Somaliland waits for worldwide recognition

Citizens and leaders in the autonomous region of Somalia say they are historically and politically a separate country.

Last Modified: 18 May 2013 09:13
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The Horn of Africa has been ravaged by war and famine for decades, and now one of Somalia's regions, hopes to become an independent state.

Somaliland sits on the Gulf of Aden and is officially regarded as an autonomous region of Somalia. The two were, however, separate until 1960. During the civil war in the 1980s, 40,000 people from Somaliland were killed, and nearly half a million fled.

The region then declared independence in 1991. Since then, it has held four peaceful elections. 

Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo, the president, told Al Jazeera that Somaliland would like to retain its independence, despite Somalia's calls to be united with region.

"I think I have been very clear too, that we are going to retain our independence," he said.

"We would like to remain friends with Somalia, we would like to cooperate with them.

"But as far as our independence is concerned. It is not I who has decided, it's not my government who has decided.

"It the people of Somaliland, and the history of Somaliland, which has decided that Somaliland is going to be, and has always been a different country."

Foreign investment

Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from Hargeisa on Friday, said that while war has raged in Somalia for decades, Somaliland has managed to unite its people.

"It is now the biggest exporter of livestock to Saudi Arabia," she said. "Much of the progress has been down to Somalis sending money from abroad."

Poverty, however, remains high and because Somaliland is not recognised as an independent state, it is not eligible for international development loans.

The UN and the African Union have both rejected calls to recognise Somaliland.

"Without recognition, it cannot get the foreign investment it needs," our correspondent said, adding that aid is instead sent to Somalia.

On Tuesday, in response to a move by Somalia to assume full control of Somalia's entire airspace, including Somaliland, Mohamud Hashi Abdi, Somaliland's civil aviation minister, issued a ban against all UN flights from its airports.

"We had already signed an agreement which allows an independent panel to control the airspace," Hashi was quoted by local media as saying in Hargeisa.

Elsewhere in southern Somalia's Jubaland, a "warlord" assumed presidency of the region on Wednesday.

Ahmed Madobe was elected Jubaland's "president" by a conference of about 500 elders and local leaders, but was challenged by Barre Hirale, a former Somali defence minister.

"I was nominated president of Jubaland by the elders ... I call on the people to support my presidency to assist me in bringing peace," Hirale said.

Potential rift

Madobe is a key ally of Kenya, and his appointment risks opening a rift between Kenya and Somalia, according to AFP news agency.

With tensions already high, the move raised the risk of clashes between rival factions in the southern port city of Kismayo, a former stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab, where Kenyan troops in an African Union force are now based.

Jubaland lies in the far south of Somalia and borders both Kenya and Ethiopia, and control is split between multiple forces including clan militia, the al-Shabab, Kenyan and Ethiopian soldiers.

Jubaland joins other semi-autonomous regions of the fractured Horn of Africa nation, including Puntland in the northeast, which wants autonomy within a federation of states, and Somaliland in the northwest.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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