This paper “The Horn Of Africa: How Does Somaliland Fit?” was presented by David H. Shinn at a Discussion Seminar Introducing Somaliland in Umea, Sweden On March 8, 2003, Sponsored by Forum Syd

Thank you for inviting me to come so far to speak to you about the position of Somaliland in the Horn of Africa. I also bring greetings from your colleagues in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. I speak today as a private American citizen who has been interested in the Horn of Africa since the early 1960s.

Although I spent 37 years with the U.S. Department of State, my views are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the American government. Nor do I speak for any foreign government. My goal is to analyze dispassionately, factually, and constructively controversial issues confronting the Horn of Africa.


Arbitrary Borders

Conflict in the Horn of Africa goes back centuries. Although there have been periods of peace, conflict has been more the norm than the exception. European colonialism further complicated the situation. The Berlin Conference of 1884-85 and numerous colonial treaties created boundaries in Africa that are especially arbitrary.

In fact, the Horn of Africa was impacted more negatively than many other parts of the continent by borders agreed upon in foreign capitals. Great Britain, France, Italy, Ethiopia, and even Egypt had a hand in partitioning the lands inhabited by the Somalis. Great Britain established a Somaliland Protectorate in 1887 and by 1897 the partition of Somaliland was largely complete.

Independence and Unification

Those of you attending this seminar recall that the United Kingdom granted independence to the people of Somaliland on 26 June 1960. Somaliland was an independent country for five days. Some 35 states recognized independent Somaliland. The U.S. Secretary of State, Christian Herter, sent a congratulatory message. The United Kingdom signed several bilateral agreements with Somaliland in Hargeisa on 26 June 1960. At about the same time, Italy granted independence to former Italian Somalia on 1 July 1960.

The concept of unity between British Somaliland and Italian Somalia had been discussed extensively during the year leading up to independence on the basis that Somalis are the same people, speak the same language, and have a common religion. For the sake of Somali unity, the new Somali governments in both Hargeisa and Mogadishu agreed to merge into one nation. The legislatures of both entities met in a joint session in Mogadishu and agreed formally to join together as the Republic of Somalia effective 1 July 1960. Somaliland became known as the Northern Regions and former Italian Somalia as the Southern Regions. There was never a referendum on the act of union.

The idea was to hold a national referendum to ratify the new Republic’s constitution within a year. This referendum took place on 20 June 1961 and, in the case of Somaliland, served as a vote of confidence or lack thereof for unification with former Italian Somalia. The leading political party in the Northern Regions boycotted the referendum. Just over 100,000 persons out of an estimated total population of 650,000 in the Northern Regions participated in the referendum, suggesting that at least half of the electorate boycotted the vote. Of those who did vote, about 60 percent opposed the constitution.

It is apparent that as early as 1961 a majority of Somalilanders were troubled by the decision to join the Somali Republic. As if to underscore this unhappiness, there was an attempted military coup in Somaliland late in 1961. Although it failed, one of its goals was to secede from the Somali Republic and establish an independent government.

The Horn Of Africa: How Does Somaliland Fit
The Horn of Africa.

Africa and Boundaries

In view of the arbitrariness of boundaries throughout the continent, it is not surprising that Somalia received virtually no support among African countries for a Greater Somalia. At the 1963 summit meeting that established the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the President of Somalia argued that the case of Somalia was unique in Africa because all of Somalia’s boundaries cut across grazing land that divided Somalis. The Ethiopian Prime Minister responded that “it is in the interest of all Africans now to respect the frontiers drawn on the maps, whether they are good or bad, by the former colonizers.” Interestingly, the Charter of the OAU contains no explicit reference to borders although it does underscore respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states.

The second OAU summit conference in Cairo in 1964 passed a resolution that contained the following language in the preamble: “the borders of African States, on the date of their independence, constitute a tangible reality.” Even more significant for Somaliland, Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union signed on 12 June 2000 in Lome, Togo, states that the African Union shall function in accordance with the following principle: “respect of borders existing on achievement of independence.”

