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Why is Somaliland on a National
Geographic Map?

By: Hassan M. Abukar
March 16, 2012

National Geographic Map

(Courtesy: National Geographic Map, 2012)

“Sometimes the news is in the noise, and sometimes the news is in the silence.” Thomas Friedman, Columnist with
The New York Times. 

On March 14, 2012, I received my March copy of National Geographic magazine accompanied by a new map. The magazine’s maps are my favorite, and I immediately checked the new one titled, “The World,” with an eye on Somalia. It, interestingly, had Somaliland as a separate country. I thought that this must have been a publishing error on the part of the National Geographic Society. I am aware of very good coverage about Somaliland by the magazine not long ago and that article, in all fairness, was objective and laudable. Who can quibble about the fact that Somaliland is the most peaceful region in Somalia? But the issue of rewriting the map of Somalia is disturbing. Somaliland, with all its success and accomplishments, has yet to be recognized as an independent state.
I contacted National Geographic about the map but I have yet to receive a response.

 South Sudan became an independent state last year and the National Geographic map correctly shows this. Western Sahara, a disputed territory, is given a color different than that of Morocco, but the latter is distinctly acknowledged as having sovereignty on that territory. Taiwan is given the same color as China which simply connotes that it is part of mainland China. But there is a caveat on the map, perhaps a disclaimer, which says, “The People’s Republic of China claims Taiwan as its 23rd province. Taiwan maintains that there are two political entities.”

There are several entities that have declared themselves as independent states. For example, the State of Palestine, Kosovo, Nagorno Karabakh, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and Republic of South Ossetia. None of these entities have been acknowledged in the National Geographic map. Some of these entities do have recognition from some UN member-states: 

  1. State of Palestine:129
  2. Taiwan: 22 plus the Vatican
  3. Kosovo: 88
  4. SADR: 84
  5. South Ossetia: 5
  6. Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus: 1 (Turkey)
  7. Somaliland:
Non Recognized states
A List of Self-Declared States (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

I am aware of the fact that Somaliland’s inclusion in a National Geographic map will neither revitalize the now-stalled campaign for recognition nor will it legitimize Somalia’s gradual and self-inflicting road to dismemberment. Every month, there is a new group, or region, declaring itself as a state, although this is typically done within the context of Somalia. The world community, oddly, still wants an intact country recognized as Somalia.  

I have a friend, Mohamoud Haji Abdillahi Diriye, who is a businessman in Hargeisa. I told him in Djibouti in 1991, after Somaliland had declared its independence, that no country would ever recognize the breakaway region. Mahmoud looked at me, in disappointment, and added this zinger: “Somaliland people do not care about any recognition, except the one from God.”

That was 21 years ago, and there is still no recognition of Somaliland in sight.   

National Geographic is not a country but a magazine published by a non-profit organization. Its new map, though, will unnerve many Somalis who would consider it as one more slap in their face. It is, oddly, part of the daily-intake of humiliation that Somalia has been experiencing since 1991.  This is a geographic mishap, perhaps, that Somalia’s TFG president Sheikh Sharif, the former geography teacher, can tackle as he embarks on new talks with Somaliland.

Hassan M. Abukar
E-Mail: Abukar60@yahoo.com


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