01 May, 2008

Phantom Countries: Somaliland

And so to Somaliland. This is a northern part of Somalia, and its attempt to achieve statehood is an example of see-you-around-suckers secession. As you know, the Somali state largely collapsed during the 1990s, with country's territory being taken over by feuding warlords and suchlike. The northern part of the country, however, managed to escape the general chaos that swept the rest of the country. The locals there managed to setup a separate administration and state-like apparatus, albeit one facing a lot of challenges. The leaders of this northern region then proposed to escape permanently from the rest of Somalia's ongoing nightmare by declaring their area independent, and naming it Somaliland.

Thus far no one has granted Somaliland formal recognition. This is not particularly surprising. The international community abhors secession. In Africa, in particular, there is a far that should any borders start to be re-drawn then the whole continent could slip into the abyss as ambitious leaders try to carve out little empires for themselves. But Somaliland has one ace up its sleeve that means it continuously hovers on the brink of formal acceptance in the family of nations. Its borders are the same as those of the pre-independence colony of British Somaliand. This was merged into Italian Somaliland to create the state we know and love as Somalia, but the Somaliland leaders can say that they are merely reversing this artificial union and bringing a previously existing entity back into being as an independent state. The Somalilanders are invoking the principle of uti possidetis, that post-colonial borders should by default follow pre-independence boundaries. This is good (for them), as it allows the prospect of their independence being recognised without setting a precedent that could lead to the disintegration of other countries.

That's about it for Somaliland. Various reports and stuff have recommended that it be allowed to join the family of nations, but for the moment the country remains unrecognised. If the rest of Somalia were to start showing signs of stabilisation then I imagine that the Somalilanders would be pressured to re-integrate with their former compatriots. But there is no prospect of that happening any time soon. The expectation has to be that Somaliland will sooner or later gain external recognition. In the meantime, this phantom country chugs along. Apparently it is quite nice to visit; its unrecognised status does not prevent a trickle of tourists visiting from Djibouti and Ethiopia to sample the hospitality of this strangely peaceful land.

Would you like to know more? Oh look, the International Crisis Group has a two year old report on Somaliland: Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership

Somaliland flag from Wikipedia


Ken said...

My guess as to the biggest stumbling block for Somaliland's independence is the fact that it doesn't have control over large parts of it declared territory (as defined by the borders of British Somaliland). The disputed province of Sool in the south east is "controlled" by Puntland if it is controlled by anyone and a large section of the province of Sanaag has said a plague on both your houses and declared itself an autonomous state (Maakhir) independent of both Puntland and Somaliland. Then again international recognition for a country which still has significant border disputes isn't unheard of.

ian said...

I understand that pretty much every country in the world has unresolved border disputes with all or some of your neighbours, but I see what you mean.

Hunting Monsters will be paying its own visit to Puntland soon.

Adam said...

Seems their case is clear having already had a well defined territory during the British Protectorate days. Puntland's claim is based upon tribal affiliations which definitely welcomes misery and failure to adhere to international laws.

I beleive such people should not be ignored, but helped since their people need access to go to Mecca for their annual Haj. It will be sad if they are all forced to purchase the passports of Zoomalia instead of their own to enter Saudi Arabia.

ian said...

I don't know what people in Somaliland do if they want to go on the Haj. Even if they wanted passports from Somalia, does the Somali state exist enough to be able to issue passports?

Adam said...

I am from Western Sahara and know about the humiliation of using Moroco's passport. Arab countries accept the old Somali Democratic Republic's passport only. However, they brought in new laws since 2006 requesting secure travel documents which the UN appointed temporary government has adhered to.

I do not know how a government without administration can issue passports, but I heard they do after googling. They even had branched in Nairobi and London.

ian said...

Just on Western Sahara, does the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic issue passports, and do any of the countries that recognise it accept them?

Adam said...

Yes Saharawi government does issue passports including diplomatic ones. Somaliland is also the same although it's much more difficult since you have to be either going abroad for studies or diplomatic reasons.

The best place suitable for a young Saharawi to study is currently South Africa, while it is Ethiopia for people from Somaliland. Only Ethiopia respects their travel documents.

One thing I do not understand is whether we can recognise them while being an exile government compared to the solid institutional capacity of Somaliland. I wonder whether our recognition will open doors for them. So far, our Saharawi government has only been good at begging and never giving. Maybe it's about time they practiced magnanimity and looked beyond their interests.


Frist theres no passport of Western Sarhara, the only rcognized paseport is the Moroccan,in this region,
Second ask your embassy,the Western sahara or moroccan sahara, is rulled and controled by Moroccan kingdom,as historically, the polisario lives in Algerian camps, check the UN documentation, or better just take the filght, and go to morocco 'if you have enough money', and y'll see by your self this algerian invented story, so please before transmit any false information in your blog, please give as Real sources, because every one can invent sorries.
Therd Morocco for the legality and hi legimity to rull freely his territory, he get the support of all the free world, only terrorits on countries backing terror support the separatist group called polisario.
we are living the end of this group, because the majority of saharawis, voted in favor morocco.

#### please don't believe the guy who said that there's a sahara passport, united nation don't recogniz the sahara as a republic simplly' they lives in Algeria so if the bloggers have a small law studies, they will discover your big lie' lol to be recognized by the you have to live in a totally recognized country, so pull the other one

Anonymous said...

all the saharawi refugies in Algeria, get an algerian passport to go tu study abroad, if you have spanish friend just ask them, and the most of them,go to cuba,to get involved in the marksist ideology. please make more researches about this subject.

ian said...

please don't believe the guy who said that there's a sahara passport

the only thing I would say about this is that anyone can issue a passport, it is whether it is recognised by anyone else or not that is important. So someone could say "I am a passport office for the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic" and issue a document purporting to be a passport for that entity, but it may or may not not be accepted elsewhere.

Adam said...

Lol at Sahara Watch,

While Moroccan passports are printed with inkjets, ours are actually produced by security documents company who also supplies currencies to EU countries.

You think we take part in the African Union meetings with refugee cards from the UN or Algerian passports :(?

Like I said, it is not issued to everybody who wishes unlike the cheap Moroccan passport.

You are right the UN does not recognise us, but we do have our own "memorandum of understanding" with many countries and organisations who respect and value life more than you and your country.


Mr adam,
because of all the algerian terorist illegal immegrant in morocco, now we have a biometric id, and you can't make false ones' to go to Europe now, lol, another thing you are connected from europe, why you talk like an algerian polisario?
there's no need you can discuss your point of view clearly I'am moroccan and believe really proud to moroccan from layoune, real saharawi, i'll never ever be an algerian as they are planning, i prefer morocco, just study the real history, not the Algerian version, or spanish version, the usa or france,