By Mohamed Abdilahi Duale
During the last several weeks, it has become clear that theindependence of Iraqi Kurdistanhas been fervently debated in the political circles of the international community. This came after ISIS militants occupied many strategic towns in Iraq and the Iraqi military was not able to protect Iraqi citizens from the militants, and collapsed eventually. And after Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi’s autonomous region of Kurdistan had officially announced that there will be a referendum for independence in the coming months.
Iraqi Kurdistan and Somaliland share many important underlying factors, and it is the thesis of this piece to explain.
First, Iraqi Kurdistan is a part and parcel of the large scattered Kurdistan Ethnicity that has been partitioned into four different countries: Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq. Not to mention the genocidal campaign of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s against Iraqi Kurdistanis. The same subjugations and suppressions that the people of Somaliland experienced during their 31 years rule under Italian Somalia. Nevertheless, it is political fact of life that Iraqi Kurdistan has never been a nation-state as Somaliland was an independent nation-state on 26 June in 1960.
Second, Iraqi Kurdistan has been democratic and peaceful since its first elections in 1992. Even though, Iraqi Kurdistan’s democracy is not analogous with the democracy in Somaliland, at least it is a growing democracy where there are different political parties. Somaliland, although yet to be fully recognized by any states, has experienced sustained peace amidst conflicting states in the region of the Horn of Africa and has been democratic since 1993.Given their common experience of democracy, one might argue that one of the reasons that motivated them to adopt the democratic system can be attributed to their common biter, long struggle.
Third, both Iraq and the erstwhile Republic of Somalia are characterized as the mothers of failed states – their state failure are characterized by a disintegration of state structures, where their respective governments are in-capable of discharging basic governmental duties with respect to their populace and territories. They are caught in an apparently perpetual cycle of anarchy, terrorism and failed foreign interventions. Both Iraq and Somalia do not enjoy empirical sovereignty but rather judicial sovereignty. Not to mention that the nationalism factor is missing from their national troops, and this is clearly elucidated by the latest ISIS attack on many Iraqi towns, where Iraqi national troops simply collapsed. Similarly, the so-called Somali national troops have been overwhelmingly defeated by Alshabaab Nihilists, whenever they fight each other.
With respect to the current developments of Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence, many scholars and journalist are arguing that it is the opportune time for Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence. Jonathan Foreman, former New York Post correspondent on Iraq war has succinctly contended, “The time has come for America and the west to support Kurdish Independence and, simultaneously, to set up U.S bases in Iraqi Kurdistan that would make it America’s military hub in the region.” Equally, Professor William Waters, from Indian University Maurer School of law has argued that,”Kerry asked Kurds to be statesmen. Statesmanship is a quality we associate with states. The Kurds have long wanted one; perhaps now is the time. For that to happen requires statesmanship – from us.”
Furthermore, the Israelis are also supporting the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, and this came after the first tanker carrying crude oil produced in Iraqi Kurdistan arrived at the Israeli Mediterranean port of Ashkelon. Prime Minister Netanyahu has publicly announced that he is backing the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Finally, there are indications that Iraqi Kurdistan is likely to become an independent state, given the current security and political situation of Iraq, as well as the stability, peace and democratic governance that is prevailing in Iraqi Kurdistan. It is worth mentioning to note that the independence of Kurdistan would be game-changer for states aspiring to be independent- this would specifically boost and increase Somaliland’s aspirations of de jure state. If Iraqi Kurdistan is recognized as an independent state, it would be very difficult for the International Community to thwart or withhold from Somaliland its fully-deserved international recognition.
Mohamed Abdilahi Duale is a political analyst and an independent researcher currently based in Somaliland.