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We Have Built A Nation From Scratch
Addis Ababa, February 10, 2007 – Republic of Somaliland Foreign Minister Abdillahi Duale was in Addis Ababa for the recent AU heads of state summit and the meeting of the executive council.
The republic became virtually independent when former Somalia President Siyad Barre left Mogadishu as rebel forces took control of the city.
Despite its attempt at getting international recognition, no country, so far, has extended that official recognition, although many countries maintain consulates there.
Before leaving for Somaliland, our senior reporter Bruck Shewareged caught up with Foreign Minister Abdillahi Duale and held an interview with him. Excerpts:
It's been more than a decade and a half since Somaliland became practically independent; but so far you haven't been accorded international recognition. Isn't this frustrating?
Well, first of all we recognize ourselves as an independent state and we will do what we are doing as long as it takes. There is no frustration. This is really very exciting. We are checking the moral values of the international community because we do have a case. We have a case that the international community is fully aware of.
Our case is not a mere secession from Somalia. We, in the first place, united with Somalia, Southern Somalia, on July 1, 1960. We were completely independent for four days from June 26 until July 1, 1960, and we had been recognized by over 36 countries at that time.
We united with Southern Somalia for a purpose. Now we are disengaging, disuniting simply because that union was a failure.
There is no frustration. We have built a nation from scratch. It is exciting, in fact. We have built all the necessary institutions. We are at peace with ourselves and our neighbors. We have built a viable democracy as we have changed our leadership at least four times until today. We have a parliament also.
Coups d'état and suppression are common in Africa. But how come you were able to establish a working democracy?
It is all about the will of the people. We serve the people. Leaders have to serve the people. Our government structure is built on the basis of ideas emanating from ourselves. We haven't brought ideas from outside.
But you didn't even have that government structure when you started. In a place where you lack proper institutions, isn't that likely to give way to dictatorship?
The Somali National Movement (SNM) is the biggest factor. SNM's idea was not to conquer but to liberate the country. That's exactly what we have done. We have held elections.
For instance, our current president has nothing to do with SNM. He ran for presidency against the longest serving chairman of SNM, and he won.
And SNM gave up power simply?
Absolutely. The party's idea was to liberate the country and leave the decision to elect the leader to the people. We built this democracy by ourselves.
The international community, the AU, IGAD, EU, the Americans, Italians, Norwegians, etc., have been trying to solve the problems of what is used to be called Southern Somalia, the former Italian Trusteeship. All along we were hoping to at least have an interlocutor, somebody we can talk to, a viable democratic institution that we can talk to in Southern Somalia.
Let us hope they will have that democratic institution so that we can go our own separate ways.
We maintain good relationships with Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and the rest of the international community. The Africa Union believes that Somaliland has something to offer with regard to particularly the nation-building process.
But the problem is that the AU and its member countries haven't recognized you?
The AU is not in the business of recognizing states. That is for member states. We have talked to friendly countries. And as you know the issue was brought forth for discussion by the AU executive. I've written to almost all my African colleagues to raise the Somaliland issue. Rwanda responded at the executive level. The issue was discussed. The AU sent a mission to Somaliland to look into the situation. AU chairman Alpha Oumar Konare sent a high-powered delegation led by his deputy. They visited almost all parts of the country for five days. And they were very surprised and they now know the sentiment of the people.
What we were hoping at the AU summit, that member states, not the commission, send a delegation to Somaliland and look at the situation there.
You know, there are a lot of hot spots in the continent like Darfur, Côte d'Ivore etc. We are part of the solution with regard to the regional geo-political stability. Now that the countries in the continent know the situation we are checking their moral values. History will put all where they belong.
Look, Germany recognized Croatia unilaterally. Everybody was shocked. India recognized Bangladesh first for obvious reasons. Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde were one country but are now two different nations. Take Sene-Gambia, Senegal and Gambia, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi or Egypt and Syria, i.e. the United Arab Republic whose union ended at some point.
We are now watching the African states. Believe me, Rwanda broke the ice. The Rwandans share our experience. Our capital city Hargeisa was bombed by our own government. This is what happened to us: genocide, though not on the scale of what happened in Rwanda.
We also believe that Ethiopia can play a very significant role. Ethiopia seems to be thinking or worrying about what the international community would say, "Oh, Ethiopia is butchering Somalia."
In fact, Somaliland is part and parcel of the solution today with regard to the regional equation.
And we believe that self-determination is the key to the solution
The OAU, the predecessor of the AU, recognizes colonial boundaries. Isn't it understandable for African countries become reluctant to recognize you?
Look, we are complying with the OAU charter because we are going back to our colonial boundaries.
