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Somaliland Requests International Recognition
In Africa, a beacon of freedom and democracy has requested international recognition. Somaliland declared independence in 1991, one year after Pridnestrovie. Both countries function as de facto independent states which meet the requirements for statehood under international law
By Jason Cooper
HARGEISA, May 12, 2007 - The unrecognized Republic of Somaliland has sent a formal request to the African Union (AU) asking to be recognized as an independent African government, according to diplomatic sources in Addis Ababa.
Somaliland maintains an official diplomatic delegation in Ethiopia, as one of only four countries in the world where Somaliland's foreign ministry has offices and staff.
Somaliland, located to the northwest of Somalia, unilaterally declared independence from the rest of the country in 1991, as the Horn of Africa country disintegrated and erupted in civil war. No nation in the international community has recognized Somaliland's independence yet, but several countries keep unofficial diplomatic presence in Somaliland's capital Hargeisa.
Unlike Somalia, the government in Somaliland has been able to demilitarize the country and convince militias to hand in their weapons. After the 1991 declaration of independence, internal war was no longer an option.
"We had a higher purpose," said Abdillahi M. Duale, Somaliland’s foreign minister. " Independence. And nobody in the outside world was going to help us get there." Over the years southern Somalia has received tens of millions — if not hundreds of millions — of dollars in aid, and Somaliland almost nothing.
Somaliland 's leaders, with no Western experts at their elbow, have brought freedom and secular democracy to the new and emerging country. They have demobilized thousands of the young gunmen who still plague Somalia and melded them into a national army. And, says Jeffrey Gettleman from the New York Times, "They have even held three rounds of multiparty elections, no small feat in a region, the Horn of Africa, where multiparty democracy is mostly a rumor. Somalia, for one, has not had free elections since the 1960s."
The one issue that unites most Somalilanders is recognition. Somaliland has its own money, its own flag, its own national anthem and even its own passport. " - And we have peace, a peace owned by the community," said Zamzam Adan, a women’s rights activist. “You’d think in this part of the world, that would count for something.”
Support from Rwanda
Dr. Charles Murigande, Rwanda's foreign minister, openly called for Somaliland's recognition by AU member states. Dr. Murigande said that Somaliland's government has a right to be recognized internationally since the government returned law and order to the region and has shown an ability to successfully manage its territory.
Rwanda is the latest country to recognize that capacity building has entrenched Somaliland's de facto independence. This could be seen as a hark-back to traditional views of statehood: recognition can be acquired only after the capacity to govern has been successfully demonstrated.
Earlier this month, thousands of protestors in the capital of Somaliland expressed their support for independence by taking to city streets and opposing the territorial claim of Somalia. In Hargeisa, Somaliland's capital, there is an increasing focus on democratization and values.
Through the processes of state building and democratization, countries like Somaliland and Pridnestrovie are announcing that they share hegemonic international values (“not only are we the victims, we are the good guys, we are like you”) and do, therefore, not possess a threat to international or regional security.
Both states have proven their viability by building effective democratic institutions and, therefore believe that they have earned the right to international recognition. The processes of capacity building entail state-building and democratization.
Somaliland is sui generis, unique in its characteristics, because it has a brief history as an independent country before it united with Somalia. Its foreign ministry points out that with Somaliland's own declaration of independence, it was actually not creating a new country - but merely withdrawing from a voluntary union which had already broken down with the failure of Somalia; the world's most failed state. Somaliland's independence was not new, but merely an act of restoring a state within borders that already existed in the past, when Somaliland was also independent.
English-speaking and democratic, Somaliland is an island of stability and successful self-government among war and anarchy in this part of Africa.
Breaking free of a failed union
Pridnestrovie points to a similar history: For most of the period between the two World Wars, it functioned as an autonomous republic in the Soviet Union, with Tiraspol as its capital. The border to Moldova was the Dniester river, and Moldova was not part of the country: Populated mostly by ethnic Romanians, it was included as part of Romania at the time. This only changed in World War II, when two of history's most brutal dictators - Hitler and Stalin - carved up Europe and included Moldova in the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union fell, Moldova regained its freedom. In Moldova's own declaration of independence, it renounced the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which was the act that merged Pridnestrovie and Moldova. It declared the act "null and void from the beginning" and this was interpreted in Tiraspol as a rupture of the only act, the act of union, which had bound the two inside the MSSR from 1940 to 1990.
The union in Somalia disintegrated, and restored Somaliland to its pre-union borders. In the same way, the union of the former Moldavian SSR disintegrated, restoring Moldova and Pridnestrovie to their previous component parts where the Dniester river mainly defines the border again today, just as has traditionally done for hundreds of years throughout history. At no time in history has Pridnestrovie ever been part of any independent Moldovan state.
" - In essence, a de facto state exists where there is an organized political leadership which has risen to power through some degree of indigenous capability; receives popular support; and has achieved sufficient capacity to provide governmental services to a given population in a defined territorial area, over which effective control is maintained for an extended period of time," says political science professor Scott Pegg, author of a specialist textbook titled "International Society and the De Facto State".
Both Somaliland and Pridnestrovie meet the general qualifications required for statehood under international law: A permanent population, defined territory, government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. (With information from New York Times, Garowe Online)
Source: The Tiraspol Times