Somaliland’s lack of external Sovereignty has, in some ways, facilitated the growth and development of its internal legitimacy.
By Scott Pegg & Pål Kolsto
- Aspects of internal legitimacy in de facto states
- The internal legitimacy of Somaliland: a hybrid political system with popular support
- Somaliland as an unrecognized state
- Eradication or reunification unlikely
- De facto statehood and internal legitimacy: benefits and burdens of non-recognition
- Legitimacy vs. legitimacy
• Despite strong legal claims to sovereignty, Somaliland remains unrecognized.
• Lack of external legitimacy has facilitated the growth of internal legitimacy.
• Maintaining internal legitimacy and securing external legitimacy sometimes conflict.
• De facto statehood, with high internal and low external legitimacy, remains likely.
Despite its strong legal and historical claims to sovereignty, the Republic of Somaliland remains entirely unrecognized by the international community more than 20 years after it proclaimed independence from Somalia in 1991. Paradoxically, Somaliland’s lack of external legitimacy has, in some ways, facilitated the growth and development of its internal legitimacy. In contrast, Somalia enjoys widespread external recognition from the international community but has very little domestic legitimacy and largely fails to govern effectively the territory it claims.
Somaliland’s high degree of domestic legitimacy and its strong desire for external recognition increasingly come into conﬂict with one another both in the eastern parts of Somaliland and in the continued democratic development of its hybrid domestic political institutions.
The safest prediction for Somaliland is continued de facto statehood where its strong internal legitimacy enables it to survive in a hostile external environment but fails to translate into widespread sovereign recognition of its signiﬁcant domestic accomplishments. Ultimately, though, Somaliland’s ability to deliver the ‘‘goods’’ on economic development and poverty reduction for its citizens will be signiﬁcantly hampered without external recognition of its domestic achievements.
Despite its strong legal and historical claims to sovereignty, the Republic of Somaliland remains entirely unrecognized by the international community more than 20 years after it proclaimed independence from Somalia in 1991. Paradoxically, Somaliland’s lack of external legitimacy has, in some ways, facilitated the growth and development of its internal legitimacy.
In contrast, Somalia enjoys widespread external recognition from the international community, but has very little domestic legitimacy and largely fails to govern effectively the territory it claims. Somaliland’s high degree of domestic legitimacy and its strong desire for external recognition increasingly come into conflict with one another both in the eastern parts of Somaliland and in the continued democratic development of its hybrid domestic political institutions.
The safest prediction for Somaliland is continued de facto statehood where its strong internal legitimacy enables it to survive in a hostile external environment but fails to translate into widespread sovereign recognition of its significant domestic accomplishments.
Ultimately, though, Somaliland’s ability to deliver the “goods” on economic development and poverty reduction for its citizens will be significantly hampered without external recognition of its domestic achievements.
There is growing recognition that sovereign states share the stage with a wide range of other entities, including governments-in-exile, stateless enclaves, internationalized territories, and de facto states (Berg and Kuusk, 2010, McConnell, 2009). However, McConnell’s (2009: 344–345) observation still rings true: framing these sovereign anomalies “in consistently negative terms (as illegal, pathological and clandestine) and with regard to what they fail to achieve (sovereign territorial statehood) ultimately restricts analysis of these policies and denigrates their achievements.”
This article investigates a specific type of sovereign anomaly, a de facto state that controls territory and provides governance over an extended period, yet remains unrecognized by the international community (see Pegg, 1998 for a detailed definition). We employ the term “de facto state” both because it is “the most appropriate and most neutral” term (O’Loughlin et al., 2011: 2) and because it is widely used (see, for example, Pegg, 1998, Lynch, 2002, Popescu, 2007, Berg and Kuusk, 2010, Kolstø and Blakkisrud, 2012).
Among today’s de facto states, Somaliland occupies a special place. The only extant such case in Africa, it does not – in contrast to virtually all other unrecognized states – enjoy the support of an external patron. It achieved its independence and has maintained its precarious existence at the margins of international society entirely by its own efforts.
Even after the formation of its latest government in 2012, the formal parent state from which it has seceded, Somalia, remains a paradigmatic failed state and does not – at least for the time being – represent any military threat to Somaliland. In contrast to the situation of many widely recognized African states, most observers agree that Somaliland enjoys a high degree of legitimacy among its citizens (Huliaras, 2002, Kaplan, 2008, Ibrahim and Terlinden, 2010).
Thus, a unique situation has arisen in the Horn of Africa: a failed state (Somalia) enjoys full international recognition, with all the rights that go with it, such as a seat in the UN and access to other intergovernmental institutions. To the degree that this state exists at all, it does not enjoy much legitimacy among its own citizens.
As Lewis (2010: xv) observes, there is “a striking contrast between the legitimacy bestowed outside Somalia on this ramshackle enterprise by the EU, UN, African Union and latterly the United States and the contemptuous disregard displayed toward it by the majority of the Somali population” (see also Anonymous, 2002, Geldenhuys, 2009, Menkhaus, 2012). As discussed below, this situation has not changed greatly since the inauguration of the latest Somali government in 2012.
