On May 18, the people of Somaliland celebrated the 30th anniversary of their decision to unilaterally declare independence. Like the 29 such occasions before it, the jubilant fanfare was tempered by a cloud of formal diplomatic exclusion. The government of this self-ruling republic in the Horn of Africa has yet to be recognized by any United Nations member state, despite offering functional, peaceful and inclusive leadership to its citizens.

However, this time feels different. While Somaliland’s final status remains in limbo given its existence within the internationally recognized territory of Somalia, geopolitical conditions have changed, opening up unprecedented political and economic opportunities. As great power competition heats up between the United States, China and Russia, and as the Gulf Arab states race to outmaneuver rivals like Turkey and Iran for influence in East Africa, Somaliland’s strategic…

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