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Somaliland should be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize

Upon gaining independence from Britain on June 26, 1960, Somaliland voluntarily merged with Somalia on July 1st, 1960, to create the Republic of Somalia. In the wake of the dissolution of the Central Somali state, Somaliland reinstated its sovereignty on May 18, 1991.While fulfilling all the criteria for statehood, i.e., defined boundaries, a permanent population and a functioning government that routinely engages in relations with other states and international organisations, Somaliland is yet to achieve de jure recognition but continues to function as a de-facto sovereign state.

Somaliland has created an organic and legitimate hybrid state rooted in society by merging Somali institutions of governance with constitutional multi-party democracy. In doing so, the young state has transcended the (semi) Weberian OECD-model of statehood and has given birth to the hybrid turn in the peace and state building literature. The people of Somaliland have demonstrated a genuine and robust will to maintain peace and build a vibrant democracy. Since 1991, Somaliland has experienced five consecutive peaceful transfers of power. Impressed with the successes of Somaliland’s peace and state building trajectory, some scholars and practitioners have gone as far as to suggest that Somaliland offers an alternative model of statehood in Africa.

Making Somaliland a puzzling and fascinating case is that its successes were achieved with virtually no external assistance. Political and social leaders in Somaliland have achieved on their own what the combined capacity and economic means of the international community has failed to achieve in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Somalia. Actors fighting on opposing sides of one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars voluntarily ceased hostilities, peacefully negotiated and in this way created peace, stability, democracy and built an inclusive state. Why Somaliland has succeeded on its own while numerous other post conflict societies have failed despite foreign intervention and assistance is a question that continues to baffle scholars and policymakers alike.

Somaliland’s road to peace and a functioning democracy was challenging and required concerted effort and leadership steered by prudence and providence. Throughout the 1980s Somalilanders were arbitrarily and indiscriminately persecuted by Maxamed Ziad Barre’s brutal military regime, culminating in 1988 where Somaliland’s two largest cities were razed, killing 50.000 people. Rather than prolonging the war after Barre’s army was ousted from Somaliland in early 1991, leaders of the insurgency (Somali National Movement) that fought Barre and representatives of the communities that had supported the central government voluntarily commenced post war peace and reconciliation efforts. A series of peace conferences took place in different areas of the country from the early 1990s to the mid-1990s. The first grand conference was held in the port city of Berbera in early 1990 with the last being held in the capital of Hargeysa in 1996-1997. It was at these conferences that the different social groupings in Somaliland would meet, each make their case in the spirit of Somali egalitarianism, peacefully negotiate, and solve thorny issues through consensus. This capacity to overcome internal collective action challenges through generalized pro-social behaviour is a key factor in grasping Somaliland’s remarkable success in peace and state building. While Somalilanders were struggling with consolidating peace and building a viable state, the international community, under the guise of the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM II), was going at lengths to disrupt Somaliland’s reconciliation efforts and tried to bring all actors under the framework of UN-led peace and state building in Mogadishu. It is therefore safe to say that Somaliland did not merely make it without external assistance during its formative years (1991-2001), but that it made it despite of the international community.

FILE PHOTO: A Nobel Prize medal replica is on display inside the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway September 19, 2022. REUTERS/Victoria Klesty

Against this backdrop, it appears peculiar that Somaliland has not yet been shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize. Since World War II, the Peace Prize has annually been awarded to those who have done outstanding work within the four main areas of: arms control and disarmament, peace negotiation, democracy and human rights and work aimed at creating a better and more peaceful world. With scarce resources and against all odds, Somalilanders succeeded in ending violence, consolidating peace and in building one of the most vibrant and inclusive democratic states in the developing world. That Somaliland did not collapse into a never-ending vicious cycle of endless violence and devastation is, more than any other reason, attributable to the sheer will of the people of Somaliland. It was them who came together voluntarily, negotiated peacefully, and averted a looming catastrophe through concerted effort. It is by attention to this point that it appears rather difficult to advance a tenable line of reasoning against the motion that the people of Somaliland are worthy of at least being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize.

While the Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for selecting the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, a nomination may be submitted by any persons who qualify to nominate. University professors are among those are considered ‘qualified nominators’ and there is surely no shortage of senior academics with a Somalilander background in universities around the world. Some of them receive a hero’s welcome upon returning to Somaliland. It is therefore quite puzzling that none of them has hitherto been willing to nominate Somaliland for the Nobel Peace Prize.


Jamal Abdi holds a MSc in International and European Relations. He is currently a PhD candidate in international relations at Keele University. His research focuses on peace and state building in Somaliland.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints of Somaliland Chronicle, and its staff.

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