As a result of civil war, Somaliland restored its independence in 1991 from Somalia after the collapse of its regime government. In 26 years Somaliland remained stable and succeeded to hold a peaceful election. On 13th November 2017, Somaliland held presidential election, Muse Bihi Abdi, the ruling party candidate, who won the election, was inaugurated on 13th December, and announced his cabinet on the next day.

The new government faces challenges and opportunities on a wide range of issues, including its foreign relations in a complex regional and global setting. Despite the apparent success of Somaliland evidenced by the peaceful election observed by international monitors, Somaliland remains unrecognized. Additionally, the Horn of Africa is one of the most problematic and troubled regions in the world.

As the new government is to implement its policies, it became vital to give the public a platform to discuss these matters, and make recommendations. On December 29, 2017, Center for Policy Analysis (CPA) a think tank based in Hargeisa organized its Habeenka Kasmo-Wadaag (HKW) town hall meeting to debate on Somaliland foreign Policy and security.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Dr Sacad Ali Shire opened the discussion and outlined the minister’s policies in foreign policy and security. Dr Adem Muse Jibril, Somaliland representation of African Union and an expert of foreign and International Relations affairs, Mr. Nasir Mohamed Ali an expert on international relations and Mohamed Ali bile practitioner of politics and academician, then followed and deliberate the issues whereas the participants raised questions and comments regarding the topics. The discussion was chaired by Gulied Ahmed, a representative of Center for policy Analysis.

Habeenka Kasmo-Wadaag (HKW) is a sequence and continual debate event with the purpose of giving space for the public to dialogue and discuss issues and matters affecting and impacting their lives. HKW was organizing for the last three years in Somaliland regions.

Opening Remarks

In the opening of the space of the discussion, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and  International Cooperation Dr Sacad Ali Shire has generally discussed on Somaliland’s Foreign policy and security by focusingon the foreign policy and its requirements, recognition and Somaliland’s need for recognition, Somaliland’s right to be recognized and it’s argument;  and the challenges and the opportunities.

The minister underlined the Foreign policy as the relationship between the countries to get and share their interests, he indicated three major sectors in terms of foreign policy, such as the Political sector, which relates to the formation of good relationship and the country’s impact to the global politics; the economic sector as the aim of every country’s strategy to invest itself and to sell its products in the world; the security sector, as every country’s people to sleep and wake up peacefully. He added the diaspora people as another sector of having the knowledge and economy.

He highlighted that recognition always come under the first sector of foreign policy which is politics. He said “when we are saying we need recognition, the question is what recognition is? There are defacto and dejure recognition, Somaliland has a defacto recognition since it is dealt with as a country, and its letters, certificates and passport, are recognized by some countries”. He added that Exchanging the political offices, Somaliland’s politicians  giving to political protocols, foreign ministers visiting in Somaliland, donations are directly and indirectly given to the country, scholarships, international conferences invited to  Somaliland, investments and the contracts we sign,  shows us that Somaliland has a defacto recognition.”

The challenges of Somaliland Recognition

Highlighting the challenges that Somaliland face since it is unrecognized, Dr. shire said “It is an embargo on economic, social, travel, and the power to defend yourself, and in economic embargo means Somaliland is not able to get a subsidy to its National budget unlike the other African countries, as the recognized countries take debts to develop their countries, and it’s difficult to invest your country when it’s not recognized”. Moreover, he said that dealing with the international banks in economically is very difficult in lack of recognition.

In Travel embargo, he told that traveling in Somaliland passport is very limited, while political challenges in international meetings – discussing on Somaliland issues – are affecting it, and it is discussed without its presence since it doesn’t have a seat.

Somaliland has a right to be recognized, why?

Dr. Shire emphasized Somaliland’s right to be recognized, he said “Somaliland is not a dream, it’s not a name exist, but it is country having its own territory, population, and government, Somaliland fulfils all the requirements needed for an independent country having its own territory, people, and government to enter agreements, it is not a new country and if recognized, scared to end last like south Sudan, Somaliland has proved its 26 years existence that it is an existing country which can live longer, Somaliland is not a country separating from Somalia, both of them were two countries joined together independently, and it happened Africa for many countries to join and separate due to their  special interests” said Dr. Shire.

