Somaliland: Time for the International Community to Accept a two State Solution
Mohamed A. Mohamoud (Barawaani)
There is no getting away from the fact that Somalia is a ―quasi state‖ that has relied on the international community for support since the collapse of the Siyad Barre regime 22 years ago. The country has now arrived at a period in which the international community is courageously facilitating the most promising end to the political transition of Somalia since 1991, although for now success has yet to fully move beyond the recently recognized authorities in Mogadishu. Somaliland, on the other hand, whose political behavior and state attributes have attracted much positive attention within regional and international diplomatic spheres, has acted as an equal partner with African regional governments and the international community in many practical areas, such as counter-piracy, security and trade. With the beginning of international community facilitation of talks between Somaliland and Somalia, who had long been anticipating the arrival of a credible counterpart to engage in dialogue with, Somaliland feels it as the best chance in its history to gain acceptance of its dissolution from the 1960 union with southern Somalia, which was officially declared on 18 May 1991 at the Burao first grand conference.
As this paper will argue, it is currently the right time for the international community to change the game and accept two-state solution by proceeding down a path towards the recognition of Somaliland’s independent statehood. This is would not only be an example of international justice, as the Somaliland people have long argued, but an imperative course of action necessary in order to maintain fragile regional peace and stability. This paper therefore hopes to shed the light on the currently ongoing talks between Somaliland and Somalia, specifically focusing on thematic issues in a way that builds optimism for future relations between the two sides.
Taking a broad international perspective of the case of Somaliland and Somalia will illustrate how talks can prevail to diminish regional and international fears of communal conflict. And while regional influence over the politics of Somaliland and Somalia has been aborted after London Conference on Somalia in 2012, there are certain indicative measures that allude to the further development of the talks in the future that are necessary if the region will finally escape the recurrence of conflict. As a result, it is good indication to explore how the two-state solution can be attained based on historical evolutions and contemporary political dynamics in the region, specifically focusing on cases in which the African Union has previously intervened, such as Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Sudan and South Sudan.
Generally speaking, it is currently time that international community begins visualizing and exploring ways in which a workable two-state political solution accomplished at expense of internationally efforts underway. To envision the unconventional move that might avoid past mistakes, the international community, as a key partner in the consummation of a long-lasting solution to peaceful relations between Somaliland and Somalia, must be aware of the historical facts and impact of the political union entered into by the two entities in 1960.
The international community has had plenty of experiences exploring similarly complex political and social contexts, as the aftermath of the Cold War era saw the entire world being forced to accommodate newly emerging states in the Horn of Africa and Eastern Europe. For example, Eritrea, which had been a province of Ethiopia before in 1990, became a separate member state of the AU and UN following a successful independence struggle. The same fate eventually came to South Sudan, although roughly two decades later. Somaliland has an even stronger case for independence than Eritrea and South Sudan, because Somaliland was an independent country before it entered into a union with Italian Somalia in 1960. This historical reality sheds light on the fact that Somaliland’s demand for international recognition has a strong justification, and the implications of this comparative history deserves to be examined.
Moreover, Somaliland and Somalia are two largely incompatible entities that differ enormously in terms of fundamental political and social features. Somaliland has been stable and democratic state over the past two decades. In contrast, Somalia has been turmoil since in 1990. Despite this vast devastation in Somalia, particularly in the southern regions, Somaliland has only further gained de facto control of the territory that it inherited from British protectorate administration after being granted its sovereignty in 1960, which further adds to the legal and political justifications to its bid for statehood. Although both countries share the same language and general ethnic traits, the different colonial paths experienced by Somaliland and Somalia served to accentuate a variety of cultural and social distinctions and incompatibilities between the two peoples. Newcomers to the Somali context often underestimate and fail to explore how Mogadishu and Hargeisa vary from one another, but the fact cannot be avoided that in many ways the Somalilanders must be considered a distinct and solidly separate people from the Somalia peoples. In fact, the time has come to re-evaluate the ways in which these divergent cultural and historical heritages acted as underlying factors and practical causes of the destruction of the Somali Republic and failures of the union.
