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Blinders On Borders

Issue 285
Front Page

UNDP Appraises Its Programs And Projects In Somaliland

Berbera Immigration Officials Block ‘Illegal’ Deportation Of Somaliland Citizen To Yemen

Somaliland Representative Visiting The United Nations

Somaliland Regional Games Tournament Begin 23 July 2007

Somaliland Women 'Nagaad' Umbrella Organization Inaugurates Its 10th Anniversary

Non-Governmental Group Accuses Interim Somali Government Of Harassment

At the UN, Somalia's Gedi Asks for $32 Million, Denies Restricting Opponents' Travel

'It is always necessary to make the N.R.C. political,' says a Somali scholar

Stability in Somalia 'a dream'

Somali elders search for peace

Regional Affairs

Somaliland’s Communiqué To African Leaders’ Summit In Accra

Somaliland Bans Use Of New Somali Passport

Special Report

International News

World shrinks for US diplomats

Torn Between Two Cultures

US is about to pull out of Somalia again- a mistake

Minister in Sarkozy's Government: Bush might be behind 9/11 Attacks


Gorbachev At The “Global Citizen Project” Exhibition

Somaliland in Accra, Ghana, on the Occasion of the African Union Summit 27 June to 3 July 2007

Somaliland: Africa’s Best Kept Secret

Harnessing Community Power In Somaliland

Blinders On Borders

Martin Meridith’s The State Of Africa: A History Of Fifty Years Of Independence

Crackdown in Ethiopia condemned

Food for thought


An Invitation To The Mayor Of Hargeysa To A Dialogue On Freedom Of The Press

SL document archives

Sack The Somaliland Leaders

UDUB, UCID, and KULMIYE: Are There Any Differences?

Democracy Requires An Informed Citizenry

The Mayor Of Hargeysa—The New Mohammed Dheere Of Somaliland

By Jordan Frisby


In the distant past, all it took to expand the borders of kingdoms was some soldiers and a bit of success on the battlefield. This is how many European countries were formed. In the past few centuries, seizing new territory has become a bit more complex. As early as the 17th century's Thirty Years' War, peace treaties have largely determined resource and territory distribution after a war. But in the post-Cold War period, the international community has become very hesitant to accept border changes of any kind. If Canada felt a need to acquire more polar bears and subsequently invaded Greenland, its conquest would never be accepted as legitimate, regardless of how total its control of the island was. The international community today simply refuses to recognize border changes, but there are a few exceptions such as East Timor, which emerged from Indonesia as an independent country in 2002. However, these exceptional cases tend to be sanctioned by some internationally supervised peace process.

The point of being hesitant to accept legitimate border changes is to render nil the potential territorial gains from invading your neighbors. War is savage, and discouraging it is both admirable and desirable. A refusal to accept border changes may be an acceptable international policy, provided it helps lessen the likelihood of wars for territory.

But incidentally, the international community often pretends countries and governments don't exist. Responsibility for the ignored country is generally attributed to another government altogether. A side effect of this is that the internationally recognized government often has no control whatsoever over parts of its supposed territory.

Consider Somaliland. This northern area of Somalia declared independence in 1991 as the government of Somalia in its capital, Mogadishu, collapsed. Somaliland's fairly stable electoral system mixes consensus with democracy, and Steve Kibble of the Catholic Institute for International Relations billed it "the first indigenous modern African form of government." It has a constitution, a police force, a flag, passports and its own currency.
New governments seek recognition from other countries to gain legitimacy on the world stage. But despite more than a decade of reasonably effective rule in one of the most unstable regions of the world, no foreign government has recognized Somaliland. In the eyes of the international community, Somaliland is just a northern area within Somalia.

Somaliland's relatively effective government contrasts sharply with Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, the internationally recognized government of Somalia (including the territory of Somaliland). However, this government exerts no control at all over the entirety of Somalia - the laws it passes are totally powerless in the day-to-day lives of Somali people. It can be argued that the homeowner's association in your parents' neighborhood has more power than the Somali Transitional Federal Government. Yet this is the government that the international community chooses to recognize as sovereign over the territory of Somaliland.

There are many other quasi-countries in a similar situation, in which the internationally recognized government has no control. Injustice lies in the fact that regions are often run by governments, sometimes popularly elected, which have no top-level diplomatic connections, resulting in an inability to participate in the international community. These regions are also economically plagued due to a lack of normal trade relations. The unwillingness to accept border changes is the root of these injustices, yet it is worth tolerating to prevent territorial wars.

Frisby is a Plan II, economics and math junior.

Source: The Daily Texan


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