In Somaliland, most politicians are known by their nicknames. So President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud is ‘Silanyo,’ which translates to ‘skinny lizard’ – a throwback to his youth when he was tall and slim. President Silanyo is not skinny anymore, however, and nor should he be president – his term in office was supposed to expire on 26 June 2015.
But after the scheduled elections were repeatedly postponed, Silanyo is still in charge, and no one is particularly surprised. Although Somaliland is famed for its regular, peaceful elections – an oasis of peace and democracy in a region usually associated with authoritarianism and conflict – almost every election in its history has been subject to lengthy delays.
On Wednesday, Foreign Policy published a call for help written by the current Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. To make it short, his point is: Help: don’t let the Transitional Government go down; send us money so we can handle the situation.
The argument behind his call for action is Somalia could become the new safe haven for Al-Qaida and other international terrorists and that it’s not the time for the international community to change its policy toward Somalia.
But are there not other options for the international community? Besides ‘forgetting’ Somalia and pulling out like Omar Ali Sharmarke fears will happen, what else would be possible?
I think that the world has forgotten that two parts of Somalia are actually doing relatively well in comparison with Mogadishu and the center of the country: Somaliland and Puntland. These two de facto autonomous regions are currently not recognized by any government.
Would strengthening these two poles of peace and relative stability by establishing diplomatic contact and providing aid and investment help stabilize Somalia? For example, the US has taken the first step by inviting a Somaliland cabinet delegation to Washington earlier this year for talks, which were seen by some as de facto recognition.
On the other hand, international interference in Somaliland presidential elections almost derailed them with allegations of voter list tampering (see same article linked above).
Maybe a middle road of gently assisting the two regions, offering advice when asked, while recognizing their right to form their democracies on their own, is the proper one. Perhaps then Somalia will benefit from their experience. If not, the international community will be out of cards, and Somalia will be out of time.