Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The International Community Should Recognize Somaliland

Somalia is the perfect example of the failed state and has been so for almost twenty years. Since the fall of Siad Barre’s dictatorship in 1991, the country has been in a perpetual state of civil war. Most of the country is ruled by various warlords, and the country is in a state of perpetual war, with so many different clans and different Islamic extremist groups that it is hard to even keep count. In large parts of the country, it isn’t even clear who is in charge. All attempts by other countries to alleviate the situation have failed. Yet the international community continues to pour billions of dollars of aid into Somalia.

However, there is an exception. After Barre’s fall, the north of Somalia declared independence and named itself Somaliland. Like the rest of Somalia, Somaliland is composed of rival clans. Unlike the rest of Somalia, clan members have been willing to embrace the rule of law over the short-term dominance of their clans. Somaliland has not been perfect. It has had on and off conflicts with the neighboring Puntland, which is another autonomous entity created after the collapse of the Somali government. However, Somaliland has been relatively stable and, moreover, has attempted to comply with international law. Unlike Puntland and the various warlords controlling the remaining areas, Somaliland has moved to prevent piratical behavior by its residents. It has gone so far as to convict people simply for plotting piracy.

Despite the strides Somaliland has made as a nation, its situation is precarious. Its independence is not recognized by any country. The economic situation is much better than in the rest of Somalia, but Somaliland is by no means prosperous. Most importantly, Islamic extremists have recognized the success of Somaliland and have deliberately tried to destabilize it with terrorist attacks.

The Islamic extremists and the clan warlords recognize that, as Somaliland continues as an example of peace and stability, the example of a successful state threatens them and their respective domains. The United States and the rest of the international community need to recognize this as well. There are two simple steps to help this fledgling state: First, we must give formal recognition of Somaliland as a separate country. Second, some of the international aid directed to Somalia must instead go directly to Somaliland. Much of this aid is wasted as food supplies and other forms of aid are often seized by warlords and other groups. The people of Somaliland will actually benefit from this aid.

Somaliland has stood on its own feet for almost twenty years in a land of bloodshed and violence. During that time, the country has embraced the rule of law and helped the international community address piracy. No one else in the area is either willing or able to confront piracy. It’s time the international community had the wisdom and courage to recognize Somialand as an independent state in the community of nations.


Lisa said...

Do you know if there are any reasons why it hasn't been accepted as an independent country? Something to do with not wanting to antagonise Somalia which I guess still recognises Somaliland as part of its country?

Joshua said...

Yes, most of the international community nominally supports the Transitional Federal Government as the recognized government of all Somalia. There's a perception that if we don't strongly support the TFG then some Islamic group (most likely a reincarnation of the Islamic Courts Union) will come to power. Recognizing Somaliland would be a slap in the face to the TFG and a public acknowledgment of the government's failure.

Also, from a perspective of international law, it is problematic to recognize a seccessor state without a lot of steps.

Shalmo said...

Sudan and Darfur is a conflict that has become totally absorbed by Western intellectuals - without most even knowing what the conflict is about

I recommend reading anything Mahmood Mamdani has written on the topic as of recent
he's probably one of the top 5 Africa scholars in the world today

the Western media paints the conflict as "Muslim Vs Muslim" - Arab Vs African
when in reality the conflict goes back to the division between Camel Nomads, Cattle Nomads, Sedentary Tribes, etc

No surprise. This is often done with African conflicts in order to decontextualise and "dumb down" conflicts for the average newspaper reader or TV viewer.
You often get what Mamdani calls a "pornography" of violence
newsreels showing seemingly random acts of violence - dates, context and insight are all absent - what is important for the viewer or consumer is the actual image of Africans killing Africans
or more importantly today - Arabs killing Africans

the numbers are also very odd concerning Darfur.
I don't know if you've ever heard about "Save Darfur"
the NGO/Pressure Group theyre one of the many NGOs that have produced figures for the conflict
and Mamdani has analysed the the numbers of casualties - and concluded that they're exaggerated

off the top of my head - I can't remember the actual figures
but I remember the official US government numbers being scrutinised by guys like Mamdani
and now the conensus is that the official figures given by the US government are false

- their result was that 400,000 people had died in the 26 months following the onset of the crisis.

- A year later, the United States Government Accountability Office in Nov 2006 decided to audit the work of all those
producing mortality statistics on darfur. It audited 3 that gave low death rates and high death rates. The GAO put together
12 experts to read through the stuff, and report to Congress in 2006. They noted problems in sample collecting in child
refugees. The highest estimates were most suspect - several shortcomings, use of speculative and erroneous data, etc. The GAO
critiqued Hagan and Reeves had unsound source data. 10 experts out of 10 found that reeves source data was definitely
unsound. The GAO recommended to congress the ensurance of accountability of data collecting and interpreting in such

I'd say it has more to do with Iraq than anything else. well if you look at it this way
the most powerful mobilisation in New York was about Darfur and not Iraq. Why did the American public take so quickly and unconditionally to Darfur and not Iraq?

It's because Iraq calls on Americans to make historical and contextual analysis - but Darfur is made a MORAL case

also, another interesting statistic
the number of people dying in Darfur is 10% of those dying of Malaria across Africa

If you read a paper in NY, and read about political violence in Iraq and Darfur - if you gather
estimates of how many people have died you get a high of 400,000 and a low of 200,000 for Darfur, and
650,000 and low of 150,000 for Iraq. Numbers are roughly similar, but in reality Iraq is higher. If you ask who is doing the killings it is done by paramilitaries, as well as militaries, and sometimes they interchange.

if you ask who is being killed - they are not being killed for being individuals, but for representing certain
groups. These are the similarities. Yet, the naming of what is going on in Darfur is genocide, and what goes
on in Iraq is insurgency.

I think the West is fixating on naming; pointing fingers, showing who is the culprite as long as it isnt themselves. Again
this goes back generations as well and is something the West has been doing for say the past 200 years.

Joshua said...

Shalmo, that's fascinating. May I ask how it is related to the blog post?

DahirS said...

The UN would have us believe that, they are trying to respect the OAU’s wishes therefore they can not recognize Somaliland. Does anyone believe that? The other argument that has been raised is if Somaliland breaks away than the rest of Somalia will fall apart I think it is too late for this scenario. Frankly, I think it has to do with oil contracts and debt owed to some powerful nations.

Shalmo said...

sorry it was a facebook note I wrote a while ago. wrong time to post it.

BUT the same dilemna applies. Everything I said about western interests in Africa apply to Somalia as well.

Anonymous said...

On the matter of Somaliland, readers will enjoy reading the superb text by the South African scholar Prof Iqbal Jhazbhay, with the title:


Prof Ali Mazrui rates this text "a major scholarly success". His Foreword to this book can be found at:

Details on the book are at:

This author looks at some of the international and regional dynamic of international recognition.


Shalmo said...

This is excellent. A good review of american "love" for Sudan/Darfur:

This shows how full of shit the USA and Britain are. This is why everyone hates the West.

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