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.
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