Category Archives: Africa

Somaliland’s president has reportedly rejected a conditional offer by a delegation of Chinese “wolf warrior” diplomats to cut ties with Taiwan

Bihi refused to meet with “the oppressive ambassador

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Somaliland’s president has reportedly rejected a conditional offer by a delegation of Chinese “wolf warrior” diplomats to cut ties with Taiwan, and added that he is taking steps to strengthen relations with the country.

On Monday (Aug. 3), news broke that President Muse Bihi Abdi has directed “close confidants” to examine ways of bolstering Somaliland’s relations with Taiwan, including “the possibility of mutual recognition between Taiwan and Somaliland.” On Tuesday, reports surfaced that a Chinese delegation would visit Somaliland on Wednesday (Aug. 5), while China’s ambassador, Qin Jian (覃儉), has reportedly been in the self-ruled state since Saturday (Aug. 1) attempting to arrange a meeting with Bihi.

Researcher and analyst Rashid Abdi on Tuesday posted a tweet in which he wrote that Qin “started putting on the ‘warrior diplomacy’ act and threatening Somaliland,” but that Bihi rebuffed his tactics and hours later ordered his ministry of foreign affairs to begin the process of recognizing Taiwan. Twitter account Somalia News on Wednesday stated local reports indicated that Bihi refused to meet with “the oppressive ambassador.”

On Thursday (Aug. 6), the Somaliland Chronicle cited government sources as saying that Bihi met with the delegation, which included Qin, for several hours. During the meeting, the Chinese side offered a development deal which included road and airport infrastructure projects and the installation of a liaison office in Somaliland on the condition that Bihi sever ties with Taiwan.

Bihi reportedly rejected the Chinese offer and informed them that rather than cut ties with Taiwan, his country is actually “working to strengthen diplomatic ties with Taiwan.” The newspaper on Monday reported the president has ordered an analysis of the TAIPEI Act, which was signed into law in the U.S. in March, and to present him with options and an assessment of “the pros and cons of unilateral recognition of Taiwan.”

What is of particular interest to Bihi is Section 3, Item 2 of the TAIPEI ACT, which states that the U.S. government should consider “increasing its economic, security, and diplomatic engagement with nations that have demonstrably strengthened, enhanced, or upgraded relations with Taiwan.” Bihi’s government may be particularly emboldened after the White House National Security Council (NSC) on July 10 posted a tweet lauding Taiwan for increasing its engagement in East Africa and included a link to a U.S. News & World Report article announcing the establishment of Taiwan-Somaliland ties.

In response to reports of Somaliland considering diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, MOFA spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) on Monday said the ministry does not comment on reports by the Somaliland media that have not cited their sources. She added that MOFA and its Somaliland counterpart will “continue to consult on establishing future bilateral cooperation plans based on the principle of mutual benefit and reciprocity and to promote the economy and people’s livelihoods.”

When Tsai took office in 2016, she refused to recognize the 1992 Consensus and only acknowledged that the 1992 Taiwan-China talks were a “historical fact.” In response, China has been seeking to punish Taiwan by stealing away diplomatic allies through its debt-trap diplomacy tactics.

Since the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Chinese diplomats have started to lash out at critics and attempt to intimidate their counterparts with a new “wolf warrior” ploy. The term “wolf warrior” refers to a Chinese propaganda film that depicts People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers fighting foreign mercenaries who are led by a character named “Tom Cat.”

Shakir Essa served as manager at somaliland press media and Somali news tv

Shakir Essa served as manager at somaliland press media and Somali news tv

A new film set in Djibouti City presents a searing class critique of Somali girlhood.

In the popular imagination, Somali women are viewed as passive, oppressed subjects, the hapless victims of their patriarchal culture and religion. Where they are visible, it is often through the iconography of the veil and female circumcision.

A new film set in Djibouti City presents a searing class critique of Somali girlhood.

Lula Ali Ismaïl’s Dhalinyaro (Youth)—the first full-length feature film by a Djiboutian woman—is a radical departure from this corpus in depicting Somali girlhood in its full depth and complexity. Most importantly, it does this through depicting the mundane events of everyday life in Djibouti City. There are no wars here, or pirates, or terrorists, no young women escaping fathers, husbands, or the blade of a female elder, no white saviors ready for the rescue. What we see in Dhalinyaro is a coming of age story that shows Somali girls as they are.

