Somaliland: Ports Offered for Anti-Pirate Operations
Below is an article published by Reuters Africa :
Somaliland offered on Thursday the use of ports along its long coastline for foreign naval patrols against Somali pirates.
The Somali sea-gangs have attacked dozens of ships in the Gulf of Aden this year, but generally prefer to strike in waters near Yemen instead of going close to Somaliland's shore.
"Our coast is extremely long but we have kept our waters free of pirates. We have not had one single incident," said Abdillahi Duale, foreign minister for Somaliland whichdeclared itself an independent republic in 1991.
"We will support the fight against pirates any way we can. Our ports are open for the coalition and all those who are fighting piracy to use as they wish," he told Reuters.
The European Union is to begin an air and naval operation off Somalia next week [December 2008], while a Danish-led multilateral task force has eight ships, and the NATO alliance has a further four patrolling the waters off Somalia.
Duale said the coastguard of Somaliland -- a semi-desert terrain that is home to 3.5 million people and neighbours Djibouti and Ethiopia in the north-west of Somalia -- was doing a good job keeping pirates at bay.
He declined to say how many boats Somaliland had.
Neighbouring Puntland, which also runs its affairs relatively autonomously but has not sought independence from Somalia, is by contrast a major base for pirates.
Seventeen years of civil conflict in southern and central Somalia has fuelled piracy, which has spilled into Indian Ocean waters as well as the Gulf of Aden, shaking global shipping.
UN Security Alert
Since early 2007, Islamist insurgents have been fighting the Mogadishu-based government of Somalia and its Ethiopian military backers. The insurgents are within a few miles of the capital.
Duale said the militant Islamist group al Shabaab was behind an October 29  wave of suicide blasts in Somaliland's capital Hargeisa that killed at least 25 people at a U.N. building, the Ethiopian embassy and a local government building.
"They want to cripple Somaliland's democratisation process," the minister said during a visit to Kenya.
The ex-British protectorate, roughly the size of England and Wales, has won plaudits for multi-party polls and institutions. No country, however, has recognised its independence.
Duale, and other ministers on a Somaliland delegation in Nairobi, said the United Nations' decision to put the region on a Phase Four alert after the bombs -- meaning all non-essential staff are evacuated -- was "outrageous" and unfair.
"That is just what the terrorists want," Duale said
Planning Minister Ali Ibrahim said Somaliland should be supported, rather than abandoned, in its fight against militants, which included foiling numerous bomb plots.
"It is very paradoxical. We all talk about the fight against terror, but when terror hits a poor country like Somaliland, everyone pulls back and retreats in the name of protecting their nationals," he said. "They are giving up to terrorists."
The U.N. security decision would hinder much-needed development projects in Somaliland, deter foreign aid groups and investors, and may even undermine a local presidential election set for March 2009, the ministers said.
"Voter registration is in full swing. If this Phase Four continues, we might have problems, for example in getting in all the foreign observers who were expected," Ibrahim said.
Somalianders abroad remain undeterred, however, the ministers said, still pouring money into construction of homes, hotels and factories.
"We are a de facto state," Foreign Minister Duale said. "We will stay the course. We know that one brave country will ... recognise our independence. History will put the Somaliland state where it belongs."