By Edan Adan Ismail
In the quest for independence, there are good days and there are bad days. May 18th is a good day. On May 18th, our Independence Day, the people of Somaliland will be filled with hope and renewed determination. Our Independence Day serves as a token of all that we’ve achieved thus far on the road to sovereignty, and as an aching reminder of our aspiration for recognition of our independence — an aspiration that remains unfulfilled.
Let’s begin with a brief history.
In 1960, Somaliland gained its independence from Great Britain and was recognized as a sovereign state by 35 nations, including all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Five days later, the government of Somaliland chose to unite with Somalia to create a “Greater Somalia.” But this union proved to be catastrophic. The central government in Mogadishu brutally repressed the people of Somaliland, killing 50,000 of its citizens, displacing another 500,000, bombing its cities and laying over 1 million land mines on its territory.
In 1991, the people of Somaliland revoked the Act of Union and declared the independent Republic of Somaliland based on the borders of the former British Protectorate of Somaliland.
Since that time, Somaliland has developed into a dynamic and stable democracy. A formal constitution was approved in 2001 by 97.7 percent of the population in a national referendum assessed by international observers as free and fair. Our constitution guarantees the separation of powers and the protection of active political opposition, a free and diverse media, and fundamental human rights and civil liberties. Nationwide local and parliamentary elections are held regularly. Presidential elections took place in 2003 and 2012, and resulted in a peaceful transfer of power.
From the vantage point of the United States, Somaliland has been on the right side of all the important issues. Our government stands steadfastly with America in the fight against terror and we readily share security information, we strictly enforce the UN arms embargo against Somalia, and Somaliland has eradicated piracy in its coastal waters through aggressive law enforcement. Internally, we have disbanded clan militias and incorporated them into our official police and military structures.
In the ever troubled Horn of Africa, Somaliland stands out. We are the exception. We are democratic, we are stable, we are peaceful, and we are a place in which a woman can raise to the top levels of civil society and government, like I did.
Yet to this day, and to my continued astonishment, our sovereignty remains unrecognized by the international community. By the silent consent of leaders around the globe, we are forced to exist within the precarious confines of Somalia.
As I write this, I realize that some may say we haven’t the independence to account for an Independence Day. But I say that we already have all the makings of independence, and the evidence is right here in Somaliland for the world to see. If only the world would look our way.
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