Besides that, the minister mentioned that Somaliland People decided not to be part of Somalia in so many times, the first was the constitutional referendum of 1961 to join, which many Somali landers refused, similarly in 1991 Somaliland people declared they are independent in Burco Conference, and following that conference in 2001 Somaliland people voted for their referendum.

In international relations, Dr. Shire highlighted that there is no violation of international laws for Somaliland’s independence, the independence doesn’t harm anyone or country, and no one or country is complaining about Somaliland.

Dr. Shire also indicated that Somaliland has a legal case, in terms of the humanitarian side, where Somaliland people were massacred, their property is looted, and they were facing pressures and restrictions which was violation of human rights for people to take their decisions, and make developments, where all of those rights are limited by the lack of recognition. Added to that he stated there is a question mark for the process of joining to Somalia. And the Somalia country Somaliland joined doesn’t exist at all at this time and already destroyed. Somaliland’s existence in 26 years is the pillar of the peace and security of the horn of Africa, its lack of recognition is detrimental to Somalia, and its recognition is helpful to the horn including Somalia.

The duty of Somaliland to get the right of the recognition

Dr. Shire told that the first one relates to the internal situation of the country, where the foreign policy is sold as a result of what is happening inside the country, and Somaliland needs to strengthen its unity, to create a sense of nationalism, to strengthen peace and stability and the democratic process to fully exercise the rule of law, to create jobs to the youth, to control the territory and to have a strong defense.

In the foreign policy, he stated that Somaliland’s foreign offices under the ministry of foreign affairs needs to be strengthened and recruit its diaspora, there must be representation in the EU, UN, AU, EGAD, and the international conferences. He underlined that Somaliland needs to use agents, lawyers, and lobbyists, and their obligation is to show Somaliland’s position to the world, and to put the pressure on the neighboring countries like IGAD, and other African Countries. The Minister used a Somali proverb “Ama buur ahaw ama buur ku tiirsanaw” (‘Either be a mountain or lean on one’) Dr shire said “we are friends to some of the parliaments and governments [of Africa], we have to use those friends, we have to invest the recognition, if we don’t invest it by mentally, physically, and economically, we wouldn’t get it most of them, and Somaliland has an un hidden right to be recognized”.

Following up the minister’s speech, Eng Faysal Ali Warabe, Chairman of UCID Opposition Party, highlighted that lack of enough budget to the Minister of Foreign Affairs; – and internal problems, including lack of quality government of exercising the rule of law, lack of transparency, lack of foreign policy, lack of security policy, lack of policy to control the Somaliland’s citizens who are joining to Somalia parliament/government, lack of border control and the issue of Khatumo state – as a challenge of Somaliland to get recognition. He suggested that the key important issues of recognition and investments from the international investors is to improve and fix the internal affairs of the country.

Key areas Focused by Panelists 

Dr Adem Muse, Somaliland Representative of African Union, focused his discussion mainly on the regional security threats and their impacts on Somaliland, he also featured Turkey as becoming the regional power, since its influence to the Red Sea is increasing also their economy is booming and it needs to be considered. Dr. Adem stated the challenges of Somaliland’s regions as a legal challenge in the African Union charter, “stating sovereignty and integrity for all the member states” he added “that door is closed but the door of interest and cooperation is open”

While Mr Nasir, Director of Institute of Peace and Conflict, focused on How Somaliland can engage with the AU, to augment its quest for recognition, and to advance its engagement and cooperation. Mr Nasir Mohamed briefed generally on the History of African Union. Similar to Dr. Adem, he stated that African Union provided in their 1963 charter on provision, stating the independent of the member states, the sovereign equality of all Member States,  And no country is allowed to interfere  the internal affairs of States by Respecting for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each State and for its inalienable right to independent existence. He added that the AU conference held in Egypt in 1964 is declared that the territories of colonies is persistent, which is one of the provisions they use when they are discussing on Somaliland’s issues.

Mr. Nasir mentioned that the challenge of Somaliland is not a legal challenge but political challenges which needs to solve politically. He added that there is a question whether Somaliland can deal with an AU or not which the answer is No, because AU is an organization united by the 55 countries of Africa which through its charter warned the countries to interfere the internal affairs of the other countries.

