The Foreign Service Journal, November 2006

tinue the fight against Barre and suffered heavy reprisals during the 1980s. With their help, southern opposition movements forced Barre out in January 1991. Five months later the “Republic of Somaliland” de- clared its independence and proclaimed Mohamed Ibrahim Egal president. Somaliland has maintained its independence ever since, while Somalia entered a 15-year period of collapse and violence. The history of independent Somaliland since 1991 has been one of steady democratization. A process laid out in a national charter agreed to at a 1993 “Grand National Reconciliation Conference” survived a period of clan fighting to produce a national constitution, which was rat- ified in a 2001 referendum that was also a plebiscite on independence. The district elections that followed were judged free and fair by international observers. After Egal’s death, Dahir Rayale Kahin, the appointed interim president, won the 2003 presidential elections — whose results were so close they went to the Supreme Court for adjudication. The decision in Rayale’s favor was fully accepted by the electorate. The September 2005 legislative elections completed Somaliland’s full transition to democracy. “In 14 years, we have created a free and stable country and held multipar- ty elections at the local and presidential levels, plus a ref- erendum on our constitution,” Pres. Kahin declared. “This parliamentary poll is the final step in the process, and we have earned the right to recognition.” However, in a foretaste of what Somaliland might expect from an ascendant ICU, terrorists — allegedly dis- patched from Mogadishu to disrupt the elections — crossed into Somaliland just days before the election, though they were arrested. Neighboring states are a confusing jigsaw of pluses and minuses for the Somaliland government. Ethiopia has opened a consulate in the capital of Hargeisa and accepts Somaliland passports, but has not formally recognized Somaliland’s independence. (According to VOA reports, it is also providing military support to the TFG.) Addis Ababa is implacably opposed to the ICU, whose leaders not only fought Ethiopia in the Ogaden War but are rumored to support dissident and rebel groups there. Similarly, Eritrea’s regional policy is dictated by its opposition to Ethiopia, from which it won its indepen- dence and with whom it fought a war over a border dis- pute in the late 1990s. Asmara does not favor a breakup of Somalia and is reportedly supplying the TFG with mil- itary equipment. For its part, Djibouti has narrow concerns that an inde- pendent Somaliland would move to dominate commercial activity in the region through its port at Berbera, and so opposes its recognition. Wait and See? Washington and the rest of the international commu- nity agree with Pres. Kahin’s declaration that Somaliland’s democratic development has been exemplary, but they have stopped well short of recognition. Their attention F O C U S 32 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / N O V E M B E R 2 0 0 6 Elizabeth Spiro Clark, a longtime former member of the Journal ’s Editorial Board, was a Foreign Service officer from 1980 to 2000. A former fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, she is now an associate at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. Somalia is strategically located on the Horn of Africa, jutting out into the Indian Ocean south of the Arabian Peninsula. Somaliland, a self-contained democracy roughly encompassing the five northwestern districts, seeks recognition as an independent nation. Puntland, comprising the three northeastern districts, is also an autonomous region, but does not seek independence. Somaliland Puntland