Hargeysa 1994 stands out top center of our banknote. Hargeysa was the capital and 1994 was the year of the first issuance of the Somaliland shilling. It was issued October 18, 1994, and about a hundred days later, January 31, 1995, the Somali shilling was banned within the borders of the new state, Somaliland.
The “Goodirka” Building housing the Supreme Court of Somaliland is featured on our 5 shilling banknote. The building is in the city of Hargeysa, the largest city in Somaliland, and well as its capital. The beautiful animal on the right is the kudu.
Camel Caravan in the foreground with the hills known as Naasa Hablood in the background. The hills are near the capital city Hargeysa, feautured on the other side of our banknote. Naaso Hablood translates as “girl’s breasts”.1
Somaliland arose out of the political conflict in 1991 that issued in the Somali Civil War.
Somaliland is “a self-declared republic that is internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia. Having established its own local government in 1991, the region’s self-declared independence remains unrecognized by any country or international organization.”2
Muqdisho, as noted on the front of our banknote below the serial number at bottom left center, or Mogadishu, as known in English, translates as “the beautiful place”. It is a coastal city, the capital and largest city, of Somalia; and it is featured on our banknote. It is also know locally as Xamar.
Two views of Mogadishu are presented on this side of the banknote. The one is an aerial view of the port and the other is the waterfront.
1990, the year of our banknote, was a precipitous year for Mogadishu, perhaps the last of relative peacefulness for a long time. In 1991, Drought and Famine and Civil War would break out and leave Mogadishu ruined. Somalia and Mogadishu had been flooded with an estimated 1.5 million refugees from the recent war with Ethiopia. Siad Barre, president of Somalia since 1969, was forced to flee Mogadishu in January 1991 into exile. In 1991, May, the northern region of Somalia, north of the tip of the horn of Africa, declared its independence as the Republic of Somaliland. With the overthrow of the Said government, Somalia and Mogadishu was in the control of competing clansman, armed with the pillaged stores of Somali armaments. A massive drought began in the Summer of 1991, at least partly a direct military tactic, and was followed by devastating famine.1 The UN sent military observers in 1992 and a significant UN force arrived in December 1992 to bring stability. 15 Somali factions signed a peace agreement in the January and March 993, but by June 1993 security deteriorated and in early 1994 the UN forces withdrew.2
Our banknote is dated 1990. For those curious, the events chronicled in the Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down occurred on October 3 and 4, 1993. From Military.com, “A year before, U.S. soldiers were deployed to Somalia to support a United Nations humanitarian mission to help with a devastating famine. Without a government in place, militia and clans were fighting among themselves for power, so President George H.W. Bush sent the troops over to help with more than 1 million people starving from the famine.”3
TEN BIRR is noted prominently left center of the front of our banknote. The Birr is the name of the unit of currency in Ethiopia and has been since the middle 1800s. “Birr” means “silver” in the local languages.
A weaver adorns the front. A lion appears behind the inscription for TEN BIRR.
Fields are plowed in the foreground with rolling hills in the background.
Lifting the flag of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front.
The image has become a national symbol, and is now included on Eritrean currency. An interview with the photographer can be found here.
The EPLF has been noted for its egalitarian approach. 30% of its constituent fighters were women, which significantly affected the traditionally conservative paternalistic outlook of the nation.
The EPLF captured numerous Ethiopian soldiers in battle. But in contrast to the way the Ethiopians treated their captured, the EPLF did not mistreat them. The taught them the principles of the EPLF. They instructed them in world politics. They trained many of them in crafts and trades.
Eritrea consists of nine nationalities. Tigre, Tigrigna, Saho, Afar, Kunama, Nara, Bilin, Hidarb, and Rashaida. More information on this can be found on the Eritrean website here.
These nationalities are depicted in the banknotes in a series of tryptich portraits, that is, three-paneled illustrations such as in many of the classics. The artist who designed these banknotes is Mr. Clarence Holbert, the first African American to design an African banknote. He passed away January 9, 2018. His memorial was reverently attended by representatives of Eritrea, and can be read about here.
The reverse of the currencies reflect scenes from Eritrean life. As recalled by Mr. Holbert, the currency “features the everyday people of Eritrea because Eritrean President Isaias had given specific instructions that money not feature cabinet or government officials or their relatives.”
The Nakfa region, inhabited since ancient times, came under Italian control in 1890. Italy lost control during WW2, and Eritrea was “awarded” to Ethiopia as a part of a federation in 1952. In the 1960s, Ethiopia annexed Eritrea as a province. This instigated the independence movement. In 1977, the Eritrea Liberation Front laid siege to Nakfa, and, took it in their first major victory. Eight subsequent attempts at recapture failed, during which much of the above-ground town was destroyed, and during which also, the Eritreans developed an significant underground facilities. Independence was secured in 1991.
“Nakfa” is now the name of Eritrea’s currency. It is taken from the town which had become the main base of the Eritrean independence movement. Nakfa is famous for its extensive underground entrenchments developed in the time of the resistance. Included are hospitals, printing presses, a radio station, college and factories, in addition to rings of trenches and minefields.
The following paragraph is from this blog post with this photo of the Nakfa territory. A special test for tourists is also the sites of the liberation struggle situated in bleak mountains of the Sahel, northern angle of Eritrea. Hence one must be willing to enjoy the arduous journey across the rough terrain mountains to visit these miraculous EPLF defenses, trenches, bunkers of Nakfa, Himbol and the Roras Plateaus, and the Denden terrains.