Why Somaliland does not attend ‘New Deal for Somalia’ conference

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While supporting the New Deal process and welcoming of the donors’ engagement, Somaliland has  chosen not to participate in the Conference as the country’s national needs and priorities are very different to Somalia’s, writes Mohamed Behi Yonis.

Mohamed Behi Yonis is Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation, Republic of Somaliland.

Despite facing many pressing problems, both in Europe and elsewhere, it is encouraging to see that EU leaders are going to focus on my region today, in a Conference – the New Deal for Somalia, that will sanction a clear and improved framework for international donors’ engagement with the Somali people.

The Horn of Africa has for a long time been seen as one of the world’s most troubled regions. It has been defined on the front pages of Europe’s newspapers by conflict, repression, famine, terrorism and piracy. Thanks to international support, Somalia has made important progress since 2012 but it remains very fragile and in need of further assistance to achieve stability, security and good governance.

To that end, Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, will gather in Brussels with a number of donors and beneficiaries.

Somaliland whole-heartedly welcomes the New Deal for Fragile States process, inaugurated in Busan in 2011 by a group of donors and post-conflict countries, as it offers a more effective mechanism to deliver development assistance to our country.

However, while supporting the New Deal process and welcoming of the donors’ engagement, we have chosen not to participate in the Conference. Somaliland and Somalia find themselves at two very different stages of development, and we therefore feel that our presence at this particular Conference, co-hosted by Somalia, would not be appropriate. We Somalilanders have governed ourselves in conditions of peace and stability for the last 22 years, and our country is at the “transformative” stage of development, whereas Somalia has yet to recover from more than two decades of civil war and much of its territory remains outside government control. Somaliland’s national needs and priorities are very different to Somalia’s.

This does not mean that we do not wish to engage with the EU —Somaliland is extremely grateful to the EU for its strong support and friendship across a whole range of important issues.

And it does not mean that we are not willing to speak and cooperate with Somalia. In 2012 the international community agreed to support a Dialogue between Somaliland and Somalia and we held three rounds of talks so far.  The objective is to clarity our future relationship and in the short-term we hope to cooperate on issues like security and trade.

Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia in 1991, after a civil war in which 50,000 Somalilanders were killed, and our capital, Hargeisa, was reduced to rubble by bombs.

That independence was strongly endorsed by a referendum in 2001, and by the results of 5 democratic nation-wide elections held since that time. 

We have built a separate state, which meets in full the criteria of customary international law for statehood, and which our peaceful and hard-working citizens are proud of. 

We will not cooperate in attempts to rebuild the former unified state of Somalia, if it purports to include Somaliland. Nor can we cooperate in any effort to use aid as a lever to force Somaliland to become part of Somalia.

In line with our support for the New Deal process, the Somaliland Government and civil society have together adopted a document based on New Deal principles, the Somaliland Special Arrangement (SSA).  This is fully compatible with our National Development Plan, and therefore reflects our own priorities. 

Our intention is that the SSA will form a distinct and separate component of the broader Somali New Deal Compact, facilitating coordination between the donor community and Somaliland at the level of both government and civil society.  The Federal Government of Somalia has had no input into this document.

We wish to settle our differences with Somalia peacefully and without outside pressure. It is in our interests to see Somalia recover its former stability, provided that it does not compromise our own stability, nor our people’s desire for Somaliland to be recognised as an independent state.

We support the New Deal, and hope to be able to work with the EU in the future to build not only a strong, stable and democratic Somalia, but a strong, stable, democratic and independent Somaliland too.

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