On the basis of its brief independence from 26 June until 1 July 1960, Somaliland would seem to meet the definition contained in the resolution passed in Cairo in 1964 and the more recent Constitutive Act of the African Union. Yet the African Union and its member states have not so far been willing to accept independent status for Somaliland. At a meeting in Washington late last year the Interim Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Amara Essy, implied that Somaliland was not independent when the United Kingdom relinquished power to Somalilanders on 26 June 1960. One can only assume that he was unaware of the five days of independence or chose to conclude that this period did not meet his definition of independence. In any event, the African Union and its members most probably are reluctant to recognize the independence of Somaliland for fear that it would increase pressure by other groups in Africa to support changes in borders inherited at independence. The fact that Somaliland does not fit in the same category as other cases on the continent has not yet persuaded the African Union and its member states to give serious consideration to the arguments made by the government in Hargeisa. In fact, the African Union was quick to recognize the Transitional National Government in Mogadishu. Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that Somaliland officials have a low opinion of the African Union.

Live and Let Live

During the early years of the Somali Republic, the Northern Regions worked out a modus vivendi with Mogadishu. A Somalilander, Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, even became Prime Minister of the unified country in 1967. He did not last long in the position. In 1969, a bodyguard assassinated the President of the Somali Republic, and several days later a group of army officers seized power and installed Major General Mohammed Siad Barre in power. The new military government arrested Egal, who remained in jail until 1982 except for a six-month period in 1975 when he was assigned as Ambassador to India.

Barre’s rule rekindled discontent in the Northern Regions and by 1981 Somalilanders formed the Somali National Movement, which had the goal of toppling the Barre government. By 1988 an all-out civil war developed and Somaliland experienced considerable devastation at the hands of government-sponsored forces. The brutal repression resulted in more than 20,000 killed and left a deep bitterness among Somalilanders. The war ended in January 1991 with the fall of the Barre government.

The Failure of Pan-Somali Unity

From its inception, the Somali Republic dedicated itself to the unity of all Somalis in the Horn of Africa. This meant that the government in Mogadishu tried in every way possible to incorporate into the Somali Republic those Somalis living in neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. The result was constant tension along all three borders, sporadic fighting, and a major war with Ethiopia in 1977-78 when the Siyad Barre government captured most of Ethiopia’s Ogaden Region. It was only with the assistance of Soviet military advisers and some 15,000 Cuban troops that the Mengistu Haile Mariam regime in Ethiopia was able to turn back the Somali forces. Although Somalia’s relations with Kenya and Djibouti did not deteriorate to this extent, there was always a deep concern in both countries about Mogadishu’s intentions and policies.

Somalilanders were never particularly enthusiastic about the Pan-Somali goal of uniting all Somalis in the Horn of Africa under one government in Mogadishu. This was a concept that had more resonance in former Italian Somalia. The concept of Pan-Somalism, also known as Greater Somalia, disappeared as a significant issue with the overthrow of the Siyad Barre government in 1991. In fact, factional clan conflict within former Italian Somalia essentially replaced Pan-Somalism. Somalia’s three neighbors are probably not convinced, however, that the goal of a Greater Somalia has gone forever. Should there be any effort by Somalis to revive this policy, it will certainly be met with hostility by Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

Somaliland’s Second Independence

The Central Committee of the Somali National Movement (SNM) assembled in Burao in May 1991 and declared unilaterally that Somaliland would henceforth become the independent Republic of Somaliland. The SNM named Abdirahman Ahmed Ali “Tur” as interim president for two years. Near the end of his term, the 150-member Council of Elders began meeting in Borama to determine the political future of Somaliland. They agreed to establish an executive president and a bicameral legislature. The Council then elected Mohammed Ibrahim Egal as President of the Republic of Somaliland in 1993. They reelected Egal in 1997. The Conference of Somaliland Communities, formed by various Somaliland leaders, adopted a constitution at Hargeisa in 1997. It was to remain in effect for three years and would come into full force only after a referendum, which took place in May 2001.

In the meantime, Somaliland opted not to participate in the process aimed at unifying Somali factions that was initiated by the government of Djibouti in 2000 in the Djiboutian town of Arta. The Arta Conference resulted in the creation of the Transitional National Government (TNG) that took up residence in North Mogadishu and claimed to represent all of Somalia, including Somaliland. The TNG occupied Somalia’s seats at the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), and the Arab League. Somaliland continues to reject both the Arta process and the government it created, arguing that the independence of Somaliland is nonnegotiable. For the same reason, it is boycotting the Somali peace process that began last year in Kenya.

