Notes: Somaliland constitutional developments 1946-1960


This is the nineth of a reproduction of a series of historical notes, articles, tracts and academic discourses to mark proud landmarks in the history of Somaliland from 1884 which highlight events leading to the country’s two independences of 1960 & 1991.

Somaliland Constitutional History –  1946  to 1960

The Somaliland Protectorate was of course governed directly by the Queen’s representative, the Governor, who exercised all legislative and executive powers.

In 1946, an Advisory Council was established.  This consisted of 48 selected members representing all the districts and the sections of the community. It had no executive or legislative power and only met usually once a year. The Council’s main purpose was “to stimulate the interest of the people themselves in the administration of the country and the in the collection and expenditure of public funds” (Touval, S Somali Nationalism, Harvard University Press, 1963, at page 107).  Selection to the Council took the form of nominations made at clan meetings, with the District Commissioner aiming to “ensure that a reasonably representative body of delegates is sent from each District” (Lewis, IM The Modern History of Somaliland Weidenfeld and Nicolson,  1965 at page 279).

The Somaliland (Constitution) Order in Council 1955  was made on 10 February 1955, but did not come into force until 1957, when the first Legislative Council was set up for the first time. The Council consisted of 15 members, and was presided by the Governor. The rest of the members consisted of the three ex officio members (the Chief Secretary, the Attorney General and the Financial secretary), five official members who were heads of the Government Departments and six unofficial members nominated by the Governor.  Nominations for the latter six seats were sought in the Advisory Council, but no agreement was reached on the nominations. “In the end, however, as was to be expected, 24 candidates representative of the main clans and lineages in the six Administrative Districts of the Protectorate were proposed, very much on the basis of the Advisory Council” (Lewis: 280).  There was an Executive Council which consisted of the Governor, the 3 ex officio members and two of the heads of the Government Departments.

The Somaliland (Constitution) Order in Council 1959 came into force on 20 February 1959. There were of course demands for elected representation on the Council, and in 1959, a new Council was formed, which consisted of the Governor as President, 12 elected members, 2 nominated unofficial members and 15 official members. In March 1959, elections for the 12 seats were held by secret ballot in a limited number of urban and rural districts and a vote by acclamation was sought in the remaining districts.  Although the election was boycotted by the main political party, the Somali National League (SNL), because their demand for “an unofficial majority” (i.e Somali representation) in the Council was not accepted, this was, in effect, the first Somaliland election.  Voters were males over 21 years old. In town constituencies, voters were required to possess either a dwelling or 10 camels, 10 head of cattle or 100 sheep and goats.  The 12 seats were divided equally amongst the six principal districts.

The Somaliland (Constitution) (No.2) Order in Council 1959  came into force on 21 November 1959.  The number of the elected members of the Council was increased to 33 and the appointed membership was reduced to 3.

The Somaliland (Constitution) Order in Council 1960 came into force on 16 February 1960.  The composition of the Legislative Council remained the same, but the executive Council now consisted of three ex officio members and four unofficial members appointed by the Governor from among the elected members of the legislative Council.  The Executive Council was designated as the principal instrument of policy and its members “shall be styled Ministers”. Elections for the legislative Council were held in February by universal adult male suffrage. This Order therefore heralded the second and more comprehensive Legislative Council elections which were held in February 1960.  SNL won 20 of the seats, the USP, 12 seats and the NUF, 1 seat.  Although the SNL and the USP won all but one of the seats, the number of votes which they obtained was only a little more than twice of that NUF. (SNL and USP gained 68.75% of the votes (as compared to NUF’s 31.25% and that netted them 99% of the seats – see Touval, S Somali Nationalism, Harvard University Press, 1963, at page 106).  Four ministerial posts were held by Somalis for the first time, and the SNL leader, Mr Ibrahim Haji Ibrahim Egal was one of the ministers and the Leader of Government Business in the Legislative Council.

On independence on 26 June 1960, the first Constitution of the independent State of Somaliland came into force.   The Constitution which was annexed to the Great Britain Somaliland Order in Council 1960 (S.I 1060 of 23 June 1960).  The Constitution, which consists of a total of 53 sections and a schedule is important, because marks the unique juridical status of Somaliland as an independent, sovereign state, albeit, for a short period.  The Executive consisted of the Council of Ministers – a Prime Minister and three other Ministers- which had the full executive authority vested in them.  Up to three Assistant Ministers may be appointed by the Prime Minister from among the members of the Legislative Assembly. The Legislature consisted of the Council of Ministers and the members of the Legislative Assembly.  The Assembly consisted of a speaker and 33 members.  Under s.18 of the Constitution, the first Legislative Assembly was the Legislative Council elected in February 1960.  The term of office of the Assembly was three years, which applied also to the first Assembly.  The Prime Minister had, however, power, under s.38 to prorogue or dissolve the Assembly at any time, which would lead to a general election within three months of the dissolution.  The Judicature consisted of the Somaliland High Court, the judges of which shall be appointed by the Council of Ministers.  Section 40 set out clear terms for tenure of office of judges who shall hold office until the age of 62, and can only be removed from office “for misbehaviour or for inability to discharge the functions of his office”.  If the Council of Ministers  consider that a judge ought to be removed from office for these reasons, then it shall appoint a tribunal of no less two persons “who held high judicial office in Somaliland or any other country”.  Other than the High Court, the Constitution stated that Somaliland shall have such other subordinate courts as prescribed by law.

Source: Somaliland Law


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