Africa Somaliland, A State In All But Name
Somaliland paints a stark contrast with neighbouring Somalia. Somalia is wracked by internal turmoil, much of its own territory not being under the control of its government, and with several other nations attempting to help liberate much of the rest of the country from rebel groups. Somaliland on the other hand, although still a developing nation, has a stable government with no internal unrest. Likewise, it has many solid institutions, such as a central bank, its own currency, the Somaliland Shilling, a growing tourism industry as well as modest foreign investment.
Despite these differences, Somalia is an internationally recognized state, but the government has barely any control over its country let alone any institutions which still function. Somaliland, which has all of the mechanisms of a state as well as stability is recognized by no one as independent.
Somaliland was ruled by the British in the distant past as the protectorate of British Somaliland. However, due to the lack of resources, the British did not interfere greatly in the politics of the country, allowing the people of Somaliland to take care of themselves, and only taking meat supplies to help feed their Indian possessions. When it came to independence from the British Empire, Somaliland remained a totally independent country for all but five days, before uniting with the former Italian Somaliland to make what would become Somalia.
Shortly into Somalia’s history, a military coup took place, creating a totalitarian government which would rule with an iron fist for 21 years. On the death of the dictator, civil war broke out, as different factions believed that they could finally have a voice in Somalia, or wanted to retains some semblance of power which they had enjoyed under the previous regime.
The Somali National Movement, which is based in Hargeisa, the capitol of Somaliland, originally had a unionist agenda, but as the civil war became more and more protracted, switched their views to an independence movement. In 1991, they declared the whole territory of former British Somaliland as an independent state. The world was not quick to recognize this however.
Since 1991, Somaliland has been consolidating. Unlike Abkhazia, Somaliland didn’t have a big brother to recognize it as a fully fledged new state, sending signals to its allies and paying small nations for their recognition of its independence. Indeed it took many years before any states would deal with Somaliland separately, other than acknowledging the fact that it is an ‘autonomous region’ of Somalia, much like Puntland.
But in recent years, Somaliland has made some progress. Because it is not officially recognized as a state, Somaliland may not have embassies placed within it, nor send official embassies to other nations. Despite this, both Ethiopia, a close supporter of Somaliland, Yemen and Denmark have opened consulate offices in Hargeisa. Likewise, Somaliland has opened similar offices in the UK, The US, Italy, France, Sweden, Ethiopia, South Africa and Djibouti. Whilst not having the same status as a full embassy, they do enjoy practical protection in the same manner.
This office opening has led to, or in other cases is the precipitation of other benefits for Somaliland. The US, whilst still not willing to acknowledge Somaliland’s sovereignty, has declared that aid workers, diplomats and aid would find their way to the region. This is because they wish to avoid the comings of militant Islam in Somaliland, which is currently troubling their neighbor so much. It does not look likely that in this stable territory, that there even would be a surge of violence, but the US will not recognize Somaliland independence because they do not wish to destabilize the whole region further.
The UK wishes to retain the strong historic links with Somaliland. Whilst still not recognizing sovereignty, they have received trade delegations in several of the main cities in England and Wales. The president of Somaliland has also officially visited London and wishes Somaliland to join the Commonwealth of Nations. Indeed many former residents of Somaliland live in the UK, and the wealth which they send back is a badly needed source of income for Somaliland.
Somaliland is so much like a state, it even has a border dispute between neighbouring Puntland. Although officially both part of Somalia, Somaliland claims all of the territory which it enjoyed control over whilst a British protectorate.
Indeed the whole of Somaliland’s claim to independence stems from its status as a former part of the British domains. Because it was historically a separate country to Italian Somaliland, which is now the rest of Somalia, and because even after its independence from Britain, it was a separate country for a whole five days, there is a legal basis for getting out of their complicated relationship. It is this which Somaliland officials cling to, in hope of claiming their country for themselves.
Unfortunately for Somaliland, whilst they themselves have been amazingly successful at building a state and its infrastructure from nothing in the middle of a civil war in a relatively short space of time, it has not yet become powerful enough to force others to acknowledge its independent existence.
This is indeed unlikely to ever happen. But it is again unfortunate for Somaliland, that their main allies are more concerned with restoring stability to the Horn of Africa, and thus fear that if they recognize Somaliland, a whole series of secessionist movements will follow in the already troubled area. Somaliland must wait, continue with its consolidation and continue to attract investment from abroad, which it does surprisingly well considering its unrecognized status. Somaliland must hope that Somalia has its problems fixed for it by outside forces, and then perhaps, when stability is restored, Somaliland will be able to ascend itself to statehood.
International Relations And Security Network: the constitution of the Republic of Somaliland