Our friend, Somalia


As of January 6th, Georgia has established diplomatic ties to: A country mired in a civil war for over 20 years; number one failed state in the world; no central government control over most of the country’s territory; the world’s most famous piracy hot spot; life expectancy – 50 years (men), 53 years (women); 1.1 million displaced people (IDPs) since 1988; no permanent national government; no national legal system; no political parties;

A humanitarian crisis exists across the country, but hey, at least it’s a member of the United Nations. My piece for the Moscow Times is HERE  and below.To read more about Somalia check out this press release from HRW.

Tbilisi Gets a Little Help From Its Somali Friends

Back in September 2008, Abkhazia’s de facto Deputy Foreign Minister at the time, Maxim Gunjia, was explaining his plans to lobby other Latin American nations following Nicaragua and Venezuela’s recognition of Abkhazia’s independence.

“And what about Somalia? It looks like they’re next in line, Max.”

“Oh God,” he said. “I really hope they don’t. We’d rather have Somaliland. It’s much more stable, even if it is unrecognized.”

Max need not worry now because on January 26th, Georgia established diplomatic and consular relations with Somalia, one of the poorest and most violent states in the world. It doesn’t matter that there has been no governmental control over most of Somalia since the 1991 civil war, or that it ranks number one in the Fund For Peace index of failed states. What is important is that the country has a seat in the United Nations, a fact Abkhazia understood when it got the world’s tiniest nation, Nauru, to nod for recognition in December 2009, thanks to Russia’s $50 million gift to the cash strapped island.

Tbilisi suddenly understood that if Abkhazia continued to tally seats, even if they were 8 square mile chunks of disappearing bird dung in the South Pacific, it would keep the recognition debate in the UN fresh. Four votes for recognition was one more than the previous year and one step closer to legitimacy. In comparison, only a single UN member, Turkey, recognizes North Cyprus, which declared independence in 1983.

Georgia was slow to catch on. Its deputy foreign minister, Alexander Nalbandov, was a month behind Max’s spring 2009 Latin American tour, although the ministry insisted that there was no way Bolivia and Ecuador would recognize Abkhazia.

Abkhazia was also courting Iran, which in 2009 was still irate at Georgia for extraditing an Iranian arms smuggler to the United States two years earlier. Georgia, though, was quick to patch things up and as of January 26th this year, the two nations have had visa free travel regimes.

By the end of the year, Georgia had established communiqués with 24 nations, including the radioactive Marshall Islands, human rights grinder Equatorial Guinea, and homophobic Uganda. This brings the number to 146 out of 191 UN diplomatic ties for Georgia.

Pundits contend that Georgia isn’t so much developing relationships with obscure countries to counter Abkhazia’s drive for recognition, as much as it is creating the impression that someone’s working. However, countries like Guatemala certainly weren’t being befriended for their investment potential.
Max Gunjia says he’s happy Georgia is friends with Somalia, yet he admits he’s concerned about the future. “Will their next step be North Korea?”


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