Somaliland; an Amiable Beacon of Hope in the Region

Although short-lived, Somaliland enjoyed a brief spell of independence before it joined with the Italian Somalia in 1960. Somaliland achieved its independence from Britain on June 26, 1960 before voluntarily joining Italian Somalia a couple of days later. The union between Hargeisa and Mogadishu would not be seamless from the onset due to differences on issues of concentration of national power and other ideological polarities on issues of governance. Somaliland had borne the brunt of oppressive regime of Siad Barre for many years. The reign Barre worsened the wounds of ideological schism between Somaliland and Somalia culminating into increased agitation for independence of the former from the early 1990s after the fall of Barre’s regime. Somaliland has since established a fledging hybrid system of government featuring a regularized electoral cycle where different cadres of political representatives are directly elected by the people. The country also involves officially and informally, clan elders on a range of governance issues leading to the relative peace and stability which the ‘state’ has enjoyed over the years since declaring its self-independence in 1991.

Somaliland has gradually built its internal capacity to pursue its ‘national interests’ internally and externally. In a referendum held in 2001, a majority of the Somaliland population voted in favour of the self-declared independence affirming the belief within its population that the onetime British protectorate is not looking for international recognition but just a ‘re-recognition’ which it lost when it voluntarily united with Somalia in 1960 before breaking away three decades later.

From the recent past, Somaliland has seen a beehive of diplomatic activities which have seen the breakaway ‘state’ hosting diplomatic visits from countries like Kenya, China, Egypt, Ethiopia and Taiwan which have elicited various mutters from different quarters within and beyond the region. One school of thought argues Somaliland has met all the thresholds for recognition as a state under the international law. On the contrary are those that believe in the reunification for the cause of greater Somalia. Proponents of the latter argument seem to downplay the state rebuilding efforts which Somaliland has undertaken to establish effective governance over its population. The breakaway region has demonstrated its resilience towards establishing itself as a stable ‘state’ in a region which has been bedevilled by political instabilities and militancy for more than three decades. Despite not being spared the incessant threat of Somali based Al-Shabaab, Somaliland has shown that it is capable of protecting its population. By 2017, it was estimated that Somaliland had a population of about 4.5 million people occupying its territory of 137,600 square kilometres. The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States defines permanence of population, defined territory, governance and capacity to enter into international relations as some of the predicates on which to recognize states commensurate with the international law. Whether or not these attributes would hasten the process of recognition of Somaliland to de jure statehood, the truth remains stubborn, Somaliland is a promising polity which continues to rise from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix.

Somaliland’s pursuance of peace and stability anchors it as an amiable player in the grand scheme of regional peace and stability, not only within the Horn of Africa but also the Greater Eastern Africa. The ‘state’ has been instrumental in fighting piracy in the Indian Ocean and has continually reinvigorated its counterterrorism efforts against the threats of terrorism particularly from the Somali based Al-Shabaab helping to cement the efforts of other countries in stabilizing Somalia. Unlike in Somaliland, Al-Shabaab found safe havens in Somalia where it deeply and widely entrenched its inimical activities towards the Somali population and other countries in the region.

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