Somaliland is celebrating its 25th anniversary of independence Wednesday, but as far as the international community is concerned, Somaliland is not a country. It remains part of Somalia. International recognition of statehood may still be a long time coming.
People, cattle, camels, donkeys and a lion, dressed up in Somaliland’s red, white and green flag Wednesday for parades and celebrations marking 25 years since Somaliland’s self-declared independence from the Federal Republic of Somalia.
Mohamed Ahmed is the executive director of the Somaliland Non State Actors Forum, based in Hargeisa. He, like many other Somalilanders, takes offense to the phrase “self-declared.”Memorial to victims of Somaliland’s civil war from 1988 to 1991, in Hargeisa, Somaliland, March 29, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)
“We are very much strong,” he said. “The international community must accept our case, and I think there is no reason the international community [should] hesitate this time Somaliland not being recognized, because already we have shown that Somaliland has maintained its peace and security, economic development, infrastructure.”Somaliland broke from Somalia in 1991 after a three-year civil war. Somalia has refused to recognize that independence but has afforded the region autonomy.
Own government and military
Somaliland has its own government and military and a separate currency. It holds elections and even has a national passport, although travel can often be difficult on an unrecognized country’s documents.Soldiers participate in a military parade to mark the 24th self-declared independence day for the breakaway Somaliland nation in the capital Hargeysa, May 18, 2015.
And unlike their southern neighbors, Somalilanders enjoy relative security.
But University of Minnesota professor Abdi Samatar says the international community has reasons for not recognizing Somaliland.
“And if the northern Somalis become Somaliland, and the African Union sanctions that, there is nothing that will stop the African Union from looking into other secessionist groups and saying that they should also go,” he said. “So the international community, particularly the United States and the European Union, have been playing second fiddle to the African Union to see where Somaliland or Somalia goes.”Memorial to victims of Somaliland’s civil war, from 1988 to 1991, in Hargeisa, Somaliland, March 31, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)
Despite its gains, Somaliland is not perfect, says Samatar. A territorial dispute between Somaliland and Puntland continues over the provinces of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn. Somalilanders suffer from high unemployment rates, and many are still risking the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean to illegally migrate.Landscape view of Hargeisa, Somaliland, March 29, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)
Samatar argues Somalis are better off as one larger block, rather than separate, smaller ones.
“And so, jointly putting their resources together, they will be at a greater advantage to compete with Ethiopia, and Kenya, rather than become different principalities,” he said.
Before 1960, Somalia was divided by colonial powers. The British controlled the northern protectorate of Somaliland, while Italy was in charge of the rest. The two regions united after independence in 1960. That arrangement lasted until civil war broke out in 1988.