Now that the conference is over, the question many people are asking
themselves is whether Somaliland won or lost by attending the
conference. Let us start with the part that is easier to evaluate which
is whether Somaliland lost. The reason we call this the easier part is
because there were definite criteria of failure that we, and others,
have mentioned before the conference. One such criterion would have been
the sight of Somaliland being treated like one of the several Somali
administrations. A sign of this would have been a photo of Somaliland
president perched among the Somali factions. No such thing took place.
On the occasion that the heads of the Somali administrations met with
the prime minister, not even a minor Somaliland officials was present,
let alone President Ahmed Sillanyo. When a group photo of the
participants at the conference was taken, Somaliland president stood far
from where other Somali leaders were bunched together. During the
speeches, Somalilandís President Ahmed Sillanyo was seated next to
Qatar, not with other Somali delegates. These may seem minor points to
some people but Somalilanders and Somalis put a lot of symbolism into
them, and in none of them did President Ahmed Sillanyo and his
delegation fail the test.
The other indication of failure would have been the prevention of
Somaliland from projecting its separate identity and subsuming it under
Somalia. This did not happen either. Somaliland President Ahmed Sillanyo
sat with a clear sign in front of him indicating that he represented
Somaliland. He also articulated Somalilandís position clearly and
cogently. Moreover, Somaliland stood out in the final communiquť which
suggested dialogue between Somaliland and the TFG or its successor. By
suggesting dialogue, the international community clearly identified
Somaliland as an entity with its own special identity and status. So in
terms of visuals and protocol, Somaliland did not lose, and in fact,
made some gains.
When it comes to substantive issues, Somaliland secured the following
1-Prime Minister Cameron highlighted Somalilandís role against piracy in
the conference itself and praised and welcomed Somalilandís delegation
in the House of Parliament.
2-Somaliland received a boost in economic aid from the United Kingdom.
3-The establishment of the Somaliland Development Corporation which will
help Somaliland in attracting investors.
4-Somaliland widened its diplomatic contacts (met with several countries
on the sidelines of the conference). Here we should note that diplomacy
is not just about what goes on in public but is also about what happens
behind closed doors.
5-Somaliland received good media coverage.
6-Somaliland projected an image of itself as a self-confident and
positive force that contributes to peace and security in the Horn of
Of course, like most Somalilanders, we wish more was accomplished. We
also think that since one of the reasons the United Kingdom invited
Somaliland was so that Somaliland would share its experiences with other
Somalis, they should have allowed Somalilandís voice to come out more
loudly as an example of Somalis who are neither engaged in piracy or
terrorism and who are not under anybodyís protection or tutelage.
Obviously Somaliland was at a bit of disadvantage in that it was
attending a conference that, at least formally speaking, was about
Somalia, not Somaliland. But Somalilandís delegation was able to
maneuver around that, and the alternative, which was not attending,
would have been worse. The international community, however, should not
assume that because Somaliland participated in this conference, it would
automatically participate in other Somalia conferences. Somaliland
should reserve for itself the right to evaluate conferences on a case by
case basis, and to say no if participating would hurt its interests.
All in all, Somaliland did well in this conference. Its delegation has
shown excellent discipline and hardly made any slips. And since we said
before the conference, President Ahmed Sillanyo will be held responsible
if Somalilandís interest were damaged in the conference, we have to give
him credit for a job well done.