Tanzania Should Move To Recognize Somaliland
Makwaia wa Kuhenga
Friday, July 11, 2008
“OURS is a sad tale. We are caught in the middle of powerful conflicting interests. It is hope against hope. Some powers are dangling our hope for national recognition like a sinker and bait into the sea but nothing happening!”
Abdulkader Hashi Elmi, Somaliland Entrepreneur.
THE above words, spoken coolly and softly yet tinged with bitter disappointment sums up the frustrations of most citizens of Somaliland -- a country which has been standing out alone in the world -- quite a viable state yet internationally unrecognized.
For the last seventeen years from May 18, 1991 to be precise, Somaliland has reasserted itself as an independent state in exactly the same geographical boundaries as at independence from Great Britain on June 26, 1960.
It fulfills all the criteria for statehood as laid down by the Montevideo Convention of 1933 inter alia: it has a permanent population and defined territory. Secondly, it has a government and, furthermore, it has the capacity to enter into relations with other states.
Indeed, Somaliland , the country I was on a visit the other day, fulfils all these conditions required as a criteria for statehood. The most puzzling aspect however is that very few people are aware of the existence of this state other than fratricidal Somalia with Mogadishu as the capital.
The reason is rooted into history -- colonial history and subsequent events after the decolonization process. Here, we see “two” countries with almost the same name in pre-colonial days -- British Somaliland and Italy ruled Somalia to the South in the Horn of Africa. Furthermore, we see both countries, Somaliland and Somalia gaining independence in the same year, 1960. But by July, 1960 both countries had entered into a “Union”, based, in the words of an African Union (AU) fact finding mission to Somaliland in 2005 “on a shared ambition among Somalis to build a ‘Greater Somalia' which were to incorporate all the Somali communities in the Horn of Africa. In the course of time, the Union malfunctioned.”
But the collapse of the Union between the two Somali countries in the South and North, hastily declared, as it would seem, is not unique in African history. We see the collapse of similar unions: United Arab Republic -- the Union between Egypt and Syria in 1958; the Mali Federation between Mali and Senegal in 1960 and Senegambia -- between Senegal and Gambia which lasted between 1982 to 1989.
But the short-lived ‘unions' in Africa as we have seen above had not meant the denial of recognition and membership of the international community of nations such as the AU and the UN. Egypt and Syria still retain their respective sovereignty and international recognition as is Mali and Senegal .
As the report of the AU fact-finding mission to Somaliland has observed, Somaliland has been made a pariah country by “default”. Says the report: “The Union established in 1960 brought enormous injustice and suffering to the people of that country. The fact that the Union between Somaliland and Somalia was never ratified and also malfunctioned makes Somaliland 's search for recognition historically unique and self justified in African political history.
“Objectively viewed, the case should not be linked to the notion of opening a Pandora Box. Lack of recognition ties the hands of the authorities and people of Somaliland as they cannot effectively and sustainably transact with the outside world to pursue development goals.” But with all these facts, and very clear facts indeed, there are countries, which seem to be interested in the sustenance of the status quo. A status quo to let the courageous people of Somaliland go unnoticed -- a people who have been soldiering on for the last 17 years as an independent country having broken loose from a malfunctioning union under military dictatorships.
This brings us to the quotation at the beginning of this perspective attributed to a Somaliland businessman, Mr. Abdelkader Hashi Elmi.
Actually, Mr. Elmi is the owner of a very posh hotel which could easily qualify to a five-star hotel anywhere had his country been enjoying to operate normally like all other independent countries enjoying membership of the United Nations and African Union.
“You see my brother,” said Abdulkader, owner of Mansoor Hotel in down-town Hargeysa: “We are victims of powerful interests here each wishing to keep us the way we are to serve own ends.
“The United States will not recognize us because it does not want to offend Egypt , its ally. But it is keeping us in a manner of hoping against hope -- dangling a bait -- leaving our mouths agape -- chasing in the wilderness,” he told me to my considerable interest tinged in amusement.
“Why is Egypt in your way?” I asked him.
“The Egyptians are, as usual obsessed with the protection of the Nile in their geo-political considerations. Actually it was former UN Secretary-General, Egyptian Dr Boutros Ghali who initiated our isolation not to assume membership of the United Nations arguing that Somalia must remain one,” he responded.
My good friend told me of other forces in the way of the recognition of Somaliland and its assumption of membership of the African Union and the United Nations, which I consider unhelpful to reveal them here.
But as the AU fact-finding mission to Somaliland observed in its report in 2005, the AU should be disposed to “judge the case of Somaliland from an objective historical view point and a moral angle”. That moral angle, in my best considered opinion, is that here is a people who are at peace with themselves, meeting all the requirements of an independent state, a democratically elected government in a multi-party governance and who are giving a practical example to their fratricidal brethren in Somalia 's Mogadishu of how invaluable peace can make the difference.
How much one really wishes that Tanzania could take the lead to break the ice -- re-asserting its erstwhile prestige as in the old good days -- when it was hailed as the “moral voice and conscience of Africa ”.
An announcement that Tanzania has recognized the 17-year old Republic of Somaliland will certainly become an inspiration to the rest in Africa and elsewhere and it will, certainly, translate as an important contribution to Africa 's quest for peace and stability.
Source: Daily News