Somaliland plans to step up efforts for international recognition on expectations that a referendum on independence in Southern Sudan will aid its campaign for statehood, Foreign Minister Mohamed A Omar said.
The referendum will have a “positive knock-on effect,” Omar said by phone today from the capital, Hargeisa. “We will be using the South Sudan case to take a more aggressive policy to the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.”
Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 when a coup sparked civil war. It has never been recognized abroad because the Organization of African Unity ruled in 1964 that post-colonial borders in Africa were inviolable. The break-up of Sudan, Africa’s largest country by area, would be a rare exception to that rule.
Somaliland enhanced its democratic credentials with elections leading to a peaceful transition of power to President Ahmed Mahmoud Silanyo in June. The vote met international standards, according to observers Progressio, a London-based development agency.
Moreover, Somaliland was recognized as an independent state for five days in 1960 before uniting with Somalia, while South Sudan has never been a separate country, Omar said.
“Our case is not a secession, it’s a withdrawal from a union,” he said.
Neighboring Ethiopia said events in South Sudan wouldn’t lead it to recognize Somaliland. The situation is different to Sudan, as the north agreed to the south’s referendum, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said in an interview in the capital, Addis Ababa, on Jan. 15.
Independence is “up to the people of Somalia to decide,” Hailemariam said. “The decision cannot come from outside, it can only come from within.”
That is unlikely to happen in Somalia because there is no “representative legitimate government in Mogadishu,” Omar said. “This does not give us an opportunity to sit down in a similar situation to the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” he said.
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