Opinion: Lib Dems should promote Somaliland’s case for international recognition

While Scottish Liberal Democrats are playing a full part in the debates about the country’s constitutional future, they should not forget problems facing other less fortunate small lands.  The plight of Somaliland is a case in point and is exercising the Scottish branch of Liberal International.

The first problem Somaliland confronts on the world stage is that people confuse it with lawless Somalia.  It is an immediate neighbour and shares Somali culture but is largely peaceful and enjoys a recent record of solid democratic progress.  So are its achievements in the troubled Horn of Africa lauded?  Not a bit of it, because neither Britain nor the European Union, nor the international community in general recognise its existence.

Yet in 2010 Somaliland, which was born out of British Somaliland (whereas Somalia owes its boundaries to the former Italian colony) passed one of the key tests of a democratic state. In a tightly contested election for the presidency, the incumbent but losing candidate handed over power without conflict or bloodshed. International observers testified to the fairness of the election process.

One of these observers was Gillian Gloyer, a committee member of LI in Scotland.  She told the LI AGM that voter registration had been a problem, not least because Somalis are vague about their exact date of birth. So it was decided that all potential voters would have their birthday marked as January 1.

The largely rural economy needs the stimulus of foreign investment. But an unrecognised country is not an attractive prospect. So, given the contrast between Somaliland and anarchic Somalia (not to mention a tiny third territory, Puntland, which is home to many of the region’s pirates). why does the international community leave the only bright light in diplomatic darkness? Britain’s official interests fall to our embassy far away in Addis Ababa.

Boundaries in Africa are often a reminder of arbitrary colonial map-drawing.  Yet the Africa Union does not want to add to its members’ problems by recognising breakaway territories.  Or that at least was the plausible position until South Sudan was allowed to spring into being as a way of resolving long-term conflict in Sudan. Surely peaceful Somaliland, after half a century of self-determination, qualifies for its place in the sun.

The country is not perfect. It is poor and socially conservative. It has had recent experience of tribal violence. Last month 22 journalists who protested against the closing down of a television station were briefly imprisoned. But its considerable achievements deserve recognition, not isolation. The British Government has heard the Somaliland case, but has not listened.  It probably won’t act unless the European Union as a whole does so.

Liberal Democrats instinctively sympathise with the Somaliland case. Pressure from within our Government coalition and especially though the Foreign Office would help make Europe pay heed. I hope Liberal International will promote the Somaliland’s case.

* Scottish Liberal Democrat and former newspaper editor Willis Pickard is a member of the committee of the European Movement in Scotland

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.


  • Dear Mr. Pickard with respect it it clear that you are wholly uniformed of the discriminatory regime in Somaliland. For over a year now the Somaliland government has been violently attacking its Somali neighbours to its east. Hundreds of civilians including women and children in the Khaatumo state have been killed by the Somaliland government. While thousands of civilians in the Khaatumo state have been displaced and forceably removed from their homes. What the Somaliland government is committing in Khaatumo state is genocide. The only reason for the unprovoked violence by the Somaliland government is the differences of clan membership of the peoples in the area. The Somaliland governemt has been committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against the people of the Khaatumo state to the east of Somaliland. The conduct of the president of Somaliland is to be reported to the International Criminal Court within the next few weeks. It is extremely disappointing that you wish to support an apartheid regime like that of the Somaliland government- the regime there wishes to create a two-tier society like that in South-Africa only this time the distinguishing fact will be clan membership instead of race. I implore you to do some more research on the region and not only listen to the propaganda machine that is the Somaliland regime.

  • Thank you so much for this article I enjoyed it a lot…. As you can see Somaliland is going through a very important period of its existence … Peace, Stability and democracy is the core values of Somaliland although form time to time they don’t quite get along but the people of Somaliland all want one thing and that is to live in Peace and that is why in 1991 all the tribe leaders came together inside the country and decided that is the time to walk ahead of what used to be called Somalia for reasons we all know … Somalias won’t stop killing each other and the ongoing fight in South will never stop because of the mentality of the people living there ,… If it is for not the AMISOM peace keeping mission there will never be peace in Mogadishu the capital …
    The last elections in Somaliland as you mentioned was fair and free … everyone in Somaliland has the right to form a party and run for the President… They have earned it and I do hope to see in the near future Somaliland joining the international community in solving the problems in neighboring Somalia at the end of the day we are the close ‘brothers’ who will understand them better ..
    Hargeisa, Somaliland

  • In response to ‘K’. The nonsense you just wrote is offensive and extremely disrespectful not just for the peace loving people in Somaliland but to all Somalis in general. This deep rooted anger that you probably held on to for the past 20 years stem from self hatred for yourself. It saddens me to see another Somali brother spreading lies to the international community.IT WONT WORK. If you really want to know what ‘genocide’ really looks like, I suggest you google Morgan for a start. Now thats a man who has a international warrant for his arrest for the atrocities he’s committed. He’s got the blood of hundreds of thousands of men,women and children on his hands. And the Somaliland people will not rest until he’s rotting in a hole for the remainder of his life. And I suggest you try harder in disrespecting President Siilaanyo because your utter bullshit wont stand.

  • Ahmed Hassan 4th Feb '12 - 3:30pm

    You hit the nailon the head. If we don’t reward good behaviour than we are part of the problem. Somaliland stand by its willpower and meagre eceonmy to have built a functioning government of the highest degree of democracy some say the entire world. Where else a Presidential election is won by 80 votes. Thr vresults were accepted without any violence at all. That was 2003. The defeated rather cheated candidate was no one but the current president. He accepted this cheat to safe his nation.
    The nation proved he was right, as they elected him 2010 with majority well over 100,000 votes not the cheated 80 votes he gave up.
    This nation needs help so the rest of Somalia follow the right path of development rather than giving them aid to kill one another. Stop aiding warlords and reward democracy and good governance. This nation held two presidential elections, have multi-party system an elected house of representative, and an elected local governments, as well as an independent judicial system.

  • It is important to mention that Somaliland was an independent state for few days before it has become part of Somali Republic with the ‘Italian Somalia’. If we need a Greater Somali state, then this should include all the places which the Somali people inhabit such as Djibouti. It has been 22 years since the fall of Siad Barre regime in Mogadishu, and all these years Somaliland was immunised from the anarchy and instability in the south. After all, it is the Somaliland people who should in my opinion decide whether to cease from the Somali Republic or not and so far they are overwhelmingly want an independent state.

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