Somaliland marks 'independence,' urges recognition

Kenya is planning to open a liaison office in Hargeysa, the capital of Somaliland

NAIROBI (AA) - Breakaway Somaliland on Sunday marked 23 years since declaring independence from Somalia, urging recognition by the African Union and the international community.

"The African Union should no longer put off recognizing Somaliland as an independent country and full member," President Ahmed Mohammed Silanyo said in his speech to mark the day.

Somaliland and Somalia united in 1960 after independence from Britain and Italy respectively.

But Somaliland broke away in 1991 after the overthrow of Siad Barre and the flare up of the civil war.

Somalia has refused to recognize Somaliland as independent.

Somaliland's self-declared independence has also not been recognized by the international community.

"The lack of formal recognition from our fellow African countries and the world community remains a serious brake on progress and our hopes of improving our citizens," said President Silanyo.

"It makes it much more difficult to access the international aid and loans to drive development," he added.

"We are denied a seat at the table when the future of Horn of Africa is being discussed," said the Somaliland leader.

-Caution-

Rashid Abdi, a Nairobi-based regional analyst, said the pan-African body has been extra cautious since the recognition and separation of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

"It has been a waiting game since Somaliland applied for recognition," he told Anadolu Agency.

"There is this fear in the A.U. that when regions in Africa are recognized as independent more regions will come up to demand to be recognized," said Abdi.

"But the Somaliland issue should be treated differently as its borders were recognized and drawn at its independence by the British separate from the Italian Somaliland," he added.

Somaliland enjoyed brief independence after the end of British colonial rule in 1960 before it joined a union with Somalia, which had just won independence from Italy.

-Liaison office-

A high-ranking Kenyan Foreign Ministry official told AA that Kenya is planning to open a liaison office in Hargeysa, the capital of Somaliland.

The move is likely to draw rebuke from Somali, who has already protested the opening of a Somaliland liaison office in Nairobi.

"We share a lot with Kenya," Mahamud Jamaa, Somaliland representative in Kenya, told AA on Sunday.

"There is a sizeable population of Kenyan expatriates working in Somaliland," he noted.

"By Kenya opening a diplomatic post in Hargeysa it will be of benefit to its citizens in Somaliland and also improve our bilateral relations," Jamaa said.

"This is a reality that Mogadishu should respect."

Citizens of the breakaway republic and Kenyans of Somaliland origin celebrated the 23rd anniversary in Nairobi.

"Recognition or no recognition Somaliland remains the best example of how Africans can handle their own affairs and succeed despite enormous challenges," Amina Egal, a 58-year-old citizen of Somaliland residing in Kenya, told AA.

Jamal Mahamud Hassan, who lives in Odense, Denmark, also celebrated the anniversary.

"This is an important day in our calendar," he told AA by phone.

"It is the day the people of Somaliland decided to take their country back and determine their own future," Hassan said.

"It means a lot to millions of Somalilanders in the homeland and all over the globe," he added.

By Yassin Juma

englishnews@aa.com.tr

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