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Narrating peace building, progress, stability and democracy in Somaliland since 1991, part 1

This article examines consolidation of peace, state building, reconciliation, progress, stability and democracy since 1991 Somaliland. Somaliland has its own traditional conflict solution mechanisms in place which have nurtured mutual trust and dialogue by its people. The country is located southern shore of the Gulf of Aden, ticks almost all the boxes of statehood and declared independence in May 1991 from rest of Somalia after long liberation struggle that cause of tens of thousands of people were killed and towns were flattened. Somaliland has long historical ties with Britain being British protectorate almost 80 years. Britain established the protectorate of British Somaliland in through treaties with the local leaders and following winding up treaties between Great Britain and the various Somaliland clans in the early 1880s, the Somaliland Protectorate was proclaimed in 1887.

The international boundaries of the Protectorate were delineated by treaties with France Djibouti) to the west in 1888, Ethiopia to the south in 1887 and Italy (Somalia) to the east in 1894. . Somaliland had statehood (prior to independence, the territory was administered as a separate British colony, and briefly enjoyed a five-day spell as a sovereign state). Formerly British Somaliland’s union with Italian Somaliland to its south, which brought about modern Somalia in 1960, was voluntary. Somaliland was a British Protectorate from 1884 until 26 June 1960 when it became an independent state. Five days after receiving independence from Her Majesty’s Government, Somaliland chose to unite with Italian-trusteeship Somalia as the first step towards creating a “Greater Somalia” to unite all peoples of ethnic Somali origin across the Horn of Africa.

On 24 June 1960, The London Gazette published a proclamation by HM the Queen terminating British protection over the Somaliland Protectorate and declaring that Somaliland would become ‘’an independent country” on 26 June, the union flag was lowered for the last time and the US Secretary of State sent a message of congratulation. However, five days later, Somaliland voluntarily joined Italian Somalia to form a new state: the Somali Republic. The former British protectorate, the current Somaliland has also escaped much of the chaos and violence that plague Somalia. Somaliland is recognised by international community, however, the country has a working political system, government institutions, a police force and its own currency. The current president Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo came to power in July 2010 following elections considered largely free and fair by international observers.

Presidential election was held on 26 June 2010 in Somaliland. After a two-year delay, voting for the presidential elections finally took place on June 26 2010. The Somaliland National Election Commission announced the results on 1 July 2010, the fiftieth anniversary of independence from Britain; Somaliland National Election Commission was declared Ahmed Mohamoud Silanyo had won the presidential election with just under 50% of the vote [defeating incumbent president Dahir Riyale Kahin, who received 33 % and Faisal Ali Waraabe 17 %. Ahmed Mohamoud Silanyo who has a degree from the London School of Economics, is Somaliland’s fourth president since the country proclaimed its independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991. Somaliland would provide security in a strategically sensitive region, a growing market for goods and services, and an important bulwark against extremism. Somaliland plays an active role in an effort to combat extremism and piracy in the Horn of Africa.

Somaliland provides significant resources to security to prevent al-Shabaab getting a foothold in Somaliland. On, 2001 97% of the population votes to endorse the constitution adopted in 1997, in a referendum aimed at affirming Somaliland’s self-declared independence. The country has its own currency and a trained army and police force. The government, located in the capital city of Hargeisa, maintains a respectable degree of control over its territory: the country is, by and large, peaceful, in stark contrast to Somalia to the south. Somaliland has entered into legal contracts signing oil-exploration licenses with foreign corporations), and it engages in diplomatic operations with the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union and nations such as Britain, America, and Denmark. Peace in Somaliland came from the local people working together in a series of reconciliation conferences between the clans that live in Somaliland Starting from the grassroots. Although not recognized as an independent state by the international community, Somaliland’s self rule has provided the area a peace and stability not seen in the rest of Somalia.

Somaliland commemorated 26 years of peace, stability and self-declared independence although no other country from the international community has yet recognized Somaliland politically. The Upper House of Parliament (guurti) consists of 82 elders from the various clans in Somaliland to assure representation of all people in Somaliland. This house was entrusted to work on further consolidating peace, reconciling communities and resolving conflicts in a very fragile environment. Somaliland government is now capable of maintaining peace and security. Peace building by the civil society is taking place, alongside a state-centric view to security and drafting of a national peace building policy. Somaliland is now democratizing, with the transition happening successfully but with many challenges. When Somalia’s government collapsed in 1991, violence engulfed much of the country for a quarter century; Somaliland has been quite different in contrast with Somalia.

Somaliland has a population about 3.5 million people and recognized as one of the more stable, democratic places in the Horn of Africa. The country has its own currency, passport, army and legal system. Its presidents come to power through fiercely-fought elections, sometimes won with the narrowest of margins. Unlike many other African countries, the results are respected, even when the opposition wins. Somaliland kept its own traditional conflict solution mechanisms in place and these values and norms were not disrupted. These solution mechanisms have enabled its people to reconcile and have nurtured mutual trust and dialogue. Somaliland is peaceful, stable and democratic de facto state for the last 26 years. Since then, Somalilanders have worked hard to build peace in their country through a bottom-up process drawing on traditional conflict resolution methods. Elders from Somaliland clans held a series of grassroots consultations with their communities, which led to Somaliland’s unilateral declaration of independence on 18 May1991.

Somaliland provides an interesting example of how to create lasting peace and stability through bottom-up grassroots community engagement. Somaliland provides the best example of successful peace building and state building in the Horn of Africa. Important lessons can be learned from Somaliland’s experience of curbing extremism, developing a governance structure that transcends clan divisions, and fostering an environment where political discourse does not result in violence. By choosing peace and stability, the people of Somaliland have been able to encourage private sector development through technological innovations such e-Dahab and Zaad services which are the first mobile money facilities in the Horn of Africa, and foreign direct investment such as Somaliland Beverage Industries, a Somaliland-based franchise of Coca-Cola.

Building a new country from scratch, caring millions of people with comparatively good freedom of the media and democratic procedures, building primary schools as well as universities without much help from the outside is pretty impressing. Somaliland has become a bastion of democracy. Money-changers sit unguarded in the street with huge stacks of cash as commerce flourishes around them, while my visit was possible without the heavily armed escort. Somaliland people are very proud of what they have achieved since 1991. The international community acknowledged Somaliland as island of peace and new role of African democracy. The country has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring, peace, stability and development over the years and has been supported by its partners and close friends. The legitimacy in Somaliland came from its people and the country had five democratic elections with the 2010 presidential election monitored by the EU and deemed free and fair. With peaceful transition of power and the system is a parliamentary democracy and upper House of Elders (Guurti) that play a significant conflict resolution role through a pragmatic combination of customary and common. Part 2 will follow shortly.

Ismail Lugweyne

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