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|Interview With The President Of Somaliland|
Addis Ababa, March 30, 2004 (WEC) – The following is the full text of an exclusive interview conducted by Walta Information Center with Mr. Dahir Rayaleh Kahin, the President of Somaliland on Tuesday 30th March 2004.
Question: Somaliland is not an internationally recognized country. Yet you have recently traveled to Belgium and England. How were you received there? Whom did you meet? What were the outcomes of your encounter?
Answer: Well, I met several ministers in the United Kingdom, and I have addressed the House of Commons in Britain. I was mainly talking about our case, because we have taken independence from Great Britain in 1960. And we were mainly asking for the renewal of their trust on us. That was the main theme of our visit in England. And they were very assertive. Although we didn't take the full answer at that time, we hope things will change in the future.
Q: Are you asking for recognition or any other thing?
A: Recognition and how to establish bilateral agreement. Because everybody who wants to come to our country says that we are not recognized. So we have asked the support of the British Government in this respect.
Q: What about in Belgium?
A: We met the officials of Inter-parliamentary Union, EU Commission, the House of Senate and Parliament of Belgium. We were talking the same issue.
Q: What was the response of the European Union?
A: They were very receptive. We will be waiting for the answer. They have listened to us cautiously and understandably.
Q: Were you satisfied?
A: Yes. I was satisfied; because this was the first time the international community heard our voice.
Q: Was this your first travel to Europe?
Q: We have also gathered that you have met Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. What issues did you raise and was the discussion fruitful?
A: This is not the first time that I met Meles. We are always received warmly when we come to Ethiopia, because this is a brotherly country. This time we shared issues that concern our area. Although we are not recognized by Ethiopia we share security, border and many other things. So we talk about these and new developments in our area. We just correspond on that and we have good understanding when we come here.
Q: Did you discuss anything particular this time?
A: We always discuss about our destiny as one of our major issues.
Q: So you're still looking for recognition?
A: Yes, we still hope that it will come to a conclusion with time.
A: In the near future.
Q: How do you rate your relationship with Ethiopia?
A: It's good. We have no better friend than Ethiopia.
Q: Is your friendship mutual?
Q: In what ways?
A: Security, trade.... And now we want to strengthen the trade relations between the two countries. We are building the corridor between Berbera and Ethiopia. So we have a lot of business that we can do together.
Q: What benefits do you get from Ethiopia?
A: They always treat us as brothers, as young brothers. They help us better than any other country in the area.
Q: What is the picture of your trade relationship? Can you elaborate on that?
A: It is growing. Ethiopians come to Berbera and send their goods through Berbera and bring their goods from Berbera. It is open for them.
Q: What is your role in the fight against terrorism?
A: You have heard that we have captured a lot of people that tried to infiltrate Ethiopia. They are now in our custody. They are members of the ONLF.
Q: How many are they?
A: About thirty. They have been trained in Eritrea. Luckily we have captured them. And they are now in court; because we don't accept anyone to attack our neighbors.
Q: What about other terrorists?
A: Terrorism is a global issue and every nation has the right to fight against terrorists; because they are against the interest of all people, every community and all nations. So we are committed to fight terrorists.
Q: Are you trying to control Islamic terrorists as well?
A: Whether Islamic or not, we will fight them. They are all the same. Terrorism has no religion. A terrorist is a terrorist.
Q: Do you have any form of cooperation to stop terrorism?
A: Yes. I think we can work with Djibouti and Ethiopia. We will jointly work with Djibouti and Ethiopia, because these are the two neighbors we have now. On the other side there is no country, no government that functions. Although they are members of the UN and EU, there is no government there.
Q: So do you intend to assist the political evolution in Somalia?
A: It is their problem. We were united in 1960 but we have with drawn from that union. We will not go back to the union. This is their problem. They have to solve their problem, as we have solved our problem.
Q: Do you consider any form of integration if peace prevails in Somalia?
A: No, it is the will of the people. I cannot judge the will of the people. In 1960, the Somaliland people decided to form the union. And now the people have rejected the union.
