Feb 27, 2009

Somaliland: Case for Recognition

Active ImageHayat Farah writes in support of the case for the international community to recognize Somaliland’s independence.


Below is an article published by: Somaliland Press

As Somaliland’s 18th anniversary of independence approaches, I marvel at the fact that the international community remains reluctant to recognize Somaliland as a sovereign nation. Here we are, a stable, democratic country, while the country the world wants us to remain attached to has been plunging deeper and deeper into anarchy these past 17 years. I started to wonder, is the case against Somaliland recognition truly that strong?

If there was one thing I learned in my four years of university it was how to do research. So one afternoon, I went down to the basement of my university’s library where the archives are kept and searched the dusty shelves for all the journals and papers containing information on Somaliland. As I searched through the old copies of the Economist, Washington Post, and the Review of African Political Economy, I found paper after paper building a strong case for Somaliland’s recognition, each one rebutting reasons against recognition, dismissing them as baseless.

Some of the main legal arguments for Somaliland recognition include:

– Somaliland was once an independent state. It achieved independence on June 26th 1960 and notification of this independence was registered with the UN. Thirty five countries (including the US, and UK) then recognised it. Somaliland would remain independent for five days before voluntarily joining with Somalia.

– The two parliaments approved different Acts of Union, and the legal formalities were never fully completed. The Somaliland Act of Union required the signature of representatives from Somalia which it never received. The Somalia Act of Union was approved in principle but never enacted into law, and therefore the union of Somaliland and Somalia has no legal validity in Somalia.

– Somaliland fulfills all the requirements of Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the rights and duties of a state. These requirements are:

1) a permanent population;
2)a defined territory;
3) a government;
4) capacity to enter into relations with other states

One of the key opponents to Somaliland’s recognition is the African Union. The AU opposes Somaliland recognition because of their belief in the sanctity of colonial borders and the associated intolerance to secession. The irony lies in the fact that Somaliland wishes to return to the borders that it had when it gained independence from its colonial power. It is also important to point out that, Somaliland’s case is one of voluntary withdrawal from a union between two countries and not a cessation of land area incorporated into a sovereign state. Their stance on Somaliland also contradicts with their willingness to dissolve other African nation unions, such as Gambia and Senegal and Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau.

An African Union fact finding mission sent to Somaliland in 2005 reported Somaliland status was “unique and self-justified in African political history’, and that ‘the case should not be linked to the notion of ‘opening a Pandora’s box’” as feared by the AU.
Therefore, it can be logically argued that the AU’s refusal to recognize Somaliland is completely unjustified. And so, it appears the AU is trying to buy time, sending fact finding missions to make reports they intend to ignore, hoping against hope that someday a functional government will arise in Somalia, and if that day were to come, all hopes for an independent Somaliland will cease to exist.

We the people of Somaliland have had our fate hanging in the balance for too long. We have been held hostage to the will the world for the past 17 years. We must take our fate into our own hands. We need to take our case to the International Court of Justice, and remind the world, as Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently put it that “justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.”