Saturday, February 11, 2006

Somaliland recognition

Somaliland, slowly creeping toward independence, might have found a new champion: the African Union. The Mail & Guardian has obtained a report commissioned by the AU that suggets "official African aid be tapped" by the breakaway country in northwest Somalia.

Since the collapse of the Somali state in 1991, Somaliland has been largely self-governing and -- here's a rarity in Somalia -- rather peaceful. It has held elections on a constitution, the presidency and the parliament, all of which were deemed free and fair.

The AU said recognizing Somaliland as an independent state “case should not be linked to the notion of ‘opening a Pandora’s box’. As such, the AU should find a special method for dealing with this outstanding case.

“The lack of recognition ties the hands of the authorities and people of Somaliland, as they cannot effectively and sustainably transact with the outside to pursue the reconstruction and development goals.

“Furthermore, given the acute humanitarian situation prevailing in Somaliland, the AU should mobilise financial resources to help alleviate the plight of the affected communities, especially those catering for the internally displaced persons and the returnees.“

Finally, given also the high potential for conflict between Mogadishu and Hargeisa, the AU should take steps to discuss critical issues in the relations between the two towns. That initiative should be taken at the earliest possible opportunity.

”International recognition usually is like a line of dominoes -- one major country or organization recognizes it, and the rest fall in line (there are a few exceptions; Taiwan is the most obvious). The AU offering recognition could push other countries. Against the toughest odds, the people of Somaliland have created their own peaceful, lawful country. It's time the international community recognizes this.

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