The Foreign Service Journal, November 2006

It is unclear that the urgent action called for will be any more forthcoming in the future than it has been in the past. True, the U.S. supports regional efforts to bring stability to the south. How- ever the September decision of the African Union to support the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development’s request for 8,000 peacekeepers to be deployed to Somalia and a lifting of the U.N. arms embargo on Somalia is an unlikely path to peace and stability, given that the ICU has vowed implacable resistance to the presence of foreign peacekeepers. The real reasons for the lack of muscle behind efforts on Somalia may have been best described by Center for Strategic and International Studies expert Stephen Morrison, who told the International Relations and Security Network’s Security Watch that “by contrast with Sudan, there is no strong domestic U.S. constituency for serious engagement on Somalia ... I do not expect the U.S. will realistically get very serious about a policy of engagement in reconstructing Somalia versus the current strategy of containment.” Whether doomed to failure or not — and even a strat- egy of containment may take more diplomatic energy than is available — the focus on the disastrous situation in the south has been an argument to put the situation in Somaliland on the back burner. In August, when Pres. Kahin was in London and scheduled to visit the U.S. in a subsequently-canceled trip, a U.S. official was quoted in the Aug. 24 Financial Times as saying that the U.S. views Somaliland as a “regional authority.” This sounds much like the longstanding U.S. position that the Somalis them- selves should resolve the status question, whether through negotiations among the parties, a referendum, or a con- stitutional commission like the one called for in the TFG’s Transitional Charter. The Peace and Democracy Advantage Even if the stars are not aligned for full recognition of Somaliland in the short run, there is a strong case for effec- tive international protection and tangible support. It occu- pies a strategic location, with its coastline on the trade routes of the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. It is a Muslim democracy in an important region, with a pro- American, anti-terrorist govern- ment. In sharp contrast, any hope that the TFG and ICU can reach a power-sharing agreement, or that the A.U. can impose one — much less that any resulting Somalian government would work effectively with the U.S. and international community on anti-terrorism ob- jectives — seems to be wishful thinking. Meanwhile, Washington and its allies can take steps to protect Somaliland now. It should beef up the interna- tional presence there that has existed for years, despite the region’s isolation, and capitalize on the substantial investment in building up Somaliland’s political institu- tions. For instance, the U.S. Agency for International Development operates programs to help build stability in Somalia, generally focusing on civic education and teacher training. Two-thirds of British assistance to “Somalia” has actually been spent in Somaliland. On the multilateral front, the United Nations Devel- opment Program and its Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance are both active there as well, training residents to deal with their refugee situation and providing other assistance. (Somaliland representatives sit on bodies evaluating these programs.) One organiza- tion affiliated with the U.N., the International Peace- building Alliance, is running programs to facilitate peace- building, economic and social rehabilitation in Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland. In Somaliland, its local part- ners were invited by the official Electoral Commission to take the lead in organizing the September 2005 elections and to run civic education programs. The congressionally-funded National Endowment for Democracy also operates in all three regions of Somalia, conducting 29 programs (15 in Somaliland) aimed at strengthening civil society. Although the Endowment does not take policy positions on recognition, NED President Carl Gershman has made statements making it clear that NED strongly supports Somaliland’s democra- cy. Significantly, NED’s internal procedures and docu- ments treat Somaliland and Somalia on an equal basis as separate countries. And all the Endowment’s local part- ner organizations in Somaliland insist on its right to F O C U S 34 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 Washington and the rest of the world agree that Somaliland’s democratic development has been exemplary, but have stopped well short of recognition.