Let us Recognize Somaliland

Let us Recognize Somaliland

Somaliland does indeed deserve international recognition (“A state of one’s own”, May 8th). It functions well, has better governance than many African states, performs effectively for its citizens, and is more consistently democratic in practice than its neighbours and a number of other African countries. For 30 years it has been a bright beacon amid the persistent Somali darkness.

The Islamists of al-Shabaab control at least a third of Somalia and nothing that the African Union (au) or donors like Britain, the United States, or even Turkey, have done can put the country back on the road to harmony and prosperity. Somaliland, by contrast, is free of conflict, except possibly in its recurrent disagreement with semi-autonomous Puntland over border territory.

The au resists recognising Somaliland because doing so might encourage secession elsewhere. But South Sudan seceded from Sudan without perturbing the au and Eritrea, for different reasons, split from Ethiopia (and then warred against its larger neighbour). Now, however, recognition would acknowledge the reality and allow the au to support states that govern on behalf of their people, not the ruling classes.

Even if the au cannot bring itself to recognise Somaliland, the global powers should now do so on their own. Africanists in the Obama administration were ready to push for recognition but were held back by the au. Now is the time for the Biden State Department to be bold, and speak truth to power.

This post first appeared as a letter to the Economist, May 22, 2021

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