Furthermore, international community must broadly understand that the root causes of the abortive union of the Somali Republic that collapsed after thirty years of misrule. Only then can a lasting resolution to the current talks between Somaliland and Somalia be achieved. Such root causes and their inevitable resurrection under any new unified arrangement between the two countries will show just how unattainable of a goal a greater Somali state truly is, thus leaving
the international community without any choice but to re-evaluate their efforts and ongoing engagement towards the case of Somaliland and Somalia.
In addition to the practical reasons, it must also be noted that the self-determination and re- assertion of the independent sovereignty of the Somaliland population is their inherent right, which neither the international community nor the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) can deprive them of. To this end, Somaliland has survived for long period of time and effectively managed its internal frictions, successfully conquering the political wrangling and regional instability that has kept Somalia stateless over the period of decades. As Scott Pegg (2011) notes,
―On any objective assessment, the Republic of Somaliland clearly has the strongest case for independence and widespread sovereign recognition of any de facto state. In contrast to other de facto states like Abkhazia, South Ossetia or the TRN, the (re) birth of Somaliland did not depend upon a foreign military presence nor is its security today guaranteed by an external patron. The combination of its separate colonial existence, its five days of sovereign independent and its respect for former colonial borders gives Somaliland a unique degree of legitimacy in terms of the contemporary interpretation of the self- determination that no other secessionist entity can approach.‖
Despite the international and global political views reluctant to treat Somaliland as an independent state, certain regional countries of IGAD have been willing to enter into—and, indeed, have already established and currently maintain—pragmatic relations with Somaliland. Ethiopia was the first and most committed country in showing Somaliland sympathy and deep interest. Although Ethiopia has repeated on many occasions that they will not be a first country to recognize Somaliland, they have shown practical support for Somaliland as a separate entity by opening up a liaison office that works as full embassy, issuing visas and engaging in diplomatic discussions and trade deals. On the other hand, other regional governments such as Egypt and Sudan have a negative view in respect to Somaliland’s quest for recognition.
Currently, Somalia is now being treated as a full national counterpart to the states of the Horn of Africa and the broader world as well, despite the seemingly limitless challenges facing Somalia as a nascent and post-conflict state. But, as several commentators point out, it remains too early to treat the return to governance within Somalia as inevitability. ―Significant parts of the country still remained under Al-Shabab terrorist control. The prospect of Al-Shabab establishing a Jihadist state in Somalia was perceived both by its neighbors and by the West as a major blow to the ‗war on terror.’ Al-Shabab is still very much alive and holds significant portion of Southern Somalia.‖ (IHSA Report, 2013) ―Somalia has not yet reconciled its warring sides. The pains of the civil war are still looming large; the looted properties in Mogadishu are not being returned to their legitimate owners, hence this is breading a heightened mistrust among different clans and regions of the country.‖ (Roble, 2013)
In addition, it cannot be denied that the international community, while supposed to maintain a holistic diplomatic and developmental approach to Somalia, has instead intervened in a partial and uneven manner. In certain cases, this approach has exacerbated serious threats to the country in ways that expose the great fragility of the state institutions and the previously-dormant
traditional and religious authorities of Somalia, further contributing to the social and political disintegrations that have been propelling instability, vulnerability and chronic hunger and diseases in Somalia for over two decades.
