THE REPUBLIC OF SOMALILAND AND THE ISSUE OF INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION

While news stories from Somalia seemingly rotate between the subjects of drought, piracy, terrorism and never ending civil war, there is an often overlooked story of how clans in the north of the former state of Somalia, defied the rising tide of violence and anarchy and built a peaceful new state known as Somaliland.

The Republic of Somaliland declared its independence in 1991 as part of an effort by local clans to insulate their region from the violence and anarchy that was engulfing the Somalia following the fall of the Siad Barre regime. This declaration actually represented the recreation of an independent Somaliland which had emerged from being a British Protectorate to enjoy a very brief period of independence before joining in a union with Somalia. The bonds of this union had been shattered by the dictator Siad Barre who had unleashed a campaign of violence bordering on genocide against some of the clans in the territory of Somaliland. At the time of its reestablishment, Somaliland’s towns were destroyed; its infrastructure lay in tatters and much of population were living in refugee camps. Despite the devastation suffered, the clans of Somaliland came together to establish a government that would be a unique blend of customary law and multi-party democracy.

Today in contrast to much of the territory that comprises the former state of Somalia, Somaliland enjoys peace, security and economic development, being made possible due to the establishment of schools, medical facilities, security forces and governance that are found lacking elsewhere. These achievements become even more impressive and remarkable when it is realized that they have taken place without the assistance of the international community.

Unlike the Mogadishu based Transitional Federal Government, recognised by US, UK, Australia and much of the international community as the legitimate government of ‘Somalia’, the Republic of Somaliland has achieved its success without the need for UN sponsored conferences or significant assistance from foreign governments. Instead, what aid Somaliland has received has largely come as the result of the hard work and success of the people of Somaliland.

The assistance that Somaliland has received has seen the country become even more effective in combating the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab Islamist militia as well as the pirates who have become a plague to international shipping, neither of which find a safe haven in its territory.

It may perhaps then be surprising to note that despite the success of Somaliland has seemingly gone unnoticed by successive US, UK and Australian Governments. The Gillard Government in particular has expressed a keen interest in broadening and deepening Australia’s relations on the African continent and has continued to send warships as part of international efforts to suppress the activities of Somali pirates. It is therefore unfortunate that Somaliland’s security successes (both counter-terrorism and counter-piracy), to say nothing of the economic opportunities for Australian businesses, have continued to go unrecognized.

This is not to say that these have gone unrecognized by others.

“Somaliland has attracted support in recent years from countries such as the United Kingdom, Denmark and Norway as well as from the European Union. There has also been recent investment in Somaliland by companies such as Coca Cola and Western Union in addition to others who have chosen to take advantage of the economic opportunities made available by the country’s peace and stability. This support for Somaliland has not however resulted in recognition of the country’s independence.”

This unwillingness is given justification by two major sources of opposition to a recognition of Somaliland’s independence – the African Union and Somalia’s internationally backed Transitional Federal Government. The African Union has opposed independence because it fears setting a precedent for the break-up of other African states – with an apparent exception for South Sudan due to strong support from the United States – while the Transitional Federal Government fears losing control over what it considers Somalia’s sovereign territory.

What these and many other of the objections raised towards the independence of Somaliland fail to recognize however, is that Somaliland already enjoys de facto independence and has been successful in building the necessary institutions to guarantee its success.

It would appear instead that the international community is quite willing to enjoy the peace and security provided by Somaliland’s de facto independence while remaining committed to resurrecting the Somali state that died with the end of the Siad Barre regime.  This of course fails to recognize that the Transitional Federal Government on which these hopes rest upon has continually failed to extended its influence beyond the capital Mogadishu or that its very existence continues to rest upon the presence of praetorian like force provided by the African Union.

While the international community, and in particular the African Union, may continue to remain uneasy about recognizing an independent Somaliland, it should at least be willing to provide it an interim or form of semi-recognition as of the type enjoyed by the Palestinian Authority. A recognition of this type would allow the participation of Somaliland within international forums such as the World Health Organization and United Nations. The actual question of the recognition of Somaliland as an independent sovereign state could then be deferred upon by the international community until such a time that the Transitional Federal Government, or any successor administration, is successful enough in establishing a stable and effective government in southern Somalia, that can effectively willing to negotiate with Somaliland’s self determination for successful and peaceful separation of two brotherly states living side by side, Somaliland and Somalia”

Finally, we have witnessed the separation between East Timor and Indonesia, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Kosovo and Serbia and most recently Sudan and South Sudan. Whatever the decision taken by the international community regarding about the future of Somaliland republic, whether as an independent country or not, must also seriously take into consideration their total determination for reaching and achieving their ultimate desire. Therefore the will and the proportion of its 3.5 million citizens who despite of 20 years of peace and progress, have thus far been denied the full economic benefits that a full recognition as statehood of their own country would bring.”

Mohamed Hussein

President,

Somaliland-Australian Friendship Foundation.

 

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