Hassan Ahmed Yusuf: “Somaliland is a model”

by Hervé Pugi.

Hassan Ahmed Yusuf is Director of the political Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international cooperation of Somaliland. He explains the specifics of his country, seeking a legitimate recognition.

Scribouille: What, in your opinion, would justify that Somaliland becomes the 55e State of the African continent?

Hassan Ahmed Yusuf (H. A. Y.): We must remember that, before uniting with Somalia, Somaliland had obtained its full independence from the British on June 26, 1960. 34 countries, including the permanent members of the UN Security Council, had then acknowledged the independence of our country. The people of Somaliland intended to take part in the creation of the Great Somalia, in perfect harmony with our Somali brothers. The experience has proved totally negative! The merger happened vountarily but secession did cost us too many human lives. For each citizen of Somaliland, the issue of self-determination appears as a fundamental right.

We therefore conducted a referendum in 2011, which resulted in a score of 97% in favour of an independent Somaliland. The agreement to form a union between Somaliland and Somalia was “informal”. This unification has not been ratified by the two parliaments. This is where our legitimacy to claim our independence comes from. On another level, our two countries would not be the first to know a split. There are other cases in history, with the most recent one in Africa with the division of Sudan.

Somaliland deserves due recognition in becoming 55e State of Africa. Today we have come such a long way, without any help from the international community, that it is now impossible for us to turn back.

Scribouille: What does politics in Somaliland look like exactly?

H. A. Y.: We are a presidential form of democratic republic in a multi-party political system. The president and vice-president are elected and the head of State, as head of the Government and in accordance with the Constitution, appoints the members, external to the Parliament, of the Executive Council. We have, of course, a separation of powers between legislative, executive and judicial branches. The different mandates – president, vice President, parliamentarians and local elected representatives – are for 5 years. Furthermore, there are currently three political parties. Every ten years, it is possible to register new parties. As for legislative life, it is governed by a two-chamber parliament with, on the one hand, the House of Representatives and, on the other, a House of Wisdom. Each counts 82 seats. Indeed, when comparing with many of the States in Africa, Somaliland is a model of democratic transformation. No less than five direct democratic elections have been held since 2002. 50 observers from 17 countries have even attended the last municipal elections in 2012. Their conclusions were positive.

Scribouille: Without international recognition, Somaliland is excluded from international financial circuits. What are the resources of your country?

H. A. Y.: Indeed, we lack funding from foreign investors and international assistance that is commonly received by all recognised countries. However, Somaliland has many natural resources, most of which remain untapped. Minerals, oil and virgin land. Stock farming accounts for only 60% of the economy while using 70% of the active population. That is our strength, as far as exportation goes, to acquire foreign currency. Somaliland also has a strategic port for trade, Barbera. Not only for us but also for our neighbour, Ethiopia. Unfortunately, despite our 850 kilometres of coastline, the fisheries sector is not developing because of a lack of investments. At the same time, however, we receive valuable assistance from our diaspora, which fully participates on both the economic and political levels. Free market is accessible to all, and the number of small and medium-sized enterprises is increasing.

Scribouille: What relationship do you have with your regional neighbors like Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, but also with the international community?

H. A. Y.: We maintain close relations with the other countries. We cooperate jointly on security and immigration issues. Some of them are even important trade partners. We encourage collaboration, whether it is in the economic, social, cultural and political field. This led us to adopt, in time, memoranda of agreements with different countries. We also have diplomatic representations in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and in other countries, and some of them, as a result, have also opened missions in Somaliland. We hope to see these diplomatic exchanges increase in the future with other States in Africa, the Middle East or elsewhere. It is important to point out that we are in contact with the African Union, the European Union and some members of the United Nations. I am talking about Great Britain, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, France, Germany or the United States. Not to mention Arab countries like the UAE and Kuwait. Our cooperation with the outside world is drastically improving. Many agencies of the United Nations and NGOs are now also based in Somaliland and operate in different areas, in accordance with our national Plan.

Scribouille: Would you say that under the regional context, Somaliland is a great opportunity for the Horn of Africa?

H. A. Y.: It is indeed the case. As it is, despite the lack of recognition, Somaliland plays de facto a crucial role and fully contributes to regional security. This is of strategic importance in terms of regional integration or development. It would be in everyone’s interest, in the Horn of Africa, for Somaliland to be recognised.

Scribouille: What field could Somaliland improve still?

H. A. Y.: Our priority is obviously to gain recognition in order to pave the way for global cooperation. That being said, the Government has launched the National Development Plan, as well as Somaliland Vision 2030 to meet our needs in all key areas: economic, social, environmental, infrastructure, governance and politics. Our foreign policy must indeed enhance the promotion of regional and international cooperation in order to contribute to these efforts. You know, we have been independent for 25 years now. We have rebuilt after massive devastation, destruction and well-known population displacements. This happened with barely an help,if any, from the outside. We have the know-how and the experience of the people who went through difficult times. So, clearly, we do not fear the future!

Scribouille: Is the scenario a new reunification with Somalia conceivable in the future?

H. A. Y.: It won’t happen! It is a dead dream! Our future is to be two neighbours with other common concerns other than just this issue. We call on the international community to support the dialogue launched by the Turkish Government between Somaliland and Somalia. We believe that a separation would be beneficial for both parties and for the entire Horn of Africa. The international community should therefore stop dwelling on the subject and support us in a process which has known similar precedents.

Scribouille: Precisely, how do you explain that, nearly 25 years after proclaiming your independence, the international community continues to turn their backs on you in such a way?

H. A. Y.: Awareness raising of our cause work bears fruit year after year. This is especially true for the last decade. The international community has learned to tell the difference between Somalia and Somaliland. This is a positive and it is the result of long labours of developing ties with many countries. The stability, peace, democratic elections and the progress we have achieved on our own have drawn much attention. Some of these countries have called upon us to start a dialogue with Somalia while there has been endless anarchy and chaos there for so many years. Without even having a credible interlocutor in front of us. However, we remain very optimistic. Our vision for the future is to have further recognition!

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