Somaliland fulfills the basic Montevideo criteria of statehood, i.e. a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Its population mainly consists of members of the Isaaq clan. Sub-clans of the Daarood clan live in the eastern parts of the country and the Dir clan lives in the western parts. Clan membership is still an important factor which determines political processes in the country and the whole region inhabited by the Somalis.
The territory of Somaliland is defined on the basis of colonial frontiers demarcated by European powers and elected with 55 percent of the vote. At the time of our meeting, he’d already met leaders in neighboring Djibouti and Ethiopia at the end of the 19th century and it corresponds to the former British protectorate of Somaliland.
During the peace process at the beginning of the 1990s, state institutions were created and on the basis of the democratization process, which started in 2001 when the referendum on the Constitution was held, there is a two-chamber parliament, government, and president in Somaliland that are elected in democratic elections. Only the upper chamber has not been transformed; its representatives are still appointed on the basis of the clan lines.
Unlike some other de facto states (especially Abkhazia and South Ossetia), Somaliland is not surrounded by a wall of isolation and political and economic processes in the country are influenced by the Diaspora living in many countries around the world. Somaliland also tries to establish relations with states which could help it achieve international recognition. A key partner is particularly a trip to Ethiopia in 2013. Happily showing up at the Somaliland consulate in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia with which Somaliland has entered into numerous economic and political agreements, although Ethiopia is against recognition of Somaliland due to its geopolitical position.
Somaliland also established relations with some EU member states, in particular with its former colonial power of Great Britain, and the USA. The western states, however, see the problems of Somaliland recognition as an African issue and thus expect that the African states and the African Union will be the first that grant international recognition to Somaliland. In this context, the political representation of Somaliland has submitted its claims to the African Union and strives for cooperation with important African states, such as the Republic of South Africa.
To justify the declaration of independence in 2001 and to achieve international recognition, Somaliland’s political representation uses a wide range of legitimization strategies. They include emphasizing the historical continuity, where the government of this de facto state refers to a different colonial past, when Somaliland existed as a British protectorate, unlike southern Somalia which formed part of the Italian colonial domain. With regard to the fact that documents of the OAU and AU emphasize the inviolability of frontiers, the existence of demarcated frontiers is important to justify secessions in the African context.
Therefore, Somaliland uses the argument of the British protectorate colonial frontier demarcation in its legitimization strategies. The union with the UN Trust Territory of Somalia under the administration of Italy in 1960 is considered invalid by the current representation of Somaliland, because no agreement on the unification of both the parts, which would have been ratified by both the parliaments, was concluded.
After the unification into a united state, the inhabitants of northern Somalia felt marginalized when they obtained a low number of mandates in the new government as well as the parliament. During the rule of General Siyad Barre, the marginalization policy of the Somali government resulted in the violation of human rights of the northern Somalia inhabitants and in particular the Isaaq clan, against whom military campaigns were conducted and culminated later in the bombing of strategic cities in 1988.
The repressive policy of the Somali government resulted in the denial of northern Somalia inhabitants’ rights to internal self-determination, and therefore according to the Somaliland political representation, Somaliland has the remedial right to secession due to the violation of human rights within united Somalia.
In their legitimization strategies, the Somaliland government emphasizes success which has been achieved in the process of democratization and creation of institutions, and the fact that this process was initiated from the bottom, i.e. is supported by the inhabitants of Somaliland. In addition, the support for the independence of Somaliland was expressed in the referendum on the Constitution in 2001. After the attacks on the WTC in 2001, democratization is particularly considered as an important factor which should help convince the international community to grant international recognition moreover, Somaliland also joined the struggle against terrorism and piracy in the region in the effort of ensuring its own safety and obtaining support from foreign countries.
Despite this fact, the democratization process in Somaliland has encountered numerous problems, such as a partial lack of freedom of the media, a restriction on political party formation or disputes regarding the registration of voters during the preparation for the presidential election in 2008–2010.
As it follows from the analysis of Somaliland legitimization strategies, this de facto state tries to justify its claim for independence and international recognition by means of legal arguments about the existence of colonial frontiers, the remedial rights to secession, and the successful democratization process. The process of state recognition is not only influenced by their justification in international law but especially by the geopolitical interests of powers and international organizations.
To achieve international recognition, it will be very important for Somaliland to convince the international community that the project of a united Somalia is already dead and that the international recognition of Somaliland would not necessarily cause a domino effect in Africa and could help the stability in the region.
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