Could Tigray have a “special case” independence like Somaliland?

Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland, is a thriving peaceful city. Could Mekelle become the same?

Could Tigray in the near future begin to function as a “special case” independent case like nearby Somaliland? If the Tegaru, Irob, and Kunami of Tigray decide they do want independence will they have to wait for international approval or could they at least initially follow the Somaliland model? Whether Tigray will eventually remain a part of Ethiopia or function as an independent state is yet to be answered? The leaders of Tigray have argued that the Ethiopian constitution allows separation from Ethiopia.

An eastern neighbor of Ethiopia is the self governed state called Somaliland. In 1960 the northern part of the colonized Somalia was freed from Italy and the Southern part, what now makes up Somaliland, was freed from Britain. Initially the plan was for the two to join into one Somalia but the Isaaq clan of Somaliland and their allies never got along with the northern clans.

Today Somaliland is considered a “special case“. Not officially recognized as a state but carrying on business, having currency, and a national identification system. There are international flights from some countries.

While Somalia to the north has had ongoing violence and terrorism disrupting its development Somaliland has been at peace since 2008. Yet there are factions in Africa and beyond that have been remiss to offer clear independence status to Somaliland for fear that it will only encourage more separatist movements in Africa.

Many of the borders of African states were carved out by colonial powers artificially combining different ethnicities and cultures together creating tensions.  To some extent many argue that Ethiopia was always an empire of nations rather than a single state. The Amharic monarchy who took over the former Abyssinia in the 18th and 19th century then began to acquire the modern state of Ethiopia colonizing Afar, Somali, and the Southern peoples as well dominating the former kingdoms of the Oromo and Tigray region into a single empire.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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