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Unrecognized state continues to exist anyway
April 6, 2014 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Somaliland is an odd land. In global limbo since its birth, it continues to develop economically and socially in a reasonably stable and secure environment. Recently, the British town of Sheffield was the first to recognize its very existence as an independent country. In the meantime, the capital Hargeisa city, which has only one paved road, recently installed streetlights for the first time, and an enterprising entrepreneur returned home from Australia to start a familiar city service - the yellow cab. Investors and businesses have started paying attention while the major powers still prefer to pretend it doesn't exist. Even while experts debate whether their model can be utilized in far more volatile Somalia, Hargeisa's residents want you to know they are Happy.
posted by infini (13 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
This post was inspired by the last link, a YouTube video of Pharrell Williams' Happy, making the rounds all the way from nowhereland.
posted by infini at 8:16 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


Coupling the internet with this local oriented emphasis on governance feels more like a worthwhile thought exercise than a 'failed state.' Given how much risk and costs are embodied in nation states (nukes, standing armies, arbitrary borders to commerce and social mobility...), maybe it's time to name and ponder a Somali Alternative to the nation state.

Glad to see people can self organize and be happy without macro level layers of authority. Maybe Facebook and Google+ could compete to provide localize governance framework alternatives that could allow people to organically 'opt out' en masse from their national hegemonies? Hm. Curious to hear if others see potential real lessons for sillycon valley in Somali; and apologize if injecting this tangent seems like a potential derail to a great post.
posted by astrobiophysican at 10:34 AM on April 6


Just wanted to add that Simon Reeve visits Somaliland on this episode of Places That Don't Exist and that I'm glad to hear they're still going strong.
posted by nTeleKy at 11:13 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Given how much risk and costs are embodied in nation states (nukes, standing armies, arbitrary borders to commerce and social mobility...), maybe it's time to name and ponder a Somali Alternative to the nation state.

Somaliland is a full-blown nation state complete with a constitution, elections (including a past successful peaceful of transfer after an election) and an army. It lacks international recognition due to the African Union member states not wanting to encourage their own regional secessionists, not because it doesn't have any of the normal institutions of a state.

It's Somalia proper (outside of Somaliland and Puntland) that lacks a functioning government, and in fact has sort of the opposite situation where the government has international recognition but very little in the way of functional state institutions or legitimacy on the ground, and has a vastly worse quality of life than Somaliland.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:17 AM on April 6 [13 favorites]


From the second linked article:
He said the country's national budget was around $250 million, funded completely by its own resources.

Its economy is largely based on selling livestock - goats and cattle - to Arab countries, while it also relies heavily on the remittances of its diaspora community.

"Remittances from overseas prop up the economy to the tune of about a billion dollars a year," Dualeh said.
From the third liked article:
Yet, this is not to suggest that Somaliland is a thriving prosperous country, quite the contrary. A recent World Bank study ranks Somaliland as the fourth poorest country in the world based on GDP per capita. Heavily dependent on its diaspora, Somaliland struggles to generate decent levels of domestic revenue, and is in dire need of reforms of its private and financial sectors.
Add in that the future economic development is mostly about oil extraction and mining, in a place with few if any mechanisms for dealing with the obvious negative externalities, and I can;'t help thinking Somaliland is more likely going to be a neoliberal variation on the history of Nauru.
posted by kewb at 11:24 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


I think Equatorial Guinea is a far more likely candidate than Nauru. There's a lot more money to be made in oil than in phosphates, and Somaliland is so much bigger than Nauru that despoliation of all arable land in the country is unlikely. Plus at least the population at large in Nauru benefited, sort of, from the boom. Whereas if there is an oil boom in Somaliland I cannot imagine that the common people will receive much if any of the wealth.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:35 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


It lacks international recognition due to the African Union member states not wanting to encourage their own regional secessionists

This can't be the explanation for lack of recognition *outside* of the AU. And the AU backed the secession of South Sudan, so that's a significant contradiction if your assertion is correct.

I believe it's more likely that the world community is essentially "all in" on saving Somalia proper, and any breakaway would suggest inconstancy on that point.

Nevertheless, I do confess I'm somewhat baffled why the international community hasn't backed a creative solution such as confederation, which would allow Somaliland and Puntland to operate as semi-autonomous states while "South Somalia" or whatever 2-3 regions it might break into stumble on shambolically. I wonder if this might happen whether moving the capital, even temporarily/administratively vs. ceremonially, out of Mogadishu would change the metrics of controlling it for al-Shabab.

