Quite often we hymn the praises of our young nation and glorify its achievements as a burning flame of hope in an area of the world long bereft of light. The state of Somaliland is located on the poorest continent within the poorest region of that continent and bordered by the world’s first failed state.
With such an incredibly difficult geo-political situation, one question is on the mind of every person is; How do these people continue to persevere? Somaliland is about to enter its 22nd year as an independent state on May 18, 2013. In this article I will examine the benefits of our non-recognized status, I will also discuss the misconceived notion that international recognition brings economic success, and finally how we can prepare for the future as a united, stable and stalwart nation.
The story of our struggle has been told on many occasions but we often forget to mention the single and most important factor which aided our swift liberation, self-reliance. Just like how we were 31 years ago when on April, 1981 the creation of the SNM was proclaimed in London, we remain alone, left to our own resources. It seems like our intellectuals and politicians would be used to going it alone by now but unfortunately they are either being delusional or they are actually expecting something from the same world that watched our entire population become refugees in Ethiopia overnight, fleeing our homes and abandoning everything of value in exchange for our lives. The world watched as hundreds of thousands were massacred by a failing regime, helplessly trying to keep a grip on its fading power.
Not only did the world watch but many nations, Muslim and Non-Muslim gave monetary as well as military aid to Barre and his cronies. With the sheer will and determination of our people coupled with the help of God Almighty, the valiant heroes of the Somali National Movement were able to fight and liberate our country after only less than a decade of fighting. This in itself is an achievement beyond imagination, most of the rebel movements of the world, contemporary ones and those of the past, have fought for decades with no avail. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam of Sri Lanka also known as the LTTE, fought from its inception in 1976 to its untimely demise in 2009.
The Polosario Front in the Western Sahara have been fighting for their liberation since 1973 and have not yet received full international recognition. The SPLA or Sudan People’s Liberation Army was created in 1983 and did not achieve its objective until July 2011, an objective achieved only through massive international support from the great powers. In contrast, the Somali National Movement was created in April 1981, although there were skirmishes here and there between government forces and the SNM, the major war was from 1988-1991. In about 9 years we managed to expel one of the most powerful governments in sub-Saharan Africa from Somaliland without any financial or logistical support from any nation on earth, some credit is due to Ethiopia which allowed us to install a base of operations on its soil in the founding years of the liberation movement.
Other than the aforementioned nation whose help was minimal yet critical, not a single country on earth can claim they aided us in any way possible. There are those who claim the SNM was funded by foreign powers which wanted the downfall of the Barre regime and the dismemberment of the Somali state.
Let us entertain this idea for a second, based on history, we know that any armed movement which is funded by a certain power is also subject to the will of that foreign power, after all, without the financial and logistical support of that foreign entity there would be no way the movement could continue to fight, at least that’s the case for most. Now let’s suppose that rebel movement wins and takes over all the territory it was claiming, the next logical step is to set up an administration to govern the newly liberated territory, what follows is that the previously mentioned foreign power quickly grants that movement recognition and quickly enters the country in order to get its hands on any lucrative assets or obtain exclusive contracts in various development sectors.
Now, rationally speaking, if Somaliland was aided by the “enemies” of Somalia, how come they did not recognize Somaliland immediately? Or make it the recipient of massive financial aid in order to build its institutions, as is with Taiwan and the U.S relationship. The reason is simple, the SNM was a peoples movement, fighting a tyrannical dictator the world supported, and when it won, the world continued its initial policy of containment and did not wish to aid the newly formed state of Somaliland in anyway, simply put, our victory was not part of their agenda, it was an error that had to be rectified. First and foremost I would like to say that, true recognition is not given by the United Nations or any global power, real recognition comes from the people of the land. In my humble opinion, the main reason Somaliland has enjoyed such stability and progress is because of our non-recognized status. There is a saying that goes “necessity is the mother of invention”, when you are left to your own means you create things and do things that would have been otherwise unimaginable.
If Somaliland were to achieve international recognition on the eve of its re-declaration of independence, we would have been destroyed. We would have not been given a chance to solve our internal issues instead the great powers would have dictated to us what we need to do and how to do it. They would have also heaped on us great amounts of money in exchange for economic dependency, in short, we would have been doomed to fail.
Lack of recognition brings cooperation and encourages dialogue between rival parties, it creates a do or die atmosphere, you are left with two choices, either we continue to fight ourselves or we progress as a viable, democratic state. This type of environment which nurtures consultation and creates understanding is not available if the world is focused on the new state and is constantly meddling in your daily political affairs. Also the government is forced to become more accountable to the people it governs because without them there would be no way of running an administration since it is the people who bring forth the tax dollars the government uses to conduct its affairs. If we were getting aid from abroad, the government would have been less accountable to the people because it will be relying on foreign wealth and it would have dismissed any concerns of the local populace, there would be no form of interdependence between the people and civil servants.
Today every single poverty stricken country has international recognition yet that does not fill the coffers of its administration, every politically unstable nation has international recognition yet that does not breed good governance in its political affairs. Please do not misconstrue my words, I am not saying we should not strive for international recognition, I am saying we should strive to develop ourselves with our own resources first. We should cooperate with other nations and put our interests first all the time. Perception is an incredibly important factor when dealing with countries, nations deal with you based on how you conduct yourself, if you act like an unrecognized entity, you will be treated like one. But rise above that and exercise your god given right and you will quickly realize how their attitude changes towards you. No man is an island, meaning we as human beings are social creatures and we thrive by communicating and cooperating. Somaliland should always reach out to the nations of the world and should always be a partner for peace and economic partnerships, however we must maintain a position of strength and never accept belittlement or unfair treatment no matter how minuscule it might be.
There are those who say Somaliland will not be able to survive much longer without recognition, this statement is demeaning and lacks any factual evidence. The world is based on self-interest, when it needs you, it will come to you but if you spend time chasing it, you will find that it will elude you forever. We must muster our meager resources and use them wisely to build lasting infrastructure as well as strengthen our current political, social and economic institutions. Somaliland is a small nation with less than four million people, we generate enough wealth, if used wisely, to create an incredible change in our country. We have many wealthy Somalilanders who live abroad but who are not yet quite comfortable with investing large amounts of money into the land yet, we must lure these citizens of ours, we must create a comprehensive economic plan that allows us to effectively use our tax dollars to build roads and infrastructure. It is insulting to rely on an NGO simply to help us build a road or build a new government building.
These types of endeavors are rarely beyond our financial capability, if we focus on ourselves and we build from within, I can guarantee the world will come knocking at our door, pleading for us to build partnerships with them. Somaliland must strive not for international recognition but it must acquire self-recognition, we are a sleeping giant, we are not even close to realizing our potential.
Somaliland must realize that we are going to be going at this great task of nation building alone for an unknown period of time. These years before international recognition will determine what role Somaliland will play in the world in the coming decades, either we will sit and continue to wait for some foreign power to show us pity and grant us recognition or we will take our destiny by the reigns and become a strong economic and military power in the world. At the end of the day, this world belongs not to America, not to the United Nations but Allah Almighty, and if we work hard and rely on him, we will become something more powerful than we could have ever imagined. Somaliland will continue to shine forth and will continue its slow but steady progression, this will continue until we outpace many nations of the world, provided we recognize ourselves first.
By: Ayadi Ibrahim