May 11, 2011

Somaliland: Recognition Is Within Reach

Somaliland has fulfilled the legal requirements for statehood. The only element that prevents Somaliland from receiving recognition and enjoying all the benefits that flow from statehood are the political considerations of entities, which they are unable to control.


Below is an article published by Somaliland Press:

The 20th anniversary of Somaliland self-declaration as independent state will be on May 18th [2011]. Somaliland declared independence after the overthrow of Somali military dictator Siad Barre in 1991. Although the international community does not recognize Somaliland, the country has beacon of hope in a region consumed by endless civil war and anarchy.

While Somaliland appears to fulfill all the requirements of statehood, the lack of international recognition prevents it from establishing its position in the world as an independent nation. Since the act of recognition by one state to another is triggered by political considerations rather than a legal threshold, Somaliland finds itself in a position whereby it must justify its existence against political interests of various entities like superpowers in within the Africa Union, where their self-interests come first.

The United States maintaining the position that the African Union should be first to recognize Somaliland, while politically safe, also undermines aspects of their foreign policy that claim to promote democracy in vastly changing landscape in the region. President Obama has placed democracy ahead of political interest and regional stability as it had shown through support of public uprising in number of Arab countries.

The United States should take a more supportive role in Somaliland’s quest for recognition. Somaliland has initiated its own process of creating a democracy that fits within their social framework. By deferring the decision of Somaliland’s recognition to the African Union, the United States is failing to fulfill its asserted position of promoting democracy.

While the African Union’s concern of recognizing Somaliland is not absolutely without warrant, one must consider the consequences for failing to recognize Somaliland. On one side of the equation is a group of people who have exercised their natural right to be free from war and oppression and determine the direction of their land and way of life. On the other side of the equation is the ambition that all Somalis will unite to form one Somali nation despite the fact that this attempt has never been successful. Moreover, the current situation in Somalia is lawless and has been so since 1991. Gambling the fate of the millions of people in Somaliland for the convenience of upholding borders that were created decades ago is in my opinion is ill advised.

In the leaked cables the United States acknowledges the Somaliland government is in control of the region. However, they have withheld recognition to Somaliland on grounds that the African Union should determine the question of Somaliland’s independence. In turn, the African Union refuses to recognize Somaliland based on fears that doing so would lead to a series of claims of secession by other territories in Africa. Moreover, the African Union believes that recognizing Somaliland would create further instability in Somalia by introducing “a new dynamic into Somalia and its warring factions, thus threatening current efforts to establish peace and stabilize peace within the country.” Furthermore, the African Union further basis its position on their history of upholding the borders demarked following colonization to deter tribal claims of secession.”

Other opponents to Somaliland’s quest for independent statehood have continued to argue that the citizens of Somaliland should partake in the unification of one nation and give another chance at forming the country of Somalia, which encompasses both the former British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. But the Somaliland people have shown strong assertion for independence from the rest of Somalia as results of last election and formation of national constitution that assert their rights as independent country.

In the wake of birth of Southern Sudan as independent republic, Somaliland people hope that the African Union and international community will follow suit to recognize the efforts made by Somaliland people in maintaining functioning government and flourishing democracy in the region. The Somaliland Diaspora is planning worldwide campaign and rallies to pressure the international community to recognize Somaliland. The Diaspora community in England will hold a rally to mark the 20th anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Somaliland on 18th May 2011. The rally will be held on the said date at Old Palace Yard Westminster (opposite the houses of Parliament.)

The facts illustrate that Somaliland has fulfilled the legal requirements for statehood. The only element that prevents Somaliland from receiving recognition and enjoying all the benefits that flow from statehood are the political considerations of entities, which they are unable to control. Therefore, Somaliland’s pleas for recognition must be based on policy. There current administration needs to lobby the African Union to recognize the statehood of Somaliland. The situation is ripe more than ever. Strong governments with the African Union are opposed to recognition of Somaliland out of self-interest agenda to keep the Somalia intact, where neighboring countries like Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia are realizing that Somaliland people have shown dedication to democracy and it is the turn of African Union to support their efforts.