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Issue 503/ 17th - 23rd Sept 2011
Somaliland In Wikileaks
Hargeysa, Somaliland, September 17, 2011 (SL Times) – Somaliland and Somalia are on Wikileaks again. These cables give a good sense of what goes on behind closed doors in the world of high diplomacy. But it is also important to re-state the obvious: that these cables were written by American officials, with American interests in mind, and are not disinterested or neutral accounts. As far as Somaliland is concerned, the picture that emerges is of a country whose leaders, whether it is former President Dahir Rayale Kahin, Foreign Ministers Edna Ismail and Abdillahi Duale, Dr Omar Dihood and others, all constantly pushing for international recognition. Although Somaliland has not yet achieved the goal of international recognition, it is indisputably clear that Somaliland has established itself as a major player in the politics of the Horn of Africa and that it has slowly but surely developed its international credentials.
It emerges that there are four key countries that are trying to shape the future of Somaliland and Somalia: Ethiopia, Djibouti, US and the UK. The absence of Egypt and other Arab and Islamic countries is a good thing for Somaliland since most of them are not Somaliland supporters.
The Ethiopian leaders, particularly Prime Minister Zenawi and Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs Tekeda Alemu come across as the foreign leaders with deepest understanding and consideration for Somaliland. US Ambassador Yamamoto is shown as someone who through the years acquired valuable insights into Somaliland. John Carson has high regard for Somaliland’s democracy and has brought about the two –track policy but is overall too cautious.
Although relations with Djibouti had soured in the past, the cables depict steadily improving relations between Djibouti and Somaliland.
The most baffling case is that of the US embassy in Djibouti. Although they write copious notes and meet with many Somaliland officials and citizens, and listen to their requests, it seems that they are baffled by, and find it difficult to understand the dynamic behind the improving relations between Somaliland and Djibouti, let alone present ideas that could further help Djibouti and Somaliland.
The one American official who shines through is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi E. Frazer. Her sharp wit and quick mind are in display in this exchange between her and Edna:
In response to A/S Frazer's question on Somaliland's approach to gaining its independence, FM Ismail said "Somaliland has never had its day in court, and has never had a hearing." A/S Frazer asked Ismail where she thought that "court" should be. Ismail replied that, in her view, it should be the African Union. A/S Frazer advised Ismail that if Somaliland focused on a few key states in the African Union, such as South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya, other states would follow suit.
Here are some excerpts from Wikileaks:
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/28/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ET SOMALIA ELEC
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: DAS YAMAMOTO TALKS DEMOCRACY, SOMALIA WITH DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER
Classified By: Charge Vicki Huddleston for reason 1.4 (b,d)
1. (C) Summary:
Tekeda said the GOE believed Somaliland's people should decide whether they wanted independence. He recommended that the USG tell leaders from both Somaliland and the TFG that the U.S. expected them to work out their differences through dialogue. End Summary.
Tekeda remarked that most Somali leaders had a weakness, including links to drug-trafficking or other illicit activities, in marked contrast to their more responsible counterparts in Hargese.
9. (C) Tekeda told DAS Yamamoto that the GOE sought to maintain honest and transparent relations with both the TFG and Somaliland authorities in Hargeysa. Ethiopia had no position on the substance of Somaliland's desire for independence from Somalia; the GOE believed that the people of Somaliland should determine their relationship with Somalia. Tekeda added that Somaliland's quest for independence was not a policy driven exclusively by an elite, but rather enjoyed strong grassroots support. He called an AU-organized referendum "one option" for gauging dealing with the issue of independence. The Deputy Minister acknowledged Ethiopians' strong sentimental affinity for the Issacs clan in Somaliland, which had developed strong ties with Ethiopia over the decades. Still, explicit GOE support for independence of Somaliland or early diplomatic recognition of authorities in Hargeysa would be damaging. The GOE would instead seek to maintain "balance" between the TFG and Somaliland. Tekeda claimed that Somaliland and Puntland would have gone to war several times in recent years had it not been for GOE intervention. In managing the issue of Somaliland, the Deputy Minister suggested that Egypt would not be helpful, but would not be as big an obstacle as in the past, while Kenya was "neither here nor there."
