AFRICAN GAme ChANGeR? The Consequences of Somaliland’s International (Non) Recognition

Executive Summary
This Discussion Paper considers the case for Somaliland’s formal recognition following 
the recent 20th anniversary of its declaration of independence (18 may 1991) and in light 
of the secession of Southern Sudan. Based on a series of field studies in the region over 
several years, most recently in Somaliland in June 2011, this Paper focuses not only on 
the options for Somalia and others in this regard, but considers the vital question: how 
will recognition – or continued non-recognition – affect Somaliland’s prospects for peace 
and stability as well as the interests of the international community? It also asks whether 
there is an alternative to full recognition, and what a strategy to achieve recognition 
might look like.
The Paper argues that recognition of Somaliland would be a most cost-effective 
means to ensure security in an otherwise troubled and problematic region. moreover, 
at a time when ‘ungoverned spaces’ have emerged as a major source of global concern, 
it is deeply ironic that the international community should deny itself the opportunity to 
extend the reach of global governance in a way that would be beneficial both to itself, 
and to the people of Somaliland. For Africa, Somaliland’s recognition should not threaten 
a ‘Pandora’s box’ of secessionist claims in other states. Instead it offers a means to 
positively change the incentives for better governance, not only for Somaliland, but also 
in south-central Somalia.
The Paper’s authors acknowledge, however, that recognition would not resolve all 
of Somaliland’s problems, or the region’s. Indeed, the Paper explains that recognition 
may, for example, exacerbate tensions with both Al-Shabaab, committed as the Islamist 
organisation is to the notion of a united Somalia, and with neighbouring Puntland. 
Recognition might also diminish the link of accountability between Somaliland’s 
democratic government and its people, as the government may be tempted to be more 
responsive to international partners, with their potentially significant aid packages, than 
to the people. And nor should the recognition question obscure the deep-rooted social 
and economic problems in Somaliland that will need constant and continued attention. 
But whatever the benefits and costs to Somaliland, regional states and the international 
community, recognition would illustrate that African borders, far from being sources of 
insecurity, can be a source of stability and enhanced state capacity. In that respect, the 
recognition of Somaliland would certainly be an African game change
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