Unrecognized Countries Part III
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Unrecognized Countries: The World That Isn’t on the Map
Part 3: Somaliland
by Jacob Dickey
Here in the United States, one often hears stories in the news of Russia invading Ukraine, or Israel and Palestine fighting for territory, but what if there were countries that weren’t even on the map? What if there were places with their own peoples, traditions, and histories whom are by many definitions independent nation-states, but who for one reason or another simply aren’t recognized by the international community. If you haven’t already guessed, there absolutely are. Across the globe there are dozens of states struggle to form a national identity despite an international community that, for various reasons, are hesitant to recognize their sovereignty. This Series will spotlight three unrecognized countries, and the interesting ways of which they came to be.
For the last installment in this series (but certainly not the last unrecognized country) we will be taking a look at Somaliland. Somaliland is a 53,100 square mile nation that roughly abides by the borders of what was British Somaliland during the colonial African period. Following the decolonization of Africa the State of Somaliland (a recently independent country free from British rule for the five days it existed) in 1960 joined with Italian Somaliland to form a united nation called the Somali Republic. The Somali republic was a relatively successful democratic state that existed for 9 years before being overthrown in a Communist revolution that formed the Somali Democratic Republic. The Somali Democratic Republic existed for 22 years from 1969-1991. After this period a civil war destroyed all order in the country which, after a failed UN peacekeeping mission, would go on to become what is known in the modern era as Somalia.
The bloody civil wars ravaged the country and left much of the west an anarchistic wasteland being fought over by travelling warlords. The northern portion of the country (internationally recognized to be an “autonomous region” of Somalia) however, has become a state with a well-formed democratic government that has organized itself in a way that is far beyond any form of government that can be found in the remainder of the country. Beyond its successful democratic system, Somaliland has also formed a strong military. The Armed Forces in Somaliland have successfully organized into a true military force since their days in relatively recent history fighting as guerillas to drive out Somalian forces.
All of these factors mean Somaliland has its own army, democratic government, prison system, security forces, navy/coast guard, and currency. Modern Somaliland also has a growing economy, but the region still suffers from widespread poverty due to a variety of factors, the most prominent of which is that securing trade deals and international aid is incredibly difficult due to their being a COMPLETELY unrecognized nation. No UN member nation recognizes the sovereignty of Somalilander government. Not only is the state unrecognized, but the region is still considered a part of Somalia, which has been considered a failed state by many UN members ever since the aforementioned failed UN mission there during and following the Somali civil war, thus the reason for receiving so little aid if any from the international community. According to 2014 reports obtained from the World Bank the per capita income in Somaliland is 347 US dollars per capita (less than a dollar per person), this would make Somaliland the fourth poorest country in the world.
So in conclusion, there are many nations that you won’t find on almost any maps that exist in many aspects as independent nations, but that to the international community simply… do not exist. There are dozens of internationally unrecognized states, but for this series has only spotlighted three, so for further reading a link to a list of other unrecognized countries is provided below to further explore this interesting subject.