12 May, 2012
What does the Somaliland flag really represent?
OPINION | May 12, 2012
The current Somaliland flag was adopted in 1997 during a period when debating about a flag was the least of their concern. The Somaliland public has not madly fallen inlove with the flag but were happy to replace the blue flag.
The new flag, three equal horizontal stripes of green-white-red with the Islamic creed made little sense to the Somaliland people. Largely because the designers of the flag never really explained the symbols and how that relates to the people. Somalilanders seen various versions of the flag and numerous interpretations of it. They really never understood the true meaning of the flag and it never unified the country. It also failed to create political passion among the masses.
Symbols are important and the flag sometimes appears with a confusing black star. Many times the horizontal red stripe is replaced with orange and at times the Islamic creed does not appear against the green stripe. This created a confusion among the citizens and the international community.
If Somalilanders are asked to define the meaning of their flag, only very few would tell you something, something that is not even consistent. For example no one really has a clue what the “black” star really means. Some would say “the black star is for the demise of the united Somalia’s dream.” In my opinion, that’s a very childish thing to say. Others will argue the black star reflects the “black people” – which is even more laughable, as if anyone doesn’t know Somalis in Somaliland are black Africans.
Sometimes people confuse the Somaliland flag with the Irish flag (No Islamic creed, orange replaces red), while other times it can easily be mistaken for the flag of Iran or rotated version of Mexico. The Ethiopian regional administration of Gambella has the exact flag but with one extra black stripe. This is not good news for a country who failed to distinct itself from its southern Somali neighbour (Somalia).
The current flag was introduced to the country at a time of war when most of the citizens were either displaced in Ethiopia, abroad or deeply divided. Two decades on since declaring the restoration of its independence from Somalia, the country discussed issues such as political parties, elections and security but never really provided the venue for debates on national icons, citizenship, identity or the issue of currency (changing “Shilling”). Symbols were imposed on the public when many were absent to have their say in a society where opinions are very strong. This is no different to an unchallenged totalitarian rule. It is one of the reasons Somalis in Somaliland left the union with Mogadishu because to them everything was one opinion, one voice, one winner, one ruler, one flag, one way, one nation.
Somalilanders have to embrace debates, dialogue and changes in contributing to the development of the country. Like Denis Waitley once said: “You must welcome change as the rule but not as your ruler.” One reason Somalia is unable to fix its affairs is largely due to its inability to change and accept it can never be again what it was. Somaliland must not make the same mistake. Somaliland has to be flexible, adaptable and changeable. The Japanese say: “The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.” Let us not resist ideas or healthy debates.
I would like to start this debate by presenting a number of flags that I designed on this influential website. I hope my article and flags advance the case for a change. Change does not necessarily mean getting rid off the flag entirely. Let us take baby steps and start the debate.
I will not ask you whether you like or dislike our current flag, the question is rather simple; Is it the right symbol for Somaliland for the next 100 years?
I have not changed the colour scheme as they are not so bad but I have rearranged them. In my design, GREEN means growth, nature and as Islam teaches us regeneration or fertility. The WHITE color is a reflection of our sincerity, openness, hospitality, peace and humility. Let me remind you during pilgrimage Muslims wear only white piece of clothe and during truce white flag is used. RED is blood and power. The KUDU (antelope) is a native animal reflecting our motherland, it also represents power (long horns, high jumps, kicks) and vigilance (always alert, sensitive ears and nose). Alternatively, the STAR reflects the five Somali families (Somaliland, NFD, Western Somalia, Djibouti and Somalia) like the Somali flag. We don’t have to completely erase the past and remember the old blue flag was commissioned for Somaliland in 1954. We are Somalis by ethnic and Somaliland can be home for other Somalis.
For both the police and navy, I have replaced the RED with BLUE to reflect law of the land and the ocean. I have moved the KUDU to the center almost inside a blue circle to reflect our defense is always at the heart of our nation.
Below are the different versions of the flag (click on image to enlarge and see description, click back to close it):
By Abdul Hussein