Why South Sudan and not Somaliland?


africa mapBy: Redie Bereketeab/ The Nordic Africa Institute

South Sudan gained independence last year, while Somaliland has for decades struggled for independent statehood without success. NAI researcher Redie Bereketeab examines the underlying reasons for this situation.

In Sudan, the conflict was defined in cultural, religious and ethnic terms. Therefore, partition was seen as logical by Western policymakers. Somalia is one of only a few African countries that is also a homogenous nation, with just one language and one culture. That’s why the international community is unwilling to recognise Somaliland as a sovereign state, says Redie Bereketeab. Since the collapse of Somalia in 1991 there has not been a government with which Somaliland can negotiate. Today, there is government in Mogadishu, but it is not interested in even discussing independence for Somaliland.

Apart from the unwillingness of the international community, the neighbouring states of Ethiopia and Kenya are reluctant to countenance independence for Somaliland. IGAD, the regional organisation that played a significant role in the achievement of independence by South Sudan, has been unable to play a similar role in Somaliland, owing to the concerns of neighbouring countries about their own ethnic Somali populations. They may fear that demands for independence will arise in their countries if Somaliland is recognised, says Redie Bereketeab.

Download the full discussion paper here