Yes, you read that title correctly. This story is about a place, Somaliland, that has an unknown future. It’s also about places like Somaliland who face similar uneasy and uncertain fates.
You see, the Republic of Somaliland is a nation in northeastern Africa, lying on the coast of the Gulf of Aden near Ethiopia. Its capital city is Hargeisa. It boasts a population of almost 6,000,000. It has a president and a legislature and a court system. For that part of Africa, the economy of Somaliland is actually quite robust.
What you probably thought was that I was speaking of Somalia. Nope. Not Somalia. Somaliland. It’s different. What most people think when they hear of Somalia is that it is the home of the Somali pirates who prowl the waters off the coast of northeastern Africa. But that nation is not Somaliland. No, Somaliland is incredibly peaceful by comparison (although they have recently began an effort to force Somalia into recognizing them by military action).
What’s more, the country has a rapidly increasing literacy rate, a lowering infant mortality rate, and a lower crime rate than many of their neighbors.
So, why is this significant?
Well, to 99% of the world, Somaliland simply doesn’t exist.
The United Nations does not recognize the sovereignty of the country. They say that Somaliland is squatting–has effectively stolen–land from Somalia to carve out their country. And, that’s true. They broke away from Somalia in the 1990s and set up their own government. Yet, they remain unrecognized. However, other nations sometimes break away and have no issues becoming recognized nations by the international community. South Sudan did that not too long ago. Yet, the US recognizes their right to exist as a sovereign nation.
The United States doesn’t acknowledge Somaliland, by the way.
It’s extremely difficult to travel if you are from there because other nations won’t recognize your passport because there is no such place in their minds. They have no access to international financial assistance because they aren’t “officially” a nation even thought the place is a better functioning nation than others in that area. They have a decent military, certainly, and, as of now, there is a wary cease-fire between them and Somalia.
Again, I said all of the above to add this: Somaliland is not alone. Have you ever heard of Transnistria? It’s in a similar political no-man’s land as Somaliland. It lies to the northeast of Moldova on the border with Ukraine. It broke away from Moldova after a bloody “civil war,” but it has yet to be acknowledged by anyone, really. Western Sahara, Kosovo, and, now, even Taiwan all share the same situation. There are several places around the globe in the same boat. No one wants to acknowledge their rights to exist.
As you can imagine there are many different reasons why the international community won’t recognize these functioning nations. Most of them have to do with not angering powerful neighbors or the place from which these places split.
So, where does that leave Somaliland?
They, like their other non-recognized colleagues, exist today in a sort of bizarre international Twilight Zone. And what will happen to them?
We–and they–don’t know.