The film’s storyline revolves around the final qualification examination for Djiboutian secondary students to enter university, the baccalaureate. The three main characters, Deka, Hibo, and Asma, are classmates at the Lycée de Djibouti but hail from markedly different class backgrounds. The Lycée space becomes one where the different segments of Djibouti’s population interact and form friendships, bonding over the shared ritual of studying for the baccalaureate. Yet, it is the question of higher education that renders class divides most explicit. For wealthy Hibo, who arrives at the Lycée each day in a chauffeured private car, there is no question that she will continue her education in Paris. Deka, who is securely middle class, is less certain, but with the funds saved up by her mother over a number of years, the idea of going to France for university is within the realm of the possible. Asma has no such choices available to her; poverty dictates that she must stay in Djibouti, unless she is among the few top students to receive a scholarship to study abroad.

The palpable burden of class difference saturates the film. One shot silently juxtaposes a well-dressed man at a cafe with a young boy on the street as he hands his shoes to the child to polish while drinking coffee. In another shot, women in wide-brimmed sun hats sweep the city streets at dusk to the sounds of ciyaar Soomaali, a traditional Somali folk dance. It is palpable in Asma’s hesitation to attend Hibo’s birthday party at the luxury Djibouti Palace Kempinski, and in the fuul bean stew her family eats at mealtimes, like the poor neighborhood children that come to Deka’s home for bread. When Hibo gets into an altercation with a group of schoolgirls outside of the Lycée, she disparages them as the “stupid Balabois”—residents of the impoverished Balbala suburb. An angered Asma, who tells her that she is “one of them,” accuses Hibo of believing that her wealth gives her more rights. Over the course of the film, Hibo’s character arc moves from a sheltered and careless rich girl to a more understanding and self-sufficient individual, a transformation made possible by honest friendships across difference.

The stunning cinematography with long shots of the sea and glimpses of the Port of Djibouti subtly signals the confluence and contradictions of global wealth and local poverty. This infrastructure of state capitalism—and, at the end of the film, the national radio broadcasting examination results—are the only glimpses of the state or politics in Dhalinyaro. Djibouti is among the most enduring dictatorships in Africa, ruled by an extended family since its independence from France in 1977. Its ruler, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, is famously a patron of the arts and culture, and Lula Ali Ismaïl has described the support she received for the film from both the private sector and a government eager to develop the country’s nascent film industry. While one can wonder about the possible implications of this government hand for artistic freedom, Ismaïl’s decision not to engage formal politics explicitly is another subversive act of representation, given that the region is mired in images of political dysfunction. Ismaïl’s political critique is muted and indirect, but no less searing. It takes the form of a city-wide power outage that forces the “haves” to turn on their private generators and the “have-nots” to light lanterns; it is in the figure of the elderly veteran telling Deka the forgotten stories of Djiboutian soldiers who fought for France during the Second World War; it is, at the metalevel, what the film itself embodies in its very existence, in its very refusal to conform.

What Dhalinyaro foregrounds is female sociality and intimacy as it unravels the complex layers of contemporary Djiboutian life. The film has a decidedly female gaze, decentering maleness to the extent that most of the male characters in the film remain marginal and unnamed. Instead, it is the inner worlds of Somali women that are fleshed out in full, and with the immense care and tenderness of a Somali woman behind the camera. When Hibo has a miscarriage in a bathroom stall at school, it is the conservatively-dressed Asma who immediately removes her abaya to cover her friend’s blood-stained clothing, stating that “girls look out for each other.” They openly discuss sexuality and their relationships, the lively female banter reminiscent of the Somali riwaayad (play) and theater tradition that has pushed the envelope on notions of female morality and modesty in Somali society since the 1960s. Markers of Somali womanhood are interspersed throughout the film: the breezy dirac shiid worn as loungewear at home, the fragrant uunsi smoke used to perfume one’s household, clothing and hair, the huruud face masks made of turmeric to keep one’s skin soft.

At the heart of Dhalinyaro is the tension between visibility and invisibility in the desire for a particular kind of freedom. In an early scene, Deka, Hibo, and Asma quietly talk at their desks as their teacher—played by Lula Ali Ismaïl herself—explains the upcoming deadlines for students seeking to go abroad for university. “Think of the freedom!” Deka whispers to her friends, “no one holding you to account, no one looking at you and saying ‘you’re the daughter of so and so.’” These moments of recognition occur most often in their encounters with men. As the girls sit by the waterfront and jokingly evaluate the appearances of young men passing by, a man pauses and greets Hibo, telling her to say hello to her father for him. “There’s no getting away!” an exasperated Hibo tells her friends. In another scene, the searching glance of a male waiter at a restaurant where Deka is having an intimate dinner with the older married man she is seeing is enough to unsettle her and abruptly end the date. Yet, it is the same surveilling gaze—this time by women—that precipitates the end to the predatory relationship, after Deka’s mother hears about it. The communal nature of the Somali social world, while frustrating any notion of individual anonymity, fosters a sense of interdependence and female solidarity that uplifts the girls in times of need, as their friendship illustrates. Ultimately, Deka chooses this world by staying in Djibouti for university.

