|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives | Search|
President Rayale’s US visit
Now that President Dahir Rayale Kahin and his delegation are back from their eight-day visit to the United States and the dust has settled, it is time to do some quick assessment.
One of the first questions that was raised about the president’s trip was whether it was official or not. The answer to this question is that it was unofficial in that no formal invitation was issued, but when you look at what the president did in Washington, who he saw and what was discussed, it was for all intents and purposes an official visit. This is probably what President Rayale meant when he said he had an implicit invitation “si dadban.” The confusion was caused by the fact that Somaliland is not recognized, which meant that protocol did not allow the United States to issue an official invitation, as head of state, to President Rayale. But there is no doubt that the President was invited, otherwise, how he could have had all of those meetings with US officials without an invitation, or at least, prior arrangement?
When it comes to the visit itself, we think it had both real achievements and Shortcomings.
- President Dahir Rayale Kahin and his delegation carried themselves in a dignified and self-confident manner. The fact that the US government welcomed the delegation and took charge of their security from the moment they arrived until they left greatly enhanced the stature of the delegation, and sent the message that these individuals, and the people they represent, are valued by the United States.
-The variety in the departments of the US government the Somaliland delegation met with showed that the US is willing to engage Somaliland on a broad range of issues, not just security matters. Some might say but President Egal had such meetings with various departments in the US government but nothing came of it. While it is true that President Egal had such a wide variety of meetings, according to our sources, US officials have shown, this time, a much higher level of eagerness to work with Somaliland than they had done in the past.
-President Rayale took the time from his busy schedule to meet with Somaliland’s community in the United States and the Somaliland Forum. He is especially to be commended for making an effort to meet with citizens from Sool region.
- One of the most obvious shortcomings of the president’s trip was the lack of international media coverage. Despite the fact that the delegation did a good job in providing timely reports in Somali (both print and photos), they did an awfully poor job in engaging the international media. As a matter of fact, we are not aware of any non-Somali news coverage of the president’s visit. This is why the answer that the State Department’s Spokesman, Sean McCormack, gave to the question about Somaliland was so damaging. Mr McCormack was clearly caught off-guard and fell back on the old US policy but the fact that his comments took place in an international news vacuum gave it a more harmful edge than it would have if there were other news reports.
-Although the president did meet with the Somaliland community in the US, there were clear signs that he was just doing it as a formality and there was no genuine attempt on his part to address the diaspora’s concerns, particularly in the areas of human rights and good governance. Even on the question of the diaspora’s potential contribution to the cause of Somaliland’s recognition, the President just repeated the obligatory statement about the diaspora’s need to lobby for Somaliland and did not have a coherent plan to work with the diaspora on this vital issue.
-The President and his delegation did not reach out to the many foreign intellectuals, academics and journalists who have championed Somaliland’s cause. The president and his delegation neither solicited these individuals for their views nor sent them even a word of thanks for the invaluable work they had done and continue to do for Somaliland.
Prior to the president’s visit, there has been much talk about an on-going shift in US policy toward Somaliland, involving recognizing Somaliland as a sovereign country.
The way the president was treated, the people he met and what we could glean from the substance of his discussions with US officials have all reinforced the perception that indeed change is brewing. The challenge now is for the United States to translate those concepts into a concrete plan to assist Somaliland and bring it out of its limbo, so that it fully contributes to democracy and international security in the Horn of Africa. Somaliland’s officials should let their Americans counterparts know that time is of the essence in this matter.
Source: Somaliland Times