The president […] of Somaliland, Mr. Dahir Riyale Kahin, flew from the region's capital Hargeisa on Friday [12 September 2008] to Europe via the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Mr. Riyale was accompanied on this trip by First Lady Huda Barkad, Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullahi Mohamed Du'ale and Finance Minister Hussein Ali Du'ale.
The Somaliland leader is scheduled to begin his visit in France, before proceeding to Germany and the United Kingdom, government officials said.
While in Europe, Mr. Riyale will appeal to the European Union to deal with Somaliland as a political entity independent of Somalia in the distribution of aid.
Mr. Nicolah Bwakira, the African Union's Special Envoy to Somalia, visited the Somaliland regions on Friday [12 September 2008] and met privately with President Riyale.
The AU Envoy told reporters that he last visited the region in 1993 and was "impressed" with the security and economic development in Hargeisa, Somalia's second-largest city and the capital of Somaliland.
"It was a must that I visit Somaliland and see first-hand the democratization process," Mr. Bwakira said at the Hargeisa presidential compound, adding that he will present his findings to AU heads of state.
For his part, the Somaliland leader criticized the AU, Arab states and European countries for "ignoring" positive developments in Somaliland.
Mr. Riyale said Somaliland is peaceful and "independent" of the chaos in southern Somalia, citing daily acts of violence, a massive refugee exodus and piracy as examples.
Somaliland, in Somalia's northwest, declared independence from the rest of the Horn of Africa country in 1991 but has not been recognized internationally.
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