International Relations: Independent but not recognized
Mustafa Yusuf Ismail fights from Göttingen for the international recognition of Somaliland on the Horn of Africa
Mustafa Yusuf Ismail has a mission. As the representative of Somaliland in Germany, he fights for international recognition of the country, which many people don’t even know.
Although Somaliland is part of Somalia under international law, it unilaterally declared its independence back in 1991. At that time there was a civil war in Somalia.
The time after the declaration of independence is told as a success story: Destroyed by the war, the country was rebuilt with hardly any outside help.
The country now has its own democratic government, levies its own taxes and has introduced its own currency. The security situation is more stable than in the rest of Somalia.
Why does Somaliland need international recognition?
For Somaliland, the lack of recognition is a problem because the country cannot become a member of international organizations such as the UN.
If other countries want to get in touch with Somaliland for economic or development cooperation, they often have to negotiate with Somalia first. And people with Somaliland passports often face difficulties as their documents are not recognized internationally.
Mustafa Yusuf Ismail wants to change that. The 65-year-old takes care of improving relations between Germany and Somaliland. He speaks to employees of the Federal Foreign Office, supports economic cooperation and development cooperation. It brings investors and entrepreneurs from Germany to Somaliland and vice versa.
It cooperates with business associations and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. For development cooperation, he is in talks with organizations such as Welthungerhilfe or the Society for International Cooperation.
“I like living in Goettingen”
Ismail also takes care of the Somaliland Diaspora in Germany. He confirms documents and organizes a meeting for people from Somaliland who live in Germany once or twice a year.
It is difficult to say how many of them there are, as the German authorities register them as Somalis. What is certain for Ismail, however, is that many of them are young people who are striving for more education. You want to study at universities in Germany and work here. They often send money to their families back home. In addition to all the positive developments, Somaliland also has to contend with challenges.
The country on the Horn of Africa is particularly hard hit by the consequences of climate change. For the fourth time in a row, the rainy season has failed to materialize.
This is particularly devastating because in Somaliland the majority of the people live from animal husbandry and the animals are dying of thirst because of the drought. As a result, there is a lack of food and many people can no longer make a living.
The 65-year-old Ismail goes about his tasks from Göttingen. He studied economics there in the 1980s, started a family and stayed. He now has German citizenship. “I like living in Göttingen,” he says. For a while he had an office in Berlin. But then Corona came, and since then Ismail has always worked from his laptop, no matter where he is.
Germany is reluctant to recognize Somaliland, but according to Ismail there is a lively exchange between the countries. In 1984 he brought MPs to Somaliland for the first time. In 1998 he was the first representative of Somaliland in Central Europe.
Today there are about 20 representatives around the world. Soon he will bring a delegation of entrepreneurs from Somaliland to Hanover.
“There are countries that are recognized but don’t have such a dynamic relationship,” says Ismail. so why is recognition so hard to come by? “Before a country recognizes another, it checks whether disadvantages could arise from this. And it checks what the relationship is like with the country that wants to prevent recognition,” says Ismail. This results in reluctance. But Ismail still has hope. “The fronts are shaking,” he says.
A report published in the German media Göttinger Tageblatt February 23rd, 2023