Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ellie in Somaliland

Unthinkable but true. Like a French speaking region in Africa uses Marianne stamps on its mail.

Four thousands and three hundreds brothers of this British little penny, in their Harrison and Sons breed, put their overprinted teeth in the Horn of Africa, reported Roy of Machin Mania with the help of a Nederlandese Enschedé specialistin and of the great Douglas Myall.

Since 1991, the North of Somalia has been in a secessionist independence unrecognized by the States of the World (which seems very eager not to came back in divided Somalia). And that, under its historic name of Somaliland, taken from its colonial history as a British protectorate and its short independence in 1960.

Somaliland is one of the many elements of the Somalian geopolitic, mixing for near twenty years now regional independences of Somaliland (salmon on the underneath map) and Puntland (in blue), tribes/clans jealous of their advantages (including islamist inspired ones, in dark green) and a government that was once "exiled" to Kenya for many years before coming back to Mogadishu, and all the grey geographic and social areas in-between.

Know that the nine and a half million inhabitants of Somalia continue to live there. I remember a report in French newspaper Le Monde that told how, despite many civil war and criminal dangers, little entrepreneurs succeeded to create an efficient mobile phone network to take over the communication network from an decaying State. However, more than a thousand civilians already die this year in this never ended Somalian conflict.

The political situation in Somalia on 15 July 2009
(author : FAH1223, original file, licence : public domain).

A country that wish to be independent with a population living on a day-to-day basis: it created accordingly a government, a press agency, a Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, and finally issues postage stamps. That may reopen the "Somaliland" chapter in stamp catalogues if the criteria was the reality of a postal system and not only the membership of the Universal Postal Union.

I had not seen, even in reproduction, one of those Somaliland stamps until Sunday, when the Machin Mania blog received from Douglas Myall scans and confirmation of the existence of British stamps being used overprinted in Somaliland.

In 1996, British printer Harrison and Sons was in difficulty in a contract with the Somaliland government: no more security paper in stock. No alternative quickly enough to avoid the local lack of postage stamps.

Surely with the agreement of the British government, the printer took twenty-one and a half one penny Machin sheets in his printed stock to be delivered to the Post Office. Sent in Somaliland, the stamps were overprinted "REPUBLIC / OF / SOMALILAND / 500 SHILLIN". The new currency was introduced in October 1994 and replaced the shilling of Somalia by January 1995. Two overprints are known: with or without a five branch star on the face value.

As it should have been predicted... Somalilandese clients did not appreciated to put foreign stamps on their leaving mail, especially with the symbol of the former colonisator. They served only for a few days in April 1996 before being retreated and destroyed.

Myall estimates that the majority of sold stamps served on mail. That around thirty covers were bought to one office of the government [of Somaliland or the United Kingdom?].

Many questions:
- which sources can consolidate these writings?
- how many unused items survived? How many foreigners bought and kept these stamps for souvenir or future financing of their retirement?
- how many franked letters in these few days? To which destinations? Where are they now?

Note : the article's title is a reference to the good animation movie by Pixar Studios, Up. Nothing else.

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