But in 1960, you gave up that colonial boundary and joined the Union?
That was our case. We joined the union at our own will. Now we want to go back to our colonial boundaries. In order to put a stop to Somali irredentism, an article was put in the OAU charter that respects colonial boundaries.
During the drafting process, Emperor Haile-Selassie of Ethiopia, Jamo Kenyata of Kenya and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania brokered that deal. That article was simply put there to stop the Somalia expansionist policy.
If the Africans say, "let us bring all the Somalis under one umbrella", then we can join. But Somalia's original policy was irredentism. In our constitution at the time of union, there was an article which said that all Somali people must come under one entity called " Somalia", irrespective of where they are by any means, including force. We did that with Ethiopia, and fought two major wars in 1964 and 1977. With Kenya, we had at least four low intensity wars.
Today we are saying that we are a nation that wants to have back its colonial boundaries according to the OAU charter.
Ethiopia has started to use the port of Berbera. Some fear that the instability in the South might spill over to the north. How well are you secured?
The Berbera corridor is working and it is very secured. I and my colleague and good friend Seyoum Mesfin (Ethiopian Foreign Minister) were discussing developing the project of building the road from Togochale up to Berbera port. We are now drafting the project. Ethiopia has done a great deal up to Togochale, the border town.
With regard to security, you are talking about a nation that has over 15,000 security forces, including military, police and custodian police. We are much secured.
We are the only country that has been a victim of terror that has caught all the terrorists red-handed. Ethiopia knows that. We even caught people trained in Eritrea and sent to create instability in Ethiopia. We caught them when they were trying to infiltrate into Ethiopia by using Somaliland as a transit country.
By the way, we have extradition treaty with Ethiopia. Nobody can get away with murder by harming Ethiopia or other neighbors.
There are those in Ethiopia who think that the country is landlocked and has no access to the sea. I say, Ethiopia can use and can have access to our waters.
Ethiopia used to import and export its goods through the port of Djibouti before it started using the Berbera port. Recently, I heard that Djibouti had expelled Somaliland's representative. Does that have anything to do with you now becoming a competition in attracting Ethiopian traders to use your part?
Yes, there is competition naturally. But we want to maintain cordial relationship with Djibouti. Unfortunately, as you have mentioned specifically, they have closed down our office there and expelled my team within 24 hours.
What was the reason?
I don't know. That, you have to ask the Djiboutians. We made an arrangement with them whereby we establish our office in Djibouti and they in turn will establish their in Hargeisa. We opened ours. They never did.
We also have agreed to establish a joint ministerial committee to meet on an ad hoc basis in the two capitals, Djibouti and Hargeisa alternatively. We established our team. They never did. And all of a sudden, the embassy was closed. My ambassador called me and informed me about the incident when I asked him if there was any specific reason. There was none.
I met my Djiboutian counterpart here and asked him to have an open dialogue. We are still waiting for their response. We still want to maintain good relationship with them because they are our neighbors. You can choose your friends but you cannot choose your neighbors.
Has the union between Somaliland and Southern Somalia in 1960 ever been ratified?
No, it has never been ratified. It has never gone to the two parliaments.
So, any country that wants to recognize you as a sovereign state has the legal ground?
Absolutely. AU member states have the legal ground if they want to extend that recognition. They also have the moral ground. There is no excuse to leave out Somaliland.
We hope the AU leadership of Ghana will look into the case. Ghana is one of the front runners on the issue of African liberation and self-determination and a country that does not have a major vested interest in Somaliland or the region. The leadership of President Kufour will hopefully look into the case and say "let's call a spade a spade. Let's find out about these people and see whether they are right or wrong."
We just can't be put in chains. We are now chained. Thanks to God, now investors are coming, including from Germany who are willing to put in USD 300 million for investment. Why would they do that? Simply because there is peace and a tranquil environment.
Given the fact that investors are coming, and given also the fact that the Rwandan representative shelled the AU executive council about the Somaliland recognition issue, and also the fact that AU sent a fact-finding mission to your country, can you absolutely assert that your independence is irreversible?
Absolutely. We will get recognition sooner or later. Irrespective of what the international community would say, we will find one country that will say "Yes, a spade is a spade", and then every country will follow.
What we are also saying is that Ethiopia should come out of this shell. Ethiopia let Eritrea go because of self-determination. If it decides to recognize us irrespective of what the other countries would say, it will demonstrate leadership to the continent.
By the way, I think you have a leadership that can do that. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is very courageous and I believe he has the capacity to do that. He is one of the few African leaders who can take a serious issue and deal with it and leave a name and a legacy in the continent.
Source: The Reporter