Somaliland: Administration Re-negotiating Etiquettes of Engagement with the UN

By: Yusuf M HasanDr Omar renegotiating UN protocols

NAIROBI (Somalilandsun) – “Despite lengthily cooperation with the United Nations Organization, recent events necessitate current re-negotiation of relations”

This was informed by the Somaliland foreign minister Dr Mohamed Abdilahi Omar during an interview with Somalilandsun in Nairobi where he is currently visiting on official duties pursuant to discussions with the UN.

Dr Omar who arrived in the Kenya capital yesterday from his base in Hargeisa is discussing with the UN guidelines on future cooperation after recent differences that emanate not only from the recent transfer of Somaliland’s airspace control to the Somalia federal government-SFG authorities in Mogadishu but negative comments from a senior official of the world body.

“My mission here is geared towards streamlining a few protocol issues with the UN especially as pertains to the transfer our airspace control to another country which is against internationally acceptable norms” said Dr Omar.

The United Nations Development Program-UNDP entered into a deal with the neighbouring country of Somalia thus transferring control of Somaliland’s airspace to the authorities in Mogadishu without any consultations with the Hargeisa based administration.

The United Nations took over responsibility for managing Somaliland’s and Somalia’s airspace 19 years ago following the collapse of the central government, and in 1996 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation jointly established the Nairobi-based Civil Aviation Caretaker Authority of Somalia (CACAS) to collect over-flight revenues for Somalia.

While announcing the ban of UN flights to Somaliland the minister of aviation Mr Mahmud Hashi Abdi also informed that his yet to be recognized country shall start a bookkeeping process with the CACAS which is believed to have collected millions of dollars on behalf of Somaliland, which the aviation minister says whereabouts are unknown since what is availed is a pitfall salary subsidy for around 40 ministry staff.

The UN which has already acknowledged that the ban of its UNHAS flights that carter to expatriate staff in Somaliland has taken effect and indicated that though the ban has not interfered with on-going and planned development and humanitarian activities it provides, also wants to resolve the deadlock through dialogue with Somaliland authorities.

According to the foreign minister a need exists to revert to cordial relations that have prevailed between the UN, its various agencies and the government of Somaliland following the arbitrary act transferring Somaliland’s airspace control to Somalia which was perceived as not only an insult to citizens but a direct affront to the sovereignty of Somaliland.

While the foreign minister was evasive on the issue of recent comments by UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson that were termed as inappropriate it is expected that the comments shall also be part of the agenda for on-going discussions in Nairobi.

In a letter submitted to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon Last week the foreign minister indicated his country’s displeasure with comments made at a post London conference on Somalia press briefings by the UN Deputy Secretary-General in which he covertly condemned Somaliland for boycotting the 7th May London conference that it, Somaliland, might have attended as part of Somalia’s delegation and insinuating that the world body is committed to a unified Somalia.

“It is a matter for regret that some in the UN Secretariat are apparently not fully or correctly informed about the situation in Somaliland” Dr Omar wrote

Adding “The reality is that Somaliland has existed as a separate state for the last 22 years, since the failed Union of Somalia dissolved following a bloody civil war. While we are grateful to all those who provide assistance to support peace and stability in Somalia, we will only join partners in discussions on such issues if we are accorded the appropriate status, as we were in 2012”

It is to be remembered that sometimes back the outgoing UN special representative to Somalia Ambassador Augustine Mahiga had to rush to Hargeisa and publicly apologized for what he termed a clerical error by his UNPOS staff as pertained the address of Somaliland president as the president of a Somalia administrative region thus the wrath of an entire nation whose citizens had in a 2002 referendum voted 97% for separation from a voluntary but later fateful union with Somalia.

Now that both sides have indicated the imperative need to revert to past conducive working protocols and currently brainstorming the way forward that an amicable agreement on the airspace control controversy as well as guidelines for future protocols shall be reached.