Somalia, located in the Horn of Africa, has for years been plagued with problems of instability, piracy and extremism. But on January 18, after about two decades without formal relations, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton officially recognized the government of Somalia, for having turned itself around.

For Somalia, this is wonderful news, but what does this statement mean for Somaliland, an unrecognized state, located in the northern tip of Somalia, that declared its independence from Somalia in 1991? The country is a fledgling democracy which has its own constitution, held peaceful elections, opened schools and universities, established a central bank that prints its own currency and has its own security mechanism.

Karthik Pottipatti, 24, an Indian American graduate of Claremont Mckenna College in politics and winner of a German fellowship to study economics at the Freie Universitaet, Berlin, spent six months last year teaching at the University of Hargeisa — Somaliland’s flagship public University. Karthik is currently studying law at Harvard University. His experience living, working and traveling, with a military style canvas duffle bag, has shed light on a country which he describes as a peaceful forward thinking Islamic democracy.

I interviewed Karthik about his experience and the following is an excerpt of the interview:

So why did you decide to go to Somaliland?

I was interested and curious about Somaliland because it’s a functioning democracy without any interference or influence from the west. The country has built democratic institutions without having a modern history of democracy.

What did you teach at the University of Hargeisa and what was your experience like?

Under the foreign teacher’s program, I taught English and Economics to freshmen, sophomores and juniors. There are more than 1500 students enrolled in bachelor degree programs at the University of Hargeisa. The school runs a comprehensive program, including the important task of training the countries medical doctors.

But unfortunately the university does not compare when it comes to faculty or facilities or resources for students. This is not for lack of effort but more of a reality of living in an area where resources are very limited, and where international recognition limits how much assistance they can get from other universities and other governmental and non-governmental organizations.

You speak about Somaliland’s lack of recognition. How does that impact the students?

Since the country is unrecognized there are not many international scholarship programs available for these students. Personally this is a shame as Somaliland is a democracy just like ours and there are a few students I felt who could take advantage of an education in the U.S. or Europe.

For a country where the educational infrastructure is being built from the ground up, it is important for students to go to other countries and learn best practices and bring it back to Somaliland. The country needs professionals — from well-trained economists who can run the central bank, and design an Islamic banking system that is conducive to growth and investment, to medical professionals who can educate the next generation of doctors in the country.

Secondly, the lack of recognition serves as a disincentive for other organizations to make partnerships with universities within Somaliland. This has effected the University of Hargeisa as it is currently not internationally accredited.

Somaliland was completely destroyed when Said Barre’s forces bombed the country during the civil war. When the war ended in the early 90’s the country had to rebuild from scratch. The intellectual community that fled Somaliland prior to the war left a void that now needs to be filled.

Maybe the international community is weary of getting involved because of the security situation in Somaliland? What was your experience there like?

Somaliland is mainly a stable country, and all foreigners must live with security personnel. We had guards living with us in the house, but this did not deter me from going on runs in the morning with my colleagues.

I did not feel that we were in danger and this has a lot to do with the Somaliland government’s interest in keeping at bay terrorist groups like the Al Shabab, which was an active force in southern Somalia (the Shabab is a militant group that has ties to al-Qaeda).

Somaliland has been vigilant in fighting the Shabab. And this is not just the police. Ordinary Somaliland citizens recognize that the Shabab is a dangerous and intolerant group. Because the country is clan based, outsiders are immediately spotted and the Somaliland police work with NGO’s to eliminate the threat.

What was your experience living in a Muslim country? Were you under pressure to convert to Islam?

I had to dress conservatively in business casual clothes. In a Muslim country there is less freedom in what you can do and in expressing yourself. They did encourage me to convert but I never felt pressured to convert as they don’t believe in forced conversions to Islam.

Somaliland is a testament to capitalism. You can find things here from the U.S., China and India. When we talk of Islam and democracy, many times we feel these are odds with each other. But here is a country that has generated a working democracy by itself.
Soon after Karthik left Somaliland, the foreign teachers program was closed. After hearing of Somalia’s recognition he said, “This is an opportunity for us to re-examine our policy towards Somaliland and hopefully recognize the sovereignty of an independent Muslim democracy in Africa”.



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  1. Our President said, if it takes millenium to be part of the IC, Somaliland will not be part of Somalia again. Period.

  2. Inshallah Somaliland will get its recognition to enable it to get its rightful place as part of the world.

  3. Laughable, are you suggesting for secessionist pretend Government to openly declare war on Puntland, are you sick or you truly convinced in you rag tag SNM militia. If so be prepared to sufferer humiliation on multi-levels.

