Category Archives: Somaliland (coming soon)

Marriage proposals, dresses, feasts and dances – the story of two weddings in SOMALIland, with traditions old and new.

When it comes to weddings, Somaliland has many approaches. Some couples stick with tradition while others go for more modern marriage ceremonies.

This film tells the story of two weddings, one in a small desert village and the other in a busy city, while highlighting everyday life in different parts of the country. It also contrasts traditional ways of life with modern ideas that come from younger Somalis and social media.

In the remote rural village of Toon, herder Jamalli Muhammad Ahmed can only marry a local woman called  Hoda after first getting permission from her family. In a tradition going back generations, they all gather in the shade of a large tree to decide whether they are a suitable match. Only then can Jamalli and Hoda start planning their lives together.

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 Jamalli and Hoda’s wedding followed traditional Somali customs [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Abdullatif Deeq Omar in Hargeisa city, however, first met his future wife Najma on Facebook. They eloped but eventually returned to their families who accepted their marriage plans.

Somalia Two Weddings - AJW

 Abdullatif and Najma’s ceremony was in the city of Hargeisa [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Both weddings have the same pressures: buying outfits, inviting guests, finding a venue and arranging feasts – but each tells a unique story of family, community and tradition.

In Somali culture, many people also believe that getting married in the run-up to Ramadan ensures additional blessings on the couple, making the happy occasion even more special

Shakir Essa report.

Somaliland rejects proposed visit by Ethiopia PM, Somali president

1024x538_1021479Somaliland rejects proposed visit by Ethiopia PM, Somali president
©AfricaNews
2 hours ago
Somalia

Somaliland has rejected a planned joint visit by Somali president Mohamed Abdulahi Farmaajo and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

A high-ranking official in Somaliland had confirmed a proposed visit to Hargeisa by Abiy and Farmaajo on the initiative of the PM. Hargeisa is capital of Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia.
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Voice of America journalist and author of “Inside AlShabab,” Harun Maruf posted a tweet that said Somaliland’s chairman of House of Elders Suleiman Mohamoud Aden as saying PM Abiy Ahmed was “pushing for a joint visit to Hargeisa by him and Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.”

It is the first concrete report of an information that started making the rounds on Twitter on Saturday evening when a post to that effect was made by one Khaalid Foodhaadhi.

A meeting between leaders of Somalia and Somaliland in Addis Ababa was brokered by Abiy last week after the 33rd African Union summit.

The Somali presidential spokesman confirmed that the “ice-breaking” meeting had indeed taken place between Farmaajo and Somaliland’s Muse Bihi.

Days later, Farmaajo made a public admission over excesses by the Siad Barre regime in the late eighties against Somaliland. An admission that received largely good comments on social media.

The planned joint visit to Hargeisa has also received positive traction as many people on social media see it as a positive first step towards finding an amicable solution to the longstanding rift between Somalia and Somaliland.
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Bihi, Farmajo Meeting To Feature In Ethiopia PM’s Talks

Bihi, Farmajo Meeting To Feature In Ethiopia PM’s Talks
14th February 2020
MAP
The expansion of the Somaliland Port of Berbera and the meeting between Somaliland and Somalia leaders will be among the discussions points between Ethiopia Prime Minister Aby Ahmed and the United Arab Emirates leadership this weekend.
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Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed landed in Abu Dhabi on Thursday evening for a round of talks with the hosting government over trade partnerships and efforts to find peace in the horn of Africa.
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Abiy was received at the Presidential Airport by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, and Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court.

Sheikh Abdullah welcomed Abiy and discussed relations and co-operation between the two countries and ways to tackle issues of mutual interest.

Abiy is accompanied by his wife, Zinash Tayachew, Dr Hirut Kassaw, Minister of Culture and Tourism, Adanech Abebe, Minister of Revenues, and Muferiat Kamil, Ethiopian Minister of Peace.

Ethiopia and the UAE have partnered with Somaliland in the expansion of the port of Berbera which once completed will be the biggest in the region.

UAE’s DP World is expanding the port at a cost of USD 442 Million and is also expected to set up an economic free zone complement the growth of the Port of Berbera as a regional trading hub.

Somalia has been against the expansion of the port claiming Somaliland has no right to enter any international agreements.

Somaliland separated from Somalia in 1991 and declared its own independence. The two countries have been at loggerheads since then.

