6. Legitimization strategies of Somaliland Government

Somaliland fulfills more or less the Montevideo criteria of statehood. Though, it has not managed to achieve international recognition nor the consent of Somalia for its separation. The non-recognition limits Somaliland’s possibilities to reach out to foreign aid provided by international financial institutions and close bilateral agreements. International recognition would thus certainly extend its possibilities for socio-economic development (interview with Abdillahi Duale).

The government of Somaliland, therefore, tries to justify its requirement for international recognition by means of various legitimization strategies which correspond to the theoretical framework proposed at the beginning of the paper. They especially include emphasizing the historical continuity of Somaliland’s statehood during the British protectorate and the existence of colonial frontiers associated therewith, the right to self-determination on the basis of the remedial rights theory, and emphasizing the successful democratization process and the importance of Somaliland for achieving security in the region of the Horn of Africa.

In 2001 the Somaliland government issued a publication where it submitted its arguments on why Somaliland should achieve international recognition. It bases its claim on the right of nations to self-determination and refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With regards to the fact that during the rule of Siyad Barre inhabitants of northern Somalia were subject to long-term and extreme violations of human rights, they applied their right to self-determination through the declaration of Somaliland’s independence, and according to the government, the international community is obliged to recognize the independence of Somaliland (Government of Somaliland 2001: 5–6).


States of the international community are waiting to see whether Somaliland will be recognized by the AU. In this regard, President Egal sent a letter of 24 May 1997 to the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) in which he explained the reasons for the declaration of independence of Somaliland on the basis of interpretation of historical events. The disintegration of Somalia resulted from the repressive government of Siyad Barre against whom opposition was formed not only in the north of Somalia. President Egal contrasted the chaotic development after the overthrow of Barre, which ended in a civil war in southern Somalia and the state’s collapse, with the development in Somaliland.

Thanks to the different colonial history and involvement of the traditional authorities, Somaliland “resurrected its previous statehood and without help or even encouragement, conquered the anarchy and reconciled its people and established democratic institutions of government which, in contrast to the surrounding anarchy, are working as the instruments of the will of their electorate.” (Quotation in Abraham 2002: 439).

President Egal appealed to the OAU to recognize the independence of Somaliland within its colonial borders because according to him, the political separation is a basis for the reconstruction of both parties. The President did not exclude further cooperation with Somalia and potential reunification “in times when the wounds of the present have been healed …” (Quotation in Abraham 2002: 439).

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