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"We Will Be Treating Somaliland As A Self Governing Region," Swedish Ambassador, Jens Odlander
Hargeysa, Somaliland, March 24, 2007 (SL Times) – The Swedish Ambassador for Somali Peace Conciliation, Jens Odlander, based in Nairobi, Kenya, said that his government will treat Somaliland as a self governing region when it comes to development Aid, and the institutions of the current Baidoa-based administration of Somalia, will have nothing to do with Sweden’s relationship with Somaliland.
Ambassador Odlander, made these comments in a press conference held at Maansoor hotel in Hargeysa before flying out to Nairobi last Thursday. Somaliland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdillahi Muhammad Duale, was present at the conference.
The ambassador's visit came on the heels of the Swedish government’s announcement last month (Feb.15 th) of guidelines for Swedish development co-operation for Somalia (ref:no UD 2007/5267/AF) in which the Swedish government would allocate $20 million for the year 2007 for Somalia, which will be increased, if the conditions are met regarding the establishment and development of regional and local administrations.
Ambassador Odlander led a Swedish delegation from Stockholm on a two day visit to Somaliland, and held talks with President Dahir Rayale Kahin and other government and parliamentary officials.
The Swedish delegation arrived in Hargeysa on Wednesday, and was received by the president in a dinner reception held at the presidential palace that night. Somaliland Foreign Affairs Minister, A. Duale, and A. Ibrahim, Minister of National Planning and Development, were at the presidential dinner.
On Thursday's press conference, held at Maansoor hotel, the Somaliland Minister for Foreign Affairs, Abdillahi Muhammad Duale, accompanied the Swedish ambassador and opened the conference by giving a brief description of the close and cooperative relationship that has been nurtured over the years between the two countries, and how this relationship has a lot to do with the large Somalilander community in Sweden. Mr Abdillahi Muhammad Duale underlined the pivotal role played by Somaliland’s Diaspora in guiding Sweden to take a bigger interest in Somaliland and its development. Mr Duale added that the day before, at the ministry of foreign affairs, he had fruitful discussions on bilateral issues, security, and the region's current political affairs, with the ambassador and his delegation.
The minister concluded by saying that the Swedish delegation met the president, and the president hosted a special dinner reception in their honour. The foreign minister pointed out that President Dahir Rayale Kahin and the Swedish delegation discussed at length many topics and issues concerning Somaliland and the region as a whole.
Transcript of Ambassador Jens Odlander's press conference:
I came here to lead the delegation from Stockholm to basically look at in new ways on how to better our development cooperation with Somaliland. As the Foreign Minister, Duale said, there is a lot of engagement relating to Somaliland in the Swedish Parliament and in the Diaspora, and even though Somaliland is a region not so known well, in general, but politically, its development and achievements is definitely known, and has had widespread coverage .
As you may know, we have a new policy document taken by the Swedish government in January this year, where the government of Sweden concluded that we will be treating Somaliland as a self governing region, when it comes to development aid, and that is in the development sector, and the meaning of this, of course, is we want to have a direct dialogue with the leadership here on the issues, on how to better the benefits in Somaliland's development in aid matters. I think that is a new positive signal and it means, in effect, that we will treat Somaliland in development aspect in its own, while of course dealing with the rest of Somalia also, on its own way. The institutions in the rest of Somalia will have nothing to do with what is going on in Somaliland, in our relationship, when it comes to the bilateral relation with aid. And that is, of course, not forgetting that Sweden is a major donor to the UN, EU and inside the rest of Europe.
Besides the discussions we had with the minister for foreign affairs, and the president, and the speaker of the lower chambers of parliament whom we met this morning, we also had very good and concrete discussions of development with the minister of planning. So a lot of exciting things are going in Somaliland. Much of these discussions were based on how to better organize the relationship between donors and Somaliland, and also how to look ahead with economic perspective and the kind of a vision most suited for Somaliland's economic and social development, and in all of those things, we are more than ready to engage as donors with Somaliland.
We had a very good discussion with the president yesterday. We also talked with the political institutions in Somaliland. We met with the representatives of the house of elders. It was very interesting for us to hear how they were viewing developments in Somaliland. And I would say, perhaps most strikingly, we have had some interesting discussions with some women representatives in Somaliland on issues relating to government policies, and so on.
The feeling I get coming here, is there is a lot to be learned in the democratization process in Somaliland. You have successfully gone through elections. There is an interesting political system, based on the constitution, which was carried out successfully and in a good manner.
When talking to women in Somaliland, there is an issue here. I think there are a lot of resources, of course, amongst women in Somaliland. They should be also taken on board in the political process. As the case in our country, we have had a hundred or so years. It is still being debated on how women should be empowered. I know there are obstacles towards achieving this in Somaliland. How women should be empowered and get women leaders inside the political institutions. That is one of the major challenges for the upcoming elections in the local government, and, of course, the presidential elections, later on. This is an issue that has to be discussed more in the society. Well, I hope so at least.
We have also discussed some issues concerning with both the president and the speaker of the lower chambers of parliament. I discussed the issue around the stalemate between the various institutions in Somaliland, particularly, the national election commission that is, of course, you get the feeling that this can be resolved, and that there is an issue. And I think also that both parties should get together and find a swift solution to this, because otherwise we shall find ourselves in a situation where there is little time left to organize the elections, and I think this would be really a pity given the track record of Somaliland elections in organizing elections before.
Another issue that has been in our discussions has also been, of course, the media climate in Somaliland, which I raised with the president in a very good engagement and very good and lengthy discussion about this, yesterday, and I am sure there will be solution to that also.
The last issue we discussed of course was in quite general terms was what's going in the national peace and reconciliation process in Somalia, and due to the proximity of the political process that has occurred here in Somaliland, and that its development in the democratic process should be seen and taken as an example for the rest of Somalia to follow when the peace and reconciliation conference begins. And this is, in essence, what we discussed with the president during last two days.
Q: Why is Sweden not giving full recognition to Somaliland instead of special entity status?
Odlander: I really can't answer that. I think you should ask the government of Sweden. I am only limited to represent my government, but not answer why it hasn't recognized Somaliland.
Q. Do you think other European countries will follow Sweden's initiative in their relation with Somaliland?
Odlander: We have the privilege to be the host member of the contact group of Somalia, and also EU… And hope other countries will do the same. It's possible that this will happen.
Q: Your title is `Ambassador for the Somali Peace and Reconciliation Process' what does this imply. Are you not the Swedish ambassador for Somalia?
Odlander: Well, no, I mean I am designated by my government as the Swedish ambassador to Somalia, but in reality, I am not officially titled as the ambassador for Somalia, because I have not submitted my credentionals to the Biadoa government, and therefore, cannot be titled as the ambassador to Somalia. My government believes, given the current situation in Somalia, the Swedish government cannot name an ambassador for Somalia till the time is right and there has been a political climate favorable for all parties to take part in.
Source: Somaliland Times