6.2 Remedial right on secession based on alleged human-rights violations

An important argument for the recognition of the independence of Somaliland is the continuous marginalization and repression of northern Somali clans by the government, especially during the autocratic rule of Siyad Barre. This argument corresponds to the theory of the remedial right on secession, according to which the territorial unit in question is entitled to negotiate the possibility of independent existence with the mother country if its inhabitants are subject to continuous denial of participation in the political decision-making in the country and repressions.

Siyad Barre used clan loyalties to achieve his political goals and supported other clans in northern Somalia, in order to suppress the Isaaq clan. He settled refugees from the Ogaden, who had come to Somalia after the war for Ogaden at the end of the 1970s, and Dulbahante clans in their territory (Brons 2001: 259; Huliaras 2002: 159). The opposition against Barre’s regime resulted in the formation of opposition groups by northern Somalia clans.

A violent campaign of the regime against the opposition in the north of the country culminated in 1988 when Burao and Hargeysa were bombed. This attack caused the deaths of about 50,000 inhabitants and the displacement of another half million Somalis, particularly to lamented Beijing’s economic engagement model, saying it undermined democracy and mired African countries in debt. When he landed in Ethiopia (Human Rights Watch 2006).


The violation of the rights of the northern Somalia inhabitants during the period of the United Republic of Somalia thus questions the right of Somalia to the preservation of territorial integrity. During this period Somaliland was deprived of the right to internal self-determination and thus it has the right to independent existence (Government of Somaliland 2001). In the case of Somaliland, the situation is complicated because since the overthrow of Siyad Barre in 1991 there has not been an efficient and legitimate government for a long time with which the political representation could negotiate about its right to self-determination (interview with Abdillahi Duale).

6.3 Democratization-for-recognition strategy

An important factor and argument in the efforts of Somaliland for international recognition is the emphasis put on the democratic character of the country. Peace among individual clans in Somaliland and stability in the region was achieved by means of 38 peace conferences held on the clan basis between 1990 and 1997 (Terlinden and Ibrahim 2008: 70).

The political representation emphasizes these achievements in its legitimization efforts and especially the fact that the peace process in Somaliland was initiated from the bottom with the involvement of traditional clan elites, and the power was transferred to the citizens by means of a referendum on the constitution.

It contrasts the successful process of creating institutions, which was a key factor in the process of nation-building, with the development in southern Somalia, where the peace process was initiated from abroad and did not reach such success by far. In this context, it is proposed that southern Somalia should be inspired by the government system created in Somaliland (interview with Abdillahi Duale; Government of Somaliland 2013b).

The fact that Somaliland took the direction of multi-party liberal democracy, primarily before the attack on the WTC in 2001, should convince the international community in its recognition. In the period following this, the political representation of Somaliland started emphasizing the geopolitical importance of the country in the struggle against terrorism and piracy, and the possible independent existence of Somaliland started to be perceived as a factor which could help stabilize the whole region (interview with Abdillahi Duale).

In line with this concept, Kurt Shillinger (2005) argues that with regard to its geographic location, potential recognition of Somaliland would help in creating a barrier to the penetration of Islamic terrorist organizations to the region and gaining control over the Somali coast, and thus the transit zone to the Arabic Peninsula. Aside from the fight against terrorism and piracy, Somaliland was also successful in disarming the clan militia and removal of land mines, which contributes to the safety in the region (Government of Somaliland 2013b).

The democratization process and especially the parliamentary election in 2005 helped to get the attention of the international community in developments in Somaliland. In spite of the fact that governments of states refused to recognize the independence of Somaliland, they provided it assistance, especially of a technical character, and also sent observers to Somaliland to supervise the course of the election. The interest of the international community was perceived as a positive step which should help the political reconstruction of the country (Terlinden and Ibrahim 2008: 77–78).

Although definite success was undoubtedly achieved in the democratization process of Somaliland, state institutions face many problems, such as the lack of financial funds and qualified personnel. Another problem is nepotism and corruption, which are caused particularly by filling the vacancies in the government on the basis of clan membership at the expense of qualification.

Up to now, the three constituents of power in the state have not been separated, i.e. the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Moreover, the power of parliament is highly limited and almost all legislative initiatives come from the government. The judiciary faces a lack of qualified judges and the continuing existence of parallel systems, i.e. the Italian and the British, the traditional clan (xeer), and the Islamic (sharia), which is a remnant of the United Somali state.

Another problem which makes the democratization process in Somaliland more complicated is undoubtedly the still lacking international recognition and unsettled relationship with Somalia (Terlinden and Ibrahim 2008: 79–83).

The democratization process in the country is also complicated by the efforts of the government to suppress the freedom of speech, as shown in the case of the Haatuf Daily in 2007 when its journalists were imprisoned for publishing articles criticizing President Kahin and his wife.

Another similar example was the prohibition of the activity of Qaran, a political organization, in the same year. Tensions in Somaliland were also caused by disputes among governmental parties and the opposition regarding the registration of voters to the presidential election which should have originally been held in 2008 but were postponed by the Parliament until 2010.

Although international recognition would help Somaliland obtain larger volumes of international aid and facilitate its inhabitants in traveling abroad and participation in economic transactions, Hoehne (2011: 336) similarly to Bryden (2003: 363) also see the negative influence of international recognition on the democratization process in the country and call the inhabitants of Somaliland a hostage to peace, which means the government uses its efforts for achieving international recognition as an argument for suppressing the opposition in the country.

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