Ethnicity is conspicuously absent from the film. Djibouti, while dominated politically, culturally and demographically by Somalis, is a multi-ethnic country comprised of the Somali and Afar, as well as smaller communities of Arabs, Ethiopians and Europeans. That diversity is represented in the casting, with the three lead actresses themselves belonging to Djibouti’s different ethnic groups: one is Afar, one is Somali, and one is Arab Somali. Yet each plays a Somali character, in a Djibouti where only Somali people and culture appear to exist. However, there is some ambiguity to Hibo’s background that is not discernible to the non-Somali speaker and flattened by the limited subtitles. In the scene where Hibo is confronted on the schoolyard, a voice in the background, which does not make it into the subtitles, can be heard saying “the little Arab girl is being attacked!” in Somali. Her father, in other scenes, speaks one or two words of Arabic, albeit words that have entered the Somali lexicon. Asma and Deka’s households are completely immersed in their Somaliness, with illustrative scenes including Asma’s sisters playing jag on the veranda as their mother gives them advice using Somali proverbs, and Deka’s single mother listening to gabay poetry composed by a heartbroken Cilmi Boodhari. Hibo’s family, on the other hand, only speaks Somali at home when talking to their maid; they converse in French exclusively between themselves, listen to European classical music during formal dinners, and go to France for education. There is an unexamined politics of language and ethnicity yearning to be explored.

Dhalinyaro is a remarkable feat, particularly for a first full-length film by a self-taught filmmaker hailing from a country with a film industry still in its infancy. Though initially released in 2018, it has recently seen a surge in popularity when it was made available for free streaming as part of this year’s Cinewax Online African Film Festival, breaking OAFF streaming records. It is a beautiful film—a love letter to Somali girls—that deserves to be seen widely.

Marriage proposals, dresses, feasts and dances – the story of two weddings in Somali, with traditions old and new.

When it comes to weddings, Somalia has many approaches. Some couples stick with tradition while others go for more modern marriage ceremonies.

This film tells the story of two weddings, one in a small desert village and the other in a busy city, while highlighting everyday life in different parts of the country. It also contrasts traditional ways of life with modern ideas that come from younger Somalis and social media.

In the remote rural village of Toon, herder Jamalli Muhammad Ahmed can only marry a local woman called  Hoda after first getting permission from her family. In a tradition going back generations, they all gather in the shade of a large tree to decide whether they are a suitable match. Only then can Jamalli and Hoda start planning their lives together.

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Jamalli and Hoda’s wedding followed traditional Somali customs [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Abdullatif Deeq Omar in Hargeisa city, however, first met his future wife Najma on Facebook. They eloped but eventually returned to their families who accepted their marriage plans.

Somalia Two Weddings - AJW
Abdullatif and Najma’s ceremony was in the city of Hargeisa [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Both weddings have the same pressures: buying outfits, inviting guests, finding a venue and arranging feasts – but each tells a unique story of family, community and tradition.

In Somali culture, many people also believe that getting married in the run-up to Ramadan ensures additional blessings on the couple, making the happy occasion even more special.

 

  1. Continue reading Marriage proposals, dresses, feasts and dances – the story of two weddings in Somali, with traditions old and new.

Shakir Essa

The Shakir Essa Report, first aired January 2012, is a thirty-minutes, weekly investigative documentary in which he reports on African immigrant stories northern Africa, Libya and Tunisia.

Shakir Essa served as manager at somali press media and producer of The ogaal program

BIOGRAPHY

Shakir Essa was born in 1980s in the jameecada district of HargeisaSomaliland.3 He attended high school in Hargeisa,

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Ethiopia admits shooting down Kenya aid aircraft in Somalia The plane had been carrying humanitarian and medical supplies to help the country

