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Solely Entrusting Quest for Recognition to Government Party Failed the Somaliland Case

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Somaliland, which was previously known as British Somaliland Protectorate, gained its independence from Britain on June 26, 1960, and immediately joined with Italian Somaliland to form the Somali Republic. However, the union between the two territories was short-lived and failed to effectively unite the Somali people.

Following years of oppression , marginalization, and policies annihilating solely Somaliland people by the Somali successive regimes after unification, the necessity of resuming its lost sovereignty became apparent and eventually Somaliland declared unilaterally ending its voluntary union with Somalia in 1991, and has since been functioning as a state with its own constitution, judiciary, and police force.

The inception of present day Somaliland Republic and its quest for recognition as an independent state were born on the same day in 1991 out of the Grand Conference in Burao.

State building without any major outside help has been successful in Somaliland to the amazement of the world, however Somaliland has miserably neglected to earn recognition at the international front and in the home turf.

Apparently, one can argue downplaying the home front recognition in the Eastern regions of Somaliland can be partly attributed to the ongoing crisis in the Las Anod

After Burao convention, Somaliland came up with a unique state building model for raising the nation from its ruin state caused by the brutal Siyad Barre regime, but never devised a roadmap for the recognition quest nor enacted laws for the oversight and administration of such endeavors.

Because of its bottom-up approach to governance and reconciliation, a brief description of Somaliland’s distinctive state building makes sense to mention here in order to grasp the crucial aspects of having a blueprint and governing laws for the recognition quest.

When it came to state building, Somaliland relied on traditional Somali systems of governance, including clan-based structures and customary law, to develop a sustainable and inclusive political system that is distinct from the centralized government model of Somalia.

The Somaliland model of governance includes several elements that differentiate it from other African states, such as:

  • Constitutionalism: Somaliland has a constitution that outlines the division of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.
  • Democratic Elections: The country holds regular elections where every citizen above the age of 18 has the right to vote.
  • Pluralistic society: Political parties are multiple and pluralistic in Somaliland, emphasizing a system of checks and balances.
  • Traditional Authorities: Somaliland recognizes and incorporates traditional clan-based authorities into its governance model. Elders, called Guurti, are responsible for decision-making on issues related to conflict resolution, social control, and governance.
  • Development Prioritization: The government’s priorities are development, infrastructure, education, and health, as these are critical to poverty reduction and economic growth.

Overall, Somaliland’s unique state-building model enables the country to function as a modern state.

However, despite its stability, democratic governance, and economic progress, Somaliland has yet to gain international recognition as an independent state.

Despite the lack of a template for recognition endeavor, Somaliland did not give this ambition any priority in the initial ten years due to the clan-based system being in place and the first task being on creating a functioning country that would receive this recognition.

Transitioning from clan system, in 2001, Somaliland held a referendum on its future status. The referendum reinforced the decisions reached at the Burao Convention and resulted in a landslide vote in favor of reinstating Somaliland sovereignty. The following year, in 2002, Somaliland held its first multiparty elections. Since 2002, Somaliland has held regular elections at all levels of government.

32 years have passed since Somaliland first sought to gain international recognition. During that span of time, the administration of Somaliland was alternately under the governments of the now-defunct UDUB and the current ruling Kulmiye.

There were no direct communications or negotiations between Somaliland and Somalia during the period when the now-defunct UDUB was in charge of the Somaliland administration. In contrast to today’s low bottom rock after 32 years in search of recognition, Somaliland’s chances of recognition at that time were actually very good and favorable in Africa and internationally. It was in 2005 when the African Union’s fact-finding mission visited Somaliland and subsequently delivered the report, reaffirming that Somaliland’s claim to independence is supported by verifiable historical facts and would not give rise to a wave of continent-wide secessionist movement.

The invitation Somaliland received to attend in the 2012 London Conference on Somalia was a tragic trap that Somaliland leaders of that time imagined as an ideal chance for their own and their party politics while selling it to the public as a great opportunity for the country. Equally, the joint session of the Somaliland parliament that voted in a hasty manner in favor of lifting the legal ban on interacting with Somalia committed a colossal mistake.