But early this week, the Ethiopian Prime Minister brokered a meeting between Somaliland president Musa Bihi and Somali president Abdullahi Farmajo in Addis Ababa, talks that lasted for an hour.

Ethiopia and the UAE believe that a lasting solution between Somalia and Somaliland is vital for their interests in the horn of Africa.

This is Abiy’s second trip to UAE in less than one year.

UAE was one of the Gulf nations Abiy visited last year as part of pooling regional support, especially for economic reforms. The Crown Prince also visited Addis Ababa in 2018.

Ethiopia – UAE relations have been on an upward trajectory over the course of 2018.

Over the last decade, the UAE has gradually increased its presence in the Horn of Africa, using development and humanitarian projects to boost its prominence.

It has significantly invested in ports, logistics and trade developments, to secure its port empire across the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait by the Red Sea, to profoundly boost its international trade and regional soft power.

The Emirati-owned company DP World’s opening of a port in Djibouti in 2008 signalled a developing presence in the relatively then-untouched Horn of Africa.

Ethiopia has served as a key platform for growing UAE influence, where Abu Dhabi alongside Saudi Arabia helped broker a peace deal with Eritrea, after a two-year state of war between the two states.

It has since continued to shower Ethiopia with aid, also carrying out key development projects. The UAE had also built an oil pipeline between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and Emirati companies have increased investment particularly in Ethiopia.

Such moves are also an attempt to compete with Turkey, Iran and Qatar, whose increasingly positive ties with east African states are met with unease by Abu Dhabi.

A setback for the UAE’s political ambitions in the Horn of Africa, however, are its ties with Somalia who have grown closer to Turkey, a key Emirati rival.

In response, the UAE has focused its support on Somalia’s autonomous regions.

The UAE and Ethiopia last February agreed to cooperate to turn Somaliland into a “major regional trading hub,” which helps the UAE’s ally Ethiopia gain greater trading access, and subsequently boost the UAE’s own trading and economic capabilities.

Furthermore, its alliance with Ethiopia, which also invests in Somaliland’s Berbera port, has helped the UAE gain greater control over it.

The UAE has also attempted to build a military and naval base in Somaliland.

Leaders of Somalia, Breakaway Somaliland Meet for First Time

Leaders of Somalia, Breakaway Somaliland Meet for First Time
By The Associated Press
Feb. 12, 2020
Updated 7:23 a.m. ET
MAP

MOGADISHU, Somalia — The current leaders of Somalia and the breakaway territory of Somaliland have met for the first time in the latest diplomatic effort by Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister.
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Somali presidential spokesman Abdinur Mohamed confirmed Tuesday’s meeting to The Associated Press, saying it was brokered by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.

“It was behind closed doors and no communique is being released. It was an ice-breaking one,” the spokesman said.

Ethiopia’s government has not commented publicly on the talks, which occurred on the sidelines of an African Union gathering.

Continue reading the main story
Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 as the country collapsed into warlord-led conflict, and it has seen little of the violence and extremist attacks that plague Somalia to the south. Despite lacking international recognition, Somaliland has maintained its own independent government, currency and security system.

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Somalia considers Somaliland as part of its territory. Several rounds of past talks over possible unification have failed to reach a breakthrough.

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This week’s meeting is the first since Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi took office in 2017.

Somali officials have blamed Somaliland leaders over the failure of past talks, accusing them of failing to show seriousness. Somaliland leaders have dismissed the allegations and insisted that their sovereignty is nonnegotiable.

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Since taking office in 2018, Ethiopia’s leader has worked to achieve a number of diplomatic breakthroughs in the long-turbulent Horn of Africa region.

Somalia’s president faces a number of challenges in the months ahead. The country hopes to achieve its first one-person-one-vote election by the end of this year. It would be the first in 50 years. But the United Nations envoy for Somalia has pointed out the lack of “effective cooperation” between Somalia’s central government and its states as a major obstacle.

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Shakir Essa

somaliland
Somalia – the name of a nation that immediately coendures the image of a war-torn failing state plagued by unimaginable violence, piracy and terrorism for over 30 years. And yet within this war-torn country exists a beacon of stability. Often out of the headlines, the breakaway region of Somaliland could be considered a taboo subject amongst national governments and most international organisations.