    First you lose what little credibility ( or should I say ear) you have in the IC, then you must prepare to lose the actually war. Because the Somaliland of yesterday is no more, and the Somaliland of today is at risk, do to the efforts of none other then you pretend Government, you got the SSC on one side, Awdalites on other, you even have Djibouti at your throat, you have the Somali President and Somali constitution, which was watch and assisted by IC, that states Somaliland is part and parcel of the Federal Republic of Somalia.

    Now I am telling you the Truth, when I say war requires strategy, courage, and resolve that is unwavering, not simply minded passions or animosity. Do you know what you are asking people to do for your passion of secession. Do you know you are asking others to kill and be killed, do you know and understand consequences of such open state of warfare. Do you realise that many innocent people will be caught in the crossfire and lose their property, what happen in the south could easily happen in the north and only reason why it hasn't happen yet, is because nobody wants such a scenario. Whether they be Puntlanders or Somalilanders.

    Now on your baseless claim of proxy clan war, I say you are a joke. The SSC have reject both S/Land and P/Land, their reasoning is this simple they feel they have been neglected and marginalized, by both sides. So they have decided to create their own state, as allowed in the federal Constitution, so cut the BS.

    I support them like Jubbbaland and any other future state of Somalia, because at the end of the day we need new solutions not holding relic emotions and feelings, left over from since pre-siad days.

    I can't wait to see all the states of Somalia finalized. Believe me when I tell you that the Somaliland you speak of is dead, thanks to morons like you, who preach BS and Clannish animosity, who have war rolling of the tip of their tongue, even though you will be comfortably snug tight in your western home, when it all goes down hill.

    The only Somaliland I see in the future is a federal member state. Which excepts its role in Somalia, without the secessionist crooks.

    Just admit it, the only reason why you are contemplating such idiotic ideas and writing this BS, is because you feel like the walls are closing in and maybe this course of action maybe your last hope.

    A decision made in haste, tends be a bad one. No matter how good it seemed at the time.

  4. Always interviewing others but never interviewing your fellow Somalanders, who differ from your ideology, in fact you arrest them for speaking out, yet you claim to be a democracy. Cut the BS. No white man or Indian will make a difference, recognition is not coming.

  5. In order to be a country all the somali people must be included.What is the use if one Somali tribe decides to be a country? Why Awdalians and laascaanodians are against it? In greater somalia everytribe is represented including your ONE TRIBE who are the dominant in the nothern Somalia! That fact alone is enough to be rejected your ill adviced dream of succession!

    • Djibouti has major clan Issa, why other are not included Issaq and Samaron? BS ur comment, A country is based on colonial border and not clan . U disagree then figth for original Somaliweyn with 5 Somali regions. No more BS somalinimo love..

  6. If you follow my comments, you will never find me use the names of Somali tribes because tribalism is the Achilles’ hill of Somali people. We failed as a society because we see everything through the lens of tribalism. Separatists use tribal arguments and comments because they know it is one of those few things that will move a Somali into action. The whole project of secession of Somaliland (sic.) is built on tribal sentiment and grievance.
    There is always that hidden fear on anyone who sells a snake oil that the stench of the exotic reptile may repel others. That is why the separatists use words such as Somaliland (sic.) is “the only democracy in Africa” and “best kept secret in Africa” to entice others to buy their fake merchandise. You can repeat that Somaliland is a nation, democracy and a country as many times but that will not create a country from there is none.

      • Between 1984-1989 i guess the 200 Mass graves simply happened by themselves.

        Only a fool forgets the past so as to repeat it once again!

        There have been 17 Conferences 18th scheduled May 2013 held for Somalia-Italia. Yet you still have a government SELECTED by a collection of Warlords, terrorists, diaspora rejects and formed dictatorship appeasers on to START the Road-Map government of Somalia-Italia with the most blatant corruption in history where Hassan Mahamoud paid for 190votes to be SELECTED President. 2 Senior Parliamentarians still in active duty have gone live on TV and accused Hassan Mahamoud of corruption and purchasing all 190votes while the international community was watching. Ali Khalif Galaydh and Ahmed Ismael Samatar will both testify against Hassan Mahamoud's crime against his nation and the binding agreements of the Road-Map process.

        President that is Xaraam will never create a United-Nation that is Xalaal.

        • Say what you want but one thing's for sure the secessionist dream had its life support turned of in January 2013

  7. Kudos to the US recognition of the new weak caretaker selected Govt headed by President HSM.
    Hopefully the Kudos to the Somaliland recognition would follow soon.

  8. for the last 20 years we make our distion and we will know so dont worry be happy every little gona be alright ,as bob marley say