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Published On: Wed, Sep 10th, 2014

Somaliland as statehood: article review 2014

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By Mohamed Muse

Since the independence of Somaliland in 1991, there have been multi- dimensional challenges against Somaliland foreign policy. The challenges have led to ineffective diplomacy challenges which have made the country to remain in isolations for years. The isolation of state have also implications in the affairs of the government in country and internationally. This document tries to distinguish between diplomacy and foreign policy goals showing that are two entities with two different perspectives in international relations looking at the Somaliland Statehood, Recognition and the Ongoing Dialogue with Somalia. By: Nasir M. Ali (Master’s Degree graduate in Political Science & International Relations (PSIR), Addis Ababa University) which policy makers ought to have accurate information and understanding of the factors that influence the foreign policy and diplomacy relationship.

The skill and profession of the Somalilanders involved in the process both leaders, scholars and Somaliland diplomats will remain crucial in developing and  designing of the  Somaliland political strategic paper which will conceptualize the foreign policy and strengthen approach of integration to Somaliland sustain strong and long term foreign policy.

In reference to different articles and resources on Somaliland history suggesting that Somaliland diplomats and leadership should focus on narrative diplomatic which its critiques is focused on how careers of individuals in the statesmen does not go beyond these issues. Scholars look more to concentrate on policies beginning at the right with little development till to expand in the role of diplomacy in which formulation otherwise could remain less significant or otherwise may lead fail to notice.

In foreign relations, Somaliland has good interaction with governments in the region like the Horn of Africa nations, but still have a long way to go for the countries far beyond on its border. Although with several bilateral relations and cooperation’s with others on issues like trade, political, and economic developments there have been to quite cover which look positive when to deal with external relations. Foreign countries did yet convince Somaliland’s right to exist as an independent state instead ignoring the Somaliland capacity to establish their long lasting policies to exist as a recognized state and contribute in bridging the gap between Somaliland, regions, and rest of Somalia.[1]Different reports indicates that Somaliland has taken a move with its foreign policy on conventional version of foreign policy which in its interpretation was that Somaliland has not taken part in any peace reconciliation that affected warring parties in Somalia and its continuous conflict that promptly damaged the courageous mind of the people. The remaining concerns of establishing a recognized diplomatic relations, Somaliland have established relatively and moderate diplomacy that led Somaliland in  attaining an officially permitted acknowledgment which otherwise could last a diplomatic isolation from the rest of the  continent, and world as whole.

In history, Somaliland has been comfortable to receive delegations from different countries, which roughly can be said to have failed to respond the Somaliland’s quest to be recognized. On the other hand, it cannot be said that the recognition by the international community will need to see more being done on the domestic political arena than issues in relations to regional and international relations. This issues relates to the creation of an image of a nation which fundamentally needs to be open and give space to everyone who can participates in the reconstructions of the country for political, social, and economic subdivision which later will hand in hand inform the ability to master the diplomatic issues and reducing the challenges of foreign policy that always are the factors in cultivating international recognition.

The legal aspect of self-determination: Somaliland is located in horn of Africa which is bordered by Ethiopia on the west, Djibouti to the northwest, adjacent to the northeast by Gulf of Aden or red sea, Puntland state of Somalia in the east, and south by the federal government of Somalia. Normally Somaliland people practice traditional and nomadic pastoralist system with 4 major clan families and indivisible others (called minority).

Somaliland separated from the rest of Somalia in 1991, Somaliland continuously and repeatedly claims that it had united with rest of the country voluntarily in which historically and culturally certain. One of the most commonly articulated concerns about the idea of Somaliland’s independence is that it would set a dangerous precedence by sanctioning a redrawing of the African map ((Somaliland Statehood, Recognition and the Ongoing Dialogue with Somalia,  (Adam Haji-Ali Ahmed, P. 20) however, mostly if not all the Somalis have rejected the notion of Somaliland as an independent state instead of having a greater state of Somalia in which actually that Somaliland history and background is not believing in that. The notion of Somaliland will re –unite with the rest of Somalia is no longer there for the most Somalilanders but there is a believe that suggests that there is new emerging policy which it want to deal with rest of Somalia.

Be it as it may, the most important highlights are to understand why regional and international community did not respond the demand of Somaliland to international recognition as an independent state. [2]As an unrecognized state, the history of Somaliland inspired pliability and rebuilding and of a truthfully African new beginning which is to be aimed as the main lessons to teach the rest of Africa, and the international community.

