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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