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Ethiopia admits shooting down Kenya aid aircraft in Somalia The plane had been carrying humanitarian and medical supplies to help the country fight the spread of coronavirus.
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09 May 2020 GMT+3 Ethiopia on Saturday admitted it was behind the shooting down of a privately owned Kenyan plane in Somalia earlier this week, resulting in the deaths of all six people on board. The plane was shot down on Monday by Ethiopian troops protecting a camp in the town of Bardale in southwestern Somalia, the Ethiopian army said in a statement to the African Union (AU). More: Six killed as plane carrying coronavirus aid crashes in Somalia Anger in Mogadishu after police kill civilian in COVID-19 curfew Somali state minister dies from coronavirus The aircraft had been carrying humanitarian and medical supplies to help the country fight the spread of coronavirus when it went down in Bardale, about 300km (180 miles) northwest of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. The Ethiopian soldiers mistakenly believed the plane was on a “potential suicide mission” because they had not been informed about the “unusual flight” and the aircraft was flying low, the statement said. “Because of lack of communication and awareness, the aircraft was shot down,” the military said. “The incident … will require mutual collaborative investigation team from Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya to further understand the truth.” Kenya expressed shock over the incident earlier this week, saying the plane’s mission had been to aid Somalia in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
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Soldiers from Ethiopia and Kenya are among those deployed to Somalia as part of an AU peacekeeping mission to fight the armed group al-Shabab. The shooting down of the plane comes amid strained ties between Kenya and Somalia. Last month, Kenya accused Somali troops of an “unwarranted attack” across its border near Mandera, a northern outpost town, describing the incident as a provocation. Somalia, meanwhile, has long accused its larger neighbour of meddling in its internal affairs, something Kenya has denied.

Somaliland rejects proposed visit by Ethiopia PM, Somali president

1024x538_1021479Somaliland rejects proposed visit by Ethiopia PM, Somali president
©AfricaNews
2 hours ago
Somalia

Somaliland has rejected a planned joint visit by Somali president Mohamed Abdulahi Farmaajo and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

A high-ranking official in Somaliland had confirmed a proposed visit to Hargeisa by Abiy and Farmaajo on the initiative of the PM. Hargeisa is capital of Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia.
MAP
Voice of America journalist and author of “Inside AlShabab,” Harun Maruf posted a tweet that said Somaliland’s chairman of House of Elders Suleiman Mohamoud Aden as saying PM Abiy Ahmed was “pushing for a joint visit to Hargeisa by him and Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.”

It is the first concrete report of an information that started making the rounds on Twitter on Saturday evening when a post to that effect was made by one Khaalid Foodhaadhi.

A meeting between leaders of Somalia and Somaliland in Addis Ababa was brokered by Abiy last week after the 33rd African Union summit.

The Somali presidential spokesman confirmed that the “ice-breaking” meeting had indeed taken place between Farmaajo and Somaliland’s Muse Bihi.

Days later, Farmaajo made a public admission over excesses by the Siad Barre regime in the late eighties against Somaliland. An admission that received largely good comments on social media.

The planned joint visit to Hargeisa has also received positive traction as many people on social media see it as a positive first step towards finding an amicable solution to the longstanding rift between Somalia and Somaliland.
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Bihi, Farmajo Meeting To Feature In Ethiopia PM’s Talks

Bihi, Farmajo Meeting To Feature In Ethiopia PM’s Talks
14th February 2020
MAP
The expansion of the Somaliland Port of Berbera and the meeting between Somaliland and Somalia leaders will be among the discussions points between Ethiopia Prime Minister Aby Ahmed and the United Arab Emirates leadership this weekend.
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Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed landed in Abu Dhabi on Thursday evening for a round of talks with the hosting government over trade partnerships and efforts to find peace in the horn of Africa.
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Abiy was received at the Presidential Airport by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, and Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court.

Sheikh Abdullah welcomed Abiy and discussed relations and co-operation between the two countries and ways to tackle issues of mutual interest.

Abiy is accompanied by his wife, Zinash Tayachew, Dr Hirut Kassaw, Minister of Culture and Tourism, Adanech Abebe, Minister of Revenues, and Muferiat Kamil, Ethiopian Minister of Peace.

Ethiopia and the UAE have partnered with Somaliland in the expansion of the port of Berbera which once completed will be the biggest in the region.

UAE’s DP World is expanding the port at a cost of USD 442 Million and is also expected to set up an economic free zone complement the growth of the Port of Berbera as a regional trading hub.

Somalia has been against the expansion of the port claiming Somaliland has no right to enter any international agreements.

Somaliland separated from Somalia in 1991 and declared its own independence. The two countries have been at loggerheads since then.

But early this week, the Ethiopian Prime Minister brokered a meeting between Somaliland president Musa Bihi and Somali president Abdullahi Farmajo in Addis Ababa, talks that lasted for an hour.

Ethiopia and the UAE believe that a lasting solution between Somalia and Somaliland is vital for their interests in the horn of Africa.

This is Abiy’s second trip to UAE in less than one year.