Somaliland, located in the North West of the horn of Africa has been de-facto independent from the Federal Republic of Somalia in 1991 but has yet to secure the recognition of any UN member states. Regarding itself as the successor state to the British Somaliland Protectorate which was ruled as a separate colony to Italian Somaliland until independence in 1960 when the two former colonies were merged; Somaliland serves as a beacon of stability in a turbulent region.

The traditional narrative of Somaliland’s declaration of impendence in 1991, is that it was a direct response to the South’s descent into Civil War and the spread of Islamists. This narrative, while being broadly correct tends to omit the serious misgivings Somaliland had with the Federal State prior to the collapse of the Barre Regime.

Initially enthusiastic towards Somali nationalism and towards the impending merger with its Southern neighbourhoods, this optimism was quick to evaporate. Within a year of uniting with the southern provinces popular discontent in the North grew rapidly over the newly created Constitution, which was said to favour the South at the expense of draining the wealth of the North. In response to the perceived injustice of the Constitution, northern leaders encouraged a boycott of the referendum on the adoption of the new Constitution. Nevertheless, the Central Government in Mogadishu went ahead with its implementation without any changes. This led to further accusations that the South was ignoring the interests of the North and triggered those seeking to regain independence for the North into action. In 1961 a year after reunification, a group of generals sought to carry out a Coup D’état and restore Somaliland as an independent nation. The Coup failed and the Central Government responded with the further marginalisation of the North. Tensions simmered until the late 1970s and the 1980s when various rebel groups, (including some backed and financed by the Communist Derg Regime in neighbouring Ethiopia) took up arms against the Regime. Barre’s regime in Mogadishu responded by initiating large scale & indiscriminate bombardments of Northern cities, which cumulated in the Issaq Genocide. The Issaq Clan (the largest in Somaliland) was targeted in a systematic & state sponsor massacre that ultimately killed up to 200,000 Issaq’s and completely levelling the regions two largest cities. When the Barre Regime finally collapsed in 1991, leaders of the Somali National Movement rebel group were quick to capitalise on the descent of the South into Civil War and finally declare independence.

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A pathologist examines a mass grave site from the Issaq Genocide (Source: Lifeforce Magazine)

Since the Declaration was made, Somaliland has made remarkable progress in its development. In comparison to the South, Somaliland has managed to hold consecutive democratic elections; has a functioning economy and has managed to resist the influence of Al-Shabab and other terrorist groups.

Despite the initial declaration of impendence and the early years of self-rule for the state being controlled by a select group of military generals, the nation has made rapid and substantial progress in establishing a modern democratic nation. Since 2001 there have been six democratic and peaceful elections – including the peaceful transfer of power between different party’s. Another parliamentary election is scheduled for sometime later this year. The Somaliland Parliament has been noted for its stable structure that allows for mediation between conflicting groups and interests. In particular, the House of Elders, which is modelled on the UK’s House of Lord’s allows for traditional Clan Structures to be incorporated into a modern political model. In terms of security, it is this area in which Somaliland stands out from its neighbouring states. Unlike Somalia or neighbouring Puntland, Somaliland hasn’t suffered a terrorist attack since 2008 & piracy is almost non-existent along the section of coast under its control.
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The economy in the country has also seen significant developments, despite the difficult circumstances the nation finds itself in. The most notable recent developments include UAE funded development in the Port of Berbera, the proposed development of transport & export links for neighbouring landlocked Ethiopia; and the potential development of oil exploration.

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Voters partaking in the 2017 Somaliland Presidential Elections (Source: VOA News)

Despite the progress Somaliland has made in becoming a modern democratic state, it’s still yet to secure the recognition of a single UN member state. In legal terms, Somaliland complies with all expected international norms for becoming an independent state and de-facto functions as such. However as is well known in international relations, statehood is not determined by legality, but political acceptance from those members already inside ‘the club’. The primary obstacle in the way of Somaliland achieving this acceptance is regional. Other African states are extremely wary of excepting new borders and states in the Continent given a large majority of them possess their own separatist movements and the risk succession could create a precedent for the dismantlement of their own borders. Likewise, states from outside the Continent also tend to be cautious about the re-drawing of borders in Africa due to the fear it could create a violent domino effect whereby colonial borders collapse along ethnic lines. Even Somaliland’s biggest international backer – Ethiopia has so far refused to formally recognise the Nation’s independence given its own problems with Somali separatists and its preference for keeping Somalia weak and marred by uncertainty by ensuring internal divisions remain.

