Somaliland is not Somalia


Somaliland entered its fourth decade of independent existence this year. It has its own government, banking system, maintains international relations, ensures security. It is among the most stable democracies in Africa. However, it lacks one thing – international recognition of sovereignty. Somaliland is a state that de facto does not exist… and it is not Somalia.

Mohamed was born in 1998 into a large family. He has one father, three mothers and 18 siblings. This is what a classic Somaliland family looks like.

Part of it lives in a desert country in East Africa, part abroad. This also belongs to the traditions of local families. Great families unite in clans, and clans form the upper chamber of parliament, conduct peace negotiations, decide on candidates for elections.

Somaliland is at a crossroads. On the one hand, it clings to tradition, on the other hand, it tries to go with the times. A wide stride has both good and bad aspects.

“I like where Somaliland has moved. I believe that the next generation will live better than us," says Mohamed, referring to the United Arab Emirates as a great ally of Somaliland.

“Look at Dubai. She was nothing in 1960. And today it is a huge rich city that has no parallel in the world. Even Hargeisa will be big one day. I believe it."

Somaliland vs. Somalia

Current Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, was built in the 1990s on the ruins of the old capital. Somalia almost razed it to the ground during the civil war.

It destroyed 90 percent of the buildings not only here but also in other Somaliland cities. It did not agree with the secession of Somaliland. Although both territories are inhabited by Somalis, several things significantly distinguish them:

Somaliland used to be a British protectorate. He was not a colony. The United Kingdom relied on traditional clan leaders for its administration. Somalia was an Italian colony and Italy installed a harsh administration with dictatorial practices.

Traditional structures have almost lost their influence there. Furthermore, Somaliland is inhabited by two dominant interrelated clans. Somalia has always struggled with tribal disputes.

Somalia, which cannot rely on traditional structures today, is an example of a broken state. Combining traditional leaders with ordinary politicians in parliament, Somaliland is a stable country with fair elections and power sharing.

And it is safe in it. The country experienced the last terrorist attack in 2008.

And women?

In the March 2021 elections, not a single woman made it to the lower house of parliament. Although Somaliland already had a woman in the chair of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, women are still waiting for at least one of the 82 seats to be filled.

Nevertheless, it is possible to mention at least one success, which the security studies graduate Sahra Hassan recalls. “Clan elders traditionally nominate candidates for election and usually express support for male candidates. In the 2021 elections, however, they also nominated women for the first time. That would have been unthinkable just a few years ago."

In cities, it is becoming more and more common for a couple to marry based on their own decision. Although the consent of the father of the bride is needed.

The introduction of women into politics is related to the strengthening of women’s rights in a country where society is traditionally led by men, even though the community could not function without women.

For example, in the past, nomadic women built houses. They took care of the household and farm animals except camels. Today they also have their own jobs, often run businesses.

“Traditions arise, change and disappear. What should be preserved is the moral basis,” thinks Ilyas Hassan Osman from the project on the participation of women in politics in the Sanaag region.

The fact that traditions change is evidenced, for example, by marriages. Previously, unions were concluded on the basis of an agreement. The father’s family often agreed with the son’s family at a very early age. Then they agreed on a bride price in the form of cattle and a dowry.

Today, in cities, it is more and more common for a couple to marry based on their own decision. Although the consent of the father of the bride is still needed. There are also more and more couples who live together unmarried. But it is true that in such a case at least the girl’s brother lives somewhere nearby.

(Un)recognized state sovereignty

Somaliland first declared its independence in 1960 and was recognized by dozens of countries within four days of its existence. When he seceded from Somalia after thirty years of a common republic, no one recognized him.

Somaliland has been waiting for recognition as an independent state for more than 30 years. “International recognition is very important for us, because after it our flag will have a place among the other flags of the states of the United Nations. Then, for example, foreign banks, multinational companies, foreign companies will come here,” says the founder of the Saryan Museum in Hargeisa, Said Shukri Hussein.

Somaliland still conducts its own, independent foreign policy. For example, with Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates or Taiwan.

He is interested in the found oil deposits. During the coronavirus pandemic, he also donated 150,000 ampoules of his own Megiden vaccine to Somaliland.

China, which considers Taiwan as its province, does not like to see the strengthening of relations between these two internationally unrecognized countries. In exchange for cutting ties, it offered the government in Hargeysa extensive investments. Somaliland responded by declaring that it would not allow any country to interfere in its internal and international politics. That he will willingly develop relationships with anyone, but will not let anything dictate him.

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