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Since 1991, Somaliland has claimed sovereignty despite a lack of official recognition by the broader international community. With its own government institutions, currency, and political system, what does the dispute over Somaliland look like today, and what are the prospects for international recognition?

As part of the second event in the Pacific Council’s 2019 Summer Teleconference Series covering territorial disputes, Pacific Council member Grant Harris, CEO of Harris Africa Partners, moderated a discussion between Michael Woldemariam of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University and Sagal Abshir, an independent consultant whose practice focuses on public policy issues, governance, and institution building.

Key to the ongoing dispute around Somaliland today include ongoing dynamics around the international community’s push to rebuild the political system in South Central Somalia, the current position of Ethiopia in the region, and geopolitical engagement by Gulf countries.

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Both Abshir and Woldemariam provided historical context to Somaliland’s push for international recognition, with Abshir touching on the legacy of colonial rule by three European colonial powers—Britain, France, and Italy—until the formation of the Somali Republic in 1960. Despite being largely united by language and religion, the Somali people were spread across different regions, setting the stage for the former British protectorate to declare independence in 1991.

Somaliland’s claims for sovereignty—which span identity, historical memory, and legal reasoning—have remained for nearly three decades. Notable to this claim is Somaliland’s position as a relative “island of stability and security,” with its own political, security, and currency systems. But the key to the ongoing dispute around Somaliland today, Woldemariam noted, include ongoing dynamics around the international community’s push to rebuild the political system in South Central Somalia, the current position of Ethiopia in the region, and geopolitical engagement by Gulf countries.

What is the path forward for Somaliland? Listen to the full conversation below, including a Q&A with teleconference listeners:


Featuring: 

Somaliland Prospects For International RecognitionMichael Woldemariam, Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science, Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University

Michael Woldemariam’s teaching and research interests focus on African politics, particularly the dynamics of armed conflict, the behavior of rebel organizations and self-determination movements, and post-conflict institution building. Read more.

Somaliland Prospects For International RecognitionSagal Abshir, Independent Consultant

Sagal Abshir’s consultant practice is focused on public policy issues, governance and institution building, with clients including Norad, the UK Stabilization Unit, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the OECD, and the UN Special Representative of the SG in Somalia. Sagal was formerly a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister of Somalia. Read more.

Moderator:

Somaliland Prospects For International RecognitionGrant Harris, CEO, Harris Africa Partners

Grant Harris is a Pacific Council member who advises companies and organizations on strategy, policy, and mitigating risk with respect to investing and working in sub-Saharan Africa. For four years, Harris served as the principal advisor to President Barack Obama on issues related to sub-Saharan Africa, serving as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the White House from August 2011 to August 2015. Read more.


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Nicole Burnett is the Summer 2019 Communications Junior Fellow.

Nikki is a Pacific Council Junior Fellow for the Summer 2019 term and works in the Council’s Communications Department. Currently, she is pursuing a graduate degree in USC’s Public Diplomacy program and is a Graduate Student Fellow at USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy. Read more.

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