Referendum on Somaliland Constitution

Somaliland conducted a referendum on 31 May 2001, which endorsed a new constitution and reaffirmed its status as an independent state. The referendum offers some useful insights on the thinking of Somalilanders on the issue of independence. The Initiative and Referendum Institute, an international nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. sent a 10-member team to observe the referendum process from 28 May until 7 June 2001. Eight of the delegates were from the United States, one from the United Kingdom, and one from Switzerland. The Institute acknowledged that its ability to observe the referendum was imperfect. On the day of the referendum, it was only able to visit 57 of the 600 polling stations in five of Somaliland’s six regions. The Institute chose, for security reasons, not to send any observers to Sool Region and had only one observer in Sanaag Region. The Institute concluded, however, that overall the referendum was conducted “openly, fairly, honestly, and largely in accordance with internationally recognized election procedures.” Irregularities and procedural deviations were de-minimus, and occurrences of fraud were insignificant and very rare. The referendum was peaceful and without violence.

Ninety-seven percent of the voters approved the constitution. The Institute believes that the referendum was primarily a vote to show support for independence rather than an endorsement of the numerous provisions of the constitution. It concluded that approximately two-thirds of eligible voters participated. The Institute suggested that some of those who chose not to vote were probably exercising their opposition to the referendum. In Las Anod District of the Sool Region, for example, where there was the greatest opposition to the referendum, voter turnout was only 31 percent, well below the national average. The opposition was not unified around one issue. Some opposed Somaliland’s independence while others supported independence but were opposed to the administration of President Egal. But even assuming that all eligible voters that did not vote were opposed to the constitution, independence, and/or the Egal administration, 97 percent of two-thirds of the voters still supported the constitution and independence.


Political parties only returned to Somaliland following the passage of enabling legislation in 2000. Late in 2001 Somaliland postponed for one year the previously scheduled municipal elections and the 2002 presidential and legislative elections to allow more time for preparation. President Egal died of natural causes in May 2002. In accordance with the Somaliland constitution, his Vice President, Dahir Rayale Kahin, who was also elected by traditional leaders, succeeded him.

Six political parties took part in the municipal elections held on 15 December 2002. The process was peaceful although there was no voting in the disputed Las Anod District. The ruling UDUB party had the highest total at 198,000 votes but the combined total of the five opposition parties was more than 260,000. The outcome of the balloting suggests that Somalilanders were able to express their views freely although two opposition parties said they were not satisfied with the results, citing voting irregularities. It should be noted that these were the first multiparty elections in Somaliland since 1969 and the first occasion that Somaliland women were able to vote. They also took place with minimal outside assistance.

Presidential elections scheduled for January 2003 have been postponed until April 14. The electoral commission explained that it needed more time to deliver electoral materials to the polling stations, train poll officials and resolve budget issues. The three political parties that received the highest vote totals in the municipal elections will contest the presidential election. This includes President Rayale’s UDUB party together with KULIMIYE led by Ahmed Mohamoud Sillanyo and UCID founded by Faysal Ali Warabe. Parliamentary elections will probably take place in May. In view of Somaliland’s inexperience with the holding of democratic elections, most Somalilanders and outsiders seem to be understanding of these postponements.

Reaching a Solution with Puntland

One issue that has a direct bearing on Somaliland’s ability to attract international recognition is neighboring Puntland’s claim to most of the Sool and Sanaag Regions, a claim that Somaliland rejects. In 1998, the Harti leaders of northern Somalia and eastern Somaliland declared Puntland an autonomous republic within a federal Somalia. Unlike the leaders in Somaliland, they decided not to opt for independence and opposed the independence of Somaliland. Puntland’s boundaries correspond roughly to those areas where the Harti, a subgroup of the larger Darod clan, reside. The Majerteen, a subset of the Harti, predominate in that part of Puntland known as northern Somalia, which borders Somaliland. Two additional Harti subsets, the Warsangeli and the Dulbahante reside inside that part of Somaliland claimed by Puntland. The Warsangeli predominate in the eastern part of the Sanaag Region while the Dulbahante predominates in Sool Region. Two Harti leaders that come from different subgroups-Abdullahi Yusuf and Jama Ali Jama-have been competing for power in Puntland. Abdullahi Yusuf achieved a military victory last year over Jama Ali Jama and established a new regional government. Clan reconciliation has not yet occurred, however, in Puntland.