UAE was one of the Gulf nations Abiy visited last year as part of pooling regional support, especially for economic reforms. The Crown Prince also visited Addis Ababa in 2018.

Ethiopia – UAE relations have been on an upward trajectory over the course of 2018.

Over the last decade, the UAE has gradually increased its presence in the Horn of Africa, using development and humanitarian projects to boost its prominence.

It has significantly invested in ports, logistics and trade developments, to secure its port empire across the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait by the Red Sea, to profoundly boost its international trade and regional soft power.

The Emirati-owned company DP World’s opening of a port in Djibouti in 2008 signalled a developing presence in the relatively then-untouched Horn of Africa.

Ethiopia has served as a key platform for growing UAE influence, where Abu Dhabi alongside Saudi Arabia helped broker a peace deal with Eritrea, after a two-year state of war between the two states.

It has since continued to shower Ethiopia with aid, also carrying out key development projects. The UAE had also built an oil pipeline between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and Emirati companies have increased investment particularly in Ethiopia.

Such moves are also an attempt to compete with Turkey, Iran and Qatar, whose increasingly positive ties with east African states are met with unease by Abu Dhabi.

A setback for the UAE’s political ambitions in the Horn of Africa, however, are its ties with Somalia who have grown closer to Turkey, a key Emirati rival.

In response, the UAE has focused its support on Somalia’s autonomous regions.

The UAE and Ethiopia last February agreed to cooperate to turn Somaliland into a “major regional trading hub,” which helps the UAE’s ally Ethiopia gain greater trading access, and subsequently boost the UAE’s own trading and economic capabilities.

Furthermore, its alliance with Ethiopia, which also invests in Somaliland’s Berbera port, has helped the UAE gain greater control over it.

The UAE has also attempted to build a military and naval base in Somaliland.

Leaders of Somalia, Breakaway Somaliland Meet for First Time

Leaders of Somalia, Breakaway Somaliland Meet for First Time
By The Associated Press
Feb. 12, 2020
Updated 7:23 a.m. ET
MAP

MOGADISHU, Somalia — The current leaders of Somalia and the breakaway territory of Somaliland have met for the first time in the latest diplomatic effort by Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister.
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Somali presidential spokesman Abdinur Mohamed confirmed Tuesday’s meeting to The Associated Press, saying it was brokered by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.

“It was behind closed doors and no communique is being released. It was an ice-breaking one,” the spokesman said.

Ethiopia’s government has not commented publicly on the talks, which occurred on the sidelines of an African Union gathering.

Continue reading the main story
Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 as the country collapsed into warlord-led conflict, and it has seen little of the violence and extremist attacks that plague Somalia to the south. Despite lacking international recognition, Somaliland has maintained its own independent government, currency and security system.

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Somalia considers Somaliland as part of its territory. Several rounds of past talks over possible unification have failed to reach a breakthrough.

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This week’s meeting is the first since Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi took office in 2017.

Somali officials have blamed Somaliland leaders over the failure of past talks, accusing them of failing to show seriousness. Somaliland leaders have dismissed the allegations and insisted that their sovereignty is nonnegotiable.

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Continue reading the main story
Since taking office in 2018, Ethiopia’s leader has worked to achieve a number of diplomatic breakthroughs in the long-turbulent Horn of Africa region.

Somalia’s president faces a number of challenges in the months ahead. The country hopes to achieve its first one-person-one-vote election by the end of this year. It would be the first in 50 years. But the United Nations envoy for Somalia has pointed out the lack of “effective cooperation” between Somalia’s central government and its states as a major obstacle.

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Shakir Essa

somaliland
Somalia – the name of a nation that immediately coendures the image of a war-torn failing state plagued by unimaginable violence, piracy and terrorism for over 30 years. And yet within this war-torn country exists a beacon of stability. Often out of the headlines, the breakaway region of Somaliland could be considered a taboo subject amongst national governments and most international organisations.

Somaliland, located in the North West of the horn of Africa has been de-facto independent from the Federal Republic of Somalia in 1991 but has yet to secure the recognition of any UN member states. Regarding itself as the successor state to the British Somaliland Protectorate which was ruled as a separate colony to Italian Somaliland until independence in 1960 when the two former colonies were merged; Somaliland serves as a beacon of stability in a turbulent region.

The traditional narrative of Somaliland’s declaration of impendence in 1991, is that it was a direct response to the South’s descent into Civil War and the spread of Islamists. This narrative, while being broadly correct tends to omit the serious misgivings Somaliland had with the Federal State prior to the collapse of the Barre Regime.

