June 18, 2012

Somaliland: Negotiations With Somalia

A committee will discuss future cooperation as two sovereign countries.

Below is an article published by Somaliland Press:

In a breakthrough development, Somaliland and Somalia are set to initiate first formal talks on intricate bilateral issues in an effort to finally end the saber-rattling between the two nations, Somalilandpress reports.

The strategic dialogue was first proposed by the British government during a conference on Somalia held in London on 23 February 2012. The final communiqué recognized the need for negotiations between Hargeisa and Mogadishu “in order to clarify their future relations.”

The British government said it was offering its mediation services and an attempt to officially get the two sides to the negotiation table for the first time in two decades is currently underway. The meeting is scheduled for this Wednesday in the British capital and will be closely monitored by key international players.

Somaliland has designated a team of five-members and they departed from the seaport town of Berbera on Sunday afternoon for London. The representatives consist of senior officials from the government, parliament and the opposition.

Headed by the foreign minister, Dr Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, the Somaliland team is tasked to campaign for the path towards self-determination and diplomatic recognition—based on pre-July 1960 borders.

This was reiterated by Dr Omar saying there was only one resulting possibility for them in the talks—a full international recognition—and that Somaliland would continue on its way. He stated that Somaliland statehood has both historical solid support and it was collective rights.

“We should maintain our dignity as an independent nation, deserving of international respect. Our sovereignty is non-negotiable,” Dr Omar said during a press briefing in Hargeisa.

Somaliland said the team it has nominated reflects its serious interest in the talks to settle its diplomatic standoff with Mogadishu over its status quo. Somaliland minister of information Abdulrahman Yusuf Duale had some tough words for Somalia Thursday, saying regarding reunification that “the gap between Somaliland and Somalia is like the sky and earth”.

He said if Somalia came to the table unconditionally, the talks will focus on three main agendas; to accept each nation’s statehood, establish bilateral relations and to address future cooperation.

On the other side of this coin, officials in Mogadishu have said in the run-up to the meeting that they hoped the meeting will bear fruits for the Somali people. According to sources in the Somali capital, the transitional federal government has indicated openness on all disputed issues.

The Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has reportedly called on his government to take proper measures to build Somaliland’s confidence. He is said to have proposed an interim federation system for reunification. Somalia still considers Somaliland to be one of its regions despite the fact that the two existed apart for the last twenty years.

The sources said Mr Ahmed has further called for the acknowledgement of Somalia’s past mistakes including the massacres of more than 50,000 Somalilanders by Somalia’s last central government between 1988 and 1991.

The President cited the need to enter into a new strategy of non-aggression and joint-exploration pact with Hargeisa according to media in Somalia.

The transitional federal government, whose term expires in August, is yet to assemble a negotiation team on their behave for the direct talks. This has already signaled to Hargeisa, Mogadishu’s lack of commitment and transparency. Their previous teams have caused Somaliland to pull out of the talks. Why they delayed to the last minute is worrisome for Dr. Omar’s team.

Somaliland continues to recover from decades of poverty, oppression and a devastating war with Somalia that has destroyed over 90 percent of major towns and cities. It maintains that it is a sovereign nation that temporarily entered a never rectified union with its much larger southern neighbor in 1960.

Somaliland not only meets the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States including government, permanent population and defined territory but it also enjoys independence.

Hargeisa has its own issues too including the growing opposition in parts of its own regions that it claims falls within its territorial border as during colonial period. Communities in parts of eastern Sanaag and Sool region remain restive to Somaliland’s unilaterally declaration of independence.

Local Harti clans fear that the government in Hargeisa simply wants to impose its will on Harti-majority areas rather than engaging with them as Somaliland citizens equal under the law. Hargeisa not only needs to address Harti concerns but also turn a corner and not make the same mistake as Mogadishu. It should assert its legitimate right over all its territories within its borders without force or isolating any community.

If talks fail, Somaliland believes new avenues will surely become available for them to enable them to pursue legal remedies against Somalia in various international fora.

It argues that prior to its unification with Somalia in July 1960, Somaliland was a recognized nation by 34 states where as Somalia came under trusteeship of the UN. At that time, the international community regarded Somalia unfit to govern itself and the UN was entrusted to administer the area until it achieved independence in 1970.

The UN mandate was terminated when Somaliland requested that Somalia be given independence so the two could unify under the banner of “The Somali Republic”. From the beginning, Hargeisa felt it was hijacked and that it got the short end of the stick in the union. It hopes to avoid repeating the same mistake during these new diplomatic talks.

Along with the foreign minister, the Somaliland team includes Bashe Mohamed Farah, first deputy speaker of house of representatives, Faisal Ali Warabe, chairman of opposition Ucid party, Hersi H. Ali Hassan, minister for presidency and Mohamud Ahmed Barre, minister of labour and social affairs.