- Somaliland and Somalia: Two Entity United in 1960
First and foremost, it is necessary to understand what the overarching goal of the union was when it was entered into by the Somali parties in 1960. The state to be created was intended to bring all Somali speaking territories that had formerly under European colonial powers together into one administrative body. This included a total of five regions, namely: the Somaliland British Protectorate, the Italian Trust Territory of Somalia, the Hud and Reserve Area of Ethiopia, French Somaliland and the Northern Frontier District (NFD) under Kenya administration. Thus, this goal was not accomplished when the two regions of what is now Somaliland and Somalia hastily united on 1 July 1960, and even then this arrangement was immediately aborted when the power–sharing arrangements and acceptance of a legitimate constitution promised by the new government failed to materialize in a way acceptable to the northern peoples, and was vociferously resisted by the people, as aptly described by Roethke (2011):
Somaliland and Somalia merged through an international treaty. Irregularities occurred in the ratification of the treaty, however. The two states drafted separate treaties. Somaliland crafted a draft treaty, legislatively approved it, and sent it to the authorities in Mogadishu, the Southern Capital. The authorities in Mogadishu never approved the draft. Instead, the Southern legislature wrote a significantly different treaty, the Act of Union, which the national legislature made retroactively binding in 1961, after unification was an established fact. A subsequent national referendum on the proposed Constitution heightened the discrepancy between the two entities: northerners voted against it, whereas Southerners voted for it.
What followed from this sudden and unwanted incorporation into a project not of their choosing was Somaliland’s suffering at the hands of the Somali Government’s pursuit of the dream of Greater Somalia, which ominously echoes current attempts by the international community to pursue the unified state-building of Somalia at all cost. Attempts to realize the vision of Greater Somalia brought about regional conflict and internal crisis. With regards to the latter, the unification in 1960 did not succeeded in creating communal solidarity among the Somali- speaking regions, as social, economic and political disparities plagued the merger at micro and macro levels. The defining characteristics of inequality and authoritarianism that accompanied the aspiration of forming Greater Somalia delegitimized the entire project in the eyes of most Somalilanders. By 1977, the decision of Siyad Bare to invade Ethiopia in order to annex its Somali region caused the further descent of the country into mass instances of hunger, disease, poverty, displacement, refugees, international friction and, eventually, the long-lasting destruction of the Somali Democratic Republic. Conflict and marginalization of peoples were thus the inevitable consequences of the attempt to actualize the dream of Greater Somalia.
The decision of the Somaliland people to reassert their country’s independence was borne out as legitimate not only as a result of prior history, but also the subsequent historical path taken by the country. ―Somaliland’s withdrawal from the failed Union of the Somali Republic was valid, original, credible, and unassailable. Today, anyone who appraises and tries to describe Somaliland instantaneously witnesses the encouraging facts of life that include significant human and economic development, free-market enterprise, political freedom and democratic space, civic participation and harmonization between the traditional indigenous culture and modern statehood structures‖ (Barawani, 2013).
Considering these analytical views about Union and the past blunders that were made, it is worthwhile to mention that promoting current dialogue between Republic of Somaliland and the Federal Government of Somalia can be a ultimate and meaningful way to resolve the issues between two states, especially if the two sides make efforts at reconciling, providing compensation and learning from these past mistakes. The form of Turkey’s involvement has demonstrated positive signals that could see the achievement of lasting solutions that bring an end to the legacies of prolonged conflict, hostility, grievances and tragic events of the past. These need to be acknowledged as historical and political facts that created the determination of one part to dissolve the merger. Hence, the next dialogue must denounce the crimes against humanity committed by totalitarian regime of Siyad Barre, including mass killings of a scale verging on ethnic (or, in this case, clan-based) cleansing.
- Talks between Somaliland and Somalia: Ending the Communal
Conflict in the region
It is conceptually realistic to view the talks currently taking place between Somaliland and Somalia through the lens of past examples of political separation within African political history i.e. Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Sudan and South Sudan. This is all the more important given the repeated clashes that occurred in the aftermath of the independence of Eritrea and South Sudan, and the consequent need to transform familiarity with these other contexts into tragic lessons learnt to avoid such ignominious forms of separation, and instead develop a new way forward for achieving two state solution. But before the other cases can be brought in, Somaliland’s history with unification and separation must be explored.
