By Elliott Levett
Somalia has remained in turmoil for the last twenty years. They have only small remnants of a functioning government, which only controls parts of the capital, Mogadishu, and much of the country is under the control of warlords. In the north, however, Somaliland has found much greater success. They have their own currency, police force, and a stable, democratically elected government. Unfortunately, Somaliland is not recognized internationally as its own sovereign nation, and this is hindering its economic development.
Somaliland and Somalia were originally separated under colonialism. Britain controlled Somaliland and Italy held Somalia. After the two countries gained independence, they joined together as Somalia. When their relationship soured in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Somaliland voted to secede and declare autonomy from the Somali government. This launched a violent and bloody conflict in which thousands of people were killed. Eventually, Somaliland was able to distance itself from the Somali government and construct its own institutions and infrastructure.
Somaliland has been a relatively well functioning state since the war ended, despite extreme levels of poverty in the country. They have even accomplished the rare feat of having a closely contested election that concluded peacefully. Over the last two years, however, the country has been experiencing its worst drought in over three decades. Because Somaliland is not an internationally recognized country, it cannot gain access to international aid and the effects of the drought have been much worse than they otherwise would be.
According to an article in the New York Times, much of the reason for other nations refusing to recognize Somaliland is due to an international desire to keep the Somali state unified due to the fear of the possible repercussions that might occur if Somaliland split off. The former Foreign Minister of Somaliland, Edna Adan Ismail, has been fighting to convince other nations to acknowledge them and to start rewarding Somaliland for its successes. “We’ve been doing our own thing for the last 15 years. We have put our act together. Instead of encouraging us, we are being pushed toward Somalia, which continues to fall apart.”
There is a good and a bad side to not being an internationally recognized nation. Since Somaliland has been unable to get loans or aid from other countries, its government is completely free from international debt, and it does not have to comply with international treaties, such as drug trafficking prevention, that would overstretch government resources without necessarily benefitting the population. Being free from international debt also means that Somaliland is not subject to the will of donor countries, whose interests might not necessarily align with those of Somaliland. The bad, however, is that since it is not its own nation, Somaliland passports are not a viable means of identification for international travel, even though Somalia has no official functioning passport services. Somaliland also cannot attempt to boost its tourism sector because it is constantly grouped in the same realm of thinking as Somalia, even though the two are completely different in terms of stability.
In my opinion, I think it is completely outrageous that the international community continues to refuse to acknowledge Somaliland. The fact that we have international organizations that were designed to provide people assistance in emergency situations but are only accessible to those nations that are officially recognized is ridiculous. Especially when considering Somaliland’s huge strides towards a prosperous future are not being rewarded. When South Sudan seceded from Sudan, the international community immediately accepted the move and began efforts to support the newly formed nation. The U.N. has observers there, and USAID has numerous programs in the area focused on development.
It is possible that Somaliland’s success might be, in part, a result of the international negligence it has received. They have had to rebuild their nation by themselves and are not reliant on any other groups. Nevertheless, the drought has brought extreme hardship on Somaliland, and the lack of emergency aid may undo some of the great strides this country has made. Sadly, the international community does not appear to be changing its position, and this means Somaliland will have to deal with its drought crisis itself. Edna Adan Ismail, and her fellow Somaliland compatriots, will have to continue to “live in an isolated portion of this planet”.by