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Toronto Star...Article on Somaliland

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A peaceful oasis in bloody Somalia



Somaliland | With the war-torn south in anarchy despite massive outside aid, a peaceful breakaway republic seeks international recognition as it goes its own way with a homegrown mix of democracy and traditional problem-solving


Apr 08, 2007 04:30 AM

Jeffrey Gettleman

New York Times


When the sun rises over the craggy hills of Hargeysa, it sheds light on a different kind of Somalia.


Trucks selling genuine soft ice cream hit the streets. Moneychangers, unarmed and unguarded, push cash through the market in wheelbarrows.


Politicians from three distinct parties get ready for another day of debate, which recently included an animated discussion on registering nomadic voters.


It's all part of a Somali puzzle: how one area of the country, the northwest, also known as Somaliland, can seem so peaceful and functional while the rest continues to be such a violent, chaotic mess.


"We built this state because we saw the problems here as our problems," says Dahir Rayale Kahin, president of the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland, which has long declared itself independent from the rest of Somalia. "Our brothers in the south are still waiting ... for others."


But Somalilanders are waiting, too: waiting to be recognized as a sovereign state.


In 1991, as Somalia's government disintegrated and clan fighting in the south spun out of control, Somaliland, traditionally one of the poorest parts of Somalia, made its first declaration of independence.


In 2001, Somalilanders went to the polls and overwhelmingly supported a constitution drawn up in 1997.


But no country acknowledges Somaliland as a separate state and very few even contribute aid – which makes its success all the more intriguing.


Its leaders, with no Western experts at their elbow, have devised a political system that minimizes clan rivalries while carving out a special role for clan elders, the traditional pillars of Somali society.


They have demobilized thousands of the young gunmen who still plague Somalia and melded them into a national army.


They have even held three rounds of multiparty elections, no small feat in a region, the Horn of Africa, where multiparty democracy is mostly a rumour. Somalia has not had free elections since the 1960s.


Of course, Somaliland has not always been so stable, and Somalia has not always been so chaotic. Even now, critics say, the Somaliland government can be repressive and inefficient, and the mental hospital in Hargeysa, the capital of Somaliland, seems to be evidence of both.


Patients are chained to their beds in dark, smelly rooms – but Somalilanders are quick to point out that at least they have a mental hospital, which the more populous south does not.


The Somalilanders' steady, underdog efforts to create a functioning state from the ruins of war seem to dispel the notion that Somalia is an inherently ungovernable, warlike place.


So, what happened?


When the colonial powers sliced up the Horn of Africa in the 19th century, the British got Somaliland and the Italians got Somalia.


While the British relied mostly on clan chiefs to govern, the Italians created an entire Italian-speaking administration and imported thousands of people from Italy to farm bananas, build cathedrals and teach the people how to pour espresso.


One result was that Mogadishu, along the southern coast, became a major commercial hub and one of the most beautiful cities in Africa – but its traditional systems of authority were weakened.


That is partly why, many analysts say, warlords were able to outmuscle clan elders and dominate Mogadishu in the vacuum that formed after the central government fell in 1991.


The British, on the other hand, never invested much in Somaliland, leaving it poor and dusty but with its traditions more or less intact.


The two territories were granted independence in 1960 and quickly merged to form the Somali Republic, but it was never a happy marriage. By the 1980s, the Somali National Movement, a northern rebel group, was blowing up government posts.


In 1988, government fighter-bombers flattened Hargeysa, killing 50,000 civilians.


The Somali National Movement proved indispensable in the fragile years after the central government collapsed. It set up the guurti, a council of elders from every clan, which soon evolved into an official decision-making body.


Most council members were illiterate herders, but they became the glue that held Somaliland together. In a sparsely populated nomadic society, where many people live far from government services, clan elders are traditionally the ones to reconcile differences and maintain social order.


"They were a cushion," notes Ahmed Mohammed Silanyo, leader of Somaliland's main opposition party. "Whenever there was friction, these old men would step in and say, `What's wrong with you boys? Stay together.'"


In the 1990s, while clan warlords in Mogadishu were levelling the capital's fine Italian architecture, the guurti, along with rebel leaders, were building a government.