Somaliland and Somalia entered into a union ―in July 1960, based on shared ambition among the Somalis to build a ‗Greater Somalia’, which was to incorporate communities in the Horn of Africa, In the course of time, the Union malfunctioned. The legacy of the aborted union and resulting civil war left behind a trail of physical destruction and social dislocation, all of which require more resources in order for the population to recover and enjoy better conditions of life‖ (AU report, 2005). Furthermore, during the period between 1980 and 1991, the people of
Somaliland were subject to extreme instances of mass killing and military campaigns conducted without respect for life or human rights norms. Somalilanders have used this brutality as justification for their argument that the union violated the basic assumptions and preconditions of coexistence.
Where rights are concerned, the Somalilanders not only look to the responsibility of a sovereign government to protect the lives and basic needs of its citizens, which the Barre regime violated and which therefore granted Somalilanders with the right to nullify the union government, but also look to the right to self determination. Thus, it is plausible for Somalilanders to argue the right to terminate the Union with Italian Somalia based on the fact that Somaliland and Somalia were two entities created from different colonial legacies and manifested in different territorial boundaries.
Scholars do not contest that the right to self-determination entitles colonized people to form states independent of their colonial rulers. Roethke (2011) that ―The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples underpins the theoretical justification for decolonization with principle of self-determination. In language echoed by the International covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Declaration asserts that: ‗All peoples have the right of self–determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.’‖
Recognizing Somaliland will not only make a difference to the Somali peoples, but the region as a whole. Whereas a unified Somalia creates a military threat that, as the events of 1977 show, only enhances tensions with its neighbor, Ethiopia, and which becomes a further destabilizing actor in the control over resources in the region (in particular the Nile River), an independent Somaliland government has shown its ability to enter into peaceful relations with all of its neighboring countries and regional partners, from Ethiopia, to Djibouti, to Kenya, and beyond. Without the larger imperative to build a state based on the legitimizing national narrative of a Somali peoples, Somaliland has been able to put governance based on a post-colonial version of modern governance that values commerce, security and cooperation with its neighbors.
In Somalia, the internationally-propelled efforts have so far failed to resolve the chronic problems in Somalia. In fact, the plethora of competing actors with mismatched interests intervening in the country have contributed to the continuation and exacerbation of serious tribal, religious and political conflict in Somalia. What should not be forgotten in all the enthusiasm towards the building of the federal state is that the predetermination of any outcome of discussions between Somaliland and Somalia based on the wishes of the international interveners will only resurrect the past demons described above. The encouraging trajectory of the Dialogue from the Chevening House (UK) and Dubai (UAE) meetings on 20 and 28 June 2012, respectively, to the Ankara meeting on 13 April 2013, Istanbul 7-9 July 2013 demonstrates the fact that the common ground provided for by the bilateral talks, conducted in isolation from the
particular interests of third-party agents, contributes positively to the wider geopolitical interests and benefits of the international community.
This institutionalization of the dialogue can be seen in stark contrast to the other of the continent’s responses to statehood claims, ―which have been largely situational and ad hoc: Eritrea’s independence was only grudgingly accepted many African states after a UN-supervised referendum was held, and Addis Ababa took the lead in opening diplomatic relations. Western Sahara was admitted as full member of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1984 but more than a dozen African countries continue to support Morocco’s claims on the territory.‖ (ICG, 2006) And while South Sudan’s independence was mediated through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), this was more of a peace deal turned pragmatically into mediation on separation than an opportunity to undertake political discussions meant to establish the relations of two peoples to each other based on competing views of international law. As a result, the international interventions that will take place within the Dialogue must be aware of what is being discussed, and how this fits into the shared history of the Somaliland and Somalia peoples.
