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The Sovereignty Of Somaliland And Its Role In The Conflict Resolution Of The Region
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Farhiya Ali Ahmed, Johannesburg, South Africa

This paper was presented by Farhiya Ali Ahmed, who lives in South Africa at a seminar organized by the “Africa Institute of South Africa” and held last May in Pretoria on Somaliland And Somalia:
Part II [Continued from our previous issue]

International Perspectives

What are the chances of the international community giving up hopes for a Somali unity in the near future, and recognizing Somaliland as a sovereign entity? What are the different position and perspectives that the world and global actors hold about Somaliland, Somalia and the Somali crisis in general and the prospects for its resolution? What are the motivating factors behind such perceptions?

Intergovernmental Organization
The United Nations, African Union, Arab League and Organization of Islamic Conference have shown through their decisions, actions and statements their prioritization of preserving a Somali unity over allowing self-determination to succeed.

Matt Bryden notes that successive resolutions by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Arab League and the United Nations have reaffirmed he commitment of their members to the unity and territorial integrity of Somalia. In November 2000, the United Nations Department of Political Affairs actively promoted the establishment of the Transitional National Government (TNG) of Mogadishu, and was also instrumental in helping the TNG to claim Somalia’s seat at the UN. The UN, AU, Arab League and OIC also implicitly endorsed the TNG’s claims to jurisdiction over the entire Somali territory _ including Somaliland _ through their decision o extend membership to the TNG in Mogadishu. “Reports and resolutions issued by these intergovernmental organizations have been meticulous in either prohibiting the use of the term ‘Somaliland’ or else situating it in quotation marks in order to ensure that no official reference to the territory could be misconstrued as a form of recognition.”

The AU’s commitment to respect for the territorial integrity of Somali is rooted in the 1963 OAU Charter which makes numerous references to the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of member states”. From this perspective, Somaliland’s 1960 union with Somalia is characterized as irrevocable and Somaliland’s claims to independence thus illegal. As such respect for Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are to be upheld.

The Arab League makes no secret of the fact that it favors a Somali unity. The OIC’s position on the Somaliland-Somalia issue was reaffirmed by the presence of the TNG at the last OIC Summit in August 2003. The AU’s commitment to resuscitating a Somali government in Mogadishu has also been unwavering and still ongoing. Currently, the AU has devolved responsibility for handling the Somali crisis to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, the foreign ministers of the member states of IGAD _ Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Kenya and Sudan _ have started a new round of peace talks last week on 20 May, with Somali warlords and traditional leaders from south Somalia in the hope of ending the 13 years of anarchy and conflict in Somalia. Somaliland has been absent from these talks as well as all the previous ones because of its declaration that it will only enter into dialogue with Somalia as an equal (i.e. as a recognized sovereign entity).

Western Governments
Somaliland’s early campaign for recognition was mostly directed towards Western governments, seeing that the West was not as fussy about the principle of territorial integrity as the Arab world and the AU members were.

Somalia’s notorious resistance to the externally-led peacekeeping endeavors of the early 1990s, coupled with the country’s loss of its former strategic significance rates it as low priority in the West. Western powers, in presented with the Somali situation therefore opted to defer it to the AU. Western government are also wary of getting involved in the Somali dilemma for fear of potential danger to their relations with other regional powers and states with whom they share more important strategic or economic interests. As a result, the Somaliland government has since 2001 shifted the focus of their efforts towards the AU instead.

African States
Excluding the East African states, notably countries that shown interest in the resolution of the Somali conflict and Somaliland’s demands for recognition are South Africa and Senegal. Senegal invited the Somaliland president and a delegation on an official visit to Dakar in early last year. Senegal’s experience of secessionist insurgency in the southern region of Casamance, and of dissolution of a voluntary union (the 1982-9 Senegambian Confederation), say Somaliland officials, places it in a unique position of understanding.

South Africa also recognizes the need to address Somaliland’s claims, as well as the dire need to resolve the crisis in the south of Somalia. A South African delegation was sent on a fact-finding mission to Somaliland in January 2003. In May 2003, South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Zuma hosted the Somaliland Foreign Affairs Minister for talks on advancing peace and stability in the region.

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