In the grand scheme of things the heated words or actions of politicians before and after Somaliland’s Presidential Election will soon begotten. What will be remembered will be the remarkable spirit of unity that existed throughout the campaign. Somalilanders have embraced demographic debate with considerable gusto, and have largely enjoyed all the razzamatazz that has accompanied the campaigning. Naturally, there will be some who will be aggrieved by the fact that the final result was not what they and their supporters had hoped for, but such is life, and such is democracy. Elections would not be elections without a few bruised egos. A considerable amount of time, money and effort was expended by all parties, and those who do not emerge victorious are bound to cry foul, and look to blame others for the result. Yet with time, calm will return and in the cold light of day there will be an appreciation of the fact that Somaliland was the real winner. It is thus important that all citizens respect the result and that the new President and his government commit to work for the good of all.
By and large Somaliland has walked tall, and as a result many people across the globe have looked to it and have been surprised and marvelled at its example. Certainly, other states are keen to discover more, both in terms of the Somaliland approach and the valuable lessons learned in respect of the deployment of iris recognition technology. An African democracy has been (and remains) in the spotlight and this itself is encouraging. International Election Observers have worked tirelessly to monitor what has been going on, and as ever their feedback is useful, and something to be taken note of and acted upon. Somalilanders are rightly proud of all that they have achieved, and yet are at the same time disappointed. What is the cause of this disappointment? To some degree or other most Somalilanders feel let down by the international community, a community whose default position appears to be to praise Somaliland whilst denying it the one thing it most earnestly desires. In certain quarters there is a growing belief that whatever Somaliland does is never enough. Foreign governments, academics and NGO-wallahs are ever ready with warm words, but these generally fall well short of calling for recognition. An increasing number of Somalilanders believe that the international community should stop treating Somaliland as a laboratory experiment and both listen to and respect the wishes of the people. In the opinion of many, Somaliland has more than earned its stripes.
Of course the harsh realities of global politics mean that recognition is always going to be a thorny issue, one that diplomats are happy to leave in another person’s in-tray. Certain of Somaliland’s neighbours are not shy about creating a hue and cry every time that recognition is mentioned. The African Union invariably proves a bulwark against change, even if it is positive change. Naturally, Somalilanders are becoming tired of waiting, and it is easy to understand their frustration. It is not a question of if, but when? Somaliland will be recognised, and after the real and faux indignation has died down, many will wonder why it took so long. Meanwhile rumour has it that various international lawyers are brushing up their knowledge of the legal principle uti possidetis juris, whilst reacquainting themselves with the Montevideo Convention (1933). Regardless of what diplomats and international lawyers are up to, it is worth remembering that for all their undoubted passion, Somalis are a stoical people. They will watch, wait and know that when the time is right all will come good.
Mark T. Jones