Editor's Note: Somaliland is commemorating the 20th anniversary of its founding on 18 May 2011 – a major milestone in itself considering the unfortunate plight of South-Central Somalia which plunged deep into a seemingly bottomless quagmire. WardheerNews would like to congratulate the government and the people of Somaliland for creating an environment of peace, stability and democratic polity in a very tough neighborhood. On the occasion of this important anniversary, WardheerNews is pleased to present to its readers an interview it held with Dr. Mohamed Abdillahi Omer, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Somaliland.
WardheerNews (WDN): What major achievements and challenges can you share about the current Somaliland government headed by President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, which came into office in July 2010?
Dr. Mohamed Omer, Somaliland Minister of Foreign Affairs: After the hand-over of power from the outgoing President to President Silanyo, the new government immediately tackled many of the outstanding problems. It managed to considerably improve the economic prospects through intensified contacts with international partners who agreed to re-enforce their support to Somaliland, while maintaining peace and stability in the face of challenges initiated from outside.
WDN: Somaliland has made some progress in the area of peace and stability amid the chaos that has continuously engulfed the Southern part of Somalia; however the issue of recognition has become a distant goal. What is the prospective of being recognized?
Dr. Omer: In fact, Somaliland has achieved a level of peace and stability that is exceptional in the region and even on the African continent. Recognition of its independence by the International Community remains the ultimate goal of its foreign policy. On the way to this goal, Somaliland has been able to win friends that will ultimately make the move when they consider the time ripe.
WDN: Some of the reasons often given to not grant recognition to Somaliland are that, first recognition should be initiated and must come from African countries. Another reason we often hear is based on the balkanization of Africa and the danger to disintegrate independent states. How do you respond those concerns?
Dr. Omer : The African Union some of whose Member States face challenges from separatist movements has a tendency to overlook the fact that Somaliland is not seceding from a functioning independent state, but simply decided to withdraw from a union that had absolutely failed in all respects. Contrary to the case of southern Sudan where a new state is being created, Somaliland has only gone back to the situation it found itself in 1960, reclaiming its independent status together with its colonial borders.
WDN: How would the administration deal with the case of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC), many would argue in the case of SSC that if Somalia is divisible into various independent entities so is Somaliland?
Dr. Omer : In all of Africa, there is not a single case where new borders have been drawn within a given country. The principle of maintaining the former colonial borders had been established when the OAU (today AU) had been created and has never been violated. Even in the case of Sudan, the northern border of Southern Sudan is the division line between North and South Sudan, consecrated in 1956.
WDN: Could the recent referendum for Independence and sovereignty of Southern Sudan be an example where Somaliland similarly attempts to negotiate with South Somalia for its independence?
Dr. Omer: As already explained, the two cases are fundamentally different. Whereas Southern Sudan is seceding from Sudan with the consent of Khartoum that was the outcome of a bloody civil war with millions of casualties. Somaliland has quietly gone back to its former status, successfully establishing itself as a functioning state. Even if it wanted to discuss with Somalia, which is as such not necessary, there is no legitimate and effective government in Mogadishu it could talk to.
WDN: There are reports indicating that the transitional federal government of Somalia (TFG) is pursuing to acquire the national assets of the Somali republic (including frozen assets in foreign accounts). What is the position of Somaliland on this issue and other concerns that relate to the unilateral agreement that the TFG of Sheikh Sherif carries with foreign governments that could have a ramification on Somaliland?
Dr. Omer : This is obviously not acceptable. There are in reality two countries that must be considered as successor states of the defunct Somali Republic: Somalia, presently represented by the TFG,,and Somaliland democratically governed by President Silanyo. Under the present circumstances, we will have to accept that the repartition of assets will have to happen later on.
WDN: Somaliland is celebrating its 20th anniversary since it unilaterally declared independence from the rest of Somalia. If you could reflect on the current situation in Somaliland considering the declaration of Awdal State in the west and the SSC in the east and perhaps some strong Islamist presence in Buroa and Hargeisa how could Somaliland out-survive these challenges?
Dr. Omer: There are forces from outside; unfortunately also members of the Diaspora who have long time ago lost touch with the reality in Somaliland, who are trying to undermine peace and stability in the country. They get support from interested parties in the South who would like to drag Somaliland into the mess they are in. After 20 years of existence and given its progress in institution building, Somaliland is strong enough to face this kind of challenge that is after all not too serious. As in the past, the government will listen to legitimate complaints of groups, small or large, and seriously look for solutions, but it will not tolerate any kind of violent conflict.
WDN: What would you like us to convey to the people of Somaliland on this important day?
Dr. Omer: The message is simple: we Somalilanders have good reasons to be proud of our common achievements. We have rebuilt our country that had been completely in shambles, we have given it institutions that are functioning and we have earned the respect of the outside world, having demonstrated that it is not Somalis as such that are incapable of organizing themselves and of living peacefully together. We still need patience as far as recognition is concerned, but we have made energetic moves in the right direction and will continue to do so.
WDN: Thank you
Dr. Omer: You are welcome