Somaliland: Political Development and Ramifications of Conflict with Puntland


Somalilandsun – After 1991, while the major parts of Somalia descended into chaos, Somaliland has been composedly and independently running its own affairs. It is endowed with a moderately effective administration and functioning security forces, but it is facing acute socio-economic challenges. It has held relatively competitive multi-party elections. Somaliland’s appeal for international recognition has nonetheless become illusive mainly because of the fear that it might open a Pandora ’s Box in Africa. Somaliland is also feeling the full brunt of Horn of Africa geopolitical jostling and is engaged in an enduring and unresolved conflict with Puntland, both laying claims over the contested region of Sool and Sanaag.

This is according to Berouk Mesfin is currently a senior researcher in charge of the Horn of Africa region with the Conflict Prevention Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, based in Addis Ababa, in a paper titled The political development of Somaliland and its conflict with Puntland in which he concludes that

Quote “Somaliland can be taken as a role model for other African post-conflict entities and states in terms of building a peaceful and stable system making use of local resources. Indeed, peace in Somaliland was entirely brokered by the initiative and resources of its people, in contrast to other externally driven peace initiatives in Africa, including restive Somalia. Incorporating traditional institutions within the more modern structure of government makes Somaliland unique. Yet, however rosy they may seem, Somaliland’s achievements are fragile. For one, the lack of international recognition has undoubtedly deprived Somaliland of the benefits which a state may claim as a member of the international system. Available local resources are limited and access to international economic and commercial interactions is unfortunately blocked.

On the other hand Somaliland’s conflict with Puntland poses a serious threat to the hard-won peace in Somaliland. It could, at least, have very negative implications for Somaliland’s quest for recognition. Worse, the simmering conflict might escalate into actual war as long as the situation on the ground continues to be volatile. Thus, the international community should do its best to find rapidly an innovative way of accommodating Somaliland in the international system and ending the uncertainty over its status, short of outright recognition which is an extremely delicate issue of African international law and may indeed set a dangerous precedent. Pertaining to the Somaliland–Puntland conflict, the international community should apply their tested local conflict management methods to encourage the two protagonists to establish a forum to openly discuss common issues and resolve their territorial dispute. Thus, the Somaliland–Puntland conflict may actually provide a favourable backdrop for constructive involvement in northern Somalia by the international community. Finally, Somaliland’s electoral landscape is characterised by a lack of resources, low rates of comprehension of electoral processes, propensities towards political violence, and weak institutions including the central and local administration, the National Election Commission, political parties and civil society. More importantly, however, the Somaliland electorate will only accept the results of the upcoming elections if it has confidence in the institution which manages the electoral process. Thus, the National Election Commission should go beyond its previously disjointed and piecemeal efforts to adhere to standard rules and practices, thus producing a calming effect on all stakeholders. In a similar vein, all political parties should temper their unreasonable political discourse, especially before the repeatedly delayed elections which have disappointed many and already seem marked by extreme polarisation. Whether their allegations and counter-allegations have any substance or not, they could uncontrollably deepen the already dangerous mistrust among political parties further eroding the legitimacy of the whole electoral system and maybe leading to violence. Overall, all political parties must accordingly act with a sense of responsibility, keeping in mind that Somaliland has made enormous strides in the establishment of a viable and democratic system of government. The continuation of that process will have a far-reaching effect on the meaningful progress and promise of Somaliland.-unquote

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