Somalia is one of those places that has gained such an image in the wider world that it is hard to really figure out what the best course of action is to help the country and its people. Out of anarchy has been born the Union of Islamic Courts and the Provisional Transitional Government backed by Ethiopia. These two factions spar in a land that is poor, starving and all around the very definition of 'Third World'.
My own view of Somalia over the last few years has been increasingly altered by reading about the northern region of Somalia. More specifically, I've been reading about the Republic of Somaliland.
In 1991, after the collapse of the central government in Somalia, the territory asserted its independence as the Republic of Somaliland. It regarded itself as the successor state to the briefly-independent State of Somaliland but did not receive any international diplomatic recognition.
The news weekly Somaliland Times is a handy way of keeping up to date on the unrecognized state's efforts at gaining international recognition.
As one academic whose writing is featured at the Somaliland Times website pointed out, Somaliland is a victim of its own success. As a democratic state that enjoys basic levels of the rule of law and a stable, if terribly underdeveloped economy, Somaliland is not very interesting for the West. The academic noted that Somaliland would be far more likely to be recognized as a functioning sovereign state only after it allows itself to descend into anarchy and becoming a training ground of al-Qaeda. There are a number of issues facing Somaliland in its bid for recognition internationally that are outlined and refuted by the same academic. The final conclusion is that the US in particular is waiting for the African Union, but the AU seems to be invested in the transitional government in the south fighting the Union of Islamic Courts while ignoring the democratic and stable northlands.
This is pretty much a public service announcement on Somaliland and why it ought to be recognized. It's democratic, it's stable, it has a strong community both at home and abroad through its diaspora. Its legality is clear under international law. The world is fixated on the Somali theater of the War on Terror and Mogadishu that it completely overlooks a democratic Muslim state in the north. It's time for this tunnel vision to stop.
Thanks for reading.