Somalia celebrated its 62nd anniversary of independence on Friday.
Somalia’s southern provinces gained independence from Italy in 1960 long struggle. While the northern regions, now Somaliland, gained independence from Britain on June 26, 1960. The two regions later united under the Republic of Somalia.
Upon independence of the Somali Republic in 1960, Egypt was among the first nations to recognize the nascent country. The two countries share a long history, as Somalia-Egypt relations started since ancient times when Queen Hatshepsut sent her famous expedition to the land of Punt to bring back incense, wood, and ivory.
Today the countries enjoy strong relations. Recently, Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly arrived in the Somali capital Mogadishu for the inauguration of Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud received Egypt’s Prime Minister and praised the historical Egyptian role in supporting Somalia since its independence in 1960.
Madbouly said that Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi gave him directives to provide all possible forms of support and assistance to fellow African state.
Somalia’s road to independence
In 1946, after the defeat of Mussolini’s regime in World War II, the United Nations General Assembly started discussing the Somalia problem. Finally, they reached a decision to put the country under Italian guardianship in 1950, along with an advisory council comprising Egypt, Colombia, and the Philippines. The advisory council mission was to supervise the administrative system in the East African nation, and to ensure that leading the country to independence would end in 1960.
Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to bear his responsibility in Somalia. Accordingly, he started to fight to protect the national movement there.
In fact, Nasser was motivated by securing Egypt’s strategy which aims to fight the colonial activities in Africa, and opening an economic cooperation with all the African countries. This was part of his policy to fight colonialism in the Arab and Asian worlds as well, as shown by his leadership in the Non-Aligned Movement.
Accordingly, Nasser gave political advice, and helped the Somalis to counter resistance exercises which aimed to delay the handover of power to the nationalists.
To strengthen the role of Egypt in the Council, the government appointed Kamal Al Din Salah as a delegate to the Council. This was considered as a turning point in Egypt’s role towards in the East African nation.
Salah presented a note to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, demanding establish an Egyptian consulate in Somalia (Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Documents, 22 July 1954).
At this time, Italy was slowing down the procedures of handing authority to the Somalis, preventing them from forming an administration, and parliamentary representation. Nasser asked the Egyptian delegate in the country to concentrate on his duty, and prepare the Somalis for independence.
Nasser also sent about 25 Egyptian teachers to Somalia as well as eight teachers from Al Azhar. He also accepted about 150 Somali students to lean at various Egyptian institutions, without any fees.
Nasser’s philosophy saw the importance of Education in Africa. Accordingly he promised that Egypt would assist the Somalis to establish new schools, cultural institutions, and religious centres under the supervision of Al Azhar University.
Many scientific missions were sent to Somalia. Firstly, an Egyptian cultural missionary visited cultural institutions in Mogadishu and Hargeisa. The Egyptian Ministry of Education to celebrate the opening of the first secondary school in Mogadishu by Egyptian hands.
Moreover, Egypt was training newly found Somali army. Somalia wanted weapons for her army. Somalia’s PM at the time Abdel Rashid Al Sharmaky went to many European countries to get weapons, but he failed in this matter. Afterwards, Al Sharmaky stopped in Cairo, he discussed the matter with Nasser. Speaking of this meeting with Nasser, he said it was a turning point in Somali history, as Nasser not only gave them weapons, but also decided to share Egyptian weapons with Somalia.
Furthermore, Nasser presented light arms for 5,000 soldiers to Somalia, along with armoured cars, and two aircraft to be the base of the Somali air force. The astonishing thing here is that Nasser gives these weapons as a gift from Egypt to Somalia (Al Ahram Newspaper, 15 December 1960).
After Somali independence, Nasser’s support was reconfirmed by the extension of military aid, as he continued to supply arms to the Somali Republic.