The programme at the EP was introduced by EFFD Group Leader MEP Nigel Farage, with submissions by barrister Mr Michael Greaves, and MEP Mr Jim Carver. The comprehensive event included a DVD presentation covering Somaliland in the post 1991 civil war period. The agenda also covered areas of interest from the legal case, to obstacles to a successful economy in the former British protectorate; 1887-1960.
The visiting delegation had a broad but straightforward message, which I must say was very positive, if not persuasive. The thrust of the message was that this region, with a population of 3.5 million, covering a geographic area roughly the size of England and Wales, has been very busy building their country post 1991.
They champion the ideals of peace and democracy; they stand in opposition to terrorism and piracy, a significant scourge in the costal seas off the Horn of Africa. They are committed to sustainable development and prosperity for their citizens. The Foreign Minister assured me that the aim of their campaign was not to ask the international community to take a chance on what Somaliland might become, or build, but rather to legally recognise the reality of that which has now existed for over twenty-three years.
The Minister told me the ‘marriage’ or union with Somalia between 1960 and 1991 was, in his words, disastrous. However as a good diplomat, he assured me that he wishes Somalia well, and hopes the neighbouring countries share a positive relationship, while presently the Republic of Somaliland hopes to be acknowledged as a proud independent entity, committed to human rights, freedom of expression, and maintaining peaceful relations with other nations.
They have held open democratic elections, monitored by international observers; and have seen the peaceful transfer of power, even when in 2003, the Presidential election was won by a margin of only 81 votes.
Somaliland boasts an independent judiciary to apply national laws, has its own currency, passport, defence force, security and police force.
Added to that, they tell me that they provide free primary schooling to both boys and girls and they have seven public universities.
In conclusion, for myself, I would say that regardless of whether Somaliland achieves the recognition that it seeks – and I rather hope they do, I found it very refreshing to speak with such moderate and progressive representatives from a Sunni Islamic country.
By Randall Calvin