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Somaliland's strategic case for independence

Welcome to Foreign Policy's Africa Brief. The highlights of this week: Somalilands recent pitch for independence, new protests Sudan's still fragile new democracy and Malis are rocking looted history.

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Somaliland has been demanding independence as a sovereign state for 30 years. Now that Somalia is gripping its recent democratic crisis and Somaliland unveiled a new strategically located container port in Berbera last month, the semi-autonomous region hopes the international community will see its own elections and economic potential as a sign that they should be allowed to tear loose.

Local choice. Parliamentary elections were held in Somaliland on May 31, with more than a million people voting. The results were hailed as a victory for democracy when an alliance of two opposition parties won a majority and gave them the power to preside over councils and elect mayors. The Justice and Welfare Party added its 21 seats to the 31 seats taken by the Somaliland National Party, known locally as Waddani, to oust the ruling Party for Peace, Unity and Development known as Kulmiye.

Nonetheless, none of the 13 women who ran for office were elected, and the election was tarnished by reports that five opposition candidates were arrested prior to the election – let alone harassment of journalists. The election itself came more than a decade too late, delayed by a lack of funds and a dispute over the composition of the electoral commission.

“We're not saying we're perfect; We say we are on the right track, ”Bashir Goth, head of the Somaliland Mission to the United States, told Foreign Policy. "The elections are a factor, but there are areas where we do well – security and others – and we hope that with international recognition we can be a very good member of the international community and become even better."

International recognition. As a former British colony, Somaliland gained its first taste of independence in 1960, but just a few months later the new parliament decided to join the former Italian colony of Somalia, where they hoped it would eventually become a federation of Somali states in the Horn of Africa. In a 1961 national referendum, a majority of voters in the north of what is now Somaliland opposed unification (and many boycotted the vote), but a majority in the south voted in favor.

Army officers led a rebellion to secure Somaliland's independence, but it was ultimately crushed – although tensions remained between the north and south of the Republic of Somalia. When Somalia became a Marxist dictatorship, Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, wanted out. In 1991 the leaders of Somaliland decided to break away and found a community with all the trappings of statehood: a currency, a passport and its own president. It also has a National Day celebrating its decision to break away with parades each year, with this year's 30-year milestone being on Jan.

What it never received, however, was recognition as a state. The United States and other Western powers have given in to the African Union (AU), and the continental body, for its part, has avoided making a decision. Instead, it has continued to support efforts to stabilize Somalia as a country that includes Somaliland and other provinces attempting to secede: Puntland and Jubaland.

Despite a fact-finding mission in 2005 that found Somaliland's situation in Africa's political history to be "unique and self-justified," the AU could also be put off by the history of Eritrea and South Sudan, two countries shortly after its inception They got into conflict and gained independence. It's a comparison that Goth and others have heard before.

“That's a fair question, but it's the wrong analogy. It's like saying that if one African country is not doing well, then all African countries are bad, ”said Goth. “In all the 30 years that we have left Somalia, we have built our peace, built our institutions, built our democracy. We have all the requirements of a state. "

Build infrastructure. Perhaps most importantly, Somaliland also built the Berbera port and opened a new terminal on June 24th. The new terminal operated by Dubai Ports World increases the annual capacity of the Berbera port from 150,000 containers to 500,000 containers along an important global trade route for crude oil. It also extends a trade corridor between Somaliland and landlocked Ethiopia, which also has a large Somali community, and sent a high-level delegation to open it.

The Berbera project has strengthened relations between the Gulf states and the breakaway state, says the independent journalist Ismail Einashe. In addition to Emirati investments, Turkey and Taiwan have also tried to invest in Somaliland. Kenya has been considering opening a consulate in Somaliland, while Kenya Airways planned to open a route between Hargeisa and Nairobi and announced a delay in operational requirements.

“What is shifting is the engagement of regional and international actors in the situation in Somaliland,” said Einashe. “Somaliland is cementing its reputation as a haven of democracy in the region, but it is also attracting increasing interest from countries that no longer pay lip service to the Somali government for doing business and other types of investments that are increasingly on their own and get in direct contact with the government of (Somaliland) President Muse Bihi Abdi and Hargeisa. "

Inside Threats. Somaliland's achievements are commendable for a state with no real recognition in a volatile region. But the very elections that Somaliland is promoting as a sign of sovereignty could endanger its stability, warned Einashe. While the political elite is still uniquely focused on recognition, Somalilians under 30 know nothing but this excruciating political purgatory.

“If you keep a place like Somaliland in a limbo for so long, then this democratization process is maybe somehow tired, because if it does not bring independence, why should people continue on this path? That danger is always there, ”said Einashe.