Initially enthusiastic towards Somali nationalism and towards the impending merger with its Southern neighbourhoods, this optimism was quick to evaporate. Within a year of uniting with the southern provinces popular discontent in the North grew rapidly over the newly created Constitution, which was said to favour the South at the expense of draining the wealth of the North. In response to the perceived injustice of the Constitution, northern leaders encouraged a boycott of the referendum on the adoption of the new Constitution. Nevertheless, the Central Government in Mogadishu went ahead with its implementation without any changes. This led to further accusations that the South was ignoring the interests of the North and triggered those seeking to regain independence for the North into action. In 1961 a year after reunification, a group of generals sought to carry out a Coup D’état and restore Somaliland as an independent nation. The Coup failed and the Central Government responded with the further marginalisation of the North. Tensions simmered until the late 1970s and the 1980s when various rebel groups, (including some backed and financed by the Communist Derg Regime in neighbouring Ethiopia) took up arms against the Regime. Barre’s regime in Mogadishu responded by initiating large scale & indiscriminate bombardments of Northern cities, which cumulated in the Issaq Genocide. The Issaq Clan (the largest in Somaliland) was targeted in a systematic & state sponsor massacre that ultimately killed up to 200,000 Issaq’s and completely levelling the regions two largest cities. When the Barre Regime finally collapsed in 1991, leaders of the Somali National Movement rebel group were quick to capitalise on the descent of the South into Civil War and finally declare independence.

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A pathologist examines a mass grave site from the Issaq Genocide (Source: Lifeforce Magazine)

Since the Declaration was made, Somaliland has made remarkable progress in its development. In comparison to the South, Somaliland has managed to hold consecutive democratic elections; has a functioning economy and has managed to resist the influence of Al-Shabab and other terrorist groups.

Despite the initial declaration of impendence and the early years of self-rule for the state being controlled by a select group of military generals, the nation has made rapid and substantial progress in establishing a modern democratic nation. Since 2001 there have been six democratic and peaceful elections – including the peaceful transfer of power between different party’s. Another parliamentary election is scheduled for sometime later this year. The Somaliland Parliament has been noted for its stable structure that allows for mediation between conflicting groups and interests. In particular, the House of Elders, which is modelled on the UK’s House of Lord’s allows for traditional Clan Structures to be incorporated into a modern political model. In terms of security, it is this area in which Somaliland stands out from its neighbouring states. Unlike Somalia or neighbouring Puntland, Somaliland hasn’t suffered a terrorist attack since 2008 & piracy is almost non-existent along the section of coast under its control.
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The economy in the country has also seen significant developments, despite the difficult circumstances the nation finds itself in. The most notable recent developments include UAE funded development in the Port of Berbera, the proposed development of transport & export links for neighbouring landlocked Ethiopia; and the potential development of oil exploration.

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Voters partaking in the 2017 Somaliland Presidential Elections (Source: VOA News)

Despite the progress Somaliland has made in becoming a modern democratic state, it’s still yet to secure the recognition of a single UN member state. In legal terms, Somaliland complies with all expected international norms for becoming an independent state and de-facto functions as such. However as is well known in international relations, statehood is not determined by legality, but political acceptance from those members already inside ‘the club’. The primary obstacle in the way of Somaliland achieving this acceptance is regional. Other African states are extremely wary of excepting new borders and states in the Continent given a large majority of them possess their own separatist movements and the risk succession could create a precedent for the dismantlement of their own borders. Likewise, states from outside the Continent also tend to be cautious about the re-drawing of borders in Africa due to the fear it could create a violent domino effect whereby colonial borders collapse along ethnic lines. Even Somaliland’s biggest international backer – Ethiopia has so far refused to formally recognise the Nation’s independence given its own problems with Somali separatists and its preference for keeping Somalia weak and marred by uncertainty by ensuring internal divisions remain.

While over 20 years of continued apathy to the creation of an independent Somaliland doesn’t bode well for the administration in Hargeisa, recent developments signal a change to the status quo may occur soon, but whether this is through design or disaster remains to be determined. While having performed exceptionally well since 1991, Somaliland now faces significant challenges. Firstly, the security situation the country finds itself in is increasingly precarious. With the situation in Somalia’s Southern Provinces having deteriorated rapidly in recent months, there is now a real danger Al-Shabab could take over the whole country, providing a springboard for eventual designs on Puntland & Somaliland. Compounding this fear are reports that both ISIS and Al-Qaeda have managed to establish themselves within neighbouring Puntland, an area of which they previously had little to no presence. The risk of ‘domestic’ terrorism from within Somaliland held territory has also grown which some have put down to the nations emerging economic problems and lack of opportunity for its youth.

