Insight: Somaliland – Getting it Right in Africa

Talk Tuesday 9th September, 2008

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In May 1991 Somaliland declared independence from the rest of Somalia and over the past 17 years the government there has restored law and order to make it one of the must democratic and functioning societies in the Horn of Africa. In stark contrast to its neighbour Somalia, Somaliland has become an oasis of peace, stability and progress and a haven for thousands of Somalis fleeing from their war-torn country.

Yet Somaliland’s independence and sovereignty is still not recognised by most of the international community including Britain. What are the obstacles in the way of international recognition and is this really the best way forward?

How have the people of Somaliland built such a stable democracy, society and institutions in such a war-torn region and what are the lessons other de facto states can learn from it?

Richard Dowden is director of the Royal African Society. He worked for the Times until 1986 when he became Africa Editor of the Independent and in 1995 he took the post of Africa Editor at The Economist. He has also made three television documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4 on Africa.

Adam Mussa Jibril has been the Somaliland representative in the UK since January 2008.

Michael Walls
is a lecturer in Development Planning at UCL and has a research interest in state formation in Somaliland. He is Chair of Somaliland Focus (UK) and the Anglo-Somali Society and a coordinator of the UK international election observation team for upcoming Somaliland elections.

Edward Mason is Head of the London Office of Independent Diplomat.  He joined the organisation in November 2005 and has worked on all of ID’s current projects with the governments of Kosovo, Somaliland and Western Sahara.  He is ID’s expert on Somaliland.

Mike Wooldridge is a world affairs correspondent for BBC News. He joined the BBC in April 1970 and in 1982 became East Africa correspondent. In 1989 he moved to Johannesburg to become Southern Africa correspondent and started his present job in 2001. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Mike covered conflict and hunger and other humanitarian crises in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Angola and Mozambique as well as the release of Nelson Mandela. He has reported from Africa regularly since then.