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|ISSUE 51 January 11, 2003||
Lesnouvelles Interviews President of Somaliland
Somaliland: From The Rebuilding Of A Nation To Its Recognition
"97% of the Somalilandís people does not want to be united anymore with Somalia. Nobody can change our will."
- Dahir Rayale Kahin, President of Somaliland
This small country has good relations with its neighbors, "With Ethiopia and with Djibouti", excepted some custom problems. Ignored by the international community and by a great part of Africa, Somaliland does not receive any bilateral assistance. "Nothing at all. From any country." Even the assistance of the WFP, despite the drought in the coastal areas. Only the international NGOs give assistance in "the maintenance of schools or in other minor projects.[...] The best external help [the rebuilding of destroyed bridges] came from the EU."
interview by Robert Wiren
Hargeisa, December 6th 2002 [Special correspondent] The President of Somaliland, Mr. Dahir Rayale Kahin, was vice-president, when M. Ibrahim Egal, the former President, died, six months ago. He assumes the presidential functions, according to the Constitution, adopted in 2001. The Constitution of Somaliland includes now the election of the institutions, from local to national levels. It will be the first time that towns and rural districts will have elected councils.
Concerning the local elections, planned for the 15th of December, this year, six parties have been registered. Then, after these elections, three parties only, that have obtained at least 20% of the votes could propose a candidate at the presidential election and candidates at the legislatives elections, planned for February/March 2003. Estimate calendar.
Les nouvelles díAddis - Mr. President, your country has to face two major problems, the absence of recognition and the economy hampered by the ban on cattle exports enforced by your traditional buyers like Saudi Arabia...
Dahir Rayale Kahin - The recognition, I think, we have received it in 1960. Unluckily we have joined with our brothers in the south. But that unification has failed after 10 years. And it was not signed. There was an agreement to be signed between Somaliland and Somalia in 1960 and to be ratified by the two Parliaments. It was called the Act of Union. That Act of Union was never signed for those 30 years. So our union was a mainly illegal marriage, I can say. Now we are rebuilding our nation and we have regained our recognition of 1960. We have built our country without any help from the international community. We have made government, stability and peace. And full administration of the government.
The ban of Saudi Arabia: it is not the first time that they make a ban. It is about the fourth time. Every time they say that there are some diseases among our animals. But there is no disease. We eat meat every day. We would have died if there would be any disease among our cattle. But now they have written in their newspapers that they are ready to lift the ban. We have contacts with an international company, SGS, based in Switzerland and we are preparing to get international certification with the help of this company. I hope we shall overcome in the next future the ban imposed by Saudi Arabia.
LNA - Would you say that this ban was not only based on a health problem but that there was a hidden agenda?
DRK - I donít know. Maybe. Maybe. I donít know. But they say there is a Rift Valley Fever. RVF happened between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It did not happen here. But they decided a ban on all the Horn of Africa, completely. Not only on Somaliland. Even the OIE (1) in Paris has made tests on our animals and it was certified that there is no disease. But we need an international certification accepted by the Saudis. So the company SGS will fill the gap I think.
LNA - About the refusal to recognize officially your country, the reason often given that borders in Africa should remained untouched for ever sounds like a pretext. Thus, in your opinion, what is the real reason that Head of States who have seen what you have achieved, are so shy and do not accept that Somaliland exists and has the right to be recognized?
DRK - I donít know. Three important countries know that Somaliland was a country that has obtained independence. These are France, Italy and the United Kingdom. We have been granted our independence from the UK. France was in Djibouti and French know that we have taken our independence. Italy was administrating the other part of Somalia. Italians know that we had a government. And we have international boundaries that we inherited from the colonial powers.
We have an Anglo-Italian treaty fixing our boundary between us and Somalia, an Anglo-Ethiopian treaty, an Anglo-French agreement. All these treaties have demarcated the boundaries of Somaliland. So our case is a solid one.
