Social progress in 'unrecognized' Somaliland

The unrecognized but de facto independent republic of Somaliland made rare headlines when its parliament on Jan. 8 voted to instate criminal penalties for rape—which was actually a groundbreaking move in the region. Forty-six of the 51 MPs present in the lower house approved the law, which must now go through the upper house before being signed by the president. Convicted rapists may now face 30 years in prison. (AFP) Until now, a victim's family would often force her to marry her rapist to avoid being "shamed." Once again, the stable, secular and unrecognized government of Somaliland outpaces in social progress the unstable, reactionary and basically fictional "official" government of Somalia. As BBC News sadly notes, "There is still no law against rape in Somalia."

Somaliland's new President Muse Bihi Abdi was inaugurated Dec. 13, after November elections that saw citizens standing in long lines at polling stations throughout the territory. The Kulmiye party retained power, but the president changed for the third time in 14 years. The incumbent president, Ahmed Silanyo, decided not to run, which is very rare in the Middle East or Africa. (, ISS Today)

Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, in contrast, was elected by parliament last year, not a popular vote, due to instability and the ongoing Shabaab insurgency. Regular elections for a president in Somalia have been repeatedly postponed, due to the reality that the government has no effective control over its claimed territory. The Shabaab actually control much of the territory that is even officially under the control of Somalia's government—that is, excluding Somaliland and the autonomous enclave of Puntland. (Somaliland Press)

In addition to successive harsh droughts related to climate change, Somaliland faces a challenge in ongoing border disputes with Puntland. Recent weeks have seen fighting at Tukaraq in the contested border area of Sool. Puntland authorities blamed Somaliland for launching offensive to prevent a visit by President Farmajo to the region. (Xinhua)

Despite these challenges, it tells volumes that the government the international community has refused to recognize is the stable and secular democracy, while the "recognized" government of Somalia can't even hold elections in its territory—despite the military occupation of the (Ethiopia-led) African Union Mission in Somalia (AFRISOM).