Q: How did you gauge the interest of the people?
A: It was the will of the people. They held referendum in May 2001, and 97% of the population of Somaliland voted not to go with the union. Somaliland is not the first African country to withdraw from union. We are not the first Africans. There are many African countries that withdrew from union. Gambia and Senegal, Egypt and Syria, and there are many examples. So what we are doing is not new to Africa.
Q: Is that the reason why you don't help in the peace process of Somalia?
A: If we were recognized, we will invite them and solve their problem. That is the hope we have.
Q: In what way can you solve their problem?
A: We will call them. We know each other. We will tell them the truth. They cannot cheat us as they cheat the other people.
Q: Are you in any way trying to help them?
A: How can we help them? There are about 50 warlords. Everyone has his area. Who do we reconcile? To whom do we talk? We don't know.
Q: Why does your country still remain unrecognized?
A: Africans should answer this question. We have made a success story in our country, because under the rules, we have built a country, a free country, and a democratic country, which is governed by a rule of law. Africans should give credit to this success story made by their own people; because in Africa, there are conflicts everywhere. We believe that we are the only people who solved their problem in an African way, by their own tradition. So our brothers Africans should give us credit for that.
Q: How long do you think this will last?
A: I think our brothers will come to the right conclusion and accept the reality on the ground.
Q: Do you mean the African Union?
A: Our African brothers, the African countries.
Q: Have you appealed to the African Union?
A: Yes. We will appeal to each country, and we have met with the AU Chairman. We have stated our case and everything. We hope they will answer.
Q: Did they give you any promise?
A: Some countries have promised, but we will see this in the future.
Q: So you're still in the dark.
A: We are still in the dark for any reason that we don't know. We are only hostage for a country that doesn't exist. We, however exist, we exist.
Q: So you think, Somali is a hindrance?
A: It doesn't exist. But I exist as a country. I am a hostage for a country that does not exist.
Q: Is your country faring well despite the prevailing condition?
Q: How are you faring economically?
A: We are trying our best. We have held two elections without any help from the international community. So you can imagine how we are trying our best, although we have meager resources. We try our best to do whatever business we can in our country, as regards security, running the offices, making elections for our people, taking referendum for our country. We have achieved this. We have demobilized our forces. It's a greater achievement that is never practiced by many African countries.
Q: Is your country contributing to the efforts being exerted to stop the movement of the smugglers to and out of Ethiopia?
A: Smugglers, travel everywhere. They come from Ethiopia; they come from our country. We are trying our best. But to fight smugglers, we have to make entry points for the two countries, so that we can take custom fees from the people. We will close all the walls and they cannot penetrate through the walls. So we are preparing to overcome this problem with Ethiopia, with the Ministries of Finance of Somaliland and Ethiopia. We are making arrangements so that the people can trade freely on both sides; they can go through the customs and custom free. Some technicians have come to Ethiopia from Somaliland to make arrangements with their counterparts here.
Q: There have been reports of UN Agencies operating in your country. What have they been doing there?
A: These are NGOs.
Q: What do they do?
A: Small projects, rehabilitation of schools and just some small things.
Q: Which UN agencies are operating in Somaliland?
A: Many international organizations; UNDP, UNHCR, EU, UNICEF, WHO.
Question: Can they move freely?
A: They can. They even travel during the night.
Q: According to media reports, there have been reports of insurgency in your country.
A: Yes. Those people killed the expatriates. Luckily, we have captured them.
Q: What was it all about?
A: We don't know. They are terrorists. They want to destabilize our country, because we are practicing the rule of law in our country. They want to make our country the same as those in Mogadishu. They have been sent from Mogadishu.
Q: Who supported them?
A: Al-Qaida and all that.
Q: Are they now fully controlled?
A: To certain extent, yes. We have captured the main organs operating in our country.
Q: When was that?
A: While I was away from the country. Another four were captured while I was in the country.
Q: Do you have anything to tell me?
A: No, thank you for the interview. I would like to thank the Ethiopian people, the Ethiopian government. That's what I want say.