Sool and Sanaag were part of British Somaliland and the Republic of Somaliland when it became independent in 1960. Puntland’s claim to most of the two regions is based on clan ties. This complicates the issue for Somaliland in spite of the fact that there are differences of opinion among the Harti themselves. The fact that voters in Sanaag and, especially, Sool were decidedly less supportive of Somaliland’s 2001 referendum and that Las Anod District did not participate in the 2002 municipal elections is evidence of opposition to Hargeisa. This is a vexing issue for Somaliland that cries out for a political solution that would enhance Somaliland’s case for international recognition. It may require some kind of innovative proposal such as special status for those parts of Sool and Sanaag that oppose rule from Hargeisa. Ideally, such a resolution would be acceptable to both the residents of the two regions and the Puntland leadership. Failure to resolve peacefully Puntland’s conflicting claims over parts of Sool and Sanaag will complicate international acceptance of Somaliland’s independence.

Some Political Issues

Although not perfect, Somaliland has done amazingly well in managing the electoral process. Continued progress towards democratization, including free and fair elections, will help to convince the international community of Somaliland’s bona fides as an independent state. One area that requires constant attention is the suppression of corruption. A problem endemic around the world, Somaliland has its share of this affliction. When Somaliland declared independence in 1991 for a second time, it had a militia of some 40,000 men that it began to reduce to less than 10,000. An estimated 50 to 70 percent of the Somaliland budget goes to the military, primarily to pay salaries. Some payments go to soldiers who do not exist or are no longer in uniform. Although corruption is pervasive in Somaliland, the amounts involved appear to be modest and its overall record may well be better than is the case in most developing countries.

As Somaliland continues to build democratic institutions, one of the critical areas that require attention is a free press. There are few institutions that are more important at the early stages of developing democracy than a vigorous and open press. One need only look as far as Kenya to see the positive role that the private press can play in this process. There have been discussions in Somaliland’s legislature of a draft press law. So far, they have not resulted in new legislation. The passage of any oppressive law aimed at controlling the press would be a serious setback for democracy in Somaliland. It is equally essential that the press, whether it supports or opposes the government, act professionally and responsibly.


Although Somaliland declared HIV an epidemic in 1998, it is not paying sufficient attention to the problem. UNICEF conducted a useful HIV/AIDS behavioral survey in 1999, but there is still no UNAIDS presence in either Somalia or Somaliland. Somaliland’s National HIV/AIDS Coordination Body held its first meeting in 2002. The civil war destroyed the health service delivery system, which is only slowly reviving with assistance from international nongovernmental organizations, agencies of the United Nations, and private clinics. There is a severe shortage of skilled health workers, and except for efforts to raise awareness, little is being done. Testing is almost nonexistent. Blood donors found to be HIV positive are not informed of their status because there is no counseling service. The stigma of HIV/AIDS is huge. Neighboring Djibouti has an adult prevalence rate of at least 12 percent and neighboring Ethiopia a rate of somewhere between 7 and 18 percent, although the rate is lower in the Ogaden, the rural Somali Region that borders Somaliland.

It is generally believed that the HIV prevalence rate in Somaliland is relatively low. The 1999 UNICEF study, drawing on anecdotal information, concluded that the prevalence rate for the general population is about one percent. At the same time, the study noted that young people are sexually very active, and condom use generally is very low. Knowledge about the way that HIV/AIDS is transmitted is also low. Those who follow the subject suggest that the prevalence rate today is about four percent. If Somaliland, aided by international organizations, bilateral donors, and non-governmental organizations were to wage a major campaign now against HIV/AIDS, it might actually be possible to prevent the catastrophic situations that confront its neighbors. This is an area where Somaliland should seize the initiative and request international assistance and a UNAIDS presence. There has been some positive movement in recent months. Several Somali nongovernmental organizations are ready to help as soon as they can identify funding. A delegation led by Somaliland’s minister of health participated in early February in a conference on combating HIV/AIDS at Arusha, Tanzania. But this is only the beginning; much remains to be done.

