The Two Completely Different Nations Of Somalia

By Eric Yosomono on Sunday, September 29, 2013
somalia
“You have the power to kill, but not negotiate. In Somalia, killing is negotiation.” —Somalia militiaman, Black Hawk Down

In A Nutshell

The southern portion of Somalia is overrun with pirates, an Islamic insurgency, armed gangs of AK-47 militiamen, and hasn’t had a functioning government since 1991. Meanwhile the northern part, Somaliland, has a stable government with a functioning democracy. One of the silver linings of being ignored and not recognized as a sovereign nation by the rest of the world is that Somaliland didn’t rack up any debt with the IDF, World Bank, or other internationalist bankers.

The Whole Bushel

The seemingly total breakdown of Somalia captured the world’s attention during its 90s famine and then American military disaster known as the “Black Hawk Down” incident. Ever since then, Somalia has been synonymous with feuding AK-47 tribal lords, piracy, and (most recently) Islamic jihad. Yet what most media observers miss (or just conveniently leave out) is that the civil war, anarchy, and total state meltdown all took place in southern part of Somalia, which was formerly a colonial possession of Italy. Meanwhile, since southern Somalia ripped itself apart the formerly British northern part called “Somaliland” has been able to function all this time. It has avoided the south’s lawlessness, still has a functional multi-party government, and actually sends food aid to the south.

In the late 19th century, the British took control of a stretch of African coast opposite the prized British-run colonial city-state of Aden, in what is now Yemen. The size of Greece, the Limeys called their newest slice of Africa “British Somaliland.” Mostly barren scrubland, the British didn’t really see anything of value but seized it to keep out other European colonial powers and to provide a close source of meat to Aden (this gave British Somaliland its nickname, “Aden’s butcher shop”). Italy had its own colony, Italian Somaliland, to the east of the British version. After World War II, Britain took control of Italian Somaliland as a war trophy until, through various phases, the two merged to created the Somali Republic in 1960.

For the next three decades the two Somalias melded together until, following the death of its ruler, Somalia became a “failed state” in 1991. Freed from an oppressive government, various tribal clans ripped the country apart in a still-ongoing brutal civil war. The northern British portion of Somalia has been left unscathed and has been a functioning state, while the Italian part of Somalia very publicly disintegrated. Appreciating that they don’t have to send aid or intervene militarily, most other countries in the world ignore this independently functioning nation because, once the rest of Somalia gets its act together, they want the various parts of Somalia to be reunited again along the 1960 border.

For all of these decades, while large portions of Somalia became a basket case, Somaliland has been doing fine. It is one of the most progressive democracies in Africa with a multi-party system of open and free elections. One of the silver linings of being ignored and not recognized as a sovereign nation by the rest of the world is that Somaliland couldn’t rack up any debt with the IDF, World Bank, or other internationalist bankers. This has forced it to get money to fund its governmental infrastructure by negotiating with business and community leaders. The only way these moneylenders would provide cash to the government was for the political leaders to provide accountability and guarantee a functioning democracy. While aid is sometimes a necessity, in Somaliland’s case, being ignored by those saddling other African nations with huge mountains of debt has worked out pretty well for them. (It’s almost like a model of what a normal country should do.)

Show Me The Proof

US recognition of democratic Somaliland is long overdue
In Somaliland, less money has brought more democracy