Somaliland, despite lacking international recognition, has achieved significant achievements in democracy, the rule of law, peace, and human rights. So let the African Union and UN recognize Somaliland.

By Mphatso Kampeni

A successful state is one where the acting government demonstrates control of the periphery, the center, financially able to provide basic institutions, and has strong legitimate authority. Arguably, international recognition is also a factor in a successful state, yet despite this, Somaliland has managed well without it.

Lack of international recognition has increased state nationality in Somaliland. Somaliland, as it stands, was not formally recognized as a legitimate state among the international community. However, this does not mean that Somaliland is not a state perhaps in the truest sense of the word. It appears that although Somaliland lacks international recognition, it has an abundance of internal recognition. Internal recognition in Somaliland has translated to legitimacy; thus, in the eyes of the Somaliland people, the de-facto state is legitimate.


Ironically, a failed state such as Somalia has international recognition as well as international representation, such as a seat in the UN. However, despite international approval, among Somalis, the state does not have legitimacy. Insofar as the government’s power simply extends to that of Mogadishu, yet even within the capital, power is relative. According to Maxamed Maxamuud and also Lipset, legitimacy involves the capacity of a system to maintain and engender existing political institutions that are most efficient for one’s society.

In the Failed State Index, which measures corruption, government effectiveness, political participation, level of democracy, illicit economy, and protest, Somalia is considered to be the world’s most failed state with a 9.5 out of 10 score, as argued by Pegg and Kolstø.

Furthermore, based on the Freedom House World Index, that ranks countries based on civil liberties and political rights. This scale considers 7 as the lowest and 1 as the highest; here Somaliland has ranked 4.5, while Somalia is a 7. Thus, it can be observed that in terms of political rights and perhaps even liberties, Somaliland has proven to be more successful.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that data conducted in Somalia is relatively difficult and may not necessarily be all-inclusive. Thus, legitimacy and state success are not solely based upon international recognition.

Somaliland is an extraordinary success story, unparalleled in the world in its achievements in democracy, rule of law, peace, and human rights while remaining largely unrecognized for its achievements in such a perilous region. Failure to recognize Somaliland at the global level is doing unjust things to the people and depriving them of foreign investments.

Many African countries, such as South Sudan, which is a new country, have a lot to learn from Somaliland and its youthful population. Job creation, education, and technology. Somaliland has success stories ranging from start-ups in technology and its education system to economic management that many people do not know about.

The lack of international recognition in Somaliland has proven to build the state at a bottom-up level. By comparing Somaliland to Somalia, we are able to identify that no international intervention has proven to be pivotal to Somaliland’s success. There are large foreign troop interventions in Somalia, including from the USA, in addition to regional and international conferences. Yet none of these conferences has led to stability or, at the very least, control of more than a small fraction of Somalia. The question remains: Why is the international community failing to recognize Somaliland the same way South Sudan was recognized?

Yet peacebuilding in Somaliland is, for the most part, in the hands of the people because they do not have the ability to request international aid. Thus, “if the Somalilanders did not achieve peace among themselves, nobody would do it for them. This notion of self-reliance has fueled nationality within the de facto state, ultimately solidifying internal legitimacy.

Somaliland has been forced to rely on itself, and this has only strengthened its persistence of independence and stability. At this point in time, Somaliland has two strong arguments for independence, the first being its substantial support and legitimacy within the state. Secondly, its previous status of once being a former British colony prior to the unification of Somalia. According to the notion of ‘’utis possidetis’’ former territorial lines are kept with its possessor.

Let The African Union And UN Recognize SomalilandDemocracy is often championed and hailed as a solution to social and political issues around the world, and that’s what multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and other Western countries preach because it removes clannism and antiquated political institutions. Although clannism did not function as an effective political institution in pre-colonial times, it succeeded with the inclusion of democracy. Societies such as Somaliland’s clans of kinship are a pivotal aspect of social life and will not be changed at any time in the near future. Thus, rather than attempting to abolish or degrade it (such as in the case of the Barre regime), accommodating it will prove to be much more effective in the current setup.

It is noteworthy that in 2005 the African Union sent a fact-finding mission to Somaliland to see the prevailing situation thus political, socio-economic, security, and humanitarian situation in the country, listen to the concerns of the leadership and people of Somaliland, and duly report back the findings of the mission to the Chairperson of the AU Commission with recommendations for further action. They have made it clear that Somaliland will not secede from Somalia but will be a country based on colonial borders.

The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the writer.

Mphatso Kampeni

Mphatso KampeniDiplomacy and International Relations, Malawian scholar based in the Kingdom of Eswatini He is a regular contributor to The Nation, The Daily Times newspapers in Malawi, The Times of Eswatini, and the CAFB blog in RSA. He writes on international relations and women’s empowerment issues. Malawi.

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