By: Sarah Philips
Somalilandsun – This paper asks why large-scale violence was resolved in the internationally unrecognised ‘Republic of Somaliland’ but not in the rest of Somalia.
The case of Somaliland offers insights into why some domestic power struggles – including violent ones – build the foundations for relative political order while others perpetuate cycles of economic malaise and political violence.
The unrecognized status of the Government of Somaliland has made it broadly ineligible for official international grants and loans, and so it has had to rely more heavily on its internal capacity to extract capital, whether from its domestic population or its diaspora.
Despite these constraints, Somaliland’s political and developmental achievements have been relatively impressive – with the most significant progress being the restoration and maintenance of peace.
Its achievements are most striking when compared to the level of conflict and poverty presided over by successive governments in southern Somalia – governments that have been largely underwritten by external political support and financial assistance.
This paper finds that it was not simply the lack of direct external assistance that mattered, but the fact that Somalilanders were not pressured to accept ‘template’ political institutions from outside and could negotiate their own locally devised, and locally legitimate, institutional arrangements. There was sufficient time and political space for solutions to evolve, rather than an attempt to impose pre-determined institutional end points.
The emergence from civil conflict was out of kilter with conventional conflict prevention programs that emphasise grassroots consensus and inclusion; it was also coloured by struggles to control the means of legitimate coercion, and a high degree of collusion between the political and economic elites.
Finally, the lack of external assistance meant that the incentives for elites to cooperate with one another were primarily local. This was at odds with the way that peace was being pursued in the rest of Somalia at the same time, where vast sums of money were being spent by external actors to bring political competitors to the negotiating table in the hope of forging a durable peace.
Sarah Phillips is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney. Her work focuses on politics, devel- opment and security in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, particularly Yemen and Somalia/ Somaliland, and on the politics of state-building.