Wednesday July 7th: The United Nations Security Council meets to carry out its mission in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Thursday, July 8th: Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with the Nigerian President Mohamed Bazoum in Berlin.

Friday, July 10th: South Sudan marks 10 years of independence.

A revolution in Africa's last monarchy? For over a week bloody protests have gripped Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), Africa's last absolute monarchy. Protests in the small country surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique began after the prime minister banned citizens from petitions to government agencies. Citizens have marched to their local constituency offices for months, demanding multi-party democracy, job creation and police reform.

The protesters responded by taking King Mswati III's business. burned down and looted. The king has ruled Eswatini since 1986 and lives a lavish lifestyle that is increasingly angered by the two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line and the high number of unemployed youth. The state ordered an internet blackout and imposed a strict curfew under the guise of COVID-19 regulations. The police and army cracked down on protesters, with the estimated death toll rising to 70.

Sudanese protesters take part in a march on June 30 calling on the government to resign over the delayed judiciary and recent economic reforms in Khartoum, Sudan.ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP via Getty Images

There are again protests in Sudan. New protests broke out in Sudan last week as thousands of people gathered on the streets of Khartoum to demand the resignation of the transitional government. The protesters were angry at the International Monetary Fund-backed economic reforms that would cut fuel subsidies. On the same day, police arrested around 200 members of the National Congress Party (NCP), the former ruling party.

Members of the joint military and civil interim government have accused NCP members of attempting to undermine the new regime as it seeks to reform an economy ravaged by years of corruption and stagnation under the authoritarian Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir.

Zuma tries to avoid prison. Former South African President Jacob Zuma has made one final attempt to stay out of jail after the South African Constitutional Court found him guilty of disregard for the court last week and sentenced him to 15 months in prison after refusing to appear before a commission of inquiry to appear corruption. Zuma, who previously stated that as a former anti-apartheid activist he was not afraid of jail, turned to a lower court to suspend the warrant, while appealing to the highest court over his reasons for challenging an unimpeachable judgment listen.

Speaking to dozens of supporters outside his homestead in KwaZulu-Natal province on July 4, Zuma defied COVID-19 lockdown rules and compared his conviction to the apartheid regime's tactics of being detained without trial and equated his incarceration during the pandemic with a death sentence. The Constitutional Court agreed to hear Zuma's appeal next week.

Security reshuffle in Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso's President Roch Kaboré sacked its security chief on June 30 as part of a cabinet reshuffle aimed at allaying growing public discontent over the country's deteriorating security situation. Kaboré will now personally oversee the Ministry of Defense after he has deposed the politician Chérif Sy.

The reshuffle was insufficient to prevent demonstrators from taking to the streets on July 3 and calling for more action against jihadist groups that are destabilizing the country. Last month, the country suffered its worst attack ever, killing more than 130 people by insurgents in a town bordering Niger in the troubled northeast, bringing the death toll to more than 500 since January.

Internet shutdown costs. Nigerians still cannot access Twitter after the government banned the social media app on June 4th. While some have been able to tweet through a VPN, the ban has deterred millions of people using Twitter for business, especially young people. The global internet monitor NetBlocks has calculated that the Twitter ban cost the country more than $ 6 million a day.

Mali's dwindling cultural heritage. The ongoing instability in Mali threatens some of the richest archaeological sites in Africa. An estimated 90 percent of the sites in Djenné, Mopti and elsewhere in central Mali have been looted. Groups of illegal excavators continue to raid the sites, stealing bronze jewelry, statues, manuscripts, and other artifacts of immeasurable value.

There is evidence of growing collaboration between criminal networks and insurgent groups in Mali, who use each other to raise funds and move valuable goods. Part of the problem is Mali's isolated approach to security – counter-terrorism, organized crime and international crime units do not work effectively, and the country's laws have not evolved to address these interrelated issues.

Long known for its archaeological wealth, Mali has already signed international conventions on illegal trade and has ties with the World Customs Organization and UNESCO, but the country is struggling to enforce its own laws. It is the site of an uprising that has destabilized large parts of the country, while several coups in the capital, Bamako, have undermined Mali's ability to meet its basic security challenges.

The conviction of Jacob Zuma confirms the rule of law. In the conviction of the former president for contempt of court, the verdict of the South African Constitutional Court dripped “of its own kind of contempt” for the former president's curses that undermined the court and the country's post-apartheid constitution, wrote journalist Niren Tolsi in the new frame.

Angola's latest corruption scandal. A new investigation by journalists firm Maka Angola uncovered how Angola's plans to modernize its railroad system used a vehicle for corruption under the regime of former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. More than five years and a billion dollars later, the new runway failed, the award-winning journalist Rafael Marques de Morais revealed in The Elephant.

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