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Though technically part of war-torn Somalia, Somaliland declared independence in 1991, has governed itself for 30 years as a democracy and avoided the bloodshed that has plagued the rest of Somalia. Now Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi thinks it’s time for more – US recognition of his Horn of Africa country, wrote Axios.
Despite Abdi’s recent lobbying in Washington, however, recognition has not been forthcoming. The African Union believes such a move would further destabilize the area. But Abdi is keeping hope alive in part because he knows that the US is competing with China for influence in the region, noted Voice of America. Nearby Djibouti hosts the US’ only military base in Africa as well as China’s only foreign military installation.
Competition with China is one reason why American conservatives are especially interested in recognizing Somaliland’s independence. As Somali-American medical physicist Mohamoud Gaildon argued in Salon, they believe Somaliland could help shore up America’s interests in the region. That is what is keeping the dream of independence alive.
“Even if it takes 100 years for recognition, we will still stand for our identity, we’ll still engage with everybody, and we’ll still dream of a day where Somaliland is recognized as its own country,” Somaliland Foreign Minister Essa Kayd Mohamoud told Foreign Policy.
Certainty Somaliland needs help. A raging fire recently damaged hundreds of businesses in the main market of the capital, Hargeisa, for example, the BBC wrote. The devastation struck at the heart of the region’s economy. Abdi has asked for a whopping $2 billion in humanitarian aid to rebuild and compensate for losses, Africanews reported. That’s around 60 percent of the gross domestic product of the country of 4 million people.
Still, skepticism should temper any discussions about Somaliland sovereignty. The country has a highly dubious track record in civil rights, for example. Authorities recently rounded up 14 journalists who had the audacity to cover a prison riot, according to Reporters without Borders. Officials detained another journalist after he wrote about intelligence officers attacking him and others for their criticism of Abdi, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
Female genital mutilation, a traditional practice where so-called “cutters” remove clitorises from young girls, is also widespread in the country. The coronavirus pandemic set the stage for an increase in the practice because more girls became socially isolated or were married off to husbands who expected them to undergo it when schools closed and businesses struggled or shut, the Associated Press added.
Perhaps Somaliland should be independent. But its bid deserves close scrutiny.