It has been submitted that the non-recognition of Somaliland by the African Union (AU) is undermining the principles of peace and stability of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

“The principles of NEPAD demand that African States should promote peace and stability, and this is exactly what Somaliland has achieved and consolidated. Consequently, the non-recognition of Somaliland by the AU is undermining the NEPAD,” declared Dr. Iqbal Jhazbhay of the University of South Africa, Pretoria at a symposium on “The African Union and Somaliland in the Horn of Africa”. His topic was “Somaliland: Post-War Nation-Building & the Challenge of International Recognition“.

He points out that the issue in question also challenges the AU during the ‘good governance’ era of NEPAD, a context within which Somaliland fits comfortably as a good citizen of the international community. He said it was ironical that certain countries without the necessary institutions and structures were recognized by the international community while Somaliland with the required structures in place has not been recognized. “Somaliland has brought into sharp focus the grave mistake of the international community in recognizing countries without the required structures and institutions”.


The event was hosted by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center (KAIPTC) in conjunction with the University of South Africa, Department of Religious Studies, and Arabic with support from Somaliland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Dr. Jhazbhay said the AU would be fair to the people of Somaliland if it establishes a sub-committee comprising members from all the five sub-regional bodies to analyze the Somaliland case and report back to the continental union for decisive action.

Interview With Prof. Iqbal Jhazbhay On Recognizing Somaliland
Amb. Iqbal D. Jhazbhay/Photo Courtesy

Somaliland is a relatively unknown East African country in the Horn of Africa which became a sovereign nation in 1947 after breaking the yoke of British colonialism and within its first week of her freedom entered into integration with Somalia. In 1991, she withdrew from the integration and declared her independence.

On 18th May 2007, Somaliland marked the 16th anniversary of its independence from Somalia. The Proclamation of Independence was founded on basic requirements of international law, which include a permanent population, a defined territory, a stable system of government, and the capacity to enter into international relations with other states.

For 16 years Somaliland has built up and projected a credible domestic political constituency in contrast to its southern neighbor, Somalia, where the United Nations, the African Union, and the Transitional Federal Government are struggling to overcome internal divisions and assert national political authority.

However, Somaliland’s success story in establishing and maintaining a functioning constitutional democracy remains a better-kept secret and denied international recognition.

According to Dr. Jhazbhay, Somaliland has tried to manage extreme Islamic fundamentalism within widely accepted norms and this has reinforced religious and social cohesion within the country.

Speaking on “Somaliland’s Emerging Democracy and Economy: The Way to Consolidation”, Somaliland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Abdillahi Duale submitted that his country has all it takes in a any stable and democratic state, adding that in a referendum in May 2001, 97 percent of eligible voters approved the country’s Constitution and affirmed Somaliland’s status as a sovereign and independent state.

Since the referendum, there have been three democratic elections: local elections in December 2002, Presidential elections in April 2003, and Parliamentary elections in September 2005.

“Several countries enjoy de-factor relations with Somaliland. European governments have signed agreements with the Somaliland government for the return of refugees, recognizing not just the reality of the Somaliland administration but also the existence of the necessary peace and stability for the return of failed asylum seekers. For instance, Ethiopia has an agreement with Somaliland on the use of the port at Berbera. Bilateral and multilateral agencies, including those of the UN, operate effectively in Somaliland,” he said.

He disclosed that an AU fact-finding mission in 2005 acknowledged that Somaliland’s independence does not set a precedent for the redrawing of colonial boundaries in Africa because Somaliland had simply re-declared itself an independent state within its former colonial boundaries. The Foreign Affairs Minister of Ethiopia, Mr. Seyoum Mesfin, said the case of Somalia is a fact on the ground that cannot be wished away, and that dialogue is the way forward out of the stalemate.

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