Somaliland – Progress towards a Regional and International Role (report)




Speaking of international relations, there exist two different types of sovereign states: ones that are officially recognized, and the ones which are, obviously, vice versa.

In numerous cases, we have seen the establishment of a considerable number of countries being either contested by few or, if unfortunate, most of the existing states. For instance, Taiwan, whose sovereignty is disputed by China; Palestine by Israel; Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Georgia (and only recognized by Russia and three others); Transnistria by Moldova; or Nagorno-Karabakh Republic by Azerbaijan. These are only a handful of examples of how formation of a ‘nation’, and a ‘state’, can be so easily contradicted against the current existing conditions.

But Somaliland is an exception. Formally, not even one sovereign state in this planet declares to this country an official recognition (its entire international relations operate rather on an informal basis).

Its existence can be traced back long before the devastating civil war in Somalia in 1990s. Unlike the rest of the country, which was administered by Italian government, Somaliland was controlled by the British instead. The war itself, compatible with the total absence of a centralized government in Mogadishu (rather than being epicenter of Somalia, it instead symbolizes the destruction, lawlessness, and hopelessness of the nation), enforced the local warlords in charge of the region, those who were long embattled with the regime back in the capital, to reach a compromise, and thus Somaliland was born.

With more than 3.5 million inhabitants living in the region, and with no countries officially acknowledging their existence, the newly-formed government had to fight a hard game to ensure social stability in the newly-born country. And subsequently the results start to pay off. The remittances sent back home (a World Bank report suggests the number sent by Somalilanders working abroad, mostly in Saudi Arabia, exceeds 1 billion US$ every year) were mostly used to rebuild the country’s shattered economy. Today, real-estate and construction projects have begun to mushroom throughout the country’s main cities, predominantly Berbera and Hargeysa (the chief capital).

After two decades of social stability and bustling economic growth, the government now seeks into a new, and deeper, venture: an official, and worldwide, international recognition. While the government still has to tackle numerous obstacles and stereotypes that hinder much of the foreign direct investment back in Somaliland – primarily due to the country’s association with Somalia as being chaotic, lawless, and anarchic, another difficulty ensues: Puntland, another autonomous region of Somalia that favors national union with Mogadishu, and also a copy-cat version of Somaliland in terms of social stability and economic growth, has begun to dispute a tremendous number of Somaliland’s territories. Several armed border clashes even took place in the past. Still, though, the government has numerous tasks to accomplish in both near and far future.

Chatham House, a non-governmental international-relations think tank based in London, UK, has recently interviewed two ministers of the Somaliland government regarding the country’s future international recognition. Click the link here for the full interview archive.

And for those who are not well-acquainted with this country (or even not aware if such country exists), click Wikipedia for further information.