The Menace of Khat

The habitual use of khat is not, of course, confined to Somaliland. It is widely used in Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen, and increasingly in Ethiopia. When Somalilanders hear friends from the West complain about the evils of khat, they must be thinking that Westerners have their own problems with the abuse of alcohol and the use of hard drugs. This is a legitimate response, but it does not lessen the damage being done to Somali society by the growing use of khat. As serious as alcohol abuse and use of hard drugs is in the West, the percentages of abuse and use do not reach those of khat usage in Somaliland. When you ask Somalilanders what percent of the population regularly used khat at the time of independence in 1960, the responses tend to vary between one and five percent. A Somalilander who recently researched this issue estimated that five percent of women and 75 percent of men now use it on an almost daily basis.

The green leaves of khat, which are chewed during lengthy sessions, contain cathinone, an active brain stimulant that acts much like amphetamine. Khat ingestion results in decreased appetite, euphoria, and hyperalertness. Chronic use of khat often produces sleeplessness, nervousness, impotence, constipation, and nightmares. The average daily cost of a khat session is $5, a huge amount for most Somalilanders. It is having a severely negative impact on family life as the men ignore or even abuse their families. Prolonged lack of food, associated with khat use, causes malnutrition and increased susceptibility to infectious diseases such as TB, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS. It impacts significantly the economic productivity of the workforce and removes from the economy scarce capital that could be used for productive purposes. Khat is an illegal drug in the United States.

There is no organized effort in Somaliland to combat this scourge. This is one of several areas where the Somali diaspora can make a positive contribution by emphasizing the dangers and negative implications of the regular use of khat. One Somaliland diaspora Web site,, currently contains a lead item that speaks out against the use of khat. There are also stirrings in Hargeisa that suggest there is real concern about khat. Last fall President Rayale issued a directive that limits the number of daily khat flights from Kenya and Ethiopia to no more than 50, which is down from about 150. He also ordered that khat no longer be imported by surface across land borders. It is not clear, however, if this order can or will be enforced.

Somaliland and the Region

Somaliland’s longest border is with Ethiopia and ethnic Somali pastoralists on both sides of the border regularly cross it seeking seasonal pasturage. Landlocked Ethiopia has made minimal use of Somaliland’s port of Berbera, even after ports in Eritrea became off-limits. The European Union used Berbera in 1999 to ship 15,000 tons of food aid to Ethiopia. The EU resumed the use of Berbera late last year to send 20,000 tons of food aid to Ethiopia. If there is regular maintenance of the road between Berbera and Jijiga in Ethiopia, it is possible to ship 30,000 tons of food each month to eastern Ethiopia. For the first time ever, Ethiopian Airlines has established regular service between Addis Ababa and Hargeisa. Ethiopia and Somaliland have opened liaison offices in their respective capitals. There are regular high-level visits between the two countries. President Rayale was in Addis Ababa early this year and a senior Ethiopian military delegation visited Somaliland last month.

Somaliland sees Ethiopia as an ally in its quest for support and recognition. Although Ethiopia understands that a stable, peaceful, and independent Somaliland is in its interest, it is unwilling to be the first to recognize the government in Hargeisa. Somalia would immediately attribute nefarious motives to Ethiopian recognition of Somaliland, arguing that it wishes to balkanize Somalia and weaken Somali unity.

There are important clan ties between Somalilanders and some 60 percent of the Djiboutian population that is Somali. Relations between Somaliland and Djibouti are correct and improving. President Rayale commented recently that Somaliland now has good relations with Djibouti. Nevertheless, Somaliland resents Djibouti’s initiative in helping to create the TNG in Somalia and is still not entirely comfortable with the current Djiboutian leadership. Djibouti continues to have a complex set of financial and commercial links with the TNG. Its commitment to the preservation of Somali unity suggests that it wants to prevent the emergence of a viable and independent Somaliland. Even with the current tension in the relationship, there is considerable informal trade between the two countries, and because taxes are lower in Somaliland, many Djiboutian buy goods there. Somaliland officials suspect that Djibouti fears competition from the port of Berbera once it is fully rehabilitated.

Saudi Arabia poses a major dilemma for Somaliland. A significant financial backer of the TNG and supporter of it within the Arab League, Saudi Arabia was traditionally the major importer of Somaliland livestock. For the better part of the last five years, Saudi Arabia has banned livestock from Somaliland on the grounds that it might be infected with Rift Valley Fever. Somaliland denies the charges, and there does not appear to be any current scientific evidence to support the claim. Recent investigations by the Food and Agricultural Organization and World Health Organization found no evidence of Rift Valley Fever in Somaliland. Several Gulf States that import small quantities of Somaliland livestock have lifted the ban. Some observers suspect that the ban is linked to Saudi business interests involved in the importation of livestock from other countries.

