Unrecognized, Undaunted


Unrecognized, Undaunted

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia 30 years ago as the latter was collapsing. Today, the self-declared sovereign Republic of Somaliland is extremely stable – an outlier in the Horn of Africa – in part because its government accommodates both indigenous Somali as well as Western cultural and legal traditions.

One can even get a “fine camel milkshake” in the peaceful capital of Hargeisa, the Economist noted. Countries like Qatar are expanding their trade and economic ties with the nation. The United Arab Emirates established a military base in the Somaliland port of Berbera. The country instills its citizens with pride.

“These young people have no clue, idea what the identity was before Somaliland. They were born in Somaliland,” Jama Musse Jama, director of the Hargeisa Cultural Center, told Public Radio International, referring to youth participating in a recent 30-year anniversary celebration. “They know only Somaliland, and they consider Somaliland [to be] their identity.”

Yet, as Markus Virgil Hoehne, a lecturer at the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Leipzig in Germany, wrote in an English-language piece in the French news magazine Le Monde diplomatique, Somaliland is still not internationally recognized.

This lack of acknowledgment hasn’t stopped the country from moving forward with politics and matters of government. A record number of voters are expected to cast ballots on May 31 in parliamentary and local elections, reported the East African Business Week News.

Voters elected President Musa Bihi Abdi in 2017, Reuters reported. But they last voted for lawmakers in 2005 and municipal leaders in 2012. A series of delays due to infighting and other issues prevented officials from agreeing on new elections sooner. Many Somalis view the election as a chance to reset the country’s politics, according to a video on the Elephant, a news outlet that focuses on Africa.

In contrast, officials in Somalia have postponed elections to retain their power, setting the stage for civil war, the Brookings Institution wrote in a report, though recently the Associated Press reported that Somalian leaders had agreed on an election date. At the same time, another neighbor, Ethiopia, is waging war against Tigrayan rebels.

Coincidentally, as Garowe Online reported, Puntland, a Somalian state that enjoys considerable independence, is proceeding with elections, too.

Somaliland is far from perfect. President Abdi’s ruling Kulmiye political party has cracked down on journalists, dissidents and others who criticize the government, for example, reported Deutsche Welle.

But the country shows what is possible.

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