On Friday, the newest President of Somaliland, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, declared his intention to make Somaliland’s international recognition his top priority. In truth, recognition has been a top priority of Somaliland’s political leadership since it declared its independence over nineteen years ago. Analysts and observers have been quoted in the few articles and bulletins announcing Somaliland’s election results pronouncing that this election—graded free and fair—will encourage the international community to extend Somaliland recognition.
It is not the first time a successful democratic process in Somaliland has inspired hope that now, finally, Somaliland will receive international recognition. Similar hopes attended the referendum ratifying Somaliland’s constitution in 2001, its first presidential election, and its parliamentary elections. In fact, Somaliland’s short, nineteen year history is a string of disappointments for the people of a country that is doing all the things that vex post-conflict societies all over the world: disarmament, reconstruction, establishment of the rule of law, and adoption of democratic institutions. Somaliland has done all these things without outside assistance and in the face of outright hostility by the international community.
Somaliland’s story would be remarkable and triumphant anywhere in the world. In a place nominally under the jurisdiction of Somalia—a state synonymous with failure and anarchy—it is unthinkable. But the incongruity of the international community’s refusal to recognize Somaliland is not limited to its juxtaposition with its neighbor to the south. No, what makes Somaliland’s nonrecognition bizarre is Somaliland’s cooperation with the international community which refuses to recognize it. While Somalia serves as a haven for al-Qaeda linked militants and pirates, Somaliland cooperates with NATO and prosecutes captured pirates and terrorists.
On this, the two hundred-and-thirty-fourth anniversary of our independence, the United States, through a simple act of diplomacy, has the power to secure the dreams of independence of a small nation. In doing so, the United States will both be manifesting its own values and securing an ally who shares those values in a region of the world with few nations evincing commitments to democracy and rule of law.
It is time to recognize Somaliland.