Theorizing International recognition of Somaliland: Why it matters?

98 people who live in all the regions of Somaliland
By:Dr Mohamed Osman Guudle
Recognition is not automatic in the theory of the constitution. It is instead based on other states’ discretion (Guudle, 2019; Janis, 1996; Lauterpacht, 1955). In addition, the new state exists, at least legally, only when recognized by those other states. Certain practices can show the application rather than declaratory in contemporary situations of the constitutive theory (Cohen, 1984; Tilly, 1975). Many modern scholars begin to re-examine the theory, whether it provides a firm basis for determining the condition of statehood (Peterson, 1997). There is no evidence to suggest that states regard unrecognized states as terra nullius. Thus, there must be some
international legal personality in the territory concerned that does not lapse or that predates statehood. Regardless of international recognition, a purported state might exercise state authority over its residents without regard to the position of other states, even if the other states do not believe the purported state fulfils the criteria for statehood (Guudle, 2019; Kanol, 2014). The phenomenon of unrecognized entities or states began in the postcolonial world. This phenomenon is generally linked to the international illegitimacy of unilateral secession (Caspersen, 2008).
Somaliland which is internationally recognized as self-declared ‘state’ is stepping up its push for international recognition, warning that the ongoing reluctance of the world to officially acknowledge its independence is threatening to plunge the region back into armed conflict with
Somalia. Although it is not recognized officially, Somaliland has diplomatic ties with many
countries including UK, USA, Ethiopia, South Africa, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
There are consulates and Liaison offices in Hargeisa. Egal International Airport also welcomes a dozen International flights per week. While Somaliland has applied under observer status to join the Commonwealth, its request remains pending. However, so far, Somaliland has not been recognized by any nation. No Western or African countries wished to take the first step before the African Union (AU) accepted Somaliland’s existence (Guudle, 2019; Guudle & Ozev, 2019).
The prospects of recognition in Somaliland
If Somaliland recognition prevails, multilateral and bilateral support for full recognition of Somaliland’s sovereign independence will help build a more equal and fair Horn of Africa – bringing better opportunity and prosperity to everyone (an interview with the former foreign minister of Somaliland, April 2018, see also (Guudle, 2019).  In practical terms, but not officially, Ethiopia has gone far in recognizing Somaliland. Ethiopia accepted Somaliland passport as an official travel document, and the Liaison Office in Addis Ababa -which is now promoted as a permanent diplomatic mission- acts as an Embassy (fieldwork observation, June- August 2018).
Ethiopian authorities recognize Somaliland currency, according to former Foreign Minister Abdillahi Mohamed Duale mentioned that “Somaliland representatives have with all the diplomatic niceties that any ministers or head of states receive, except a flying flag”. However, Somaliland has a flying flag in Addis Ababa (Field Observations, between June 24- 30th 2018, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia). The government in Hargeisa has already formally opened a recognized diplomatic office in London, Brussels and more. Sweden lately announced that it would consider Somaliland as a region of “development aid self-governance”. All Somaliland officials such as Foreign Ministers got an official welcome on their trip to Europe.
Will Somaliland be recognized by the US and Russia?
Somaliland was far longer separated from Somalia than it was in Somalia. In many
ways, it is like Taiwan, claimed by China as its own, although the period of direct Chinese rule over Taiwan was surprisingly short decades rather than centuries. Somaliland, like Taiwan, has created its own political culture separate from its neighbor. For instance, Freedom House ranks Somaliland as partially free, a ranking that is better than Somalia, which is not free. Somaliland had its difficulties, but it stayed stable and safe in political terms (Freedome House, 2014; Guudle, 2019; Guudle & Ozev, 2019).
The United States is presently engaged in the government of Somaliland and has supported many elections, for instance. Its recognition policy is to allow the African Union to discuss this first. In a problem of such significance, they do not wish to move ahead with the continental organization. In 2007, the US supplied a total of 1 million dollars in assistance of parliamentary training and other important programs in preparation for the municipal election and presidential elections in Somaliland via the International Republican Institute (anonymous interview, August 2018).
Caspersen, N. (2008). From Kosovo to Karabakh : international responses to de facto states. Südosteuropa, 56(1), 58–83.
Cohen, R. (1984). Warfare and state formation: Wars make states and states make wars. Warfare Culture and Environment. Retrieved from
Freedome House. (2014). Freedome in the World: 2014 Report. Retrieved from Booklet.pdf
Guudle, M. O. (2019). Afrıka Boynuzu’nda Uluslararasi Taninma, Egemenlik ve Demokrasiyi anlamak: Somaliland Örneği. Istanbul University.
Guudle, M. O., & Ozev, M. H. (2019). Somali State Conflict: Revisiting the Political Economy of the Somali Security State (1969-1991). Middle Eastern Studies, 11(2), 206–233. Retrieved from
Janis, M. (1996). Review article: The new Oppenheim and its theory of international law. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 16(2), 329–336.
Kanol, D. (2014). Tutelary Democracy in Unrecognized States. Ssrn, (June 2015).
Lauterpacht, L. O. H. (1955). International law : a treatise. Vol. I, Peace. International law, 1. Retrieved from
Peterson, M. (1997). Recognition of Governments Legal Doctrine and State Practice, 1815-1995. Palgrave Macmillan.
Tilly, C. (1975). The formation of national states in Western Europe. (null, Ed.) (Vol. null).

About the Author

Dr Mohamed Osman Guudle is a Somaliland Scholar specializing in Economics and
Dr. Mohamed Osman Guudle
Dr. Mohamed Osman Guudle
Political Science, he has Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science and International Relations of Istanbul University. Mohamed’s Ph.D. research is all about ‘International recognition, sovereignty and democracy in the horn of Africa: the case of Somaliland Republic’. Dr. Guudle is currently working as an associate professor at the Institute of Graduate Studies of the University of Hargeisa, where he also leads Economics and Social Sciences Foundation –ESSF a nonprofit nonpartisan research organization founded in Turkey.  Dr. Guudle’s research interests are focused on the political economy of unrecognized states, governance and democracy in the horn of Africa, media politics, politics of human rights, and democratization in Sub-Saharan Africa. You can be reached at
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.
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