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Somaliland: From A Danish Prespective

Somalia itself is now dissolved as a state or country while Somaliland has reverted to its post July 1st, 1960 status as an independent nation. In the northern part of Somalia, which for nearly 20 years been a country called Somaliland. And Somaliland is not Somalia - rather the contrary.Somaliland has led a bitter and bloody liberation war to regain its historical autonomy, and have managed to create a country and state. A border, resting on historical experience and divisions are also located between Somalia and Somaliland, and it is now well protected by security forces from Somaliland, which has had luck and skill to intercept terrorists from Somalia who want to destabilize the government in Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland.

And one must remember that although Somaliland is only a small part of the former Greater Somalia, however, it covers an area the size of Great Britain minus Scotland. It is thus a major task to protect the border between Somalia and Somaliland, and Somaliland solve this problem themselves without outside assistance.

The war that ravaged Somalia in the 1980s and early 1990s, was also the beginning of the end for the Greater Somalia, from the beginning was an artificial construct, created by the colonial powers and with no internal consistency, and has never posed any nation. The war raged since 1982, with enormous human and material casualties, but the people of Somaliland wanted autonomy and freedom from the various regimes that succeeded one another in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Somaliland declared itself (again) independent in 1991 as a response to the deteriorating political, security and social realities, not least after strong public pressure. Somaliland had and has a strong and united people desire to be an independent country and in particular to escape from the reign of terror in Somalia. The country has had a democratically elected government, political stability and good protection of human rights.

The boundaries of Somaliland, follows the former British protectorate borders, and the British presence in the area is not the prettiest example of good governance - the area was grossly neglected and starved, and on top of this neglect must Italiano historical ravages and neglect in this area certainly highlights. There should be a bill to pay for the former colonial powers, but it does not happen, and it should not discourage others from contributing!

Without going too deep back in history, it sadly noted that while enormous sums from the international community are posted in Somalia, hoping to bring this' country on its feet, the international community have turned a blind eye to the fact that there now exists a well established and legitimate and peace-loving country, based on historical roots in the northern region, Somaliland. It has neither received international recognition or been accepted as a partner in international development cooperation. Somaliland survives because of transfers from citizens with a background in Somaliland, which sends money home to their families and villages, which far exceeds what the UN make contributions in the development, even with small grants from some donor countries.

Somaliland has a constitution and other key legislation that fully meets international standards in terms of good governance, democratic rights of the people and the rights and opportunities for all groups in society. There is a democratically elected parliament and their democratically elected councils in districts that are comparable to our municipalities. There are always important reforms are underway to improve the systems and to try to create better living conditions, including reforms of municipal autonomy. These reforms are advanced and good for all parties to draw lesson from.

Throughout Somaliland national budget is much smaller than for example the municipality of Roskilde social spending. Here, Denmark could make a difference. It is at all interesting to observe that for the visitor in Somaliland, which looks at the social and political environments, it is obvious that Somaliland on a range of issues is far ahead of its neighbors. This is particularly true for legislation and political institutions, and not least in terms of social stability. One can perhaps argue that the isolation, Somaliland has experienced for many years, have contributed to the development of the particular political institutions, which combines a modern form of government with the traditions and experience from Somaliland history. The problems in the country is all about extreme poverty, the series of droughts and water shortages, threats from Somalia as well as obstacles to international cooperation with other governments.

Deprivation and poverty are the major problems in this country, and unless these issues are resolved, it is feared that extremists would find better living conditions in Somaliland, than it would otherwise have been the case. Somaliland is a Muslim nation, but in strong opposition to the more fanatical regimes and in particular the various warlords in Somalia who base their reign of terror of violence and extreme interpretations of Islam. In Somaliland, I met with an able and competent woman minister and senior female officials, so there is absolutely also developing to see when it comes to women and gender in Somaliland. How would this image be in Somalia? It is not hard to guess.

The meeting with the people, civil servants, mayors and others is a positive occurrence, that shows the contrasts in the region. Somaliland wants peace, stability, human rights and does so strongly opposed to the way the warlords act on in Somalia, which they in any possible way.

Unfortunately, very few media or politicians interested in the people's destiny and overlook the opportunities for positive development and strategic alliance with a well-organized country in the middle of a sea of violence and terror.

Denmark could here the forefront of an active foreign policy, not based on military intervention.

