Questions & Answers
Why is Somaliland campaigning for recognition?
The people of Somaliland – 97.9% of whom voted for the country’s constitution which enshrines independence – also feel passionately that they have the right to self-determination. They have a clear legal case for recognition and, against all the odds, have overseen the restoration of peace, built a successful free-market economy and cultivated a stable, multiparty democracy.
Somaliland is campaigning for recognition because it has a legitimate legal and historical right to be recognized. Non-recognition imposes major costs on the country – hampering the government’s ability to raise funds on international capital markets, depriving the country of valuable forms of assistance from multilateral institutions, preventing countries from giving critical bilateral support, trapping the population behind its borders because their passports are not recognised, inhibiting investors because the country cannot sign up to key international treaties, imposing higher insurance costs on businesses, and preventing the country from controlling its fishing stocks.
Does Somaliland have a legal case for recognition?
Certainly it does.
According to the legal section of the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “it is undeniable that Somaliland does indeed qualify for statehood, and it is incumbent on the international community to recognise it.” Many other international lawyers and experts agree.
Somaliland’s legal claim rests on its history – the fact that it was granted independence by Britain in 1960 and, having entered an unsuccessful union with Somalia, simply wants to return to its original sovereign borders.
Importantly, Somaliland has all the attributes of statehood as defined by the 1933 Montevideo Convention. It has a permanent population, a defined territory, government and capacity to enter into relations with other states.
Why has Somaliland not been recognised so far?
Somaliland enjoys defacto recognition. It is invited to international forums and enters into agreements with international organizations, companies and countries. But it has not received the dejure recognition it deserves. The chaotic situation that prevailed in Somalia for the past twenty years is one factor, the other being the ill-founded fear of opening pandora’s box. Somaliland believes that it is a just a matter of time before recognition is attained.
Why should this change any time soon?
We think that countries in Africa and around the world are increasingly aware that their strategic interests would be served by recognising Somaliland. The simple act of recognition would enhance security, drive economic development and entrench democracy in one of the world’s most unstable regions. All countries would stand to benefit.
In the sphere of international relations, it is hard to think of a comparable act that would cost so little, be so easy to undertake and yet deliver so much.
Do problems on Somaliland’s eastern border constitute a complicating factor regarding Somaliland’s recognition?
They certainly shouldn’t. While the eastern border has been illegally claimed by Puntland such claims do not in general invalidate statehood. Somaliland has been investing considerable efforts into peacefully resolving the internal issues in the area.
What is the government doing in practice to win the case for recognition?
We have in place a vigorous multi-pronged strategy. Somaliland formally applied to join the African Union (AU) in 2005, but the application is still pending. The government is continuing to lobby the AU. In 2010, the Peace and Security Council directed the AU Commission Chairperson to ‘broaden consultations with Somaliland”.
We are strengthening ties with African countries alongside the UK, US and EU. The President and Foreign Minister have been received warmly in Addis, London, Turkey, Djibouti, UAE, Kuwait and Washington. Senior Ministers and diplomats from across the world have also visited Somaliland.
At the same time, Somaliland is building its relationships with key multilateral institutions such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the UN and the African Development Bank.
What will happen if Somaliland does not gain recognition soon?
Somaliland will never relinquish its rightful demand for international recognition. The sooner that aspiration is fulfilled, the better it will be for everybody in the region and the world at large.
Somaliland is not asking for favours. We simply want to take our rightful place in the community of nations so that we can enhance security, drive economic development and entrench democracy – serving both our own interests, and also those of the international community.
If Somaliland has achieved so much without recognition, why does it need it now?
Somaliland’s success to date has been achieved in spite of non-recognition; but we can achieve much more with recognition. Recognition would enable us to receive forms of assistance such as infrastructure investment and institutional capacity-building – critical to enabling us to better harness our resources and trade our way to greater prosperity.
Is Somaliland confident it will achieve recognition?
Yes – we have a strong legal case and we have proven what we can achieve together. Our job now is to persuade the international community that it is in their interest to recognise Somaliland.