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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Thursday, April 17, 2003


Does Somaliland exist?
I discovered the plight of the Republic of Somaliland at AfricaPundit's discussion of the recent elections there. It's a heartwarming thing, actually--go to A Taste of Africa for the full scoop. AfricaPundit had this to say:
What amazes me is how much Somalilanders have accomplished in terms of building a country without the support of -- and despite the opposition of -- the UN and the international community. Surely, once this election is over, some countries will begin to officially recognize Somaliland. Goodness knows they've earned it.

I'm not sure why the US hasn't recognized Somaliland already, but doubtless there are diplomatic sensitivities to be considered.
As it turns out, not a single nation in the world has recognized Somaliland, despite the fact that they have been a coherent, peaceful and remarkably democratic country for 12 years now. That didn't quite explain it for me, and so I went digging. I found lots of good reasons to recognize Somaliland, but very few reasons not to. Here's an article outlining the situation. Somaliland is democratic, peaceful and abides by the rule of law. An article written nearly a year and a half ago for the Somaliland Forum outlines the reasons the US should recognize Somaliland:
1- From all indications, terrorism in Somalia is linked with al-Ittihad al-Islami an organization that is dedicated to fighting Ethiopia among other things. However, the idea of Somalis fighting Ethiopia predates the appearance of al-Ittihad al-Islami, and is an integral part of Somali political nationalism. By declaring their independence from Somalia, the people of Somaliland have confirmed their rejection of extremist Somali political nationalism, which is based on irredentism against neighboring countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya. Without Somaliland, it will be next to impossible for any Somali government to wage war against Ethiopia. Thus by recognizing Somaliland, the United States and the international community will help bury this aggressive Somali nationalism which led to two wars with Ethiopia (1964, 1977-8), and take care of one of the sources of conflict in the region, namely, Ethiopia's security needs.

2- By recognizing and assisting Somaliland, the United States and its coalition partners will also show skeptical Somalis and Muslims that the war against terrorism is not a war against Somalis or Muslims, and that the United States will help those who are willing to help themselves.

3- Somaliland offers a promising model for Somalis. By recognizing Somaliland, the United States will be encouraging Somalis to follow Somaliland's example of democracy, the rule of law, and peaceful co-existence.

4- Recognition of Somaliland will most likely be opposed by the Arta Faction (a.k.a the Somali Transitional Government) citing Somali territorial integrity, but those objections are groundless since the Somaliland Republic (or what was known as the British Protectorate of Somaliland) was a recognized state before it merged with Somalia and is only restoring its independence after a failed and catastrophic union. Somaliland meets international criteria for recognition such as a permanent population and internationally recognized boundaries. The U.S has also recently identified the Somali Transitional Government as being linked to terrorists, which should make the objections of that so-called Somali Transitional Government irrelevant to the campaign against terrorism and the future of Somaliland.
The US has not done this, however. In fact, while during the discussion for a bill passed in 1999 to give aid to Somaliland, the bill's sponsors were very clear that they would not recognize Somaliland as an independent nation, and were committed to a "unified" Somalia. No other nations have recognized Somaliland either, for similar reasons. But why? Take these remarks made just under a month ago by the former US Ambassador to Ethiopia:
Somaliland sees Ethiopia as an ally in its quest for support and recognition. Although Ethiopia understands that a stable, peaceful and independent Somaliland is in its interest, it is unwilling to be the first to recognize the government in Hargeisa. Somalia would immediately attribute nefarious motives to Ethiopian recognition of Somaliland, arguing that it wishes to balkanize Somalia and weaken Somali unity.

There are important clan ties between Somalilanders and the some 60 percent of the Djiboutian population that is Somali. Relations between Somaliland and Djibouti are correct and improving.

Saudi Arabia poses a major dilemma for Somaliland. A significant financial backer of the TNG and supporter of it within the Arab League, Saudi Arabia was traditionally the major importer of Somaliland livestock. For the better part of the last five years, Saudi Arabia has banned livestock from Somaliland on the grounds that it might be infected with Rift Valley Fever. Somaliland denies the charges, and there does not appear to be any current scientific evidence to support the claim.

In the meantime, the Saudi ban is doing grievous damage to the Somaliland economy. The ban has harmed nearly every kind of employment in the country├╣pastoralists, truck drivers, livestock traders, animal health staff, brokers, port employees and private business people.

In more recent years, Egypt has been a supporter of Somali unity and a strong Somali state that can serve as a counterweight to Ethiopia. Eighty-six percent of the water reaching the Aswan Dam in Egypt emanates from Ethiopia. The Nile River is, of course, Egypt's lifeline, and the leadership in Cairo wants to maintain maximum leverage over Ethiopia. A unified Somalia that might one day reassert its claims to Somali-inhabited areas of Ethiopia and has close links to Egypt would add to this leverage. As a result, Egypt is one of five countries that has recognized the TNG and opposes an independent Somaliland.

Eritrea, which received de facto independence from Ethiopia in 1991 and de jure independence in 1993, seemingly is a country that would be sympathetic to Somaliland's independence. On the contrary, it supports the unity of Somalia and is one of five nations to recognize the TNG in Mogadishu. Like Egypt, Eritrea also sees a strong and unified Somalia as a counterweight to Ethiopia.

Sudan's policy on Somaliland is especially intriguing. Sudan has traditionally supported Somali unity and is one of the five countries that recognized the TNG in Mogadishu. Sudan has been dealing with its own civil war since 1983 and does not wish to take any step that would provide additional justification for an independent southern Sudan. Acceptance of an independent Somaliland might weaken its own case for Sudanese unity.

Like Ethiopia, Kenya is primarily interested in a peaceful and friendly neighbor that does not export refugees and is in complete control of its borders. Kenya is also concerned that terrorist acts in Nairobi and Mombasa may have had some support from elements in Somalia. At the same time, Kenya does not want a strong neighbor that one day revives the Greater Somalia concept. For this reason, it is probably quietly sympathetic with an independent Somaliland. But as long as it is trying to solve the larger issue of peace in Somalia, it must remain completely neutral.
None of these are good enough reasons for the United States to fail to recognize what is already a country in everything but the title--and in the benefits that having that title brings to it. And more than that, it's a peaceful, democratic country that isn't a haven for terrorists. As a piece of supporting democracy in the muslim world, the US needs to recognize Somaliland as a sovereign nation, and not insist on cobbling together a nation that was put together 40 years ago, and fell apart 10 years ago.

To that end, I wrote Norm Coleman--Senator from the state with a larger Somali population than any other, and on the foreign relations committee--asking him to spearhead the drive for Somaliland's recognition. I'd suggest that you all do the same. It'd be a strike for democracy and against terror and despotic regimes--I don't see how we can pass this opportunity up.
Agree, disagree, have more information on the topic? Please, feel free to leave a comment. No profanity!

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