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Independence of Somaliland: Promised land or Piped Dream

Unlike Somalia (in recent years), Somaliland has experienced a long period of peace and is currently fighting to be recognized as an independent state by the international community. The country which is still regarded as a part of Somalia lies in the Northern part of the war-torn country resting its feet in the Gulf of Aden. No country or international organization recognizes Somaliland as a country, but its President, Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo is leading the country to officially secede from Somalia and be recognized.

Somaliland?

Somaliland is located in the North Western part of Somalia. It is bordered by Djibouti, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The nation currently has its own democratically elected President, legislative house, currency and military force. However, due to the non-recognition of the country, its currency, Somalian shilling currently has no exchange rate. This has made international trade difficult and created impediments to getting foreign aids. Somaliland has an agriculture based economy with much reliance on its livestock industry.

The region also boasts of an international airport in its capital Hargeisa. The official languages are Somali, Arabic and English and its 4 million citizens are predominantly Muslims.

Somaliland, as British Somalia gained independence in 1960. British Somalia used to be a British protectorate in which the colony reserved its local rights and left foreign relations to the British. It is largely unaffected by the war which has been plagued Somalia for the past two and half decades.

Loss of Independence and dream of a new future?

Somaliland was an independent state, although only for five days, after gaining independence from Britain. It then relinquished its sovereignty when it formed a union with the Italian Somalia to become one entity called Somalia Republic on July 1, 1960 but has since 1991 opted out of the union by declaring itself independent.

Hargeisa, British Somaliland protectorate. The women's market. - The National Archives UK

Hargeisa, British Somaliland protectorate. The women’s market. – The National Archives UK

The world would at least require the greater Somalia to give its consent to the secession of Somaliland and this has not been forthcoming. Nations across this world also fear that this may inspire the rebellion of regions from their host countries. An example may be seen in the attempted secession of Biafra from the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In Somalia, there are already three other secessionist provinces – Puntland, Hiranland and Jubbaland cut along clan lines. The African Union also thinks this might create political tension within the country and surrounding countries.

Somaliland border dispute with Puntland. As of 1 July 2007, part of the disputed territory declared the state of Maakhir, which rejoined Puntland in 2009

Somaliland border dispute with Puntland. As of 1 July 2007, part of the disputed territory declared the state of Maakhir, which rejoined Puntland in 2009

There have been very little alteration to the European colonial borders in Africa since when they were created in the 19th century and geopolitics between nations tend to respect these classifications. The only times that alterations have been made were for Eritrea in 1993 and South Sudan in 2011.

How Is This Different From Other Secessionist Stories?

Unlike cases like South Sudan and the renewed and repressed resurgence of Biafra in Nigeria, Somaliland, formerly British Somalia had gained independence,  before willfully entering into a union with Italian Somalia to form the single entity of Somalia. It might be argued that promoting the independence of Somaliland from Somalia might send a message to other secessionist states to further break away from their host countries, but Somaliland’s representatives will argue that it is only revisiting a union it had willfully entered.

Somaliland’s foreign minister, Saad Ali Shire told Ethiopian news agency, Reporter, Somaliland is an independent state, a country that forged a union with another country and was only seeking to leave the union rather than a region that wants to secede from a country.

Steps to regain independence?

Efforts have been made by Somalilanders to achieve the much sought after independence since 1991. There had been talks since 2012 with Somalia for the smooth break between the two countries but after no significant progress was made. The country also made its call for independence public and has submitted a request to be admitted into the commonwealth which is yet to be granted. Some UK councils including Tower Hamlets & Cardiff have thrown their support for the recognition of Somaliland

Campaigners after Tower Hamlets 'recognition' vote pressing for Britain to formally accept breakaway Somaliland in November 2015

Campaigners after Tower Hamlets ‘recognition’ vote pressing for Britain to formally accept breakaway Somaliland in November 2015

The current President, Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo is leading the country in preparing a legal case for its separation from Somalia and subsequent worldwide recognition at the International Court of Justice, The Hague to settle its call for independence by arbitration.


[Header image]–   Photo credit:   carnetsdafrique.blog.lemonde.fr

 

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