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Updated Jul 9, 2020

Taiwan’s effort to establish diplomatic relations with Somaliland in the Horn of Africa has been roundly slammed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Chinese embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia, declared it would violate the PRC’s One China principle, which holds that Beijing is the sole legitimate representative for Chinese foreign affairs.

Muse Bihi Abdi, president of Somaliland, and Tsai Ing-Wen, president of Taiwan, both announced on July 1 their mutual desire to open representative offices in each other’s capitals.

 

Muse Bihi Abdi, president of Somaliland, photographed at a press conference in Hargeisa on November 21, 2017. (AFP via Getty Images)
Muse Bihi Abdi, president of Somaliland, photographed at a press conference in Hargeisa on November 21, 2017. (AFP via Getty Images)

 

Somaliland unilaterally declared independence from Somalia in 1991 following the collapse of the dictatorial regime of General Mohamed Siad Barre, but the international community does not recognize it as a sovereign state. Formal recognition by Taiwan would help legitimize its claim of independence.

Despite enjoying some level of autonomy from the PRC, Taiwan is not formally recognized as a sovereign state by any African nation save for Eswatini, which would explain why its appeal to Somaliland would be a major step in distancing itself further from the PRC.

Given how indebted many African states are to the PRC both literally and figuratively for the latter’s heavy investment in grand infrastructure projects, it is doubtful they would risk this relationship by aligning itself more closely with Taiwan.

 

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