After 10 years of fruitless talks with Somalia, the Somaliland government have expressed its frustration and adopted a new policy: talks with Somalia will be limited to addressing Somaliland sovereignty.
This is an important development for Somaliland and a balanced position between not recognising the Somalian government (1991-2012) and an open dialogue that lasted between 2012 and 2021. In this article, I will explain what this new policy really means for both countries and their allies and partners.
The Somaliland and Somalia talks' table has four pillars that will never change:
Pillar 1: Somaliland statehood is based on aspects that require international intervention; not Mogadishu's sympathy.
Somaliland statehood is based on the following aspects: respecting colonial boundaries and historical independence as old as 1884, the genocide of 100,000 people, supporting 20 years of democracy and preserving 30 years of peace (which is longer than the 29 years of unratified union with Somalia).
The figures behind these aspects are beyond the comprehension of Somalia or any other African country alone. Despite what it thinks, Somalia is not the parent country of a secessionist Somaliland. Anarchy is to expect Mogadishu, which cannot govern itself, to deal with aspects that are by nature for every sovereign country to collectively take a stand (international recognition). These are the main highlights of the African Union fact-finding mission on Somaliland.
Pillar 2: Somaliland and Somalia talks are bilateral agenda; not a pre-condition to Somaliland's recognition.
This pillar is a natural consequence of Pillar 1. It is important to concede that Somaliland talks with Somalia are strictly biliteral and should not affect the relationship between Somaliland and the rest of the world. It is unacceptable to make Somaliland recognition, for example, conditional on an agreement with Somalia. This is denying Somaliland's historical independence and unfairly treating it as a region seeking secession (see Pillar 1). Somaliland is not asking for a special arrangement here. The world demands Kosovo and Serbia to resolve their conflict. That did not stop over 100 countries to recognise Kosovo already (note Somaliland is not a secessionist case).
Pillar 3: Somalia will recognise Somaliland only after all countries do
In a previous article, I have explained how Somalia will be the last country to recognise Somaliland mainly due to fear of other federal states seceding. We should not see this as a problem at all. There are precedents for this: Pakistan was the last to recognise Bangladesh's sovereignty (note again Somaliland is not a secessionist case).
Pillar 4: The talks will never end
Similar to Senegal and Gambia, Maylasia and Singapore and all other countries that ended their biliteral unions, Somaliland and Somalia will forever be two countries that will enjoy some sort of relations. Our target should be to normalise these relations as soon as possible for the benefit of both countries. Before we reach our target, however, there will be breakdowns, pauses and breakthroughs similar to any other two sovereign countries with territorial disputes.
In conclusion, the new policy of restricting talks to only cover Somaliland sovereignty is in line with all the four pillars above. It absolutely does not pause Somaliland recognition efforts. In fact, the sooner countries recognise Somaliland, the sooner Somalia and Somaliland can fast track their relations into a mature normalised brotherly bond.