With the whole area awash with weapons and split by warring clans, Somaliland's leaders moved to persuade the militiamen to give up their guns – a goal that still seems remote in the south.


They moved slowly, first taking the armed pickups, then the heavy guns.


Again, this stood in contrast to the south, where thousands of U.S. Marines and UN peacekeepers failed to put a dent in clan violence.


"We had a higher purpose – independence," notes Abdillahi Duale, Somaliland's foreign minister. "And nobody in the outside world was going to help us get there."


That would prove to be a theme here. The less outside help, the better.


Over the years, southern Somalia has received tens of millions – if not hundreds of millions – of dollars in aid, and Somaliland almost nothing.


The difference is striking, though it is true that Somaliland may be easier to govern with an estimated 2.5 million people, compared with 6 million in the south, and a somewhat less complex clan structure.


Still, for elections in 2002, Somaliland leaders devised a system specifically to check clan power.


They limited the number of political parties to three to prevent a repeat of the fragmentation of the 1960s, when nationwide elections spawned more than 60 political parties, essentially one for each subclan.


It was an attempt to create parties based on ideology, not tribe, something that has proved quite difficult across Africa.


The leaders also turned the guurti, whose 82 elders are appointed by their respective clans, into the upper house of parliament – "Somaliland's senators," as people here say.


In some ways, Somalia's transitional government is now trying to replicate Somaliland's approach by including representatives of all the major clans.


But some experts say the transitional government is missing broad support, partly because because many of those selected to serve in the transitional government lack the stature of guurti elders.


The guurti in Somaliland can strike down laws passed by the elected House of Representatives, though the representatives can override the guurti with a two-thirds vote. It is a mix of tradition and modernity – Western-style democracy meets Somali-style politics – though some Somalilanders say it's time to renovate the system.


"We need to move on," argues Faisal Ali Waraabe, leader of the opposition Justice and Welfare Party. "The guurti helped get us through a crisis, but now we're trying to push our people from tribal loyalty to institutional loyalty, from clan loyalty to national loyalty."


Silanyo agrees: "It's ridiculous to have an elected body that can be trumped by an unelected body."


Meanwhile, the one issue that unites most Somalilanders is recognition. Somaliland has its own currency, its own flag, its own national anthem and even its own passport.


"And we have peace, a peace owned by the community," says Zamzam Adan, a women's rights activist. "You'd think in this part of the world, that would count for something."

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Wales strikes out on its own in its recognition of Somaliland



Martin Shipton, Western Mail, 3 March 2006=


WALES may not be an independent nation - but it has just recognised a breakaway country that, according to the UK Government, does not exist.


One of the officially invited guests at Wednesday's opening of the National Assembly's Senedd building by the Queen was Abdirahman Mohamed Abdillahi, the Speaker of the Parliament of Somaliland. Yet few maps show anywhere called Somaliland, instead indicating a larger country called Somalia, to the east of Ethiopia and Kenya.


In fact, Somaliland has been run as a separate state for the past 15 years, following a civil war in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed.


The breakaway country is on the eastern horn of Africa and shares borders with Djibouti to the west, Ethiopia to the south and Somalia to the east. Its coastline extends 460 miles along the Red Sea. It is about the size of England and Wales combined, but has a population of only around 3.5 million; 55% of the population is either nomadic or semi-nomadic, while 45% live in urban centres or rural towns.


The predominant religion is Sunni Muslim, and the backbone of the economy is livestock. The country also exports hides, skins, myrrh and frankincense.


At independence in 1960 the British Protectorate and Italian- administered Somalia merged to form the Somali Republic. The fundamental goal was to unite all Somali-speaking people in a single country, but this has not been realised. Somaliland covers the former British protectorate.


Of the 10,000 Somalis living in Wales - 8,000 in Cardiff - around 99% are from what is now Somaliland.


Asked why the Speaker of a Parliament not recognised by the UK had been invited to the Senedd opening, a spokeswoman for the Assembly Parliamentary Service headed by Presiding Officer Lord Elis-Thomas said, "The decision was taken after a request from members of the Somali community in Wales. Buckingham Palace was shown the guest list and made no objection."