- Key points that future round of the Somaliland-Somalia dialogue must address
To impress upon the international community the fact that British Somaliland and Italian Somalia were two independent regions united together to form the Somali Republic, while it is common within the diplomatic community to assume that one side is the only legitimate entity eligible for full status within international community while the other side is in a situation of limbo until deemed otherwise (and therefore requiring a further positive decision on its status), international community must examine the credibility of this discrepancy. However, following key pertaining issues applicable to be on the next table on the mutual dialogue of two states:-
- To discuss the status of assets that for thirty years was considered as falling within the authority of the Somali Democratic Republic. After collapse of Siyad Barre regime, many assets of its assets were liquidated and claimed as the public property of the Republic of Somaliland (as stipulated in its 2001 constitution), meaning that it is unlawful for new government under President Hassan Sheikh to declare unilateral rights to exploit these assets despite counter claims by the Somaliland Government.
- Debt accrued by the Somali Democratic Republic between 1960 and 1991 must be played off through a sharing responsibilities by both sides, as a precondition for each side to take on further loans from international financial institutions.
On immigration issues, Somalia authorities must allow Somaliland passport to enter into Mogdishu in order to increase security, information sharing, social and political interaction, and the right of people to move freely.
To denounce the genocidal acts committed by the Siyad Barre regime, and to share responsibility in taking action against those alleged persons committed of war crimes and
held accountable in domestic or international courts, such as Colonel Mohamed Ali
Samatar, Siyad Barre’s Minister of Defense during the genocide.
- Acknowledge that the self-determined will and aspirations of the people of Somaliland are legitimate, and therefore be respected at all at all stages of the Dialogue process.
Encourage the international community to deal with Somaliland as a full, trusted and
committed partner in all diplomatic activities and security and economic arrangements.
- Limiting Regional Influence in Exchange for Greater International
Since the London conference was held in February 2012, there have been increased indications that regional influence over the case of Somaliland and Somalia has diminished. The London conference undoubtedly signaled the internationalization of Somali affairs, following the failure of domestic and regional actors to resolve how Somalia should return to normalcy as a nation that can survive and create amicable relationships with other nations. In addition, regional actors have also long failed to propose and facilitate bilateral talks between Somaliland and Somalia in efforts to contribute to peace, security and stability in the region as whole. In fact, regional efforts undertaken by both IGAD and the African Union touching upon the issue of Somalia and Somaliland have appeared uncoordinated, incompatible and lacking in political commitment. And while frontier countries did a great deal to address issues of communal conflict in Somalia, their leverage to influence this complex environment was not sufficient.
For instance, the London Conference created enormous interests among the international community in re-assessing and better understanding the complexity of problems faced by Somalia in order to learn from past mistakes. Many regional conferences had been held between
1993 and the 2012 London Conference, but with no sign of progress being made at all. The communiqué put out at the end of the conference underlined the participants’ belief that a new era of Somali politics had been entered into, and, indeed, when it came to their views on the way to deal with Somaliland’s relationship to the Somalia state-building project it had. For the first time, the international community recognized the legitimacy of bilateral talks between Somaliland and Somalia (―the TFG or its replacement‖) as a means for clarifying their future relations.
However, regional actors in particular must acknowledge that addressing the long term crisis in Somalia is more than about intervention and political manipulation, but in building relationships with, and opening up neutral mediation forums for, a variety of Somali actors. Ethiopia has shown the most extensive understanding of the many different scenarios through which it is and can be engaged in Somali politics. Ethiopia has fully respected the wishes of the Somaliland people to govern themselves independently, and have established bilateral relations between two states, with Ethiopia even recognizing the Somaliland passport. Through bilateral security cooperation with Ethiopia, Somaliland has been able to play an imperative role in stabilizing the
region, and has received notoriety from the diplomatic community for this role. In regards to Somalia, on the other hand, Ethiopia’s relationship is characterized by a series of invasions, in which at the different times Ethiopia has deployed it’s military inside Somalia, which has in some instances caused political and diplomatic friction between the two parties, neither of which fully welcome the role of the other.
