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20 Years After Secession, Somaliland Still Seeks Recognition

Rashid Nur, Somaliland's representative in US, says the de facto country has demonstrated stability through successive elections

Somaliland's representative in the U.S. says it is about time for the international community to officially recognize Somaliland as a country.

This comes as Somaliland this month celebrates 20 years of its breakaway from mainland Somalia.

On May 18, 1991, Somaliland seceded from Somalia. Although the United Nations has a presence in Somaliland, U.N. members states have yet to officially recognize it as a country.

Rashid Nur says it is time for the international community to recognize Somaliland because it has demonstrated stability after holding two successful elections resulting in two peaceful changes of government.

“This day is important for the people of Somaliland because the people of Somaliland have built a nation from practically ashes when they came back from refugee camps in Ethiopia, and in the last 20 years they have built all levels of government institutions and have had multiple successful elections,” he says.

Nur says the international community should also recognize Somaliland’s independence because it contributes to the peace and security of the Horn of Africa and East Africa region as a whole.

“It is absolutely the right time to recognize Somaliland because Somaliland significantly contributes to the peace in the region as well Somaliland contributes to the economy of the region and could contribute much more if the country is recognized,” Nur says.

He says Somaliland has enough resources to sustain its own independence.

“There are a lot of resources in Somaliland. Obviously, a lot of them have not been exploited yet. There are minerals and gas in Somaliland that have not been exploited yet. One of the biggest industries right now is livestock. Somaliland exports livestock to the Middle East and it is a significant revenue contributor,” Nur says.

Nur says Somaliland has other industries such as telecommunication and construction that are also providing employment. He says the economy is growing at a reasonable rate, although he concedes that unemployment remains a concern.

Nur says the economy could grow a lot faster if the international community recognizes the country.

He says Somaliland does not harbor pirates. On the contrary, Nur says Somaliland plays a crucial role in the war against international piracy.

“There are over 100 pirates that are in the jails of Somaliland and, if you look at all of the piracy, none of it takes place in the waters off Somaliland. Beyond that, Somaliland also has a Coast Guard that guards not only its waters, but also in the Red Sea area and has captured over 100 pirates,” Nur says.

Advocates for Somailand's recognition note that the former British colony gained its independence on June 26, 1960, four days before voluntarily joining the former Italian colony of Somalia to become the new Republic of Somalia. Those advocates state that Somaliland has always maintained its right to withdraw from that union.