Representatives of Somaliland participate in a three-day Convention in the US to review Somaliland's achievements and challenges
WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 /U.S. Newswire/ -- As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice takes her message of a new American foreign policy emphasizing democracy and human rights to Africa and the Middle East, a convention to discuss those same issues is being held this weekend in the Washington metro area. Those topics are this weekend's subject of discussion, plus Somaliland's quest for international recognition. Representatives of the Somaliland government, political parties, the business community, civil society, student associations and friends of Somaliland will participate in the three-day Convention.
The convention is sponsored by the local Somaliland Policy & Reconstruction Institute (SOPRI), Somaliland Diaspora communities in the United States and Canada, and American friends of this small democratic nation on the Horn of Africa.
The centerpiece of President Bush's second-term foreign policy agenda is the doctrine of ending tyranny and spreading democracy in the developing world. Somaliland, an emerging constitutional democracy, is steadfastly following the president's vision. The country has already held free and fair municipal, presidential and parliamentary elections since 2003. It is expected that the convention will have a great symbolic significance during this critical period of transition to democracy in Somaliland. The people of Somaliland are committed to building a society that stands for the rule of law, democracy and peace in the Horn of Africa region - and are a worthy ally of the United States in the war against terror, extremism and weapons proliferation in the world.
The former British Somaliland first won its independence in 1960, and with European encouragement, joined with the former Italian Somaliland to form the Republic of Somalia. That merger failed, and a disastrous civil war followed. In 1991, Somaliland declared its independence, and the rest of Somalia fell to the control of several war lords.
Somaliland was devastated during the civil war, but has reestablished itself. It now seeks recognition from the international community so it can establish normal commercial, economic and institutional relations with the rest of the world. The themes of Somaliland recognition, discussed at the convention, focus on democracy, education, social development, economic development, natural resources, and the role of Diaspora communities in the development of Somaliland.
Somaliland has been building its own democratic structure for the past 15 years. It has political parties, multi-party elections, a free market economy, and is protective of the rights of women. In 2000, a constitution based on principles of representative democracy was unanimously approved by the people. In 2002, 2003 and 2005, municipal, presidential and parliament elections were held, and certified as free and fair. When parliamentary elections are held this September, Somaliland will elect representatives at the local and national level, further enhancing it as a model of democracy on the Horn of Africa.
The convention will give the participants an opportunity to review Somaliland's achievements and challenges. The delegates will hear analysis of a variety of related issues and will propose appropriate recommendations on the way forward. The convention will provide a forum to discuss the status of democracy building and governance in Somaliland, and the need for the international community to recognize, encourage and support those efforts.
Despite all its remarkable accomplishments under very difficult circumstances, Somaliland is currently denied access to normal relations and interactions with the international community. Therefore, it seeks full access to, and participation in, international fora in order to contribute to and benefit from normal relations with the rest of the world. In particular:
-- Membership in the United Nations, African Union and other international and regional bodies,
-- Access to international development assistance from both bilateral and multilateral institutions,
-- Access to guarantees and export credits from entities like the U.S. Export-Import Bank for firms that desire trade with and investment in Somaliland, and
-- Removal of the current restriction on business and private travel
Somali Landers hope that the visit of Secretary Rice to the several African countries and the new emphasis in American foreign policy will signal a new beginning for Somaliland and its aspirations. The United States and Great Britain have been reluctant in the past to re-recognize Somaliland, ostensibly fearing that this would be viewed as altering the conventional stance of the international community on this question, regardless of how dysfunctional affairs are elsewhere in Somalia.
Convention speakers and guests include prominent policy makers, leaders of political parties, legislators, community and civil society leaders from inside Somaliland as well as renowned personalities from the US, Canada, Japan, South Africa and Somalilanders from the Diaspora worldwide