The key elements to remember is the Somaliland’s nation building and reconstruction after the post-war and international relations that focuses on the practical reconciliation and reconstruction to the mode of getting recognition from the international community which as an important feel that sustainability of independent and development become as an actor in the region. The currently comprises society in Somaliland drove by succeed reconcile and coherent clan resolutions that emerged to lead of the war and follow with democratic path. Along the international relations in Somaliland, there are other statuses that made more complicated to its recognition including its rival geopolitical objectives between major actors in the horn of Africa which most of these provide for into, fundamental conflict against in the nation-building. In the fact, Somaliland has largely managed for its own with considerable support from international community to various stage of transition including election periods. The approach which Somaliland used to driven and transform as a nation-building is the culturally rooted bottom –up strategy to the post war that has the implication to achieving a modernization with relatively stable.

The culturally rooted ideas that give opportunities of participation resulted Somaliland sustain a form of economic development and participatory democratic governance followed by a centralized form of authority and level led different administrative government.

In its self-determination,  Somaliland argue on its  first justification that Somaliland claims lies in its history and background of British colony which has its legal right to exercise the right of self-determination of independency from its colonizer body. Argues to Somaliland as a former colony could to exercise its right to self-determination where there has not yet any so by invalidating the union with south Somalia since there was no national referendum or popular vote (Somaliland Case: Unilateral Secession vs. Dissolution with legal self-determination under international Law (Adam Haji-Ali Ahmed, Paper Two: Legal Aspects of Somaliland Case in the New Engagement Policy with Somalia, P. 28).

The most important aim is to seek recognition (independent state) and the parent state which will collaborate with Somaliland as state of government, region, and international community. The aim of this has been part of the requirements like the domestic law that would need to make some provisions for secession which Somaliland would need to engage in principle negotiations with the Somali government on the issue of secession.

The international law looking at the right but the self-determination should be exercised within the framework of sovereign states as Somaliland where as it at a stalemate, for the reason that it lacks an effective parent state from which to apply for secession.  The state which still negotiate for its recognition as an independence state in international law and the nation-state system leave Somaliland with no alternative but to declare its independence and begin to act as an independent state, which it has done for years. The territory of Somaliland easily meets the criteria set forth by the Montevideo Convention. ——-‘’insert a footnote’’

In social and economic aspects, Somaliland communities are pastoralist. The livestock sector remains the backbone of the Somaliland economic which contribute to a sustainable income and employment opportunities where on the other shape the socio economic realities.[3]

In period of statehood, Somaliland has been separating from the greater Somalia (union) which they united after 4 days of their independent from colonizer of the great Briton in 1960. Since that history Somaliland appeared to avoid the devastation of warlordism which completely affected the rest of Somalia in the process of compromise of political reconciliation between community leaders those precedents into Somaliland cornerstones which would far looking to receive international support despite any recombination to deliver by international community however face a reluctant that was accorded to Eritrea. The circumstance between Somaliland and Eritrea on colonial experience and harsh rules from parent state which could analytically said it have forced both to begin their liberation movements have now or recently seen politically contrasted although in Somaliland there has been mutual learning in terms of ethnic democracy while Eritreans started to be radical social democracy that have both religious and ethnic division (Somaliland in Contrast to Eritrea Hussein M Adam, P.1).Talking about the characterizes of both countries, Somaliland conducted referendum in 2001 where 95% of its people voted yes to have independent state from the rest of Somaliland as well as to have separate constitution to will guide Somaliland’s future state which had successfully been counted into its calendar but what happen it that Somaliland had not get attention of international respond of how diligently held this thoroughly democratic steps toward its future political, social and economic development and to determine its future status. However, in contrary what was happens is that when Eritrea held its internationally monitored referendum to establish its future status, the vote had weigh downed to led independence for Eritrea as statehood which forced immediately the international community like united nations, US, Ethiopia which was the parent state to Eritrea, and others to recognize as  new state from its period of 1991 as autonomous state which later within two years term had become internationally recognized state and this kind of example could led Somaliland with its resistant movement who for their case of dissolving from the union and declared to form a new state which now having the republic of Somaliland was not bear for that characteristics to attribute generally as state and devoid and its international recognition is still within held due to unclear justification from domestic leaders, regional guarantors, or the international community.