In the meantime, the Saudi ban is doing grievous damage to the Somaliland economy. The ban has harmed nearly every kind of employment in the country-pastoralists, truck drivers, livestock traders, animal health staff, brokers, port employees, and private business people. The impact is especially great in the port of Berbera. The town has been hard hit economically by the Saudi livestock ban although the recent arrival of food aid for Ethiopia should temporarily offset some of the loss. The large international airport built during the Soviet interlude is effectively shut down. The problem is aggravated because the government of Somaliland, at least until late last summer, did not have any access to the Saudi royal family and has been unable to make its case directly to the Saudi government. Somaliland is working to obtain international certification that its livestock is disease-free in an effort to remove any pretense for the ban.

Egypt has maintained an interest in the Somali coast dating back several centuries. In more recent years, Egypt has been a supporter of Somali unity and a strong Somali state that can serve as a counterweight to Ethiopia. Eighty-six percent of the water reaching the Aswan Dam in Egypt emanates from Ethiopia. The Nile River is, of course, Egypt’s lifeline, and the leadership in Cairo wants to maintain maximum leverage over Ethiopia. A unified Somalia that might one day reassert its claims to Somali-inhabited areas of Ethiopia and has close links to Egypt would add to this leverage. As a result, Egypt is one of five countries that has recognized the TNG and opposes an independent Somaliland. An Egyptian envoy visited Hargeisa last fall, congratulated Somaliland for the success it has achieved, and then urged it to participate in talks in Kenya on Somali unity with groups from Somalia. The Somaliland President rejected any suggestion of participating in the Kenyan-sponsored talks and reminded the Egyptian envoy that Egypt was one of the countries that recognized Somaliland’s first independence on 26 June 1960.

Eritrea, which received de facto independence from Ethiopia in 1991 and de jure independence in 1993, seemingly is a country that would be sympathetic to Somaliland’s independence. On the contrary, it supports the unity of Somalia and is one of five nations to recognize the TNG in Mogadishu. For its part, Somaliland is dismissive of the Eritrean precedent to bolster its own argument for independence. President Rayale stated recently that Somaliland, which first became independent in 1960, has “a better case” for independence than Eritrea. Eritrea’s hostility towards Somaliland probably stems from the aftermath of the 1998 Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have realigned their relationships in the region in order to strengthen their respective positions against each other. Eritrea in 1999 and 2000 supported Oromo Liberation Front elements operating out of Somalia against Ethiopia. Like Egypt, Eritrea also sees a strong and unified Somalia as a counterweight to Ethiopia. It is not surprising, therefore, that Somaliland and Eritrea do not see eye to eye.

Sudan’s policy on Somaliland is especially intriguing. Sudan has traditionally supported Somali unity and is one of the five countries that recognized the TNG in Mogadishu. Sudan has been dealing with its own civil war since 1983 and does not wish to take any step that would provide additional justification for an independent southern Sudan. Acceptance of an independent Somaliland might weaken its own case for Sudanese unity. In fact, Sudan sent a delegation to Hargeisa late last year to encourage Somaliland to take part in the Somali unity talks in Kenya. On the other hand, Sudan received the Mayor of Hargeisa in Khartoum last June when there were discussions on training for Somalilanders in Sudan, Sudan Airways flights to Hargeisa, and a joint university program. Khartoum reportedly even agreed to establish an FM radio station to relay programs from Radio Khartoum and Radio Omdurman to Somaliland. Although little if anything has come of these discussions, it does suggest Sudan is willing to consider seriously closer cooperation with Somaliland.

Of all the countries in the region, Kenya’s policy on Somalia and Somaliland is currently the most delicate. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development has charged Kenya with leading the Somali peace talks. These discussions are continuing in Nairobi without the participation of Somaliland. Like Ethiopia, Kenya is primarily interested in a peaceful and friendly neighborhood that does not export refugees and is in complete control of its borders. Kenya is also concerned that terrorist acts in Nairobi and Mombasa may have had some support from elements in Somalia. At the same time, Kenya does not want a strong neighbor that one-day revives the Greater Somalia concept. For this reason, it is probably quietly sympathetic with an independent Somaliland. But as long as it is trying to solve the larger issue of peace in Somalia, it must remain completely neutral.

