Prompted by the trend to see information and communications technology (ICT)
as a tool for capacity building, this article asks whether the use of ICT has—or
can—recast centre–periphery relations in a hybrid country such as Somaliland.
Taking as its departure point Herbst’s observation that a fundamental problem
confronting African leaders concerns how to extend or consolidate authority over
sparsely settled lands, it uses recent developments in Somaliland’s coast guard and
immigration police to assess ICT’s contribution to changing security provision in
remote and coastal areas. This allows for an analysis of Somaliland’s law enforcement
framework, the relationship between its politics and practice, the practical
application of its coercive resources, and the Silanyo government’s priorities and
preference for consensus and co-existence whenever security imperatives allow.
It suggests that ICT can be a desirable operational tool or a variable in existing
power networks, but that it does not represent a new mode of security governance.
ICT’s potential to connect Somaliland’s government and populace, and politics
and practice, is for now minimal, but identifying the ways in which security actors
such as coast guards actually use ICT allows for a more accurate assessment of
the variables shaping centre–periphery relations. Contrary to Herbst’s observation,
the Silanyo government does not need to overtly or systematically extend,
consolidate or exert its authority in remote and coastal areas. Spatial metaphors
such as centre–periphery help to clarify the situation, but the significance invested
in them reflects western rationalities, rather than Somali realities.