Indicating the opportunities of Somaliland in AU, Mr Nasir said “Somaliland can deal with AU by persuading its argument to the AU member states and approaching them country by country, for example Rwanda was member of countries which shared the case of Somaliland with AU. There is competing countries, and a representatives who don’t represent their people”. Internally he contended that Somaliland needs to review its internal affairs, and if it doesn’t correct its internal affairs and build inclusive institutions, what Somaliland is selling outside doesn’t implement and will not be possible.

In Foreign policy, he suggested better to develop Somaliland ministry of foreign affairs, to recruit experts and to become a place to lead the country when it comes to the foreign strategy. And Somaliland experts can be a mission who can sell what Somaliland needs and cover all of their needs. Similar to Eng Faysal, he mentioned that setting up or developing a clear foreign policy, which translates Somaliland’s security is crucial, since foreign policy and security strategy can’t be seperated.

 Security and foreign policy.

In security and foreign policy, Mr. Nasir said, “Since the status quo of Horn of Africa is unstable, the security and foreign policy depends on each other and can’t be seperated, for example, in our neighbor country [of Ethiopia], we have a security relationship grounded from security interest, and this security relation turned into exchange of political offices, where using Somaliland passport to Ethiopia is the result of that relationship” he finally argued that the country’s National security represents its foreign policy.

Following up the discussions of Dr. Adem and Mr. Nasir, Mr Mohamed Ali Bille a political practitioner and academician, underlined that the way to restore peace to Somalia, is one of the biggest challenges to Somaliland foreign polic, but depends on how Somaliland government is prepared against that challenge.

He proposed to change the way that Somaliland approaches its foreign policy, and at least to come up strategy on what Somaliland needs, which is the progress towards strong Somaliland’s foreign Policy.

Questions and Answers from the Audiences:

Audiences commented and asked questions to the panel. Mohamed Hashi Elmi, a member of the event attendees and former Minister of Finance/former Mayor of Hargeisa mentioned that the way the recognition is searching is loss of time. He added that the world will not give recognition to Somaliland since there are institutions based in Hargeisa in the name of Somalia. While The Executive Director of Somaliland Non State Actors Forum (SONSAF) Mr Mohamed Barawaani, suggested to improve and develop the state behavior he added that Somaliland has a good case, and no powers exist to challenge as Taiwan and Kurdistan.

The Outcome -Habeenka Kasmo-Wadaag (HKW)

Challenges of Somaliland Foreign Policy and Security

  • Economic, Political and Travel ban: – Economically Somaliland is not able to take a debt to subsidize its national budget unlike the African Countries, it’s Difficult to invest and deal with the international banks; Politically Somaliland is not able to attend the international meetings, and the conferences discussing on the Somaliland issue; is discussed without its presence. Also there is a travel embargo in Somaliland passport.
  • Internal problems: – the quality of government of exercising rule of law, lack of transparency, lack of foreign policy, lack of effective security policy, lack of rules or policies to deal with the Somaliland citizens who willing to join Executive and Legislative branches of Somalia Federal Government, (some times Somaliland government arrests politicians and other people who involve Somalia Government since there are no policies to follow their arrest), lack of effective border control and the issue of Khatumo state. Lack of enough budget to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations
  • Legal challenges: – African Union Charter – sovereignty and integrity of all the member states.
  • Strengthening Peace and Security in Eastern regions of Somaliland.

Opportunities to Implement Effective Foreign Policy

  • Improving the internal situation of the country: strengthening its unity, building an inclusive institutions, creating a sense of nationalism, strengthening peace and stability, the democratic process and the rule of law, job creation to the youth, fully controlling to the Somaliland territory and to have a strong security forces.
  • Reforming the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Recruiting experts, and Strengthening the foreign offices
  • There must be Functioning and effective Somaliland Representatives in EU, IGAD, AU, UN and the international conferences if they don’t exist.
  • Putting pressure to the neighboring countries like IGAD and AU and to persuade them to Somaliland’s case to reach the other member states
  • Investing the recognition by mentally, economically and physically.
  • Setting up a clear National foreign policy/ Strategy, which translates from Somaliland’s national interest and the countries Security and Economic needs.
  • Changing the way Somaliland approaches its foreign policy