Somaliland and the United Nations

Somaliland is deeply disappointed that the United Nations played a key role in the process that led to the creation of the TNG and then allowed it to take Somalia’s seat in the General Assembly. Somaliland also has a bad memory of the UN Mission to Somalia (UNOSOM) in the early and mid-1990s. UNOSOM spent hundreds of millions of dollars in Somalia to end famine and engage in nation-building but took virtually no interest in Somaliland. For several years, UNOSOM officials did not even visit Somaliland.

On the other hand, Somalilanders acknowledge and appreciate a variety of assistance provided by specialized agencies of the United Nations. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has been instrumental in resettling in Somaliland Somali refugees from Ethiopia. The World Food Program periodically coordinates the delivery of food aid to the country. UNICEF and the World Health Organization have funded a number of small projects in Somaliland.

Somaliland and the Donor Community

Bilateral donors have not been very forthcoming in providing assistance to Somaliland. Some probably shy away for fear that provision of assistance connotes diplomatic recognition. That concern can be avoided, however, by channeling assistance through international and indigenous non-governmental organizations. The European Union has been the most helpful over the past decade. Earlier this year the European Commission approved a 4.2 million Euro project to rehabilitate the core road network in Somaliland. The European Union earlier rebuilt many of Somaliland’s bridges and rehabilitated some of the Berbera port facilities. United States development assistance to all of Somalia totals about $2.5 million annually. Most of it now goes to Somaliland because it is the only safe and stable part of the country. Somaliland is an excellent choice for increased rehabilitation and development assistance.

Somaliland and the Future

Those of you attending this conference know that Somaliland is almost obsessed with the question of recognition or, more correctly, nonrecognition. It is understandable when one considers that the United Nations, African Union, and Arab League were quick to accept the TNG as the legitimate government of all of Somalia. Lack of recognition makes it especially difficult to attract foreign assistance and prohibits membership in such important organizations as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Somaliland officials have mastered all the arguments and precedents for recognition. They cite East Timor, Western Sahara, the breakup of Yugoslavia, etc. The government even published in 2001 a booklet, entitled Somaliland: Demand for International Recognition, to make its case.

Somaliland must now convince the rest of the world, and especially the members of the African Union, that its case is special and deserves support. So far, Somaliland has had no success in convincing the Assembly of the African Union that its independence should be accepted and that it should be granted membership. A more productive approach may now be to convince several key African countries to support it within the African Union. Important countries like South Africa, Algeria, and Senegal, if convinced of the merits of Somaliland’s case, could make an important difference. This does not rule out the possibility that an independent Somaliland accepted by the African Union could propose unification at a later date with a Somalia that finally achieves its own peace and unity. In this regard, the government of Somaliland seems to be taking a more assertive position. Visits earlier this year by President Rayale to Senegal and Mali and meetings in Addis Ababa with a range of diplomats underscore this point.

So long as the rest of Somalia remains a failed state, it is unreasonable to expect peaceful Somaliland to join willingly with its compatriots to the south. Nevertheless, it is up to Somaliland to convince others to accept its independence. It should continue to make its case with key African countries. It can also underscore its arguments by way of example. Building democratic institutions in Somaliland and resolving differences with Puntland are hard. Obtaining international recognition for these efforts is equally difficult. Dedicated Somaliland communities in the diaspora, like this one in Sweden, can have and are having a positive influence on achieving success for these goals. It is essential to continue the progress on creating a democratic Somaliland; African and international acceptance and recognition will eventually follow. In the meantime, international organizations and donor countries should provide more assistance to Somaliland. Disputing factions in Somalia might even learn from the Somaliland example that they, too, could benefit by achieving peace and stability.

Thank you again for inviting me to address you today.

Note about the author:

David H. ShinnDavid H. Shinn was desk officer for Somalia at the U.S. Department of State from 1969 to 1971; deputy director of the Somalia Task Force in the State Department in 1992-1993; State Department coordinator for Somalia in 1993; director of East African Affairs (including Somalia) from 1993 to 1996; and U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia from 1996 to 1999. He is now an adjunct professor in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

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