PRESS RELEASE: Immediate Date: 10 February 2004 (Ref: SLF/EC/32/2003/4)
Nairobi UN Political Office Censors Somaliland Textbooks
The constructive re-engagement in Somaliland by some United Nations agencies detected over the last few years is being undermined by the Nairobi based United Nations Political Office (UNPOS), whose occasional forays into Somaliland affairs have always been counterproductive, in contrast to the work of other operational UN agencies such as UNCHR, UNICEF, WHO etc.
The latest reported edict from this office (UNPOS) was a written instruction (dated 21/10/03) to UNESCO to .desist from printing. a Grade Five Social Studies Schools textbook for Somaliland because it .advocates for Somaliland.s secessionist policy.. How it does that is listed in a page to page examination which points out the following items in the textbook that are considered by UNPOS to be .sensitive. and unacceptable:
The map of Somaliland and its international boundaries.
The map of Somaliland showing its regions and cities, which are of course different from the ones set in the dictatorship era of the .Somali Democratic Republic. before 1991 when Somaliland reasserted its independence.
Maps of Somaliland showing main roads, airports, ports, mountains, hills, vegetation, winds, rainfall, agricultural areas etc.
References to any issues relating to the re-assertion of Somaliland independence in 1991.
Picture of the Somaliland flag, national emblem, and reference to the national anthem.
The textbooks, which UNESCO has agreed previously to publish and ought to have been in use in Somaliland schools from 2002, are still beeing withheld.
The Nairobi based UNPOS, which was set up in 1995 after UNOSOM II says, in its website, that .Somalis often call on UNPOS requesting assistance in pleading their respective cases with other UN Agencies. UNPOS provides such assistance based on the merit of each request.. The Somaliland Forum and the Somaliland people are making this request to UNPOS:
. You can continue denying the existence of the Republic of Somaliland, if you so wish, but please do not interfere with the other United Nations agencies which are delivering much needed assistance and help on the ground. Textbooks are essential for rebuilding the education system of Somaliland and no one can tell the Somaliland people not to teach their children about their own national history, geography and political and social development..
We would remind the Nairobi based UN officials that education should be directed at developing the child's personality and talents and is .to prepare the child for responsible life in a free society, develop respect for the child's parents, basic human rights, the natural environment and the child's own cultural and national values and those of others." (Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Children - our emphasis). We are left wondering how the censorship of Somaliland school textbooks by UN officials squares with these lofty aims.
Last week (on 4th February), in a far-reaching debate on Somaliland at the United Kingdom Parliament, the UK Secretary of State for International Development, Mr Hilary Benn, confirmed his view that .the issue of recognition (which was raised by the honourable members of UK Parliament) should not get in the way of development and assistance.. This is a lesson that the United Nations Political Office (UNPOS) needs to learn, particularly more so, at this juncture when, it will, as it has done after the Djibouti Conference a few years ago, be pulling out all the stops to support whatever new .government. the Somalia warlords and factions produce at their meeting in Nairobi. Somaliland has never been a party to these talks and, for that matter to the 14 or so others that preceded it, and no amount of schools textbook censoring or other UNPOS machinations will change the reality that Somaliland has been and will continue to be a separate, sovereign, independent country.
1. For the background of UNPOS, see (http://www.unsomalia.net/UNPOS/index.htm). UNPOS was created in 1995 as a small political office in Somalia in the post UNOSOM II period. UNPOS came into existence on 15 April 1995 and is supposed to .try and maximize the efforts of the international community with respect to peace initiatives on Somalia.. The terms of reference of UNPOS (Agreed upon by the Security Council - S/1997/756) are said to be monitoring developments in Somalia as a whole; assisting the people of Somalia in their efforts to achieve national reconciliation; liaising with the neighbouring countries and concerned organisations on political developments relating to Somalia.
2. UNPOS and its predecessors UNOSM I & II have consistently denied the existence of Somaliland since 1991 and, at times, have been suspected by Somalilanders of working towards undermining their independence.
3. UNPOS is currently headed by Mr Winston A Tubman who, according to the Somaliland newspaper, Haatuf, is the author of the instruction to UNESCO to desist from printing the Somaliland schools textbook.
4. UNESCO runs a world-wide Programme for Education for Emergencies & Reconstruction (PEER), which started in 1993. PEER is aimed at meeting .the educational needs of vulnerable groups such as children traumatised by crisis situations.. and identifies as its basic principle the rapid establishment of basic education in line with Article 28 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child which stipulates .universal, free and compulsory primary education.. The textbooks project was a PEER project, and the UNPOS instruction referred to above was directed at the Head of the project in Nairobi. For more information about PEER, see www.ginie.org/ginie-crises-links/Peer/pdf/per_exp.pdf (an article written by, among others, the Head of PEER).
5. The Somaliland Ministry of Education completed the preparation of appropriate textbooks for elementary schools in 1997/98 and after UNICEF completed their publication, the new syllabus was adopted, as planned, from 2001. In contrast, the textbooks for intermediate school grades were prepared by the Ministry in 1999/2000 and passed on to UNESCO PEER for publication, and are still awaited. The planned date for their use in the schools was early 2002.
6. The United Nations General Assembly declared 2003 to 2012 .the Literacy Decade., and UNESCO was asked to prepare an international Plan of Action to be co-ordinated with governments, NGOs and the civil society. In Somaliland, primary school enrolment is only 17% and enrolment at intermediate/secondary school level is lower. The government and the people are working hard to increase enrolment, but require considerable assistance. For more statistical information about Somaliland, see .Somaliland in Figures. at www.somalilandforum.com
7. For details of the UK Parliamentary debate on Somaliland, see (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/cm040204 ).
8. Somaliland was a UK protectorate from 1884 to June 1960, when it became the independent .State of Somaliland.. This state had internationally delineated boundaries, including the ones it shared with French Somaliland (now the Republic of Djibouti) and Somalia (Italian colony and later Trusteeship territory). In an effort to form a .Greater Somalia., The State of Somaliland formed a union with Somalia, which became independent on 1 July 1960. After the end of the .Greater Somalia. dream and years of neglect, long term suppression and near genocide of the Somaliland people, Somaliland re-asserted its independence in May 1991 . a decision which was since also endorsed through a national Referendum. Somaliland has since built up a democratic state with a bi-cameral parliament, a functioning judiciary and an executive headed by an elected President. Local government elections were held last year and parliamentary elections will be held later this year.
.The Somaliland Forum is an independent organisation that brings together the Somaliland Diaspora. We believe in a sovereign, prosperous and independent Somaliland. Working together with Somaliland Communities and Somaliland friends around the globe, we believe that we can contribute to the betterment and development of the Republic of Somaliland. It is said that a nation's greatest asset is its human resources - hence, the importance of the contributions of the Somaliland Diaspora..
If you have any comments, questions or suggestions to make, the SL Forum Executive Committee will be eager to hear them.