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So There Is Somalia And Somaliland: The African Union As Well As The United Nations Must Recognize
By: MAKWAIAWA KUHENGA
THERE has been some quite interesting reaction arising from the piece in this column last week on Somaliland titled: Somaliland: A Viable state but unrecognized. IN an SMS text message to me one reader wrote: “Rarely do I agree with what you write but today I do.
The African Union as well as the United Nations must recognize Somaliland to prove that they are not rubber stamps of George W. Bush. If America has recognized Kosovo, the AU should recognize Somaliland. Otherwise, Somaliland should seek Iran and Russian support!”
I did allow myself a little grin having read the unsigned telephone text message from a reader of this column. I have since been consulting the super information highway, the Internet and have come to discover that among frequent visitors to Somaliland of recently has been Jendayi Fraser, the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
I really do not know what this African American lady has been up to in Somaliland. But if these visits to the little country in the Horn of Africa has been aimed at striking a quid pro quo -- “become our small outpost here - and we will prop you up to gain international recognition” - fine. What matters for me as a bottom line is how leaders of Somaliland will want to play their cards with the Americans.
The Americans have their interests as a nation and Somaliland leaders must know their interests as a small country! And frankly, it is not true that practically everything the Americans do is wrong: No. I was among the first who applauded the American led NATO initiative to reverse ethnic cleansing in the Balkans during the presidency of President Bill Clinton. The recognition of Kosovo is therefore a logical and appropriate response to that initiative.
But what is of remarkable misnomer here is when the international community looks away at a toddler nation born out of impossible circumstances - the disappearance of an erstwhile unitary state of Somalia into anarchy and chaos. As we saw last week, Somaliland was a British Protectorate for over 80 years while Somalia was Italian-ruled.
At Somaliland independence in 1960, it went into a hasty Union with Italian ruled Somalia in the south to create a unified Somali Republic. But the eras of coups in the mid-sixties brought catastrophe to this unified Somali Republic when General Mohamed Siyad Barre pulled his coup. As a result of Siyad Barre’s undemocratic move, there was resistance in Somaliland aimed at reasserting itself as in the days at independence in 1960.
But the overthrow of Siyad Barre himself in 1991 plunged Somalia deeper into further chaos, which is yet to recover. But Somaliland has since the mid-nineties reasserted itself as a separate country from the erstwhile military government of Gen. Siyad Barre. The other day, I allowed myself a little research on what Somaliland government looks like.
I have since discovered Somaliland is a constitutional multi-party state, comprising the president, vice-president, and the legislature - parliament. Legislative power is vested into the House of Representatives and House of Elders (senate). With a population of 3.5 million people, Somaliland runs competitive politics with three major political parties. The last vote was taken in 2003 and the next vote is due April this year.
In the last vote, Mr. Dahir Riyale Kahin of the Unity, Democracy and Independence Party won the presidential vote over two competitors. He presides over a 27-man cabinet. What is most instructive about Somaliland’s form of democracy is its capability to fuse western-style institutions of government with its own traditional forms of social and political organization.
Its bicameral parliament reflects this fusion of traditional and modern, with the senate consisting of traditional elders and the House of Representatives consisting of elected representatives. But how has Somaliland survived without international recognition and therefore without “international donor support” most African countries enjoy?
Hard information coming my way reveals that Somaliland, an essentially livestock economy, is doing very well in its bilateral trade with countries such as Saudi Arabia. It has managed to make its capital Hargeysa function normally like any other city of a modern country, with working traffic lights and has put up even two universities of international standards.
Today, according to hard information, Hargeysa, the capital of Somaliland is among the safest towns in Africa. But the irony here is that while there is no government worth its name in Mogadishu ( Somalia) but it is the “government” of the Ethiopian occupied capital that is recognized by the United Nations, keeping a blind eye on a Somaliland government that is democratically elected and doing wonders without donor support except the efforts of the people themselves.
So Somaliland is soldiering on with virtually no external help. Whilst Somalilanders in the Diaspora have heavily supported economic development, lack of international recognition has meant that Somaliland does not qualify for bilateral aid or support from international financial institutions. But according to observers, this isolation has not however resulted in isolationism.
Lack of access to external aid has forced this country of 3.5 million people to become more self-reliant than many African states. Along with self-reliance, Somaliland is succeeding to unite its people above clannish divides, which have seen its southern flanks in the name of the former Italy-ruled Somalia disintegrate and disappear as a cohesive state.
As I argued in the last perspective, the very reason that Somaliland has managed to evolve as a sustainable state is an adequate reason to reward it with immediate international recognition to serve as a spur and catalysts to its southern brethren now at each other’s throats. The same reasons that may have spurred the United States and its western allies to offer recognition to the newly born state of Kosovo cannot be contradictory to what Somaliland deserves today.
Source: Tanzania Standard Newspaper