While over 20 years of continued apathy to the creation of an independent Somaliland doesn’t bode well for the administration in Hargeisa, recent developments signal a change to the status quo may occur soon, but whether this is through design or disaster remains to be determined. While having performed exceptionally well since 1991, Somaliland now faces significant challenges. Firstly, the security situation the country finds itself in is increasingly precarious. With the situation in Somalia’s Southern Provinces having deteriorated rapidly in recent months, there is now a real danger Al-Shabab could take over the whole country, providing a springboard for eventual designs on Puntland & Somaliland. Compounding this fear are reports that both ISIS and Al-Qaeda have managed to establish themselves within neighbouring Puntland, an area of which they previously had little to no presence. The risk of ‘domestic’ terrorism from within Somaliland held territory has also grown which some have put down to the nations emerging economic problems and lack of opportunity for its youth.

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Territorial Control of Various Actors in Somalia as of August 2019 (Source: ACLED)

While as mentioned above Hargeisa has made significant steps in improving its economic progress in the last 20 years, the level of growth needed for the country to continue to improve has been hampered by its inability to gain international recognition. The economy is in need of modernisation with over 70% of GDP based on agriculture and the majority of the other 30% coming from remittances from those who have emigrated to countries like the UK. This is not a viable economic model long-term, especially as remittances are likely to dry up as emigrations consider themselves ‘more British’ or whichever state they have moved to than they identify with distant relatives back in Somaliland. Both infrastructure and diversification are desperately needed, but in order for this to be carried out the nation needs access to international finance, something at which is not presently possibly via institutions such as the IMF and World Bank or even through many aid mechanisms due to its status as an unrecognised territory. The difficulty in establishing a legitimate exchange rate for the nation’s currency also makes investment difficult despite the potential for energy exploration, tourism and modern agriculture in the Nation.

Adding to the woes above are heightened tensions between Somaliland and the neighbouring province of Puntland. In 2018 significant levels of clashes between the Somaliland armed forces and various Puntland militias occurred, both sides vying for long-disputed border areas. These tensions are yet to cease and have the potential to break-out into a full-scale conflict between the two parties, thereby shattering the last remaining beacon of stability within the region and opening up to exploitation by terrorist groups such as Al-Shabab.

The above concerns should prompt some international actors to reconsider their position vis-à-vis the recognition of Somaliland. If not for moral reasons, the importance of preventing the further collapse of states within the Horn of Africa for international security should serve as an impetus for some nations. Some however, have argued that Somaliland’s problem in gaining international recognition is actually that the nation is ‘too stable’. Unlike South Sudan, Eritrea and Timor-Leste which all experienced large-scale violence and chaos leading to their recognition as independent states, Somaliland’s order, democracy and relative calmness may have enforced the idea that a peaceful reconciliation with Mogadishu will eventually be possible, and therefore negate the need for diplomatic recognition as an independent entity.

If there is one single state that has the potential to change the fortunes of Somaliland for the better, its that of its former colonial power – the United Kingdom. The UK already possesses a relatively strong relationship with the breakaway region, being involved in training its forces to combat terrorism (alongside the US); donating £31 million towards aid and development in 2019; and having a large Somaliland expatriate community within the UK. The last point has helped Somaliland achieve recognition from a number of local authorities and cities within the UK including Cardiff and Sheffield, and even the devolved Welsh Senedd (Parliament) in 2006.

However, so far, the UK government has stopped short of recognising outright the state as de-jure independent. It can be argued however, recognition would be in the UK’s best interests for the region. By becoming the leading state in recognising state’s independence London would secure itself as a key stakeholder in the region. With interests in preventing more ungoverned territory emerging in which terrorists and pirates can use to their advantage, the UK should be stepping up efforts to ensure the stability of Somaliland. The strategic position of Somaliland in relation to the Gulf of Aden and Suez Straights is also notable, most oil and LNG exports heading to Europe pass through these choke points and given the instability in other parts of Somalia, as well as in Yemen, shipping is increasingly at risk of attack. While France, Japan, India, Italy the US possess naval bases in neighbouring Djibouti; and other such as Israel and Iran in Eritrea; the UK’s nearest base is in Oman. As shown by the capture of the British registered oil tanker the Stena Impero in the summer of 2019, the UK’s current maritime force in the region is not sufficient. These concerns have already led to the UK Defence Minister visiting Somaliland in 2019 with the aim of discussing the establishment of a British naval base within the country and increased funding and training for Somaliland forces. The UK is also wary of losing the initiative to recognise the country to rival players in the region. The UAE has already established a military base in the region and according to some sources in 2018 was close to officially recognising the country, but later changed its mind. Likewise, Russia has announced plans to open its own military base in the Port of Zeila, near the Somaliland – Djibouti border.