Moreover, the unpredictable, complex and destructive environment that has characterized Somalia over the past many years will need to be addressed through strong leadership among both the FGS and the international community. Domestic commitment to a new state-building path will only be mobilized if a diligent and charismatic leadership can inspire and guide the people, and where clear thinking can overcome the political momentum entrenched within Somalia’s society and interpersonal relations, and in its place conjure up new realities. A paradigm shift regarding the basic approach of the international community to major issues facing the region, including Somalia-Somaliland, will need to come about, and the new president of Somalia would need to also understand and get on board with this shift.
There is evidence that Hassan Sheikh is aware of these new realities. The new president has already encouraged bilateral talks between Somaliland and Somalia, recognizing that reaching a mutually acceptable resolution to their current differences is the only solution ensuring against persistent political conflict in the region. Unfortunately, the African Union so far appears incapable of taking up the cause of supporting the current talks between Somaliland and Somalia, despite the fact that any international intervention would highly benefit from AU leadership, a body which in the past (specifically in the case of Sudan and South Sudan) was able to allow for a two state solution to be put on the table, and then helped ensure that this solution was actualized once the two parties had agreed to respect this decision. And despite the fact that the AU has remained unfortunately silent on Somaliland’s achievements and legal case for statehood, the body does acknowledge that it is duty-bound to play a part: ―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 point view and a moral angel vis-a-vis the aspiration of the people‖ (AU Report, 2005)
What the AU needs to consider is that the recognition of Somaliland poses potential advantages for Somalia, and that sympathy towards the south can therefore go hand in hand with support for an independent Somaliland. In particular, an internationally recognized Somaliland can be more active in the peace process and more willing to conduct joint development efforts—in short, these reconciliation efforts can ease tensions between the two governments and allow for cooperation to take place in an environment of trust and calm. (Vishakha, Sarwat, Christina and Leila, 2006)
- Contrasting Somaliland’s State-Building with that of Somalia
Somaliland has gradually taken it upon itself to built up state institutions over the past twenty- two years, and has accomplished more than what de jure states do under similar post-conflict conditions. Somalilanders have proved their dedication, willingness and collectivity through the process of establishing peace, order and self-governance, and now their country has become one of the most stable in the Horn of Africa. This stability has paved the way for the establishment of democracy (based on multiparty system), free media, civic participation, free market and greater civil society involvement in national affairs. On the other hand, Somalia has over the past twenty-two years experienced chaos, anarchy, insecurity, militarization, disintegration, displacement, hunger and drought. And while Somaliland has succeeded in combining traditional systems of governance and contemporary state features developed through bottom-up notions of state-building, Somalia has held more than 16 international conferences outside the country (with the exception of the August 2012 transition conference in Mogadishu), all of which failed due to a lack of local ownership and a poor understanding of domestic factors.
However, while Somaliland was allowed the space to build the state on its own terms, without foreign interference, the international community has positioned itself as the driving force determining how Somalia would be stabilized since 1992, as has been well documented in the array of Security Council Resolutions produced over the period of time—733(1992),
1425(2002), 1772(2007), 2036(2012), 2073(2012) and 2093(2013). The last in this long list represents the UNOSOM operations aimed at restoring peace and stability in Somalia following the successes of the AMISOM peacekeeping mission in creating unprecedented pockets of stability in the country. But the legacy of past attempts at restoring peace, including the Ethiopian-initiated SODERE peace process conference, the Egyptian-initiated Cairo meetings, the Djiboutian-initiated Arta Conference, the Sudan-initiated Khartoum talks, and the Kenya- initiated Embagati meetings, is that the heavy influence of international actors has left Somalia in political bewilderment or even worse scenario than before the talks took place. In this process of Somalia state-building, the AU and IGAD have frequently called international meetings intended to determine some sort of governance structure that Somalia should have, but this has only duplicated political confusion and exacerbated damage to the civilian population. Today, there remains great speculation and skepticism that recently-inaugurated UNSOM mission that integrates humanitarian and state-building efforts will politicize international community involvement in a way different from, but equally destructive as, past international interventions in Somalia. Somaliland’s state-building, on the other hand, took a completely different path that can be seen as comparatively cheap, productive, inclusive, participatory, timely and nonviolent—in short, completely different from the never-ending cycle of UN operations conducted without the ownership of the people directly affected.
