragmentation or wants to set up a “ puppet government ”.

Parts of the Union of Islamic Courts , which took control of large parts of Somalia in 2006, made claims to Greater Somalia. Sharif Sheikh Ahmed , who belonged to the moderate wing of the Union, denied such claims in an interview in mid-2006: “We want to respect our neighboring countries and the whole world, and we believe that no one should commit aggression against others. That is our belief. ” Hassan Dahir Aweys , however, said:“ We will leave no stone unturned in order to integrate our Somali brothers in Kenya and Ethiopia and to restore their freedom to live with their ancestors in Somalia. ”The more radical ones Parts of the Union called for jihad to conquer Ogaden and overthrow the Ethiopian government. Ethiopia therefore intervened militarily against the Union in Somalia from late 2006 to early 2009.

Parties with the goal of "Greater Somalia"

Parties and organizations in neighboring countries that are striving for or are striving to join Somalia are:

further reading

  • Volker Matthies: Somalia's border conflict with Ethiopia and Kenya: Analysis of an interstate conflict in the third world. (= Hamburg contributions to Africa Customer 21) Institute for Africa Customer, 1977.

supporting documents

  1. a b c Ioan M. Lewis: Pan-Africanism and Pan-Somalism , in: The Journal of Modern African Studies , Vol. 1/2, June 1963, pp. 147-161
  2. a b Annalisa Urbano: The emergence of Mohamed Abdullah Hassan as a Somali national hero (PDF)
  3. ^ A b Ioan M. Lewis: Nationalism and Self-Determination in the Horn of Africa , 1983, ISBN 978-0-903729-93-2 (p. 32)
  4. Jon Abbink: Dervishes, moryaan and freedom fighters: Cycles of rebellion and the fragmentation of Somali society, 1900-2000 , in: Jon Abbink, Mirjam de Bruijn, Klaas Van Walraven (eds.): Rethinking Resistance: Revolt and Violence in African History , 2003 (p. 334)
  5. a b c d Michael Crowder: The Cambridge History of Africa: From c. 1940 to c. 1975 , Vol. 8 of The Cambridge History of Africa , 1985, ISBN 978-0-521-22409-3 (pp. 465-471)
  6. a b c d Pan-Somalism , in: Helen Chapin Metz (Ed.): Somalia: A Country Study , Library of Congress, Washington 1992 /
  7. ^ Trusteeship and Protectorate: The Road to Independence , in: Somalia: A Country Study
  8. The Igaal Government , in: Somalia: A Country Study
  9. Alex de Waal: Famine Crimes: Politics & the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa , ISBN 0-253-21158-1 (p. 41)
  10. a b c d Alex de Waal, Africa Watch: Evil Days. 30 Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia , 1991 (pp. 66, 70f., 73-76, 80-86, 91-94, 344f.)
  11. ^ A b Gebru Tareke: The Ethiopia-Somalia War of 1977 Revisited , in: International Journal of African Historical Studies 33, 2002
  12. John Markakis: Anatomy of a Conflict: Afar & Ise, Ethiopia , in: Review of African Political Economy , Vol. 30, No. 97: The Horn of Conflict (September 2003), pp. 445-453
  13. Tobias Hagmann, Mohamud H. Khalif: State and Politics in Ethiopia's Somali Region since 1991 ( Memento of the original dated August 31, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , in: Bildhaan. An International Journal of Somali Studies 6, 2006, pp. 25–49 (PDF; 121 kB) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  14. Ken Menkhaus: Understanding the state failure in Somalia: internal and external dimensions , in: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Ed.): Somalia - old conflicts and new opportunities for state building , 2008 ( PDF )
  15. “We want to respect our neighboring countries and the entire world and we believe that no one should make an aggression on others. This is our belief. ” , In: The Somaliland Times: Exclusive Interview- Sheikh Sherif welcomes dialogue with Washington , June 9, 2006. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  16. ^ "We will leave no stone unturned to integrate our Somali brothers in Kenya and Ethiopia and restore their freedom to live with their ancestors in Somalia" , in: Mohamed Olad Hassan: Islamic leader urges 'Greater Somalia' , Associated Press, November 19 2006. Retrieved May 10, 2010.