Monday, 15 December 2008

Somaliland: Where is the Outrage?

I posted this article in Taking it Global on my personal blog and I really wanted to share this with you.

Somaliland: Where is the outrage?

After the recent targets in Somaliland by the extremist (Car Blasts), this question of Somaliland recognition kept popping in my head. What makes the international community silent about it?

On May 18th, 2008, Somaliland Republic (former British Somaliland) celebrates 17 years of self-rule and thriving democracy since it has decided to re-instate its sovereign independence from Somalia after the fall of Siad Barre regime in 1991. As a Somalilander myself who run away from Siad Barre's atrocities as a young man in the late 1980s and settled in the United States, I have a mixed feeling as I see my people celebrating the 17th anniversary of Somaliland's birth. On one hand, I am extremely proud of the people of Somaliland, and its leaders for what they were able to achieve for the past 17 years. On the other hand, I am less excited, and amazed by lack of African Union's role in leading the way to promote the Somaliland's cause by sending a strong signal to other African countries that they do care and reward for peace, stability, and democracy (acknowledging people's choice). It is very clear why European Union is very serious about the status of Kosovo. Answer: EU is planning to avoid risk of war and violence that would again destabilize the Balkans region. The million dollar question is why the African Union is not far sighted to avoid a potential and imminent war between Somalia's Southern Leaders, and Somaliland that will undermine the stability of the whole region?

Somali's Southern Leaders are not known to respect the rule of law and the wishes of its citizens, it is the main reason that Somaliland people are fully determined to fight for its sovereign status following its roots of independence time from Great Britain on June 26th, 1960. Thirty one countries that are members of the United Nations recognized Somaliland as an independent state before uniting with the Italian Somaliland on July 1st, 1960 to form what was known as Somali Republic. Somaliland is only seeking recognition within the borders received at that moment. Somaliland, not officially recognized by any state, has been functioning as constitutional democracy with a President directly elected by the people, added by a parliament and local government also directly elected by the people. Somaliland did not even have a university for 31 years of union with the southern Somalia, and today they have four universities despite its lack of recognition. They have four private owned telephone and mobile operators where they did not have any in the past 31 years of union with the South. And the list goes on.
Some people do not truly understand why people of Somaliland decided to go alone, and broke its partnership with the South. Some of the people even speculate that the issue of Somaliland is tied with the stability of the Southern Somalia, and the union will be back when the rest of the South becomes stable. As a matter of fact, there are many reasons why Somaliland re-took its independence, and broke its partnership, but in my personal view, I would only focus on two important reasons:
British Somaliland has voluntarily entered a union with Italian Somaliland in pursuit of irredentist dream of "Greater Somalia" (including parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti). It was very clear to everybody in both regions that it was never intended to stop with the union of the two regions, but to pursue the other 3 remaining regions. Therefore, that dream has effectively died when Djibouti got its independence in 1977, and decided to go alone without joining the existing union. If Djibouti people had that freedom to make that choice, it is only fair that the people of Somaliland can make similar choices to decide on their faith. The main argument here is that the Somali union in 1960 did not achieve the reason it has been formed which was a greater Somalia, and Somaliland's voluntary union at that time was based on that. And if that dream did not materialize, Somaliland could go alone like the other regions did where Somalis live including Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
Another very crucial point that made the people of Somaliland go on separate ways from the South is the suffering and injustices that the people of Somaliland endured for 31 years of marriage. They have suffered at the hands of Southern rule governments particularly during Siad Barre's 21-year rule. The whole world knows that those governments even bombarded Somaliland cities. Therefore, it is a trust issue. If you had a business partnership with another person and you have suffered and lost everything, and you re-start your business. Would you again trust to create another partnership with that person? It is fair to say that the people of Somaliland have a trust issue with their brothers in the South, and will not join them again with union despite a lack of recognition by the International community. Most Somalilanders, who only know Somaliland because they were either young or born after Somaliland re-took its independence in 1991, would tell you that if there was such a Southern domination in the past, it is certainly a history, only refers the unity in the past tense.
It is important to note that AU sent a fact finding mission to Somaliland in 2005 in order to respond to the concern that Somaliland recognition would create a fragmentation of Somalia, or other AU member states, the African Union fact finding mission in 2005 concluded "the case should not be linked to the notion of "opening a Pandora box", and the report recommended that AU "should find a special method of dealing with this outstanding case" as soon as possible. Unfortunately, AU actions stopped there. Why we Africans can not decide for ourselves, while Europeans are doing so and EU leading the way. I hope I can one day be proud of our African leaders through the African Union leadership when I see that they are taking a far sighted approach like the EU doing on Kosovo.
The more the African Union delays dealing with the Somaliland case, the more it makes the situation in East Africa difficult, and risk of war, and even equally important the more the AU credibility is on the line. Somaliland case is a time bomb for the African Union and the International community could not really afford to ignore. On the other hand, Somaliland's multi-party democracy system is rarity in Africa, and the Muslim World, and the African Union needs to seriously consider Somaliland's formal application of AU membership to reward for people's choice. Somaliland is a state where the power truly belongs to the people.
But I still ask myself- where is the International Community outrage?

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