A peaceful, democratic corner of Somalia

Map of Somalia
Map of Somalia

There has been a lot of discussion these past months about the current political and social environment in Somalia. The fact that there is a government which is not in political control of the country allowing Islamic fundamentalists to assume control has been widely discussed.

The tragic bombings have also brought into question the role of the international community and Somalia’s neighbours in East Africa in working to stabilize the country. Should Uganda attack Al Shabaab or invade Somalia and drive the terrorists out of the country? Or should Uganda move to train Somali soldiers and policemen who can work to bring security to their own country?

These are all worthy debates and the decisions made by various governments and international bodies will be neither easy nor will they likely turn out to be correct. Such is the reality of foreign policy and regional politics.

In many eyes around the region and around the world, Somalia is a lost cause. But not all of Somalia. The northwest corner of the country has become a picture of democracy and stability almost unknown in the region.

Somaliland is a Muslim-majority constitutional republic, which is recognized by the international community only as a stable autonomous and self-governing region in northwestern Somalia, however not as an independent state. Somaliland, meanwhile, has strengthened its democratic credentials by allowing a free press and transitioning to a full democracy in 2002. The presidential election in June also featured a peaceful handover of power.

Ahmed Mohamed Silaanyo was recently sworn in as the new President of Somaliland. The inauguration marks a successful democratic transition in an otherwise tumultuous region, but Silaanyo will face many of the same problems which plague the south as he assumes office.

Let’s hope the international community has taken notice and will engage Somaliland in the wider discussions concerning Somalia. The vast majority of the Somali people are not terrorists. They too want peace and stability. Perhaps a view to the north will offer a clue on the correct road to achieving it.