Somaliland celebrates 30 years of self-proclaimed independence
The self-proclaimed country of Somaliland remains largely unknown to the rest of the world.
But that did not prevent its approximately 3.6 million inhabitants from celebrating its 30 years of independence.
In Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, crowded streets witnessed the booming patriotic music of honking cars.
Videos on social media showed young people draped in green, red and white – the colors of the national flag.
“[Young people] were born in Somaliland. They only know Somaliland, and they consider Somaliland [to be] their identity. “
“These young people have no idea what identity was before Somaliland. They were born in Somaliland. They only know Somaliland, and they consider Somaliland [to be] their identity, ”said Dr Jama Musse Jama, director of the Hargeisa Cultural Center.
Related: Somali torture victim to face attacker after 31 years – in US court
Unlike the young people of Somaliland, Jama, 54, remembers the days before Somaliland’s independence.
He was born in Somalia – which was a union of Italian and British colonial protectorates which united after independence in 1960.
But this union did not function and after years of political conflict, Somaliland decided to declare itself an independent state in 1991.
Jama said he was proud of what Somaliland had accomplished over the past 30 years – and said Hargyesa had once again become a cultural center for the region.
“Wow. At the age of 30. The power of that age is what Somalilanders feel,” he said.
Related: Somali Americans share heartbreak and pain over George Floyd murder
“But also, it is a kind of disappointment with the whole world”, which has not yet officially recognized the country.
Although it functions as a de facto state with its own passports and constitution, Somaliland is still not recognized by the African Union, the United Nations, and most countries, including the United States.
Yet Somaliland has increasingly sought to establish diplomatic, political and trade relations with countries like Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and Kenya.
“We have had many political and diplomatic relations with many countries around the world,” said Ismail Shirwac, diplomat at the Somaliland mission in Nairobi, Kenya.
“We practice our values even without having international recognition.”
“We practice our values even without having international recognition,” he added.
Related: US-based Somali Bantu face deportation to a country they’ve never known
Indeed, even if it is not perfect, Somaliland has cultivated a reputation for being more stable and more democratic than its neighbor Somalia.
“We have proven that we are an island of hope in an ocean of unrest and autocracy,” said Shirwac.
The country has held multiple open democratic elections and successfully transferred power.
On May 31, the country will hold local elections, in stark contrast to Somalia, where the lack of elections nearly divided the capital.
Related: Despite recent historic progress in ending FGM, Somalia is experiencing a dramatic increase
Shirwac says one thing is clearly out of place.
“Every Somalilander tells you that the people of the Republic of Somaliland do not intend to reunite with Somalia.”
“Every Somalilander tells you that the people of the Republic of Somaliland have no intention of reuniting with Somalia,” he said.
Although he hopes that the international community will recognize Somaliland soon, he said, despite everything, the country will continue on the path of democracy and independence.
“Somaliland is here to stay,” he said.