An oasis of stability in East Africa Does Colin Powell have the courage to save Somaliland?

[Page 1]  [Page 2]

Posted to the web 11:49 May 18 2001 - (SLN) May 18 - Unknown to many Americans, there is a Somalia that didn't murder U.S. Rangers and drag them through the streets, where U.N. soldiers never set foot, and where there are no roving gangs of warlords. It is a land where refugees are eagerly returning, where there is a functioning democracy, where free enterprise is booming and what is more a country where they love Americans. So why can't Somaliland get any respect?

SOMALILAND HAS accomplished everything that America ever hoped that Somalia would and more from ending clan violence to establishing a parliament. What is its reward?

Ten years after it broke away from the rest of Somalia and declared its independence, no country has yet formally recognized Somaliland. And that has caused real hardships. It cannot sign agreements with multilateral donors such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund.

It cannot receive more than token aid - for emergency and humanitarian reasons - but no meaningful bilateral development assistance from other governments let alone substantive loans to rehabilitate its dilapidated infrastructure.

Somaliland sorely lacks the extensive veterinary care it needs to guarantee its livestock are free of disease for export. It cannot drill for oil, build new industry, improve its universities or rebuild its roads. It can not create jobs for the tens of thousands of refugees returning to Somaliland's relative stability, nor build a substantial police force or army to protect itself.

SOMALILAND HAS accomplished everything that America ever hoped that Somalia would and more from ending clan violence to establishing a parliament. What is its reward?

Ten years after it broke away from the rest of Somalia and declared its independence, no country has yet formally recognized Somaliland. And that has caused real hardships. It cannot sign agreements with multilateral donors such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund.

It cannot receive more than token aid - for emergency and humanitarian reasons - but no meaningful bilateral development assistance from other governments let alone substantive loans to rehabilitate its dilapidated infrastructure.

Somaliland sorely lacks the extensive veterinary care it needs to guarantee its livestock are free of disease for export. It cannot drill for oil, build new industry, improve its universities or rebuild its roads. It can not create jobs for the tens of thousands of refugees returning to Somaliland's relative stability, nor build a substantial police force or army to protect itself.

DISASTROUS UNION And what Somaliland fears most is a forced reunion with Somalia. Somaliland, a former British colony, was severely punished, after its first marriage to the former Italian colony in the south in 1960.

After that union to create what used to be known as the Republic of Somalia, tens of thousands of Somalilanders were murdered by Somali Army officers. Bodies are still found today, bound together, and buried in mass graves, with bullets through the backs of their heads. Over 40,000 men women and children were murdered in the capital city of Hargeysa when government MiG jets bombed the city.

After such a dreadful union, who would want rejoin Somalia again? As it turns out, it is almost no one in Somaliland. Somalilanders call the Somali Republic's actions genocide, and are saying "never again" to a reunion.

But not so in the south, in the former Italian Somalia, where there is a fervent desire to reunite a greater Somalia. And it is that wish which threatens the fragile democracy in Somaliland.

Somaliland has pleaded and begged with the international community for recognition, but that plea is not based on hardship alone.

Somaliland argues that America needs a strong and faithful ally at the border of Africa and the Middle East.

Somaliland shields the soft underbelly of Ethiopia and, as a secular democratic state, is a bulwark against extremist international anarchy and terrorism. On a practical level, it offers a huge airstrip, over 13,000 feet, and a deep-water port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden, which, the government points out, is safer for U.S. warships than Aden, in Yemen, where the USS Cole was bombed by terrorists last October.

One of the pillars of the Organization of African Unity is that African colonial borders should not be redrawn.

[Page 1]  [Page 2]