Despite this long-term painful political process aimed at establishing suitable state, the governance structures of Somalia remain weak, and in many cases can be accused of exacerbating the fragility and fragmentation of Somalia. One of the purposes of the international interventions was to undue these deleterious state structures, but the militarization of Somali society has in many ways accelerated state-based conflict. For instance, the most recent UN Resolution 2093(2013) stated a number of contentious issues arising in regards to Somalia, which are indicative of the UN’s core rationale for intervention, as well as its desired military approach: ―19. Agrees with the Secretary-General that the conditions in Somalia are not yet appropriate for the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operations, and requests that he keeps this under review, including through the setting of benchmarks for when it might be appropriate to deploy United Nations peacekeeping operations, noting that whatever expansion of the military means should not bring state apparatuses and inclusive representation that should be the core element of state- building and peace-building.‖
By and large the war with Ethiopia in 1977, as well as the civilian rebellions led by SNM, SSDF and USC that followed from these disastrous warmongering policies, ushered in the failure of the Siyad Barre era, with effects that reverberated into the post-1991 era. The clan warfare that ensued over the resources and power of post-Barre Somalia has served as the primary obstacle to the building of a viable Somali state, and these complex clan configurations that now entangle each region of Somalia confronts all those attempting to restore state-based governance with major points of resistance. The Hawiye–Darood competition for power has been a critical factor in Somali politics since independence, and remains to this day a chief contributor to the instability and eventual collapse of the state. ―It also has been the primary barrier to rebuilding the state for Somalia during the past eighteen years, despite numerous reconciliation conferences and massive funds spent by major powers on the elusive search for peace and order‖ (Bulhan,2008) These protracted constraints point to just how difficult it will be to reinvent Somalia over again, a fact that the current FGS administration is coming to learn.
Somaliland, for its part, has gradually built an identity and political character that is different from Somalia’s, based on a completely distinctive national history. This notion of Somaliland’s history confounds the current political misapprehensions, inconsistencies and vicissitudes of those hoping to view the histories of Somaliland and Somalia through an undifferentiated and simplified lens. This is unfortunate, as Somaliland’s statehood may be determined by the degree to which they are able to convince others that they possess a separate identity. As Redie (2012) argues, ―In this context statehood is crucially founded on the construction of the separate identity, or at least on coherently formulating an identity that differentiates the emergent state from the old one which it is separating. Success in convincing others of the existence of a separate identity reinforces the possibilities of secession.‖
Notwithstanding, joining together with Somalia in the 1960 union, Somaliland’s unique identity has persevered. The roots of the nation’s civilization, customs, history and good practices, based on notions of peaceful coexistence, have not been eliminated. The Somaliland people were and continue to be regarded as a pastoral society with binding social and traditional structures that were used by the British as mechanisms for the governance of their protectorate. This form of indirect rule, in which traditional authorities were allowed to keep their power bases intact, allowed for the continued legitimacy of this source of leadership beyond the colonial period and into the present, thus maintaining mechanisms through which the Somaliland people could deepen their sense of ownership.
