SOMALILAND IS A REAL COUNTRY, ACCORDING TO SOMALILAND
Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo: Let me first correct you. We have never been a region and we are not a region. We are a country called Somaliland. We became independent before Somalia even came into being. And then there was a unification of the two states. Then, in 1991, we cancelled that unity.
London was our biggest community and our main channel of communication with the outside world. This office has grown over the years and we now have 13 posts and representatives’ offices outside of Somaliland in places like Belgium, France, Ethiopia, Norway, and the USA all functioning and representing the nation.
At the time of the struggle I was one of the members of the community who was supportive of the cause. I was living in Saudi Arabia at the time, financing the operations back home. Later, I became a member of the current ruling party, before we won the election in 2010, and after we won I was appointed by the president.
It was one of the toughest and most difficult situations. It used to take us a fairly long time to get in touch with the people back home. There were some satellite telephone systems, which were very expensive. But there were no postal services at all and not even a telephone system. It took us about three years to establish the first telephone contact with a few imported satellite phones.
The way we see it, we are still struggling for our nation. We were able to establish our government systems. But it is a learning curve, as you say. We started with disarming the militias, then bit-by-bit we transitioned to a multi-party system. We have endured a lot of ups and downs and I think we have been very good at dealing with situations as they arise.
The conversation, as you can imagine, is different on their side. They have their own reasons for being in that mood. But as we see it, it is our country and our decision to end that union. We know they may be very unhappy with it. But that’s their problem.
In fact we haven’t got any sort of difficult situation in this regard. We have had a very strong and long relationship with the British government. And most of the time the people who are representatives have dual nationalities with the country they work in, so we don’t have trouble with visas. Also, we are not the only country here with an office that is not recognized by Britain. There’s also Taiwan, which has a big representative office and strong economic relationship here.
We haven’t had any problems with blowback from the rest of the world. The Somalis do talk about things that are very illogical and annoy us, but we get used to this kind of rhetoric from them and we know how to deal with that.
I don’t think that’s the case. I think that is the case in the view of people who have not studied the history of Britain in Somaliland. Britain has problems with piracy and terrorism, which we help them with, and Britain wants to help Somalia, which we as Somalilanders have no problem with.
We are not happy with neutrality, but this is the fact of the situation now. And we are happy dealing with our situation with Britain on that basis so far. But we are not happy with their position currently. We wish they could have done more for us like the Americans did in South Sudan and the Portuguese did in East Timor.
Britain supports our country in some areas like the training of our security forces, health, and education. But in our eyes that is not enough.
I don’t want to say names but there are many countries that are impressed with our progress and achievements and they have discussed it within themselves. I think it will be in the very near future.
I don’t know. I think that is to be answered by the rest of the world. But the way I see it, we couldn’t yet get the support of those we thought should support our cause.
The most important thing that we as Somalilanders expect the world to help with is the road network. Somaliland has a very poor road network hindering the movement of people and trade. We have no doubt that as soon as that road network is improved there will be even better economic growth in Somaliland. Also, there are a lot of resources that are unexplored and we have been inviting international organizations to look into our minerals and oil prospects.
I think China is a very cautious country and will be considering a lot of things before they make a decision. Also because of the Taiwan factor they will not be quick to react to Somaliland – but that is my personal view. There are countries discussing this with us though.
That’s a very good question, but let me say this: The people of Somaliland have had a very difficult history of oppression under Barre in the late 1970s and 1980s, and the elders remember that those days were days of hell which we do not want to see again.