Yet, next door, we find Somaliland, which exists under the opposite conditions: denied external recognition, the majority of its citizens recognize it as a legitimate state, and with its limited means it tries to fulfill the basic tasks expected of a state such as providing security, infrastructure, and basic health and educational services. The paradox, then, can be described as the contrast between a legal state with limited internal legitimacy and an internationally “illegal” state which enjoys widespread domestic legitimacy (Anonymous, 2002, Poore, 2009, Walls and Kibble, 2010).
Most studies of Somaliland have focused either on the external aspect – why it is denied recognition and/or the prospects for achieving it – or the internal aspect, why Somaliland ended up with the political system it has, and how it functions. We combine these two perspectives and ask: how are these two aspects of legitimacy – internal and external – interconnected? Has the lack of international recognition hampered (or promoted) the development towards good governance that can observed in Somaliland?
Aspects of internal legitimacy in de facto states
State legitimacy has been variously defined. Lipset maintained that legitimacy involves the capacity of a system to engender and maintain the belief that the existing political institutions are the most appropriate ones for the society (Lipset, 1960: 77). Gilley (2006: 48) similarly notes that “legitimacy is a distinct form of political support that concerns evaluations of the state from a public or ‘common good’ perspective… a state is more legitimate the more that it is treated by its
The internal legitimacy of Somaliland: a hybrid political system with popular support
Somalia and Somaliland are almost unique in Africa in their high degree of ethnic homogeneity. Most Somalis speak the same language and profess the same religion, Sunni Islam. However, Somalis are divided into an elaborate system of clans and sub-clans that in many ways plays the same role as ethnic groups in other African societies. Northern Somalia is dominated by the Isaaq clan (itself divided into several sub-clans), one of the five or six large clan families in Somalia, but there are also
Somaliland as an unrecognized state
The Republic of Somaliland has been independent for more than 23 years. A former British colony, Somaliland enjoyed five days of recognized sovereign statehood, from June 26 to July 1, 1960, before joining with the former Italian Somaliland to form Somalia (Bryden, 2004, Geldenhuys, 2009). For various reasons including the failure to pass a single or unified Act of Union bill in both Somalia and Somaliland and Somaliland’s rejection of Somalia’s new constitution in a 1961 referendum, many
Eradication or reunification unlikely
Besides widespread recognition of its sovereignty, the two other most plausible routes out of de facto statehood for Somaliland would be forcible military eradication or peaceful reunification with Somalia. The World Bank (2014a) estimates that Somaliland spent on average 51.1% of its entire budget on security services from 2002 to 2011. This has left the state with very little to put into education, health, infrastructure or other developmental expenditures, so these efforts have largely been
De facto statehood and internal legitimacy: benefits and burdens of non-recognition
It may sound incongruous to claim that the lack of international recognition can in any way be positive for Somaliland, but comparing the situation in Somaliland with the results of the international engagement in Somalia suggests that it can. As Leonard and Samantar (2011: 575) note, the accumulated evidence from two major foreign troop interventions and the various regional and international conferences leading to the creation of Somalia’s TNG and its TFG is that “None of these efforts has
Legitimacy vs. legitimacy
As noted above, Holsti assumes that in most cases there is a positive relationship between international and domestic legitimacy, with the two reinforcing each other. While this intuitively makes sense, Somaliland interestingly shows that in certain respects and under some circumstances there may also be a negative relationship, in which policies in pursuit of international legitimacy may weaken the bases for a state’s domestic legitimacy, and vice versa.
Two of Somaliland’s strongest arguments
It seems safe to conclude – even if this cannot yet be backed up by extensive survey data of the kind collected for other de facto states (Bakke et al., 2014, Berg, 2013, O’Loughlin et al., 2011) – that Somaliland enjoys a high degree of internal legitimacy among its citizens, although it still remains unrecognized 23 years after its proclamation of independence. The general assumption advanced by Holsti (1996) that unrecognized states are inherently deficient in horizontal (societal) legitimacy
The authors would like to thank Padraig Carmody, Susan Hoivik, Alex Jeffrey, Fiona McConnell, Alice Wilson and three anonymous referees for their many helpful comments on earlier drafts. We also thank everyone in Somaliland who was willing to share their thoughts with either or both of us in personal interviews.
Please read the full Article – Somaliland dynamics of internal legitimacy and lack of external sovereignty
- The UNIQUE Case For The International Recognition Of Somaliland
- Somaliland: The Little Country That Could By David Shinn
- The World Can Learn From How Somaliland Overcame Militias
- Masuuliyiinta Xidh-Xidhan Iyo Dareemada Dhagarta Xambaarsan Ee Laga Soo Werinayo Dhinaca Madaxtooyada
- KOIGI: Acknowledge Somaliland To Cure Festering Wound On Africa
- Somaliland Declaration On The Origin Of African Borders