WELCOME TO SOMALILAND, THE NICER PART OF CRUMBLING COUNTRY
Posted May 15, 2009on:
Experts regard the spat as temporary and expect foreign governments to keep funding Somaliland-based relief efforts and political reform projects, but Somaliland’s limbo status appears more enduring. While the United Nations urges support for the transitional Somali government in the south, African countries are leery of encouraging their own secessionist movements and the United States is unwilling to go out on a limb for the obscure little territory.
“Governments don’t want to be involved in the politics” of Somaliland’s independence, said Patrick Duplat of Refugees International, a Washington-based advocacy group. “But they have to be cognizant of the fact that it’s the only operating government in this place.”
From colonial times, Somaliland took a different path. In the 19th-century scrum over Africa, Britain acquired the territory mainly to supply its more important garrison in Aden, across the sea in Yemen.
Relatively few British expatriates settled here, leaving tribes and institutions intact, while southern Somalia became a full-fledged colony of Italy, complete with Italianate architecture and banana farms to supply the home country.
The British and Italian territories were joined at independence to form the Somali Republic, but in 1991, with the southern-based regime verging on collapse, a rebel government in Somaliland declared itself autonomous. After two years of fighting, a new government emerged that melded traditional clan structures with Western-style separation of powers, a hybrid system that some experts have called a prototype for the rest of Somalia.
Contrast that, Duale said, with the hundreds of millions of dollars the world has poured into Somalia’s feeble transitional government, including $213 million pledged last month to bolster security forces and African Union peacekeepers.
“It’s pure hypocrisy,” Duale said. “You have here in Somaliland a nation-building process that didn’t require massive expense by others. And yet we have everything the international community preaches: self-reliance, inclusiveness, stability.”
The troubles down south have spilled over, with more than 75,000 displaced Somalis taking shelter in Somaliland. On Oct. 29, coordinated suicide bombings struck the presidential residence, a U.N. compound and an Ethiopian political office in Hargeisa, reportedly killing 30 people.
The attack was immediately blamed on Islamist militants who are battling for control of Somalia, a reminder that for all its advantages, Somaliland remains yoked to that troubled land to the south.
“Everybody was scared that we could be targeted so easily,” said Mohammed Isak, a marketing manager for a mobile phone company. “You cannot enjoy peace while your neighbor is burning.”