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Foreign Military Bases in the Horn of Africa Region (Source: Danish Institute of Security Studies)

With the London hosting the first UK-Africa summit in January 2020, many analysists took the opportunity to highlight how far the UK had lagged behind in the new race for influence in the Continent. While France has been mostly successful at preserving its links for former colonies, and countries such as Russia, Japan, India and China have worked extensively to build links on the Continent; Africa has largely remained at the back of British diplomatic concerns over the last few decades. For some the recognition of Somaliland by London, if combined by significant economic, security and political support could boost the UK’s influence in the Continent.

Besides the material benefit to London recognition could bring, there also exists the moral argument. Somaliland has made great strides to become everything the West expects from a modern democratic nation from holding free elections and successful transfers of power, to the establishment of a working legal system based on the rule of law and the relative freedom of the press. This is a rare feat not just for the Horn of Africa, but for Africa as a whole. Of course, there remains more that could be done, but the current situation Somaliland finds itself in can’t help make you think that it is being punished for its progress.

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Former British Defence Minister Visits Somaliland in 2019 (Source: Somaliland Nation)

Of course, there are significant risks for the United Kingdom should it choose to formally recognise the independence of the Hargeisa Government. The primary risk to London is that rather than increase its standing on the African Continent, the action could lead to significant blowback with traditional African partners such as South Africa and Nigeria who (mindful of similar independent movements in their own and neighbouring states), have made it very clear they support the territorial integrity of all of Somalia by Mogadishu. A break from African actors themselves runs the risk of the UK appearing to be acting in a colonialist manner, dividing nations to support their own interests. The move would also certainly lead to the complete severing of London-Mogadishu, although this is not a significant loss given the central government controls almost no territory outside the capital and UK-Somalia trade and UK-Somalia diplomatic relations are essentially non-existent. Turkey, a significant backer of the Somalia Central Government, with numerous military bases and personnel in the country could also provide another obstacle for London granting recognition to Hargeisa.

Despite the risk of angering other African nations, should the UK choose to recognise the formal independence of Somaliland, others are likely to swiftly follow suit. Numerous nations that have been rumoured to being close to recognising the independence of the country in the past including the UAE, Ethiopia, Israel and Taiwan who are noted as likely waiting for another nation to make the first move, unsure about the international reception their decision would have. The role of Ethiopia and Kenya who have both been keen to recognise an independent Somaliland in the past would be key in mitigating any condemnation by the African Union and coordination with both states would allow the UK to make Somaliland’s case better heard and understood. The decision being made by the UK would also likely gain the backing of the US, most EU members and the Commonwealth (of which the Somaliland government applied to join in 2009).

Overall, it is clear that despite the outstanding progress Somaliland has made since 1991; and the fact that it is de-facto independent in all areas have done little to secure de-jure recognition from the accepted players of the international system. The absence of large-scale conflict and deaths, the relatively peaceful existence of Somaliland have led some to believe it’s too well behaved for independent, with powers preferring to keep the status quo until an eventual solution is found for securing peace in the Southern Provinces of Somalia. However, given the situation in Somalia has continued to worsen over the last 20 years, it might finally be time for Somaliland to achieve recognition and reward for its progress. Much of this will depend on the actions of a few key powers namely: the formal colonial power the UK, the UAE and its main African backer of Ethiopia. Until then the people of Somaliland carry on, for them, their nation is already is country and they live in hope the rest of the world comes to recognise the same in the near future.

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Somalilanders celebrate Independence Day (Source: Council on Foreign Relations)

Further Reading & Listening:

The Financial Times – Tom Wilson

Shakir Essa
Africa Times news reporter