This PressInfo article by Jan Oberg is about place you’ve probably never visited nor know a lot about: Somaliland.
Somalilandsun – Somaliland declared itself an independent state out of Somalia in 1991 and is still not recognised by a single government in the world.
But against all odds Somaliland has made considerable progress.
It isn’t easy to develop when you are marginal to the aid and investment sources, have no foreign embassies and can’t be a member of inter-national organisations.
Neither is it easy for foreigners to engage in a country where there are security problems but no foreign representations and where international law therefore doesn’t really apply.
Somaliland is quite stable – in stark contrast to Somalia (Muqdishu) in the south which seems to get almost all the media attention on the Horn of Africa.
Perhaps it is time to switch some of that media attention to the positive features of Somaliland’s struggles?
Building a state from scratch after war’s utter destruction; caring for millions and remaining a society with comparatively good freedom of the media and democratic procedures, building primary schools as well as universities all without much help from the outside is pretty impressing.
That said, Somaliland still has the biggest problems ahead of it.
• If 23 years of self-declared independence has not been met with approval anywhere, will it in the future?
• Will Somalia – when it stabilises – attempt to bring back Somaliland by force – and what would the costs be in terms of human lives and even deeper economic crisis? If that shall be avoided in the future, what negotiation strategy would be wise?
• What if the gas and oil people talk about is actually found and exploited? Will it be a curse or a blessing for a country that needs so much investment in every economic sector – beyond livestock export – as well as in health, education and infrastructure?
• Somaliland has an ongoing territorial dispute with neighbouring Puntland; serious violent incidents took place in 2010 and again just a few days ago. None of them can afford this.
• Of Somaliland’s small national budget 60% or so is devoted to security and stability. One would wish that tiny budget be put to better use in the future.
• Be this as it may, there is always the risk of falling back in internal or external conflict or both when socio-economic problems persist. And they may also because of the population growth: 35 years ago all of Somalia had about 3,5 million inhabitants; that is the figure for Somaliland alone today – and scarcity of resources is still a basic fact.
• And how does the world – single countries and international organisations – plan now to deal with these issues and many others in their future policies concerning the Horn of Africa?
Whatever the answers may be, it is a plausible hypothesis that if Somaliland could achieve more international attention and various assistance from abroad, it increases the chances of succeeding with both development, security and peace.
Every military activity must be avoided.
We hope this report will be of help inside as well as outside Somaliland.