Somaliland’s success

I’m in the process of trying to write something about China, stalled for the moment because one of the websites I need is unaccountably down (temporarily, I hope). One of the themes – as regular readers might guess – is western hostility to self-determination.

But in the meantime, go have a read of Geoffrey Clarfield at Canada’s National Post, on Somaliland. It shows that that hostility isn’t always driven by the desire to appease a powerful ally or trading partner: sometimes it’s just automatic, reflexive, even when it runs contrary to both principled and practical arguments.

Clarfield does a tremendous job of explaining the background. If anything, I’d say he understates the degree of western complicity in creating Somalia’s problems, ranging from the original ills of colonialism , through the Cold War interventions of the 1970s down to American paranoia about the “Islamists” a decade ago.

But the interesting thing is what happened in Somaliland, in the north:

Instead, the inhabitants of Somaliland engaged in a drawn-out, nonlinear process of consultation and state building unlike any other that has occurred in Africa or in the Islamic world. Although at one point it descended into what looked like a civil war, the people of Somaliland now live in a loosely functioning democracy.

Here people have built a country that works, and done so completely without international recognition. An exemplar of democracy, a bulwark against piracy and terrorism, a functional government in a dysfunctional region – what’s not to like?

It’s one thing to have western governments oppose self-determination for, say, Tibet, where that would be a serious provocation to a powerful China. Or, conversely, to do the same for Abkhazia, because that would be a geopolitical bonus for rival Russia. But who loses from recognising Somaliland?

Read for yourself, and then decide whether western policy is really just pragmatic, or is sometimes just anti-democratic in principle.

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