I can see why Somaliland and/or Puntland would be reluctant to pursue this themselves as it might actually defer their own dreams, but it is something that never seems to even be raised. The current war is largely at a steady state with no obvious route to victory for either side (largely because al-Shabab will never be allowed to win by the international community, even if the latter is unable to muster the resources to allow the recognized government to win). Anyway, I suspect there is some skin in the game for various parties of having this conflict continue indefinitely.
posted by dhartung at 12:14 PM on April 6


This can't be the explanation for lack of recognition *outside* of the AU. And the AU backed the secession of South Sudan, so that's a significant contradiction if your assertion is correct.

The difference is that the Sudanese government signed off on the South Sudanese independence referendum as part of the Naivasha Accords. Eritrea, another recent recognized secession, is the same basic story. The Somali government, such as it is, has no interest in playing ball on Somaliland, and the AU is not going to recognize unilateral independence.

As for the international community outside of Africa, I guess it could take the lead over the AU's heads, but who really has enough of an interest to? If only the Somalilanders had had the good sense to fight a bloody secession war first, we could have swooped in and brokered a peace deal, but nobody really cares when it's not causing any problems.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 1:06 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]


A few years ago I read a draft for a paper [*] on the political system in Somaliland - it was quite interesting. From what I remember they have an upper house with veto rights where every tribe has a member (a "council of elders" of sort), but a house of commons where the election thresholds are set so that the parties have to get a high percentage of votes in (almost) every region in order to be represented at all. The last part is to avoid tribal parties. Perhaps not extremely democratic, but it does appear to be quite stable, even with peaceful transitions between governments. (It would be interesting to see a comparison with the Afghan political system)

*: Written by a 20-something Norwegian guy who went there on his own. I'm sure his parents were happy :P
posted by Baron Humbert von Gikkingen at 2:07 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


There is "modernization" happening in a way that makes my heart happy. I think the people on the ground aren't letting all these lofty considerations get in the way of making daily life livable and safe.

The contributions of the diaspora aren't as fragile as it sounds, many are doing business and investing, bridging links from their immigrant homes and their roots

Almost every member of the Somali diaspora sends money home to their family, to help with food, rent, school fees and other daily expenses. But clan and hometown groups also collect money to build schools and clinics, even hospitals and universities, and to repair damaged infrastructure. Professionals in the diaspora support their colleagues back home with money and expertise. And investors help entrepreneurs, large and small, to create business ranging from tea stalls to international mobile phone companies.

The study was written by Ali Ibrahim Dagagne, an agriculture and livestock specialist who used to work with UNDP, and Laura Hammond of London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies. Hammond hails the effectiveness of diaspora support as one of Somalia’s success stories. “The Somali diaspora have succeeded in some ways where the international community has not been able to succeed,” she says. “Over the past 20 years, since the state collapsed, the diaspora has been a lifeline really for the country, and one of the reasons why we haven’t seen much more suffering.”

While the international community has concentrated predominantly on humanitarian relief, the diaspora is more engaged in reconstruction and development, and their money reaches parts of the country where international organizations and foreign-supported NGOs find it very hard to work. Most of the money sent home goes through kinship and similar networks and because people are personally known to each other, the level of trust between donors and recipients is very high.

posted by infini at 12:38 AM on April 7


This post was inspired by the last link, a YouTube video of Pharrell Williams' Happy, making the rounds all the way from nowhereland.

Is there a list anywhere of all the places that have put up videos to this song? I know Burkina Faso and Niger have done it, too.
posted by solotoro at 3:43 AM on April 7


Oh, whoops, already covered. That's what I get for skipping a day on MeFi.
posted by solotoro at 3:51 AM on April 7


The origins of the French pastry Co. can be traced back to a visit Yahye made to Djibouti where he discovered the simple 'croissant' for the first time. This tasty marvel of a baking product, which can be found in many parts of the world, was unknown in Somaliland. After recognising a large gap in the Hargeisa market for bakery products that included croissants, pain au raisin, brioche and baguette style breads, Yahye was determined that he should open a bakery in his hometown to introduce these products to his fellow citizens

I'm really loving these Somaliland enterepreneurs...
posted by infini at 9:27 AM on April 18


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