Some recent developments between Somaliland and other nations, including China and Denmark, would seem to indicate that Somaliland’s economic potential and stable political and legal environment has not gone unnoticed in the global sphere. It would therefore be worthwhile to examine these developments in order to better understand what it is that Somaliland can provide to the Horn of Africa and the rest of the world and what impact this may have on its cherished goal of international recognition of its independent status.
China: Cash and Recognition For Oil
During the Siad Barre regime, Conoco and Philips (now Amoco) had exploration rights to oil and gas exploration in Somalia, but they left when Somalia descended into anarchy in the early 1990’s, and the Chinese have been taking advantage of that to seek the exploration rights themselves for three years now . Conoco, the only major oil company to stay in Mogadishu after the fall of Barre, and whose headquarters was rented to the U.S. government to support the American invasion under George H.W. Bush, has downplayed Somali as “a fringe exploration area” but concedes they had “very good shows” in exploration areas, and one geologist familiar with oil exploration in the Horn of Africa believes that there is “high potential…once the Somalis get their act together” .
That appears to be happening now that Somaliland’s president is making a full-court press for international recognition, seeking to capitalize on stability, rule of law, and a well-functioning democracy to provide for Somaliland economic development with the help of international aid and savvy trade deals. After returning from England, where the Somaliland president recently spoke at Chatham House, the respected English foreign affairs group , Mr. Ahmed Silanyo will be taking a trip to China to discuss a trade of Somaliland oil concessions for international recognition and infrastructure development.
Considering that American companies have spent significant funds exploring Somali gas and oil reserves and now risk losing a fair portion of the potential yields to the Chinese, perhaps it would be wise for them to seek their own diplomatic relations with Somaliland. If the reserves are as promising as the geologists claim, then those Western companies stand to lose a large amount of money simply because other nations are willing to consider progress towards recognition for Somaliland, like China, while others (like the United States) have not shown that willingness.
Denmark’s Minister For International Cooperation a New Friend of Somaliland
Denmark’s Minister for International Cooperation, Mr. Soren Pind, recently visited Somaliland to have a private closed-door meeting with Somaliland’s president. Whatever his business, and some Somalilanders suspect that it involved providing aid to give Somali refugees a better and closer place to flee than Denmark, he did provide some direct aid to Somaliland and it marked the highest level communication yet between Somaliland and the Danish government .
It appears furthermore that Denmark’s minister was so enthusiastic about the progress that Somaliland has made in developing the social infrastructure needed to be a well-functioning state that he continued raving about Somaliland two weeks later when he visited the Maldives. With such highly placed supporters in governments, it appears possible that a recognition of Somaliland’s progress will lead to more concrete benefits of recognition and foreign direct investment, considering what progress has been made with the very limited investment made so far.
Somaliland has so far been a very neglected de facto state and has drawn little of the foreign media attention devoted to the cause of some of the other would-be states of the world (like Kosovo). Nonetheless, with its stability and advanced legal system, economic potential and strategic location, that may be changing. One should expect Somaliland to take full advantage of the benefits they have in order to ensure their safety, respect, and development. One should also expect Somaliland to have a good memory about which nations were quick to work with it in order to achieve its desired international recognition and development and which nations lagged behind, seeking to preserve the legal fiction of a unified Somalia between its two greatly mismatched components. The time may soon come when the world greets a new member of the international community in a free Somaliland–and that new nation will not enter the world’s international institutions without powerful friends as well as a memory of those who hindered its progress. Let us make sure we are counted among its friends, as a free Somaliland is a friend well worth having.