The Somaliland’s democracy since 1991 has been more pragmatic and peaceful than the Kenyan, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Ethiopian political processes. Somaliland has held invariably peaceful, free and fair, and regular elections without any problem since 1991. The country has sustained its development, security and governance for long without any major problems. This non-sovereign African country has depended on its local resources for 26 years without foreign support compared to other independent but unstable countries with resources which have depended on foreign aid, grants and loans to run their local services, development projects and governments. African countries should learn from the Somaliland’s government on how to run a locally people’s driven and local resources’ driven African democracy.
This nation peopled by over 3.5 million Somalis erstwhile acculturated by the British has met the other three basic elements of the modern statehood namely a permanent population, a defined territory and a stable and functioning government. It is ripe for sovereignty. It must be recognized as an independent and sovereign state.
Although not perfect, Somaliland has done amazingly well in managing the electoral process. Continued progress towards democratization, including free and fair elections, will help to convince the international community of Somaliland’s bona fides as an independent state. One area that requires constant attention is the suppression of corruption. Although corruption is pervasive in Somaliland, the amounts involved appear to be modest and its overall record may well be better than is the case in most developing countries.
As Somaliland continues to build democratic institutions, one of the critical areas that require attention is a free press, Somaliland is currently facing problems with freedom of speech and endangering that freedom is not for its best interest.
Moreover despite Somaliland’s envious existence and stable political survival without much foreign support and in a democratic environment, Somaliland people are very much aware of the impact of an international recognition. They have been engaging the region and the international community in various diplomatic ways for their acceptance and recognition as an independent African state. It might not be an amicable dissolution of the union because the union was born without terms and conditions and also Somalia might still be opposed to the “secession” of the the Republic of Somaliland. Maybe, the world is waiting for the stability of Somalia for the question of the Somaliland to be settled, if so this is a forever unfair against Somaliland and the people of Somaliland. But this is just a hypothetical assumption.
Internationally, there is a hierarchy of status. Recognised state: the recognised state is at the pinnacle, and enjoys uncontested recognition of its status as a legal entity. Partially-recognised state: the state is recognised by some, but because its legality and/or independence is contested, it does not have access to all international bodies. Kosovo is an example. Unrecognised entities: such an entity may have the objective characteristics of a state, but is unable to actualise this statehood. Somaliland falls into this category
Somaliland argues for its right to recognition on the basis that it voluntarily entered a federation with Somalia in 1960, and so independence would be the result of Somaliland’s secession, and would not equate to the creation of a new state. This argument has strength but without political support from other nations it is not sufficient. Somaliland has a choice in picking the focus of its lobbying. It could aim to obtain recognition from an influential external state, such as the US or Ethiopia and now the UAE, which may help it achieve a status similar to Kosovo’s. Somaliland thou will never, try to get consent from Mogadishu for its independence. International recognized talks as two independent states, definitely yes which would lead to wide international acceptance. Neither route is simple or, at present, likely.
In conclusion there is nothing greater than the free choice of the people based on conviction. Whatever we the people of Somaliland have chosen is what we are and what we deserve. No one will choose for us.
Nimo Osman Abdi
The author has obtained BA in LLB from University of Hargeisa, MA in International Relations from University of Hargeisa (UoH). She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org