At Young Pioneer Tours, we have more than a passing interest in unrecognized countries; in fact, you could say that it kind of borders on obsession, but what exactly is an unrecognized country?
What Is an Unrecognized Country?
You can read a very detailed analysis of that here, but we will also give a brief breakdown. Recognition by other countries is an essential part of being a “real” nation, and this means that degrees of recognition create tiers of unrecognized countries.
- Seventy plus nations now recognize Kosovo, and Taiwan is recognized by 15
- Palestine and Western Sahara – Both are recognized by regional bodies but not sovereign states.
- Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – Recognized by one country, Turkey.
- Abkhazia and South Ossetia – Recognized by a few UN nations, but not the UN.
- Transnistria and the Artack Republic – Recognized by non UN states who are recognized by other UN states.
But what about completely unrecognized?
Why Doesn’t Anyone Recognize Somaliland?
Let us get one thing out of the way, Somaliland and Somalia are not the same country. You can read about what makes them different here, but to summarize, they were previously different colonial zones that were united. Following the decent to failed state status of Somalia, Somaliland declared independence, no one recognized it, and here we are today!
What Is the History of Somaliland?
Somaliland was formerly part of a broader Somali nation before becoming the British colony of Somaliland, as opposed to Somalia, which was a colony of Italy before being conquered by the British during the Second World War.
The State of Somaliland and the Somali Republic
British Somaliland was briefly given independence as the State of Somaliland before voting to join the Somali Republic as part of a Greater Somalia, a popular position among Somalis of the day.
Things did not go so well in the Somali Republic with constant coups, and eventually, the tyrannical regime of Siad Barre.
The Barre brutality led to Hargeisa (capital of Somaliland) based Somali National Movement being formed and sowed the seeds of the Somalian Civil War. To call it the Somali Civil War would be doing it a drastic disservice, and by 1991, Somalia became the benchmark of a failed state.
The Birth of Somaliland
In 1991 Somaliland declared itself independent as the Republic of Somaliland alongside the equally unrecognized Puntland. Since then, the largely ineffective but reformed Federal Republic of Somalia has spent almost 30 years fighting Islamic Insurgents, piracy and local militias, whilst Somaliland has just carried on doing its thing, mostly unaffected.
This has given a unique situation where you have the Federal Republic of Somalia as the recognized, but failed government of the county, whilst Somaliland functions exceptionally well, but are not recognized! So what gives right?
Why Does No One Recognize Somaliland?
The most straightforward answer would be that whoever gets to be a country is mostly decided by the west, and the west really doesn’t care about Somalia. When the west intervened in Kosovo, it was supposedly about human rights, but whilst the very same arguments could be used for Somaliland as were used during the Kosovo precedent support for recognition of Somaliland remains low among nations of the world.
Why Does the West Recognize Somalia Instead of Somaliland?
As stated when the west intervened in Kosovo, the worry was that it would set a precedent (which it did). This directly led to Russia and other countries recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Sadly the reality is that governments would rather not rock the boat for fear of what it will mean to other independence movements (such as Catalonia).
The sad result of this is that keeping things easy is the reason why the Republic of Somaliland, despite being democratic, is recognized by no one.
To see Somaliland for yourself check out our tour!