Monday, March 8, 2010

Places Samantha Brown Is Getting Nowhere Near, Case File #653

As you're probably aware even if your mental image of Africa is a generally blank slate, Somalia has a couple issues. You might be pleased to know that there is a silver lining in the whole sorry affair, a little bright spot.

It's the part that seceded in 1991, Somaliland. Its location is shown below, highlighted in red.

Somaliland made a break for it after the central government in Mogadishu collapsed. Or at least, it's tried to make a break for it; they have yet to receive formal recognition as a sovereign nation from anyone. It's remained largely untouched by the war east and south of it in Puntland and Somalia-Mogadishu.

The de facto capital is Hargeisa, home to 1.2 million people. They have phone service, they have Internet cafes, and much of the city looks better than it did before it got what shelling it got. Considering that Somaliland has as neighbors Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, a pirate-infested Red Sea, and- oh yes- the rest of Somalia, this is huge.

The only problem: that lack of international recognition holds them back from really taking off as an African success story. It cuts them off from a lot of formal aid channels. The only country that has made any concrete progress on the matter is Ethiopia, which is one of the two places you can get a visa to enter Somaliland (the other being London). Israel has made some overtures, but is getting roundly condemned by the Arab world for it. (Granted, there's not much they won't get roundly condemned for, but there you go.)

Why? The general argument is that Somalia is supposed to be a union of Somalia-Mogadishu, Puntland and Somaliland, with all three sections supposed to be committed to each other. Somalia-Mogadishu wants to keep Somaliland in the fold, but Puntland- which sits between the two- isn't quite as concerned. Speculation, however, is that union is meant merely to serve a proxy war with Ethiopia.

Ibrahim Hassan Gagale challenged the union argument here a few weeks ago. It's worth the read; it goes into much more detail than you'll find here.

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