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19 Mar, 2024 10:50

Unrecognized African state steps up independence bid

Somaliland will apply to the International Court of Justice with a request for sovereignty
Unrecognized African state steps up independence bid

The government of Somaliland is set to appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a bid to be granted sovereignty, local media reported on Sunday.  

Lawyers have compiled a case on behalf of the government and will shortly file it with the ICJ, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Dr. Issa Kayd Mohamud announced, according to a report in the Somaliland Standard on Saturday.  

Somaliland gained independence from the UK in 1960, while Somalia achieved independence from Italy soon afterwards. From 1960 to 1991 the two states were united as the Somali Republic.

After ten years of civil war, Somaliland proclaimed its sovereignty in 1991. It has not been recognized internationally, even though it maintains informal ties with several states, including Ethiopia. Somaliland is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).

Under an agreement sealed on January 1 this year between Somaliland and Ethiopia, the latter was offered 20km of coastland around the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden for a 50-year lease.  

This would allow landlocked Ethiopia, which has relied on Djibouti for the majority of its maritime trade for more than three decades, to gain access to the sea while also constructing a military base.

The move angered Somalia, which regards Somaliland as its territory. While Addis Ababa considers the maritime deal critical to its economic needs, Mogadishu has denounced it as a land grab and a breach of its territorial integrity. 

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that the port deal “officially recognizes the Republic of Somaliland, while Somaliland grants naval and commercial sea access on lease to Ethiopia for 50 years.” 

Somaliland Foreign Minister Mohamud stated that the authorities remain “steadfast” in their effort to gain international recognition, and that the memorandum signed with Ethiopia would provide it with additional legal justification for its claim.

The Somaliland government has also ruled out potential reunification with Somalia, declaring in September that “any dialogue that takes place between Somaliland and Somalia will not discuss unification, but rather how the two previously united countries can move forward separately.”