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Somaliland Planning Minister Honored For Achievements Under Past UN Role
The following interview with the Somaliland minister of Planning Ali Abdi Ibrahim was published in the October 6, 2007 edition of Tanzania’s Guardian newspaper.
The former International Labour Organization (ILO) East Africa Office Director, Ali Ibrahim, now the Minister for Planning and Coordination in Somaliland has earned the region special honor and his name has been given to the permanent UN agency’s International Conference Hall of the Dar es Salaam-based ILO East Africa’s regional-Kazi House.
In this article he touches on a number of issues shortly after the ILO thirteen Africa Regional Directors and other delegates from the UN Agency’s headquarters assembled at the Kazi House to thank him for his record of service as he speaks to Writer Michael Haonga in a question and answer format.
QUESTION: Knowing you as an international civil servant, how do you feel now that you are serving as a government minister?
ANSWER: My portfolio is a challenging one as the Ministry of Planning is entrusted with the role of coordinating all government programmes within the framework of the development strategies and vision of our country.
As a senior ILO official, my work involved the support of memorandum of understanding between ILO and other development partners. My present ministerial responsibilities in Somaliland are quite similar to what I used to do in the countries that were under my mandate. In that sense it is a continuation of my work and it appears that I have not yet retired from my work, although I retired from the ILO a year ago.
Q: How do you feel after you heard that the ILO International Conference Hall is going to be named after yourself?
A: I am thrilled by the decision taken by the ILO and the tripartite constituency of the ILO in Tanzania (Government of Tanzania Employers’ Association and Trade Union Congress of Tanzania) by naming the conference hall after me.
I would like to express my thanks to all, starting with the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, His Excellency, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, the Former President, Hon. William Benjamin Mkapa, for their unwavering support and encouragement throughout the construction of Kazi House. Without their personal support and that of the government, the project could not have realized.
Q: Do you have any advice to other UN Agencies and staff now in your vantage point of seeing the situation independently?
A: Yes. My humble advice to them is to make use of their rich experience in their countries and people by assisting to bridge the existing “knowledge gap” in African countries. Be pro-active as agents of change in your societies like other citizens in your countries and discard complacency.
Q: What are some of the most pressing challenges of Somaliland with regard to basic needs of the people?
A: The challenges are many but the most pressing ones are in the fields of education, health, water and sanitation, infrastructural development, employment, and agricultural and livestock development.
Q: Finally do you have any general comments as to what you want to tell Tanzanians?
A: I congratulate the government and people of the United Republic of Tanzania for the peace, stability and socio-economic progress so far achieved in the name of the unity of the people and with them a lasting and prosperous future.
The country is luckier than many other with its enlightened, dynamic and committed political leadership under the guidance of His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania.
We shall always remember the dictum “United we stand, divided we fall”. Our struggle against hunger, poverty and ignorance and search for better and prosperous lives for our people demands for unity of action and purpose.
Q: May you acquaint readers on the difference between Somalia and Somaliland given that in the eyes of ILO E.A. region comprises four countries namely; Somali, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
A: The State of Somaliland received its independence from Great Britain on June 26, 1960. On July 1 st 1960, Somaliland and Somalia declared their union as the Somali Republic with a view to bringing under a single flag of all the Somali territories: Somaliland, Somalia, the French Somali Coast ( Djibouti), the Northern District (NFD) of Kenya and the “Ogaden” region of Ethiopia.
The merger with Somalia was perceived in Somaliland as a first step towards realization of the “Greater Somalia” vision which totally failed and became illusionary.
Despite their common Somali heritage, Somaliland and Somalia approached the merger as very different countries, with distinct institutional, legal, linguistic and political arrangements.
The links between them were negligible: In 1960 less than one percent of Somaliland’s commerce was with Somalia and few Somalilanders had ever seen the new capital, Mogadishu.
In sum, the de facto union between Somaliland and Somalia fell short of the legal requirements mandated by domestic and international law. Only the recognition of other states testified to the existence of the Somali Republic as a unified state. So from the legal perspective, the unity of the Somali Republic was an illusion.
In other words, Somaliland is a Democratic State with an elected presidential system, an elected parliament and local governments. It has its own flag, currency, army, police, civil service, a vibrant free press and functioning and dynamic civil society.
Q: So what could be said as the prevailing relations of Somaliland with other states?
A: The Republic of Somaliland maintains representation in various foreign and neighboring countries and is signatory to bilateral agreements of cooperation.
Q: How do you see your country’s relationship with other neighboring countries in conformity with the Africa Union Charter, for instance?
A: Somaliland’s declaration of independence is predicated upon the territory’s prior existence as a recognized, independent state, and is therefore consistent with the Constitutive Act of the African Union (article 4,b) which affirms the Union’s “respect of borders existing on achievement of independence.”
For instance, on achievement of independence, Somaliland was recognized by 34 states and was a member of the United Nations and its borders were and are those of the British Somaliland Protectorate, not the Somali Democratic Republic. Somaliland’s independent status therefore represents the dissolution of a voluntary union between sovereign states not an act of secession
Source: Guardian newspaper (Tanzania)