[WGF:7] Against All Odds: Hope in the Horn of Africa.
You may be aware that Somalia has consistently been ranked as one of the most dangerous and unstable countries in the world for quite some time. A civil war in 1991 ended a 21 year dictatorship, and the country has been without a national government since that time. UN and US troops remained in Somalia until 1995 at which time they pulled out as a result of high numbers of casualties. National Geographic writer Robert Draper notes that, “the Fund for Peace has ranked Somalia number one on its index of failed states for the past two years. That distinction understates the pathos of Somalia. Failure—to deliver security, sustenance, services, or hope—has, for 18 years now, been the house that Somalis call home.”
Of particular interest to us today is the northern region of Somalia known as Somaliland. Previously a British protectorate until 1960, Somaliland was an independent country for all of 5 days before uniting with formerly Italian Somalia. While the Somali region as a whole is one of the most homogenous in Africa, clan-based rivalries have, nevertheless, devastated any unity that may have existed.
While Somalia proper descended into anarchy at the fall of former dictator Siad Barre, Somaliland, within the boundaries of the former British colony, has prospered (relatively speaking). The region struggles for international recognition as a sovereign state – currently not a single country recognizes its autonomy. However, against all odds, Somaliland has a working political system – an independent republic which functions as a hybrid democratic and tribally-based structure with a police force, its own currency, even passports for its citizens.
Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Solanyo, Chairman of the Kulmiye Party of Somaliland, pointed out on NPR’s All Things Considered that remarkably, Somaliland has gotten to where it is today without begging for assistance from other African countries. Be that as it may, the government still feels entitled to recognition and support from abroad. Draper writes: “‘This is the question I ask when I go to Europe and the U.S.,’ says Somaliland’s president, Daahir Rayaale Kaahin. ‘Why does Somaliland, with all its success, not receive support from the international community, while Somalia receives all this aid and yet never makes any success? Nobody answers me.’ President Rayaale’s request has begun to receive sympathy from some outside nations, but generally the wish seems to be that Somaliland stand united with—and thereby help rescue—Somalia.” Although Somalilanders and their government would rather be a stable, independent presence in the troubled region rather than suffer from inextricable bonds to the violence and anarchy of its neighbors, the international community does not support the value of this ideal.
Rashid Abdi, a Somali watcher for International Crisis Group in Nairobi takes a no-nonsense approach to Somaliland’s continued plea for recognition. He spoke to NPR as well, saying that “the peace and stability Somalilanders enjoy is probably more important than foreign approbation. ‘Recognition ultimately will give Somalilanders the respectability it deserves. But for God’s sake, stop obsessing about it. Stop this desperation. You know, for the world owes you nothing. Democracy is its own reward.'”
Country formation and recognition is a lengthy and complicated process. It’s not for the faint of heart, as they say. I’ll leave you with this thought: whatever the implications of recognizing Somaliland, with all the conflict and injustice in this world, a developing government that honors peace and democratic processes should be given its due respect.
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