10 (C) Yamamoto indicated that the USG would also be seeking balance in its relations with the TFG and Somaliland authorities. The U.S. would begin with low-level contacts with Hargeysa. Tekeda recommended that as a first step, the USG communicate to both Hargeysa and Jowhar its expectation that the two sides would start talking in order to resolve their disagreements through dialogue.
Tekeda claimed that Somaliland and Puntland would have gone to war several times in recent years had it not been for GOE intervention. In managing the issue of Somaliland, the Deputy Minister suggested that Egypt would not be helpful, but would not be as big an obstacle as in the past, while Kenya was "neither here nor there."
Classified By: Ambassador Donald Yamamoto for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) On the margins of a discussion with Acting AF Assistant Secretary Phil Carter On January 30, Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles made the case for "semi-recognition" of Somaliland as a critical step necessary to enhance the international community's ability to support Somaliland on regional security/stability and in its own domestic efforts toward democratization. Meles argued that the international community's status quo relationship with Somaliland is untenable and that Somaliland needs a way around the issue of legal recognition to allow the international community to "recognize some authority within Somaliland with which it can engage."
2. (C) Meles accepted Acting A/S Carter's argument that Somaliland's internal political dynamics over the past two years have not helped their case, and agreed that the region must get back on track and hold credible elections as planned this spring. Still Meles argued that Somaliland's democratic process cannot be sustained without some kind of interim recognition which can allow for the provision of international assistance to bolster Somaliland's own democratic process.
3. (C) Meles noted that he has already broached the notion of an interim- or semi-recognition, along the lines of what the Palestinian Authority enjoys, with Somaliland President Kahin Riyale, and that Riyale has become increasingly receptive to the strategy. Meles argued to Carter that the next steps must be for others in the international community to help convince the Somalilanders of such an approach. Then, Somaliland needs a "good sponsor" within the African community to advance the cause. Meles suggested that Djibouti would be the best choice, and acknowledged that Ethiopia would be the worst (as the move risked only fueling detractors' arguments that Ethiopia is bent on breaking up Somalia). Once the strategy had support among African states, Meles argued that the onus would be on the U.S. and UK to make the Somaliland semi-recognition case to the Europeans and others in the international community.
3. (S/NF) The British Ambassador suggested later that the international community should also discourage the Transitional Federal Government from any effort to take over Somaliland. Clear focus by the TFG in resolving their problems and allowing Somaliland to continue economic development will help enhance regional stability. Special treatment for Somaliland by the international community may help promote this course.
4. (S/NF) The MPs suggested that port development; infrastructure projects, especially road construction; capacity building; and budgetary assistance will help Somaliland stabilize. Livestock market development can also help expand productivity and promote trade from Somalia to the Middle East of livestock trade. They cautioned that the U.S. should not focus solely on security, though Somaliland potentially is a target of extremist elements from Somalia and the Middle East. The MPs made it clear that U.S. assistance as well as influence with the World Bank would help Somaliland.
KEEPING SOMALIA UNITED
5. (C) On Somaliland independence, Farai said that Somalia has signed agreements with Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen, and Djibouti affirming these countries' commitment to a united Somalia. (Note: Views at the AU Commission on Somaliland's request for AU membership are divergent. Deputy Chairperson Mazimhaka and Somalia Desk Officer Kambduzi refer to a legal process potentially involving an AU member state's sponsorship of the Somaliland case for consideration at an AU Summit, while Peace and Security Commissioner Djinnit states that Somaliland will not get AU support for independence because the AU does not want to set off a chain reaction of independence claims across the continent. End note).
In response to A/S Frazer's question on Somaliland's approach to gaining its independence, FM Ismail said "Somaliland has never had its day in court, and has never had a hearing." A/S Frazer asked Ismail where she thought that "court" should be. Ismail replied that, in her view, it should be the African Union. A/S Frazer advised Ismail that if Somaliland focused on a few key states in the African Union, such as South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya, other states would follow suit. Ismail agreed but also referred to the successes Somaliland has seen in its efforts to achieve a viable and stable government. "We've run our country in a relatively peaceful and democratic manner," Ismail told the A/S. She reaffirmed to A/S Frazer that Somaliland and its people "will never accept Somalia's rule over them."