By Christian Garcia
Should Somaliland be considered a separate nation from or part of Somalia? This question has never been thought about, at least to the people in western culture. Few know about the country, and fewer thought about its recognition worldwide. The country’s debated existence has been argued in the political sphere, specifically in the African Union and United Nations, in it’s application for statehood.
Located in the Horn of Africa, Somaliland was founded by the rebel group Somali National Movement (SNM) against the then military regime of Somalia. Their goal was to restore the old Somaliland borders back. In 1960, the State of Somaliland gained independence from being an Italian territory, willingly joining the independent British Somaliland, forming the Somali Republic. This joint soon severed when Major General Mohamed Siad Barre led a coup d’etat against the Somali government. After a civil war, the SNM founded the independent nation of Somaliland.
Since its nearly thirty years of existence, with a population of 3.5 million people, Somaliland has been considered a distinct region. It functions as a country would, having a currency system, government, visas with regular flights in Hargeisa, and even a consulate in Washington D.C. What makes this country unique to many other unrecognized countries is its democracy, which has been practiced since 2003. For a country with a weak economy and limited trading, Somaliland has accomplished the peaceful transition of power in a continent that has been plagued with dictatorships, civil wars, and corruption. The pillar that makes Somaliland democracy stable is the House of Elders, an eighty-two people council in the government that’s main role is to keep peace and practice reconciliation with traditional conflicts, differing from the newly formed country South Sudan that in just ten years has plunged as an anarchist state.
The question: Should Somaliland be an independent state? And the answers are divided. The majority of people in western countries view the de facto state with sympathy, a state that for thirty years has been advocating and has met all requirements for recognition, even having free and fair elections. Political analyst Joshua Meservey in his article “The U.S. Should Recognize Somaliland.” sees this as a benefit to the United States and Somaliland. “A strong relationship with an independent Somaliland would hedge against the U.S. position further deteriorating in Djibouti, which is increasingly under Chinese sway,” argued Meservey. There’s been calls from activists in the United States to take action and cooperate with the African Union and Western powers on the behalf of Somaliland.
Regardless of western people sympathizing with Somaliland’s continuous appeal for statehood, there’s Somalia, United Nations (UN), the African Union, and seperatist groups that stop Somaliland’s recognition. For a decade, the United Nations announced its decision about Somalia’s crisis; that an independent, strong, and stable Somalia will be made. Neither the United Nations nor Somalia has recognized Somaliland as a separated region and independent country, as it will hinder the process of this objective. Despite attempts for mediate reconciliation, Somalia and Somaliland talks have stalled since 2015.
The UN and African Union also fear that by recognizing Somaliland’s cause, nationalistic regions will rise up and declare their independence. A region that has been fighting for independence recently is the Tigay region, which wishes to achieve succession against the Ethiopian government, argued by Vox. If Somaliland were to be recognized next year, Tigay may continue to fight for their cause and independence, sparking many more regions to seek this route. The failure of the recently new country South Sudan has also created reluctancy for the UN to accept Somaliland. Somaliland has faults as well. It’s been reported by The Guardian that journalists are often harassed or jailed, while the government is in a border conflict with the Putland region which is escalating to combat attacks.
Preuss School Teacher for Eighth Grade History Timothy Carr, stated his viewpoint about Somaliland’s recognition towards statehood. “As an independent state, it would gain all the benefits of statehood, I think the biggest benefit would be getting respect from others that would prevent other country from trying to make them part of their country,” Mr. Carr “statehood is a different concept in 2021 than it was in 1960 when they had some independence.”
Foreign Minister, Saad Ali Shire is still optimistic about the future of the unrecognized republic. Shire stated to The Guardian: “Somaliland fulfills all the conditions for an independent state. Even when we are not recognised de jure, we are recognised de facto.” He adds, “When I travel, I am treated like a foreign minister. We deal with the UN and the international community as an independent country. We’ve waited 25 years already. We don’t mind waiting another 25.”
Since watching a video on Youtube about Somaliland in 2017, the mention of the name always brought up the question in my mind: should the country ever exist? After four years of obsessive consideration and proper research over the unknown state, I believe Somaliland has everything it needs for a nation to be accepted as independent from Somalia. During my research, I also accepted that it’s understandable that by proclaiming Somaliland’s statehood may ignite a domino effect on other unrecognized countries or seperatist groups, and we can’t contrast Somaliland’s case against other groups and states. Yet, a country that’s been following democracy, is a stable region, and is advocating its recognition should be granted its acknowledgement.