The Somali Civil War in the 80s damaged the economic infrastructure of Somaliland and, after the collapse of the central government in 1991, the territory asserted its independence and withdrew from Somalia. Two years later clan war broke out but the clan system also provided the mechanism for resolving the conflict. At a series of conferences, some of them lasting for months, groups of elders worked out peace treaties. Somaliland is calm except for the border areas of Sool and eastern Sanaag, claimed by Puntland, and the country seeks international recognition as the Republic of Somaliland.
Attribution: Abdullah Geelah at en.wikipedia
Andrew Swan, the Brussels Project Co-ordinator of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization wrote to the Financial Times about Somaliland’s ‘successful state-building exercise’.
The country is being rebuilt
There is heavy expenditure on Somaliland’s police and security forces. The Somaliland Navy, cooperating with international counterparts, has ensured that there is no more human trafficking or piracy in the country’s waters.
The economy is modestly prospering with good returns in the fish, cereals and horticulture sectors. Water supplies were restored with the help of aid agencies after the war.
The export of livestock, long banned due to the prevalence of Rift Valley Fever and rinderpest, has been resumed and will bring economic benefits – though transport of live animals is not a practice commended here. However, nomads who look after the animals are facing increasing difficulties as lands are overgrazed and enclosed, and trees, essential for regular rainfall, are being cut down.
Currently Somaliland’s mineral deposits are mined by simple quarrying procedures and its large offshore and onshore oil and natural gas reserves have been accessed only by a few excavated wells. Both sectors have been preserved from large-scale exploitation by foreign oil companies due to the region’s unrecognised status.
Future multilateral assistance and foreign investment could bring its own problems
The country is being rebuilt without much help from western donors. It cannot issue passports, so its ministers and businessmen cannot travel easily. Recognition would give the country access to multilateral assistance and encourage foreign investment – which will bring a separate tranche of problems.
Swan advises the west to support examples of ‘budding good governance’, democracy and rule of law, instead of imposing external puppets or models of governance.