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Territorial Control of Various Actors in Somalia as of August 2019 (Source: ACLED)

While as mentioned above Hargeisa has made significant steps in improving its economic progress in the last 20 years, the level of growth needed for the country to continue to improve has been hampered by its inability to gain international recognition. The economy is in need of modernisation with over 70% of GDP based on agriculture and the majority of the other 30% coming from remittances from those who have emigrated to countries like the UK. This is not a viable economic model long-term, especially as remittances are likely to dry up as emigrations consider themselves ‘more British’ or whichever state they have moved to than they identify with distant relatives back in Somaliland. Both infrastructure and diversification are desperately needed, but in order for this to be carried out the nation needs access to international finance, something at which is not presently possibly via institutions such as the IMF and World Bank or even through many aid mechanisms due to its status as an unrecognised territory. The difficulty in establishing a legitimate exchange rate for the nation’s currency also makes investment difficult despite the potential for energy exploration, tourism and modern agriculture in the Nation.

Adding to the woes above are heightened tensions between Somaliland and the neighbouring province of Puntland. In 2018 significant levels of clashes between the Somaliland armed forces and various Puntland militias occurred, both sides vying for long-disputed border areas. These tensions are yet to cease and have the potential to break-out into a full-scale conflict between the two parties, thereby shattering the last remaining beacon of stability within the region and opening up to exploitation by terrorist groups such as Al-Shabab.

The above concerns should prompt some international actors to reconsider their position vis-à-vis the recognition of Somaliland. If not for moral reasons, the importance of preventing the further collapse of states within the Horn of Africa for international security should serve as an impetus for some nations. Some however, have argued that Somaliland’s problem in gaining international recognition is actually that the nation is ‘too stable’. Unlike South Sudan, Eritrea and Timor-Leste which all experienced large-scale violence and chaos leading to their recognition as independent states, Somaliland’s order, democracy and relative calmness may have enforced the idea that a peaceful reconciliation with Mogadishu will eventually be possible, and therefore negate the need for diplomatic recognition as an independent entity.

If there is one single state that has the potential to change the fortunes of Somaliland for the better, its that of its former colonial power – the United Kingdom. The UK already possesses a relatively strong relationship with the breakaway region, being involved in training its forces to combat terrorism (alongside the US); donating £31 million towards aid and development in 2019; and having a large Somaliland expatriate community within the UK. The last point has helped Somaliland achieve recognition from a number of local authorities and cities within the UK including Cardiff and Sheffield, and even the devolved Welsh Senedd (Parliament) in 2006.

However, so far, the UK government has stopped short of recognising outright the state as de-jure independent. It can be argued however, recognition would be in the UK’s best interests for the region. By becoming the leading state in recognising state’s independence London would secure itself as a key stakeholder in the region. With interests in preventing more ungoverned territory emerging in which terrorists and pirates can use to their advantage, the UK should be stepping up efforts to ensure the stability of Somaliland. The strategic position of Somaliland in relation to the Gulf of Aden and Suez Straights is also notable, most oil and LNG exports heading to Europe pass through these choke points and given the instability in other parts of Somalia, as well as in Yemen, shipping is increasingly at risk of attack. While France, Japan, India, Italy the US possess naval bases in neighbouring Djibouti; and other such as Israel and Iran in Eritrea; the UK’s nearest base is in Oman. As shown by the capture of the British registered oil tanker the Stena Impero in the summer of 2019, the UK’s current maritime force in the region is not sufficient. These concerns have already led to the UK Defence Minister visiting Somaliland in 2019 with the aim of discussing the establishment of a British naval base within the country and increased funding and training for Somaliland forces. The UK is also wary of losing the initiative to recognise the country to rival players in the region. The UAE has already established a military base in the region and according to some sources in 2018 was close to officially recognising the country, but later changed its mind. Likewise, Russia has announced plans to open its own military base in the Port of Zeila, near the Somaliland – Djibouti border.

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Foreign Military Bases in the Horn of Africa Region (Source: Danish Institute of Security Studies)

With the London hosting the first UK-Africa summit in January 2020, many analysists took the opportunity to highlight how far the UK had lagged behind in the new race for influence in the Continent. While France has been mostly successful at preserving its links for former colonies, and countries such as Russia, Japan, India and China have worked extensively to build links on the Continent; Africa has largely remained at the back of British diplomatic concerns over the last few decades. For some the recognition of Somaliland by London, if combined by significant economic, security and political support could boost the UK’s influence in the Continent.