Yesterday Mr Abdillahi met members of the Welsh Somali community in Butetown, Cardiff. A former diplomat who worked in Somalia's embassies in Moscow and Helsinki, he told the Western Mail, "I am very pleased to have been invited to the opening of the new Assembly building. We see it as a mark of recognition by the National Assembly for Wales that we have legitimacy.


"Although I have travelled to Britain maybe 20 times, this is the first time I have been to Wales. It seems to me to be a very nice, peaceful place."


Mr Abdillahi said his country desperately needed international recognition.


"It is very difficult to move forward economically without recognition," he said.


"We have no banks, and companies are reluctant to invest because of our unrecognised status, which means they are unable to get insurance.


"While Somalia is in chaos, we have succeeded in creating a parliamentary democracy. International observers praised us for our parliamentary elections held last September, and we are hopeful that the African Union will admit us as a member state before too long.


"We are grateful to the Welsh Assembly for helping us in our struggle."


The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website states, "Parliamentary elections were held on September 29, 2005. Somaliland's stability has been widely acknowledged but it has not received formal recognition from the international community.


"It has stood aside from wider reconciliation processes but indicated its readiness to discuss relations with Somalia on a basis of equality once a new government is established in Mogadishu."


The FCO website carries a link to the website of the Somaliland Government

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As a lander it is always good to hear news about countries discussing the recoqnition of Somaliland but it is always just discussions just like the Welsh one you have posted. we need some proactive action not just discussions

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As long as we don't have any natural resources of interest for the western powers, the only thing they'll offer is a pat on the back. We need to convince the african union!

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The african union is useless entity that hasnt got the powers to perform anything.


Our best bet as i have said so many times is to continue the rebuilding ourselves. that is the way we have got what limited attention we have in the first place and further reconstruction of our state would force everyone to take more notice

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Beesha ****** oo beesha caalamka ugu baaqday in la aqoonsado Jamhuuriyada Somaliland.


Muqdisho, 12 April 2007 ( - Golaha guurtiga beesha ****** ayaa markii ugu horeysay ku dhawaaqay sida ay raali ugu yihiin aqoonsiga in Somaliland ay noqoto Dowlad madax banaan oo lamid ah Jabuuti , Kenya iyo Ethiopian.


Golaha guurtidu waxey beesha caalamka ugu baaqeen in si deg deg ah Somaliland aqoonsi buuxa loo siiyo si loo helo cadaalad ka hirgasha geeska Afrika.


“Somaliland waxey dhameystiratay dhamaan maamulkii Dowladnimo sidaas darteed beel weynta ****** waxey raali ka tahay in Somaliland loo aqoonsado Dowlad madax banaan” sidaas waxaa yiri Suldaan Salaad Ducaale Kaahiye oo kamid ah hogaanka golaha guurtida ******.


In ka badan 300 oo Email oo ay soo kala direen Jaaliyadaha beel weynta ****** ayay sidoo kale ku taageereen hindisaha golaha guurtida ****** ee ku aadan baaqooda aqoonsi ay Somaliland hesho 17 sanno kadib.


Qaar ka tirsan Jaaliyada Somaliland iyo kuwa beel weynta ****** ayaa kulan gaar ah ku yeeshay dalka Canada iyagoo ka wada hadlay sida loo sameysan lahaa iskaashi dhinaca bulshada ah, waxeyna Jaaliyada Somaliland oo casuumaada sameysay u muuqatay mid ka danqaneysa xasuuqa lagu hayo shacabka ****** ee Muqdisho.


Arintaan ayaa ku began xili xaafadaha Muqdisho laga taagay calanka Somalilland sidoo kalena goobaha ganacsiga qaarkood lagu arkayo sawirka Madaxweyne Daahir Riyaale Kaahin, waxaana muuqata in beesha ****** xiligaan garwaaqsatay walaaltinimada ay beelaha Somaliland u hayaan beesha ****** iyo sida lagama maarmaanka u tahay in la aqoonsado.








Jubba Airways


Xawaalada Olympic


 - Copy Right © 2007 All Rights Reservered

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