Somaliland: The Country’s Foreign Engagement Paradoxes


“Recognition, 22-year-old baby”

Mohamed Osman “Ubo”

Somalilandsun – In 22 plus years Somaliland has intensely lobbied to snatch diplomatic recognition but paradoxically keeps on poor and unproductive processes which are by far now missing the public appetite.

Those poor processes on recognition have never received a single smile from the ordinary Somaliland citizen. Except for some poor initiatives that were born and then died during the Egal and Rayale eras, nothing viable could have been seen again on the horizon. Correspondingly, despite Somaliland dances and sings according to the tune of the western countries when it comes to democracy for the recognition so far nothing positive appears on the horizon. The problem in those twenty-two years of Somaliland foreign efforts are: lack of policies, the application of poor process instead of policies, fruitless diplomats, allocation of the least fund for the recognition and lack of lobbying groups. Similarly, the inability of Somaliland to elaborate its unique case on international arenas, the inherent confusion of secession rather than withdrawal from the union and most surprisingly the tragic mistake of assigned only one man for getting the whole diplomatic recognition on table are part of the challenges of Somaliland’s recognition. Also, the dominant role of Somalia including ambassadors in Somali affairs affects the Somaliland recognition. Consequently, a lot of energy, effort and reforms are needed to shift much of those awful paradigms to scale up the momentum of the recognition through comprehensive and inclusive processes with workable policies and frameworks rather than exclusive and boring process. Thus I hope the Somaliland government and its foreign ministry would pay attention to the above and below presented affirmative criticisms and recommendations I offer in a good-natured spirit.

The midwife—Ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation—of Somaliland diplomatic recognition has been tired for waiting recognition for the reason that the relevance and applicability of the current traditional strategy is definitely unfavorable route that goes to nowhere. For recent example, the Somaliland’s incumbent government obsesses to deal with the Somalia federal government to obtain recognition which is by far impractical to realize that as in accordance with federal constitution, the unity of Somalia is unquestionable. Similarly, in accordance with Somaliland constitution the withdrawal from Somalia is unquestionable. Primarily, in accordance with the Somaliland constitution, the article on the withdrawal of the union will never, ever be amended by anybody. Surprising, with those opposite extremes, Somaliland and Somalia come and come together time and time again without changing their positions and only one thing for sure would come out from those gatherings which I would phrase a national treason. This is not groundless blame, but reflects the actual reality at hand for those 22 years. Also, a few of these poor processes encompass: lack of seriousness for the recognition when it comes to dealing with international community as all the Somaliland governments have appeared to hesitate in presenting their case in front of the big powers from 1991 onward. That, in-turn crafted the reluctance from the international community for Somaliland’s case and in my judgment they are right to act accordingly. In the same way, Somaliland never discussed its recognition with heads of states, including presidents or prime minters as Africa, Asia, Europe and Americas have diverse and dynamic countries with varied and opposing interests. And we have not ever since 1991 noticed Somaliland’s presidents discussing with their presidents on Somaliland diplomatic recognition to face either acceptance or rejection to grasp the eyes of the international community, which could be an imperative milestone case for this ground zero status recognition.

In 2005 (30 April to 4 May) African Union Fact Finding Mission led by H. E. Patrick Mazimhaka came to Somaliland to observe the current situation of Somaliland. They produced a fact finding report with strong recommendations. The recommendations included the following: “Whilst it remains a primary responsibility of the authorities and people of Somaliland to deploy efforts to acquire political recognition from the international community, the AU should be disposed to judge the case of Somaliland from an Objective historical viewpoint and a moral angle vis-à-vis the aspirations of the People”(p. 4).

The report finally says: “Finally, given, also, the high potential for conflict between Mogadishu and Hargeisa, the AU should take steps to discuss critical issues in the relations between the two towns. That initiative should be taken the earliest possible” (p.4) Therefore, it was to follow up that AU fact finding mission report that produced very credible recommendations to the African Union. That means we are not honest about the recognition.

Roughly speaking, Somaliland has no genuine diplomats who can cook their potential to illustrate Somaliland people even an eye of opportunity when it comes to diplomatic credit but it has tribal experts tiring with local and tribal affairs who teach tribalism courses to Somaliland people. Amazingly, they never wrote papers and foreign policy philosophy on Somaliland foreign intent except a small book which is the only reference book at hand for Somaliland foreign affairs wrote by Dr.Gees. Those tribal experts—our politicians—could have sold the strategic location of Somaliland as Djibouti has done which could be a window of opportunity for its recognition or at least could be an economic gateway for Asia to the rest of Africa as Asia economy is significantly raising. Thus, the vast majority of the population across Somaliland covered this course of tribalism, and one and all can now feel the intensity of this social and political calamity from the current social and political discourse.

Another setback is the allocation of the least budget for this at large recognition and conversely making the word “recognition” the best message that Somaliland people like to hear from the global society—that is in fact a paradox and inconsistent. For example, 11,346,591,288Shln was budgeted for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2013 and surprisingly 15,591,636,540Shln was budgeted only for the Somaliland National TV in 2013—you can see the difference; it is up-side down priorities and there is an opportunity cost there (Ministry of Finance, 2013). So sure there are practical challenges from budget and lack of lobbying groups for the Somaliland recognition from the birth of Somaliland in 1991. Therefore lobbying groups budgeted for ample funds would deliver and generate outstanding environment which helps to engage diplomatic respect positively and productively. Let alone ample budgetary support for the search, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs works in a rental house and that is a direct indicator for the lack of seriousness which is completely naïve to believe. Budget and resources are louder than words thus unless Somaliland set up a titanic budget for the recognition which was and is now out of the Somaliland poor political calculations, nothing visible would be materialized in the immediate future.

Another notable challenge is the active involvement and dominance of the South Somalia in Somali affairs which narrows the chance that Somaliland could broadly elaborate its unique case to the global community. For example international community deals with South when it comes to Somali affairs including Somaliland affairs and that means for more than two decades Somaliland has failed to convince to separate its case from the rest of Somalia. In a way, there are historical challenges, for example 85 percent of the ambassadors of the former Somali Republic hailed from the south and that marginalization reduced the experience of Somalilanders have on diplomacy. And after the collapse of the Somali Republic, countries still deal with those ambassadors and incumbent ambassadors in Somali affairs. That dominance in spheres of Somali political themes impedes the Somaliland’s chase for diplomatic recognition and listening of the world to those ambassadors and dealing with the whole Somali affairs is one of the worst-case-scenarios.

In closing, dealing with diverse and dynamic countries to catch an official diplomatic recognition is not a trouble-free assignment but entails genuine investment from both the government and grass root ordinary Somaliland citizens. Thus any good politician would listen to these productive criticisms along with recommendations of a good natured spirit. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must promptly formulate and implement diplomatic policies of the state in a close collaboration with council in favor of Somaliland diplomatic recognition which is not available this time around rather than working on personal judgments of Foreign Ministers. Thus, how relevant and responsive is Somaliland’s strategy for diplomatic recognition, is an open-ended question. And for the time being, a better way forward is indispensable as waiting recognition only from the government with irrelevant process would not be the case anymore!—a competent midwife should be part of the equation for this missing recognition.