Besides the material benefit to London recognition could bring, there also exists the moral argument. Somaliland has made great strides to become everything the West expects from a modern democratic nation from holding free elections and successful transfers of power, to the establishment of a working legal system based on the rule of law and the relative freedom of the press. This is a rare feat not just for the Horn of Africa, but for Africa as a whole. Of course, there remains more that could be done, but the current situation Somaliland finds itself in can’t help make you think that it is being punished for its progress.

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Former British Defence Minister Visits Somaliland in 2019 (Source: Somaliland Nation)

Of course, there are significant risks for the United Kingdom should it choose to formally recognise the independence of the Hargeisa Government. The primary risk to London is that rather than increase its standing on the African Continent, the action could lead to significant blowback with traditional African partners such as South Africa and Nigeria who (mindful of similar independent movements in their own and neighbouring states), have made it very clear they support the territorial integrity of all of Somalia by Mogadishu. A break from African actors themselves runs the risk of the UK appearing to be acting in a colonialist manner, dividing nations to support their own interests. The move would also certainly lead to the complete severing of London-Mogadishu, although this is not a significant loss given the central government controls almost no territory outside the capital and UK-Somalia trade and UK-Somalia diplomatic relations are essentially non-existent. Turkey, a significant backer of the Somalia Central Government, with numerous military bases and personnel in the country could also provide another obstacle for London granting recognition to Hargeisa.

Despite the risk of angering other African nations, should the UK choose to recognise the formal independence of Somaliland, others are likely to swiftly follow suit. Numerous nations that have been rumoured to being close to recognising the independence of the country in the past including the UAE, Ethiopia, Israel and Taiwan who are noted as likely waiting for another nation to make the first move, unsure about the international reception their decision would have. The role of Ethiopia and Kenya who have both been keen to recognise an independent Somaliland in the past would be key in mitigating any condemnation by the African Union and coordination with both states would allow the UK to make Somaliland’s case better heard and understood. The decision being made by the UK would also likely gain the backing of the US, most EU members and the Commonwealth (of which the Somaliland government applied to join in 2009).

Overall, it is clear that despite the outstanding progress Somaliland has made since 1991; and the fact that it is de-facto independent in all areas have done little to secure de-jure recognition from the accepted players of the international system. The absence of large-scale conflict and deaths, the relatively peaceful existence of Somaliland have led some to believe it’s too well behaved for independent, with powers preferring to keep the status quo until an eventual solution is found for securing peace in the Southern Provinces of Somalia. However, given the situation in Somalia has continued to worsen over the last 20 years, it might finally be time for Somaliland to achieve recognition and reward for its progress. Much of this will depend on the actions of a few key powers namely: the formal colonial power the UK, the UAE and its main African backer of Ethiopia. Until then the people of Somaliland carry on, for them, their nation is already is country and they live in hope the rest of the world comes to recognise the same in the near future.

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Somalilanders celebrate Independence Day (Source: Council on Foreign Relations)

Further Reading & Listening:

The Financial Times – Tom Wilson

Shakir Essa
Africa Times news reporter

Pain or pleasure? When you get ready to marry her, 1st you have to beat her Hamar tribe

maxresdefault (3)Located among the bush covered hills on the eastern side of the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia, the Hamar tribe have unique culture and customs, one of them being a cattle-jumping ceremony where the beatings of the women take place.

The ceremony starts with all the female relatives performing a dance, during which they offer themselves as subjects to be whipped by men who have recently been initiated.

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4.-Hamar-AThe beatings go on until their backs turn bloody. During the beatings, women are not allowed to scream. They do not also flee the ceremony but rather beg the men to beat them over and over again.

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The male initiation rite

The women accept these beatings to show their love and support of the initiate, and their scars give them a right to demand his help in time of need.

The man must subsequently leap across 15 cows in order to be allowed to marry and once that is achieved a celebration is held to end the ceremony.

Beatings are not just ceremonial

Women in the Hamar tribe are subject to beatings even after the ceremony at any time the man pleases unless they give birth to at least two children.

The rules of the tribe also say that men do not need to explain why they are beating the women as they can do so as and when they feel is right.

This has created deep scars at the backs of the women which they proudly show off as beautiful.

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Hamar tribe — Depositphotos

In spite of these, women in the Hamar tribe are expected to be strong like the men and are supposed to do all household chores, take care of the children and sow crops as well as keep the cattle.

Hamar men can also marry more than one woman, but the women who are not first wives are treated more like slaves as they do a majority of the work

 

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Shakir Essa

Digital media creator