Somaliland: government, UN SRSG discuss drought, development issues

His Excellency the President of the Republic of Somaliland, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud ‘Siilaanyo’, received the United Nation’s Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), Mr. Michael Keating, on Monday, at his office.

At the meeting in which present were other top officers on either side of the table, the two sides discussed outstanding issues relevant to the time and place pertaining to the debilitating drought presently ravaging the country, strengthening relations between the two sides and the continuation of UN input on development initiatives outlined in the country’s national development plan.

Talking to the press at the conclusion of the meeting, His Excellency the Somaliland Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Saad Ali Shire, summarized salient points raised during the meeting.

“Mr. Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, and a delegation he leads have come on a visit to Somaliland to look into the drought situation here. The delegation has visited one of the impromptu camps set up for people left destitute by the drought yesterday,” the Minister said, adding that, during the meeting with the President, the two sides raised other issues pertaining to national development and bilateral relations.

Mr. Keating expressed his pleasure in visiting Somaliland again, and in being in Hargeisa, although it was ‘compromised by the fact that many of the people are suffering from a terrible drought’.

The SRSG stated that the primary aim of his visit was to ‘meet with authorities, civil society and UN colleagues on drought response, how it can be up-scaled, how we can improve coordination, how we can do everything possible to ensure that the needs of the people of Somaliland have been met..given limited resources and money’.

Mr. Keating said he and his other colleagues of the international community will not spare an effort to raise money, and to quickly respond to the situation at hand.

Mr. Keating said he was very happy on how well he was received in Somaliland, and how he was made to feel so welcome, perhaps, remembering how he so upset the majority of Somalilanders in the active role he played in promoting so-called Somalilanders partaking in the make-belief elections which the UN and the international community sponsored under heavy guard in Mogadishu to ‘elect’ Somalia parliamentarians. Mr. Keating did so fully well aware that the Republic of Somaliland was on course for the past 27 years to restore the independence it handed over to Mogadishu over 57 years ago

“We had also been discussing the need to prepare for recovery from the drought because the people of Somaliland should not have to go through this again,” he said.

Towards the end of the media briefing, a journalist representing Somali Cable TV station jumped an out-of-context question the SRSG, asking him what ‘UNSOM’ thought of the recent agreements between Somaliland and the UAE in the form of concession given to DP World on Berbera Port development and the more recent of grant of permission to the Emirates to set up military base in Berbera.

Mr. Keating taught the opposition-inspired journalist an unforgettable lesson in diplomacy and etiquette relevant to the time and place – gently observing the ethics the journalist so conveniently chose to ignore on his haste to ‘score a point’.

“This is, primarily, an issue for the government of Somaliland to deal with,” he said “If there are issues around this that the media and the Somaliland civil society are concerned about, it is very important that those are aired and discussed with the government of Somaliland”.

“Clearly,” he added “what is important is to improve infrastructure, jobs, economic opportunity for the people of Somaliland but to do this in a way that is transparent..that is in keeping with international law”.

Mr. Keating, Somalilanders have observed, tends to inadvertently support Somalia claims over Somaliland despite the historical and legal facts setting the two erstwhile partners in the defunct ‘Somali Republic’ apart.

It is not clear whether this latest visit can change anything in the UN envoy’s outlook.

Mr. Keating, however, shows a warmth he has not shown for Somaliland for a long time in his Tweets about the visit.