When you consider what other areas have declared themselves as independent, has received in development assistance - Kosovo is an obvious example - it is sad to note that while the so far fruitless massive military and other investments in the desperate situation in Somalia could feed a whole continent of the poor, so the international community has chosen to ignore Somaliland. I wonder why Denmark and the EU and others react so negatively in this case and why the media are their faithful followers?

Somaliland is in a way a bright spot in an otherwise depressing and negative story about how bad things can go when the colonial powers and local forces are not in harmony Why is it apparently so important to cling to the false hope that a Greater Somalia may arise based on human rights and good governance? Somaliland has long realized the hopelessness of this and have built their own country based on law and order, security, good governance and democracy.

The general answer to why Somaliland should remain the forgotten and neglected country, is that African leaders from states that are also threatened by its democracy. Why Denmark and the EU contribute to the Somali disaster should also include areas that have chosen a life of independence from the mayhem in Mogadishu?

In addition, there are examples of breakdowns of state power in African countries has not led to chaos, but rather better conditions in the affected areas. The best example is perhaps Namibia, which South African occupation became independent and democratic in 1998 with a constitution that probably could and should inspire aspiring constitutional fathers and mothers in many countries.Another example is Eritrea. It can thus be done, and why not? In addition, a significant interest in finding stable partners in the region, and Somaliland is a good example of such a potential partner.

But why have we in Denmark, in parliament and in the media as a narrow and negative attitude to Somaliland?

What has this country but made other than to seek his freedom and development?

Why could there not at least set up a Danish representative office in Hargeisa - the capital of Somaliland?

It has indeed been made in Palestine, but it is far from meeting the same criteria for international recognition as independent state, as is the case of Somaliland.Part of the explanation is probably the media impact of focus on the violent incidents in Somalia and U.S. strategies in the area and UN acceptance of an indivisible Greater Somalia.

There has not been in Denmark any political or media-related attention to the fact that Somalia over the years has been divided into autonomous regions, covering a remaining and internally divided Somalia, where various warlords haunts and aspiring terrorists to hatch, a breakaway country , Puntland, which has not quite the same history and the democratic legitimacy of Somaliland and finally just Somaliland, which meet all criteria for international recognition.

There are many political, strategic and humanitarian reasons in the current situation to support Somaliland. On the one hand, one could thus support a very poor country and meet our international commitments to fighting poverty and on the other hand, one could support Somaliland, its institutions and preserve it without the Somali terrorist regime.

Denmark could here the forefront of an active foreign policy, not based on military intervention. Denmark and Europe have a strategic and political interest in supporting and recognizing Somaliland. The country has a strategic location in relation to shipping in the area and are highly interested in all initiatives to support law and order in this part of the world. The country will under no circumstances be integrated in Somalia - and why should it be integrated into one of the world's worst regimes? A strong European alliance with Somaliland would be a strategic holding.

Denmark supports indirect Somaliland, but with a very modest amount, and through the overall UN strategy, geared towards the former Greater Somalia and not to the specific circumstances of Somaliland. So there is nothing special DANIDA project or program in Somaliland, and support for UN work, apparently and according to staff in the organization seeks a Somali reconciliation is perhaps not the way forward.

It is inappropriate that the assistance to Somaliland are channeled through one organization, namely the UN, and not through several donors working in Somaliland conditions. There is tremendous need for a reassessment and improvement of our efforts. While the killings, executions and cutting off limbs escalates in Mogadishu in Somalia, Somaliland was trying to create a future of security and prosperity. But without international support looks difficult for a country where wages are one USD per day.

The desperate situation in Somalia breeds violence and terror. We have now also discovered in Denmark. The building of democratic, but destitute Somaliland could be a good counterweight to these developments in Somalia. During my collaboration with government and with municipalities in Somaliland, it has been clear that the country is seeking cooperation with democratic societies, recognition and social and economic development supported by an improved central and local government. The problem is lack of money. Throughout Somaliland national budget is much smaller than for example the municipality of Roskilde social spending. Here, Denmark could make a difference.

Finally, could the media - instead of helping it staged the secrecy of Somaliland - help with real information about this country and its unduly harsh fate. Somaliland is in a way a bright spot in an otherwise depressing and negative story about how bad things can go when the colonial powers and local forces are not consistent, and structures are created that nobody wants. Somaliland wants at least not to be or become a part of Somalia, which they know too well. Since you can move freely and safely in Somaliland, it is easy for reporters to work there.

Soren Villadsen

PhD in public management and a partner in the Nordic Consulting Group, Denmark