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Interview With Dhimbil
Hargeysa, Somaliland, August 12, 2006 (SL Times) – Ahmed Hashi Dhimbil was among a number of individuals who facilitated Somaliland president Dahir Rayale’s recent visit to 5 countries in eastern and central Africa. He discussed the significance of the president’s African tour with the Somaliland Times last week.
Question: How did the visit go and how would you assess it?
Answer: First let me say how glad I’m to be in Hargeysa for the first time and be witness at the same time to the incredible amount of good will and effort shown by people for social and economic development.
Secondly, I’m gratified to be interviewed about the president’s visit to eastern and central Africa. As one of the many people who live outside Somaliland, my principle is that that every Somalilander has a responsibility toward his/her country and government. Somaliland has become a country or attained statehood not only due to the support of people living inside the country but also as a result of the support of people in the diaspora as well.
A good example of the diaspora contribution is the role we have played in facilitating the president’s recent visit to Nairobi, Kenya. Personally, I think that the visit was one of the most significant achievements by the country’s foreign policy in the last 10 – 15 years. The president’s trip has not only opened doors for Somaliland’s foreign policy but has also put this country in equal footing when it comes to contest for sovereignty over Somali territories. It is therefore important that the visit is recorded in that way.
Somaliland minister of Finance, Awil Ali Dualle came to Nairobi ahead of the arrival of the president and his delegation in Kenya. The minister was able to put in place a secretariat composed of Mohamed Abdi, a former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Mohamed Indho-Buur who worked effortlessly to pave the way for the trip and myself. Without our facilitation many things could have gone wrong.
Q: What impact do you think that the president’s trip could have on the political stance of the countries visited toward Somaliland in the future?
A: That is a very good question. What happened in the 10 years is that Somaliland has been left isolated from the diplomatic highways and politics in east and central Africa. Perhaps given the huge presence of Somalia’s politicians in particularly Kenya where they met for 2 years, it was prudent on the part of the Somaliland government to stay away from east Africa in terms of visitations especially Nairobi. But since the Somalia government left Kenya it became important to make the visit. The notion that countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and others acknowledge only the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] has become no longer valid following president Rayale’s trip. This is in itself a great diplomatic breakthrough.
All these countries now accept Somaliland’s defacto existence and that the political situation in Somaliland is advanced and mature. It is therefore incumbent on these countries to recognize Somaliland’s achievements. Secondly the countries visited can no longer be written off as areas where only the TFG has influence. Now we have an equal access diplomatically to the centers of decision making in those countries.
It is essential to continue and cultivate such contacts with Africa given the stand of the rest of the international community that in terms of Somaliland’s recognition, the African Union has to take the lead first.
I can understand the criticism that nothing much has been said about the outcome of the president’s trip. In an egalitarian society as Somaliland everybody wants to know about the details of any discussions held by their leaders with foreign governments. But we have to understand that as citizens, government, legislature, political parties or the press, we all have different duties to discharge. It would be an embarrassment and undiplomatic for the president to express at a press conference the details of discussions held or personal comments exchanged with leaders of other governments jut to satisfy our curiosity.
And let me criticize the opposition or rather one opposition leader who said that the president just went when he was called. Of course he had to go to sell the hardware and our hardware is Somaliland. When government needs to be criticized, it should be done so and as you are aware Mr. Editor I have done my fair share. But when they have done a good job it is wrong to criticize them just for the sake of criticism. It is important to bat the government on the back when they have done a good job and to criticize when criticism is due.
Q: How the diaspora helped in paving the way for the visit?
A: Before the delegation came we organized friends of Somaliland’s democracy in Nairobi to lay the ground work for opening up discussions about Somaliland. The TFG was still there at the time. But our activities through friends of Somaliland democracy we have drawn attention to the fact that there were other things going on in the former Somalia than the TFG. So we have to continue the engagement.
Q: Your comment on the Sudanese president Omer Al –Bashir’s hostile stand toward Somaliland at the Banjul conference?
A: The dramatic childish explosion of the president of Sudan in the Banjul summit saying that he would walkout if president Rayale came to the meeting, says it all about the important effects of the president’s trip to eastern and central Africa. It showed that Somaliland is a power to be reckoned with.
Secondly, we have now more friendly governments in Africa. Before it was only governments like Ethiopia and South Africa. Now you have Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and more others who are friendly towards Somaliland. It is important for the government to follow up these contacts and the issues discussed with the heads of state during the president’s tour. I understand that all these countries had expressed willingness to improve relations with Somaliland. Since most of these governments in eastern and central Africa have come to power democratically, it would be easier for the Somaliland government which has been elected democratically by the people to improve its relations with those countries. Since recognition is our top priority issue, it is imperative to make the necessary investments for achieving such a goal.
Source: Somaliland Times