Aug 29, 2006

Somaliland Seeks US Help in Battle for Recognition

Somaliland is seeking US government support to confront the Islamic Courts movement, which has been expanding its control across Somalian territory
Somaliland, the unrecognized breakaway republic of northwest Somalia, is seeking US government support to confront the Islamic Courts movement, which has been expanding its control across Somalian territory.
A ministerial delegation from Somaliland led by its elected president, Dahir Rayale Kahin, plans to visit Washington next month and hold talks with top State Department officials to ratchet up a campaign for international recognition.

Leaders of the self-declared state hope to use recent developments in Somalia - and international concern about the growing power of the Islamic Courts - as leverage to further its case.

Somaliland, a former British protectorate that joined a united Somalia after independence in 1960, broke away 15 years ago but has since failed to win official recognition from any other nation or a seat on international bodies such as the United Nations, African Union or Arab League. Its leaders say they are well placed to lend crucial support to Somalia's UN-backed transitional government and strengthen co-operation against international terrorism.

The Islamist movement won control of Somalia's coastal capital Mogadishu in June, ousting warlords reportedly backed by the US. It has since extended its hold, leaving the struggling transitional government virtually isolated in the town of Baidoa, 250km inland.
Mr. Kahin held talks in London last week with David Triesman, UK foreign office minister responsible for Africa, as part of a mission pressing Somaliland's case.

But both British and US officials, while acknowledging Somaliland's record in achieving stability and setting up democratic institutions, said they regarded the issue of recognition as being a matter for the AU. Somaliland applied for membership of the body in December.

A US official said Washington dealt with Somaliland's government as a regional authority but not as an independent state.
Ministers accompanying Mr. Kahin in London said they hoped an east African country such as Kenya might take the lead in granting recognition. But there has been little indication of Kenya's readiness to do so. Arab countries, notably Egypt, which is an AU member, have strongly opposed a break-up of Somalia.

Hussein Ali Dualeh, Somaliland's finance minister, warned that the country would fight against reunification, and that a conflict could spill over into neighboring countries, including Ethiopia. "If we are forced into a war, it will be a war that has no end," he told the Financial Times in London.
Mr. Dualeh argued the country was being punished by the international community for its success. He said it was not asking for bilateral aid from the US or Britain but wanted access to World Bank and African Development Bank credit.