Somaliland is celebrating its 20th anniversary of self-declared independence from Somalia.
Despite not being recognized as a nation by the international community, Somaliland has been very successful politically and economically. And it’s avoided the turmoil of Somalia.
“I guess what I see is a remarkable success story,” said Mark Bradbury, author of Becoming Somaliland, who works with the Rift Valley Institute, a non-profit research, education and advocacy organization. Bradbury first visited Somaliland in 1992, when the capital, Hargeisa, looked very different that it does today.
“At the time, that was a city in rubble. Something like 70 percent of all buildings had been destroyed in 10 years of war leading up to that point. Today, if you go to Hargeisa, it’s been entirely reconstructed and expanded way beyond its original limits. A population of over 400,000. Vibrant economy. An exciting place to visit. Secure for most people,” he said.
He described it as a “remarkable” achievement and credits the Somaliland people.
Somaliland has a lot to teach
In a recent interview with the Royal African Society, Bradbury called Somaliland a “research laboratory” that “offers insights into current policy concerns about failed and collapsed states and international efforts at state building, as well as issues of migration, remittances [and] trans-nationalism.”
“I think there are a lot of things about Somaliland that are very interesting and have a lot to say to academics, development practitioners, on how a country recovers from war and how it reconstructs itself after war,” he said.
Its neighbor, Somalia, has been wracked by war since the fall of leader Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991, the same year Somaliland declared its independence. The two places are vastly different today.
Bradbury said, “To understand that, one needs to go back to the origins of Somaliland. And the peace and stability that Somaliland has today has largely been built on the basis of a process of peace and reconciliation that happened in the early 90s. That’s a peace and reconciliation between the clans of Somaliland. This is very much an indigenous process, locally designed and locally managed and locally financed with very little international involvement.”
The Somali Diaspora played a major role in financing the rebuilding of Somaliland.
Bradbury declined to say whether he believes Somaliland should be recognized by the international community as a sovereign state.
“It’s the international community that recognizes states. Clearly, the majority of the people in Somaliland, their ambition and their desire is to be recognized as an independent state. And depending on how one defines a state and how one judges success, then I think they deserve for their aspirations to be taken very seriously,” he said.
If recognized as a nation, it could bring much more international assistance and investment and it would allow the government to have formal, diplomatic relationships with other countries.
However, Bradbury said there are regions and people in Somaliland opposed to becoming an independent nation.
“There would be a need to negotiate a relationship with people in those areas. Potentially, the peace and security that Somaliland has could be threatened by Somalis in other parts of the region. So it would bring a lot of benefits, but it would also clearly bring a lot of challenges,” he said.