LNA - Your case is similar to the one of Eritrea...
DRK - No, no, we have even a better case. Eritrea did not take its independence in 1960, but we did.
LNA - Do you think that the countries you have quoted and some others are waiting because they donít want to be the first to recognize your country? They just wait that somebody else will take the step.
DRK - That is what they say every time but it is a lame excuse, I think. I have told some Europeans who visited me: why are you so shy?
LNA - Donc la n ne peut durer Then, the only solution for you is it just to wait that they become more aware that this situation cannot last?
DRK - Yes. But as for every nation, the determination lies in the will of the people. And this people of Somaliland have proved by referendum, 97 % of it, that Somaliland wants to be alone and not be united anymore with Somalia. So nobody can change our will. And we shall be standing forever to get our recognition.
LNA - I understand that. We just have talked about some European countries but what about your African brothers. Are some of them more sympathetic to you?
DRK - We can mention Ethiopia, South Africa and some others. One day they will recognize us.
LNA - What is the state of your relations with your neighbor countries?
DRK - Our neighbors are Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia with whom we have united once. Now we have good relations with Ethiopia and with Djibouti also.
LNA - Good relations?
DRK - Yes.
LNA - You have no problem of trade?
DRK - We trade, we make business.
LNA - Ethiopia has taken steps recently along the border to prevent some goods coming from Somaliland to enter. Is that true?
DRK - Yes, Ethiopian authorities have taken some customs arrangements. I think that we will overcome this problem. I have sent our Minister of Commerce to Ethiopia and I hope it will be settled. It is temporary. A lot of goods have never gone through Ethiopian customs and they want to adjust this problem.
LNA - So this new step of the Ethiopian authorities should not affect too much your trade?
DRK - It has an effect. But the problem will be settled. Our Minister has been in Ethiopia and our partners promised that they would solve the question.
LNA - Do you receive bilateral help from any country of the world?
DRK - No. Nothing from any country.
LNA - Do you then receive assistance from international organizations?
DRK - Some of them, like NGOs are present. For instance, they take part in the maintenance of schools or in other minor projects. What they do is better than nothing. And they deal it to local NGOs mainly.
LNA - Does the European Union give a better share to you than to south Somalia?
DRK - I donít think. They have rebuilt our bridges that were destroyed. That is the best help that we have received from any country. It came from the EU.
LNA - About the situation in the Horn of Africa. You are in peace. But it may happen that external tensions spill over to your country. Do you have the means to defend yourself since your budget is very modest?
DRK - We shall try our best up to the maximum to defend our security although we do not have a big capacity.
LNA - You have an armed force?
DRK - Yes, we have an army, police and military.
LNA - Is your country hit by the drought as it is happening in some other parts of the Horn?
DRK - Yes, we have a lot of drought in the coastal areas. Cattle are dying and the people are starving. And still we did not have any help from the international community. Even from the World Food Program. We have asked the WFP to make a survey in the coastal areas where the drought is lasting for the last three years. Many times we had drought in our country and we did not receive any help from the international community.
LNA - Will you stand for the next presidential election?
DRK - Yes I will stand.
LNA - Your Constitution being implemented, do you think the newly elected President of Somaliland, yourself or an other candidate, should take an initiative sending an envoy to all African countries to say: look what has happened. How can you refuse to recognize us?
DRK - Even now, we have communications with many African countries. But we shall have an aggressive policy after the election to gain our recognition from different countries.
LNA - Before being recognized, Yasser Arafat had a representative in the United Nations. Do you have such a kind of representative?
DRK - Yasser Arafat had "de facto" recognition. We do not even have "de facto" recognition. So we cannot go to the UN.
LNA - But when you have a delegation, like you have in Ethiopia or in some other countries, it is a "de facto" recognition. Is not it?
DRK - Yes, some countries like Ethiopia have accepted a delegation and we have representatives in some places in Europe. Even in France we have an honorary Consul. It is a Frenchman.