As a result of these unique conditions, a Somaliland state has been created that is undisputable political reality on the continent, one that is a strong advocate for democratic values and compliance with international human rights norms. The country boasts ―a constitution, a functional parliament and government ministries, an army, police force and judiciary, and many of symbols of statehood, such as a flag, its own currency, passports and vehicle license plates. Furthermore, although Somaliland has been unable to secure international recognition, there is a creeping informal and pragmatic acceptance of Somaliland as a political reality. International Organizations such as the UN and the European Union work, with the administration as responsible authorities. The administration has developed low-key bilateral relations with Djibouti and Ethiopia, with regional bodies such as IGAD and the African Union and with several European states‖ (Bradbury, Abokor and Yusuf, 2003)
Somalia, lacking this form of national identity, vision and citizenship, no longer has the traditional mechanisms in place from which to build a state. In order to remedy past human and material damage, it will have to start anew, which, while a daunting task, also provides the new government with a unique opportunity to develop completely new forms of relations with other segments of the Somali people, including Somaliland.
Somaliland’s optimism comes not only from a belief that past successes in peace-building and democratization will be continued and further consolidated, but because of the fact that the relative prosperity it enjoyed in the decades prior independence points towards a path to the country’s further economic growth. ―During the 1950s, the Arabian oil boom generated an unprecedented demand for Somali livestock, and the central towns of Hargeysa, Berbera, and Burco become the hubs of that trade, forming a triangle that would eventually become the core of economic development in the region.‖ (WSP, 1999) Today, Somaliland remains located at a strategic geopolitical node, situated between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula (via the Red Sea) such that it could act as an economic hub exploited by multinational companies. Today, world economic superpowers such the USA and Europe are encountering an economic recession that has had a much more muted affect on less developed countries (LDCs) including Somaliland, and investing in countries like Somaliland can serve as a future antidote to these economic woes. Somaliland’s state-building will only continue to successfully tackle its internal problems if economic recovery allows for an increasingly beneficial relationship between state and society. Government revenue will need to significant increase, in order to overcome a reliance on international donors that has plagued Somalia and other developing countries, in many cases exposing them to increased state fragility.
As this essay argues, understanding the key historical and socio-political issues surrounding and pertaining to Somaliland’s demand for international recognition and Somalia’s advocacy for unity is essential for creating a new path forward for the Horn of Africa. This understanding must be based on more than ―they are same language, same religion and same culture, and therefore should be part of the same state‖ argument. Many Muslim countries and Arab states also share similar traits of culture, region and language, but have established distinct governance systems in which they are still able to promote communal interests when appropriate, only through international diplomatic politics instead of domestic politics.
Ignoring the history record of relations between Somaliland and Somalia can have disastrous effects on domestic and international interventions to devise a suitable way forward. The international community is obliged to comprehend what, when and how things occurred, acknowledging that their imposing and ill-conceived past attempts at reengineering the Somali Republic concerned not only a single state, but involved two separate peoples of north and south that had never been united in a framework acceptable to both sides. Therefore, they were trying to achieve what had previously never before been achieved, not (as they saw it) reinstating what had once existed.
Somaliland has created a political system that its citizens feel proud of, and which has protected them from the civil and political disputes that have engulfed their neighbors in Somalia. However, to continue to protect the people from the future threats to their self-determination and security that may come from the creation of either a failed or successful state (remember, it was a strong government in Mogadishu that terrorized Somalilanders during the Barre era), the international community must accept a two state solution. As of now, Somalia remains the subject of internationally peacekeeping interventions seeking to bolster a government led by Hassan Sheikh that, while internationally recognized, lacks control of neither the erstwhile British protectorate of Somaliland nor much other territory beyond its compounds in Mogadishu. Any solution to the creation of friendly and interdependent relations between Somaliland and Somalia must not be blind to the discrepancies between the situations that the two peoples find themselves in. The international community must confront the historical implications head on, and not shy away out of any outdated notion of the ―sanctity‖ of the Somali union, as this will rule out many concrete steps the region can take in working together to address conflict, famine, drought, piracy, insecurity and poor livelihoods.
Mohamed A. Mohamoud (Barawaani) independent Researcher and Horn African analysist: Email:
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Dr Kinfe Abraham (2002) Somalia Calling – the Crisis of Statehood and the Quest for Peace
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http:ll www.wardheernews.com Faisal A. Roble (2013) coming to America to a divided