There is a small de facto State at the tip of the Horn of Africa bordering Djibouti to the North West, Ethiopia to the West and Puntland region of Somalia to the East. It’s called Somaliland.
Although Somalia has been classified as a failed State by any definition of the term, in 2017, Somaliland was named by The Economist as East Africa’s strongest democracy and yet the region has countries like Kenya and Tanzania. Despite all this success, Somaliland is still not recognised as an independent State by the majority of the international community.
In the UK, one of the most gifted athletes Mo Farah is from Somaliland. And then we have Ishmail Ahmed, the founder of WorldRemit. He is a young magician who turned a $200 000 investment into a billion dollar money transfer company which has a footprint in almost every country in the world. And there are so many successful people from Somaliland spread across the world.
Somaliland was even the first country in the world to use the sophisticated Iris Biometric Voting System in 2017. This voting system uses the scanning of the eye to verify the identity of registered voters before they are cleared to vote.
It must be confusing to many as to why Somaliland is even being associated with democracy, successful athletes, businessmen, and technology.
Yes indeed, unlike the troubled Somalia in the South, Somaliland has managed do start from scratch in the last three decades and build a vibrant political and economic system. As such, it requires to be recognised as a stand-alone independent State by any measure.
Why am I saying this?
Even among unrecognised States, Somaliland is in a unique position—it is both completely independent and politically entirely isolated. Unlike South Sudan before its independence, Somaliland’s claim for Statehood is based not on redrawing of colonial borders, but an attempt to re-establish them.
To understand Somaliland’s circumstances, we need to look at the history of the two countries.
Firstly, Somaliland and Somalia were separate countries until 1960. Somaliland was under the British while Somalia was under the Italians. In 1960 after Somaliland became independent, the country merged with Somalia.
Due to the two countries’ different colonial experience, the people of Somaliland experienced persecution under the military dictatorship of General Siad Barre. At this point, a rebel group called Somali National Movement emerged which fought the military dictatorship in Somalia.
After Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, Somaliland declared its independence by reestablishing its statehood as was the case in 1960.
Most recently, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eisenhower Mkaka visited Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa. This raised eyebrows as to why he visited the country. The answer for the visit is simple: Somaliland needs friends and Malawi needs friends like Somaliland. Somaliland deserves international recognition due to the country’s unique circumstances and that’s the least they deserve.
Somaliland has demonstrated to the world that you can build something beautiful from nothing and projects a message of hope to the rest of Africa. Being friends with Somaliland could also give Malawi access to potential capital investment that is desperately needed to stimulate economic growth. The likes of Ahmed opening a WorldRemit Headquarters for Southern Africa in Malawi would be a welcome move. And there is so much potential for economic cooperation between the two countries.
There was so much excitement among the Somaliland community after the visit was announced and Malawi should be proud for making people happy. Malawi provides that light of hope and of course, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Somaliland is entitled to self-determination and they have demonstrated to be viable hence should be considered as a State.
But why is the African Union withholding its support to Somaliland? Almost every African country except Somalia would recognise Somaliland with a blink of an eye if it wasn’t for China. Somaliland has bilateral relations with Taiwan and China has bullied every country that has had relations with Taiwan.
However, as Africans, we should be able to forge our own identity when it comes to foreign policy. As Africans, we have a lot to learn from this young nation and Somaliland deserves our support. Giving Somaliland support will not be an unpopular move.