It looks like Somaliland took advantage of the opportunity of the London conference and made a clear case for independence in front of an international audience of policy makers, making a principled stand rather than allowing itself to be sucked into a quagmire, as some had feared . Instead, in both words and actions Somaliland was able to make its point across. Now we will see if the rest of the world can pay attention.
From the perspective of Somaliland, the quote from Somaliland’s President Ahmed Silanyo had to have been a highlight, making clear his accountability to a democratic people who had chosen by their own will to regain their independence from Somalia. There is no going back to the pre-1991 borders given the will of the Somaliland people. Additionally, President Silanyo made a principled rejection of top-down solutions and called for Somalia to copy the bottom-up government based in large part on indigenous cultural traditions. He additionally closed strongly, calling on an active international effort to recognize Somaliland’s independence to an audience that included US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the UN General Secretary .
Nor was President Silanyo the only Somalinders to make their presence known–as the Somaliland rally in front of 10 Downing Street appears to have been a success as well . Perhaps in light of this, the international movers and shakers adopted a resolution that appears favorable to Somaliland, at least as written. Specifically, the London Conference rejected a further extension of the Transnational Federal Government, called on greater anti-corruption efforts, bottom-up legitimate government institutions, and a clarification of the relationship between Somalila and Somaliland . For Somaliland, such a clarification an only mean a voluntary acceptance of Somaliland’s independence on the part of any permanent Somali government. There is nothing in the communique of the London Conference that speaks against Somaliland’s interests, at the very least, which should go along way to assuage those who were worried about Somaliland’s first foray into international conferences regarding Somalia.
But Somaliland has not been merely about all talk without action. Rather, Somaliland has, as it could be expected, continued to show by its actions its firm intent to act independent and ensure both its role as a positive one for law and order within the region against piracy as well as its intent to further the interests of peace and its own economic interests. It should not be surprising that while the plans of the London Conference were ongoing that Somaliland also backed up its words with actions.
For example, recently Somaliland and the Seychelles formalized an agreement to transfer prisoners tried in the Seychelles to prison on Somaliland so that the first prisoners will arrive in Somaliland by the end of March 2012 . The fact that Somaliland is not only willing to abide by international law concerning piracy, but actively enforce it on those who break the law (especially in neighboring Puntland, a known pirate haven), should signify to the international community the worthiness of Somaliland as a state, if such worthiness needed to be proved.
And it’s not only the men trying to do their part for international peace, but even Somaliland’s women are trying to get in on the act. The G40. which somehow Somaliland has observer status to, is seeking gender-sensitive budgeting as well as a 25% quota for women in the parliament. At any rate, whatever one’s position about the quotas, it is worthwhile to note that even without recognition Somaliland manages to set a positive example for its rather benighted region, receiving credit for stability and democracy in a region known for neither .
Additionally, it is not only in international institutions but also business that Somaliland is looking to improve. PetroTrans has scrapped, for the time being, plans to open up a natural gas refinery in Berbera, but has finalized plans to expand the port in Berbera by the end of the year. Additionally, PetroTrans is also looking to help build a pipeline from South Sudan through Ethiopia to Djibouti, working to cut Sudan out of the shipment of South Sudan’s lucrative oil supplies . PetroTrans appears to be seeking to corner the market on the developing suppliers of oil in the Horn of Africa before the rest of the world jumps on the bandwagon. It appears to be a savvy move.
So, this past week has been a week offering a lot of promise for Somaliland. A successful international conference debut regarding Somalila, successful business and geopolitial meetings, and the promise of a better future beckons. Somaliland is telling the world in one voice in a variety of ways that it is looking forward, not looking back. It would be wise for the rest of the world to do the same regarding Somaliland and the Horn of Africa. Backwards lies only despair; forward lies hope and progress, if we are willing to grasp it.