Somalilandsun: What should we and the Government of the Republic of Somaliland learn from the recent favourable event pertaining to Kenya?
For starters, the latest development of Somaliland president’s visit to Kenya on 13 December 2020 has led to the severing of ties between Kenya and Somalia. Although the relationship between those two nations has nothing to do with us, Somaliland, but it is important that the Somaliland Government uses this momentum to their advantage. We will come back to this development, but it is worth to ponder on previous interaction with African Nations and what this will hold for Somaliland’s strife for recognition:
We have seen in July 2018 a Ugandan Members of Parliament’s visit to Somaliland who were in awe of the Republic of Somaliland’s peace building and development initiatives and the fact that the country truly remained a beacon of hope and stability in the Horn of Africa for over three decades. It seems that after that visit there has been no public news or update from the government of Somaliland on how this relationship with Uganda would have developed and what tangible outcomes has been achieved for both countries hitherto.
Fast forward to October 2020: some distinguished Somaliland MPs and politicians were invited by Uganda to attend the opening of Sugar Factory. We don’t know if this is a continuation of the initial formal bilateral relationship that started in July 2018 or if it is a coincidence.
Needless to say that Uganda and Somaliland have a longstanding relationship that does not need any introduction. Having said, it appears to me that Somaliland has not fully utilised this relationship to learn from Uganda’s expertise in agriculture, business and other developments that Somaliland needs.
The factory is owned by Amina Hersi Moghe who hails from Somaliland but has been residing and working in Uganda and Kenya. Although some Somaliland participants have said they wish to reach out to her and make her aware that Somaliland potentially would give her opportunities for investment, we have not seen a formal engagement from the Government of Somaliland with her or the Ugandan government. Furthermore, we have not seen a comprehensive plan when it comes to bolstering relationship with Uganda. There was also visit from representatives of Uganda in May 2019.
The president of Somaliland, Muse Bihi Abdi, was invited to a formal state visit to the West African country of Guinea Conakry in July 2019. This has also caused the immediate condemnation from Somalia which said that an engagement from Guinea with Somaliland will not only tarnish the diplomatic relationship between Somalia and Guinea but will cease it too.
Although there has not been a formal stance from South-Africa that would work in favourable terms for Somaliland’s strife for recognition but there has been the Johannesburg Conference on promoting Somaliland’s case that was held on 23-24 November 2020. The former foreign minister of Somaliland, who is currently the Finance Development minister, Sa’ad Ali Shire was present, and he held successful meetings with the political party ANC and South African politicians. The former foreign minister of Somaliland astutely and professionally showcased Somaliland’s aspirations and hidden gems in trade and tourism.
At the time of writing this article, the Foreign Minister of Malawi, Mr Eisenhower Mkaka arrived in Hargeisa. We have yet to understand their purpose and intention and how they can collaborate with Somaliland. Good news is that this within a week since Kenya and Somaliland held talks to strengthen diplomatic ties and work on the creation of an embassy/diplomatic mission by the Kenyans in Hargeisa, the commencement of direct flights from Kenya to Hargeisa, and the smoothening of Visa process for Somaliland’s diplomats.
So what is the verdict?
For close to three decades Somaliland has been trying to gain attention from Western countries to no avail. We can say whatever Somaliland had tried has not garnered the required success: that is recognition and direct foreign investment which the country badly needs. So it is high time that Somaliland’s diplomacy should be focused on African countries who in turn could help Somaliland’s case in the African Union. The cynics will say Somaliland would not gain much from too distant and poverty-stricken African Nations like Malawi and Guinea.
Quite frankly, Somaliland has not gained much from wealthy Western Countries either except for the little aid that trickles through via Mogadishu. We should not look at the immediate material and/or economic gain from these countries but the creation of friendship who could do the bargaining for Somaliland in an AU setting. I would argue that Somaliland should aggressively further reach treaties and relationship building exercises with all African Nations. More focus should be given to Africa than to Western allies. After all, Somaliland’s aspiration to recognition is an African problem that requires an African solution.
What the government of Somaliland is lacking is a holistic approach and to refrain from ad hoc engagements with African Nations. There must be a complete quarterly review and a road map as to how the relationship building is going. Somalilanders both in the Diaspora and at home should question their government in providing an update on the above-mentioned countries. This should ideally sit with the government and they must be held accountable by the opposition parties Waddani and UCID parties. In addition, the members of the public should through their local MP push for this. We have seen that recent engagement with Taiwan has already underscored the fruition of scholarships and other economic opportunities for Somalilanders.
This momentum should also be an opportunity to have discussions with Somalia. The latter will be difficult given that on numerous occasions in the past Somalia failed to deliver on their promises. The latest encounter was on 14 June 2020 in Djibouti where Somalia and Somaliland had talks on how their relationship would look like. Undoubtedly, Somalia will turn against these African nations for their willingness to directly deal with Somaliland diplomatically without the behest and blessings of Somalia. Irrespective of that, let’s be the mature nation; we should endorse the Republic of Somaliland’s government to continue to have a dialogue with Somalia at all times.
In conclusion, the Somaliland Government should be self-critical and must not sell Somaliland short. It must quickly evaluate and weigh the pros and cons of those countries it has engaged with and what it further can do to reap the benefits locked in the relationships that are at their infancy. It must find ways to nurture these relationships. In the not-too-distant future these symbiotic relationships that are being created will in turn benefit the people of Somaliland.
By: Ahmed Dahir on behalf of Somaliland Intellectuals Institute-SII