Despite the comparisons provided and conditions linking up to that point and considerable assessments which so many times have been made to qualify Somaliland status to deserve international recognition have still deeper grasping to the Somaliland situation which still under significant peculiarities although Somaliland so far made domestic  tranquility and bit forward economic growth however, there is still debatable issues concerning about the principle of self-determination which most African countries willing not want to see in such much autonomous states increasing in the region and later confront to demand to be secessionist and not ready to apply federalism system of government which for example some governments in Africa willing to provide military pressure which forced to be separatist movements and creating challenges and transforming them into movements which however Somaliland could be the learning experience in comparison of basic policy and implications of new states.

Somaliland with new strategic partnership, the long period to now the intention of focus on the diplomacy in the region or other African countries seems demonstration of its political isolation and low economic concerns. This also made Somaliland aware of the insurmountable value divergence between itself, rest of Somalia which is the main concerns to accept Somaliland reality and the world. The possible strategy seemed to be to look back, and to strengthen talks with Somalia government with the developing a changes as a defensive mechanism to their self-determination.

As part of its effort to looking for political assistance, Somaliland leaders must dispatch delegates to visit the most important African countries (AU commissioners, SADC, etc) to highlights the intention of seeking potential political supports from the African side and take to lead to respond Somaliland desire .

In the context of Somaliland’s foreign policy, there should be three dominating objectives such as national democratic development that it had already made, the promotion of internal and regional peace and security and its impartial order, and the little sustainability of economic growing (Chenchen Wu, P. 6.). However, reminding lies on strategy demands of extensive resource as well as markets that other diplomacy requires supporting in its international concerns through likelihood persuasion it seeks allies to advance the interests.[4]

In contrary to the predictable perception that Somaliland’s interests to the international community should mainly be political recognition as legal state and economic development support schemes. But despite the credible and well established security in Somaliland , the interests of those in the power and international community to Somaliland must be include at least their national and international interests,   political and economic interest, to push the pressing Somaliland issues. Somaliland seeks international support for its domestic political legitimacy and also gear to hold foreign policy agenda internationally, especially in multilateral forums by given the size of the county and population vote.

Somaliland is relatively rich in natural resources and its underdeveloped market has a potential to create abundant business potential for national, regional, and international business players. Enhanced regional and international economic growth on the ground creates extra challenges for Somaliland’s political booming and extreme possible investment that it should receive from international level. By far, this could have been the primary concerns of Somaliland’s current status. As Somaliland pushes for democratization of international relations however  the success of the fresh democratic role model and relations with its neighboring country and those in the region have been become an ever more important goal for Somaliland in  both the domestic and foreign policy purposes.[5]

After all, there is no analysis that Somaliland should run far beyond from its current position to generate more on its prominent issue for regional and international level. Yet, the overall African continent and world strategic importance for Somaliland remains low. At the same time, the political utility of the African countries to Somaliland recognition has remained unchanged since its breakaway from Somalia while its economic relations are at a sequentially low level since the declaration of history though it’s not known for its political activities are on another level. But there is continues trend which normally results into challenges for all kind of policies like insecurity to all kind of citizens present in Somaliland, reputational risks generated by some political actors’ over-emphasizing economic benefits and neglecting Somaliland’s long-term needs which complicates the Somaliland political agenda and its economic goals in the region and rest of the world and this will have an impact between short-term commercial gains and long-term national interests.

By Mohamed Mohamoud Muse

Master’s Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy

Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies – IPCS, University of Hargeisa


End Notes:

[1]. Paper One: Overcoming Diplomatic Isolation: Forging a New Somaliland Approach, By: Nasir M. Ali (Master’s Degree graduate in Political Science & International Relations (PSIR), Addis Ababa University. Graduate Attaché (2009–2010) of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), P 5-1.

2. Paper Two: Legal Aspects of Somaliland Case in the New Engagement Policy with Somalia, By: Adam Haji-Ali Ahmed – Advocate, conflict resolution practitioner, Researcher, Lecturer, the Director of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) of the University of Hargeisa.

3. The Socio-economic Implications of the Livestock Ban in Somaliland FEWS NET IQC Famine Early Warning System Network Contract No. AOT-I-00-00-00142-00, Task Order 2 By Cindy F. Holleman Consultant to FEWS NET/Somalia December 2002 Nairobi.

4. China’s Foreign Policy towards Africa, Author: Chenchen Wu (the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University).

5. AFRICA in CHINA’S FOREIGN POLICY, John L. Thornton China Centre and Africa Growth Initiative April 2014, P. 3, & 4

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