A clause in the Communique from the London Conference on Somalia at Lancaster House in London on 23 February, 2012, said that the international community should recognize and support the significance of dialogue between Somaliland and the federal government of Somalia.

  1. The Conference recognized the need for the international community to support any dialogue that Somaliland and the Transitional Federal Government or its replacement may agree to establish in order to clarify their future relations.

Thus, Somaliland was lured into talking to Somalia by the international community. It was not a choice that was made after careful deliberation among all relevant parties in the nation and with our own planning and terms. As a result, the struggle for Somaliland’s recognition has evolved into an ambition with no clear path to follow other than to comply with politicians wishes.

The first face-to-face meeting between representatives from Somaliland and Somalia took place in London on June 20, 2012, a few months after the London Conference on Somalia. This was followed by talks held in Dubai, Ankara, Istanbul (twice) and Djibouti.  The dialogue process collapsed in early 2015 in Istanbul and the process came to stalemate.

For Somaliland’s quest for recognition, the Kulmiye administration, which was in charge of Somaliland at the time, pioneered a flawed strategy that was never reviewed. This strategy is still being followed.

There is a possibility of excluding diverse points of view and alternative concepts when a single political party exercises sole authority over the implementation of a national priority. Because of this, only a small number of potential solutions may be taken into consideration and implemented, which could result in the absence of novel and efficient strategies. Likewise, it can be more likely to pursue policies that are not in the best interests of the country as a whole. This methodology establishes an environment that makes challenging to openly communicate various voices and perspectives.

The first step in addressing this problem has to be for the House of Representatives to draft and then approve the Somaliland Recognition Quest, Oversight, and Administration Law, of which establishment of an Independent Commission for Recognition is mandated.

Independent Commission for Recognition Journey

Demanding and establishing a broad-based independent commission for national priorities like Somaliland’s quest for “international recognition” is a duty incumbent upon the people of Somaliland and can result in significant advantages over leaving that task up to the whim of the ruling party alone.

Once this route is taken, here are a few of the main advantages:

Inclusive representation: The inclusion of varied viewpoints and views in the decision-making process is ensured by a commission that is largely composed of members from different sectors, backgrounds, and areas of expertise. This inclusivity enhances the legitimacy and credibility of the commission’s recommendations

Comprehensive analysis: With a wide range of stakeholders involved, a commission made up from all segments in the society can thoroughly analyze and evaluate national priority from multiple angles. Different perspectives can contribute unique insights and expertise, leading to a more holistic understanding of complex issues involved.

Consensus building: This kind of commission makes it easier to talk, work together, and reach a consensus by bringing together people from different parts of society. It gives a platform to partners to examine their interests, share thoughts, and figure out something worth agreeing on. The likelihood of adhering to the recommendations made by the commission is increased by this collaborative approach.

Long-term perspective: A commission focused on national priority can take a long-term view of the challenges and obstacles lying ahead because it has no political agenda that’s tied to a political tenure. The commission can come up with plans that take into account what will be needed in the future by involving experts and stakeholders with a lot of experience and knowledge.

Transparent and accountable process: A commission that operates without the influence of any political party in a transparent manner, with clear procedures and accountability mechanisms, enhances public trust and confidence. By involving stakeholders and soliciting public input, the commission can demonstrate its commitment to inclusivity, fairness, and transparency. This transparency also helps to address concerns about potential biases or conflicts of interest.

As long as the quest for Somaliland recognition continues on the current course and the ruling party in the presidential palace continues to make all calls, Somaliland people have no one else to blame but themselves

Ahmed J Yassin, Jacksonville, Florida USA

Guest article first published here

Disclaimer: View and opinion expressed herein are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the view of Somaliland Chronicle. Somaliland Chronicle is
an online news outlet that seeks to publish well-argued and policy-oriented
articles on Somaliland nation's priorities in foreign affairs, education,
healthcare, economy, energy, and infrastructure


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