By Chelsea Sweeney
Somalia is the world’s best example of a failed state. Warring clans forced the president out of power in 1991, and no subsequent leadership has succeeded in holding the country together. Despite the support of the United Nations and African Union troops, the current transitional government controls nothing but a small area of the capital. The surrounding area is under the power of Islamic militants such as al-Shabab, and invading Kenyan forces are creating even more destruction trying to remove the militants from power. On the coast, pirates are a dangerous force, threatening all who sail in the surrounding waters. When famine hit the entire Horn of Africa last year, thousands died or were forced to flee, as aid was hindered by both militants and an ineffective government.
It would be easy to consider Somalia a lost cause, doomed to never find a successful solution to its turmoil. But there is hope within the little-known nation of Somaliland. Amid the chaos destroying the majority of the country, Somaliland is a relatively peaceful region, and could even be seen as an example for all of Africa. Somaliland declared its independence in 1991, forming its own constitution, government, and currency. They established an effective police force, and the president gained power as a result of free and fair elections. Somaliland is not a perfect country, with much of the economy funded by remittances from citizens living abroad. But poverty and unemployment are problems that arguably every country faces in some amount, and Somaliland is otherwise very successful. The stability of Somaliland makes it appear as if the mayhem ruining Somalia is occurring thousands of miles away.
Somaliland is practically functioning as an independent state, yet there has been almost no international recognition of it as a sovereign country. It is not for lack of trying, as Somaliland is working hard to prove they deserve independence. There is historical precedent for this request, as Somaliland was originally a separate British protectorate. They were granted independence for a short time in 1960, before joining the former Italian colony of Somalia to create the present-day country. Now that the central government in Mogadishu is no use, Somaliland hopes to turn back the clock and restore their previous sovereign status.
But the wishes of Somaliland are being ignored. The African Union and Western countries are focusing their attention on other states-in-waiting such as Palestine, or the newly independent country of South Sudan. Their reasoning is understandable, for the African Union cannot simply redraw borders on demand. Giving in to every separatist group would only create more problems, as a passion for secession does not necessarily lead to an effective government. But Somaliland is different. They do not simply want to secede for ethnic or religious reasons. Their functioning government and stable society is being brought down by the dead weight of Somalia’s transitional government. If they are granted independence, they will continue to thrive as they have in the past, only with greater status on the world stage.
The new country of Somaliland would be even more successful than South Sudan, as many institutional frameworks already exist and run effectively. The biggest obstruction to their otherwise reasonable demands for independence would be their neighbor, Puntland. This area is another autonomous region that functions independently of the rest of Somalia, only they are not arguing for independence. The border between Puntland and Somaliland is being disputed by various ethnic groups living between the two areas. If this problem is able to be resolved, Somaliland is ready to join South Sudan as the newest sovereign state emerging from Africa.
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.