Friday, June 24, 2005

Somaliland Recognition Convention Opens in L.A. on Friday

Somaliland Recognition Convention Opens in L.A. on Friday.

As Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice takes her message of a new American foreign policy emphasizing democracy and human rights to the Middle East, preparations are being made in Los Angeles to discuss those topics plus international recognition this weekend among Somaliland government, civil society representatives, Somalilanders from their Diaspora and friends in theUnited States.

The first Somaliland Recognition Convention ever organized in theUnited Stateswill meet Friday through Sunday, June 24-26, at the LAX Airport Hilton Hotel, 5711 West Century Boulevard, Los Angeles. It is sponsored by the local Somaliland Policy & Reconstruction Institute (SOPRI), Somaliland Diaspora communities in theUnited StatesandCanada,and American friends of this small democratic nation on the Horn of Africa.

California Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally is the honorary convention chair. Saeed Megag Samater, executive committee member of the conventions Southern California Organizing Committee, said Dymally as a member of Congress chaired the House Subcommittee on Africa, and visited the Horn of Africa. He has first hand experience of what it means to seek the independence of ones country. Assemblyman Dymally is chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, and serves as the Chief Protocol Officer of the California Legislature.

The purpose of the convention is to have attendees hear the Somaliland delegation and guests in sessions and forums discuss the status of democracy and governance in Somaliland, civil society, the economy, and the response of the international community to efforts by Somaliland to be recognizedagainas a sovereign state.

Somaliland seeks international recognition so its people can participate fully in normal relations with the rest of the world. It wants to have

observer status at the United Nations and other international bodies
access to international development assistance from multilateral institutions like the World Bank
access to guarantees and export credits from entities like the U.S. Export-Import Bank for firms that want to trade with or invest in Somaliland
ability for its people to travel for business or personal purposes on Somaliland documents.
Somalilanders hope that the visit of Secretary Rice to the Middle East and the change in American foreign policy that she is discussing will signal a new beginning for Somaliland and its aspirations. TheUnited StatesandGreat Britainhave been reluctant in the past to re-recognize or encourage Somaliland, many believe, because they would be viewed as altering the status quo regardless of how dysfunctional affairs are elsewhere in the Horn of Africa.

Convention speakers and guests include Parliamentarians Jim Karygiannis of Canada, Pirgitta Ollson and Patar Kool of Sweden; Edna A. Ismail, Foreign Minister of Somaliland; Abdillahi Dualleh, Minister of Information of Somaliland; Dr. Saad Sheikh Noor, Somaliland representative in the United States; Mohamed Ahmed Mahamuud, chairman, Kulmiye Party; Faisal Ahmed Farah, chairman, Justice and Welfare Party of Somaliland; Ahmed Hashi Abdi, executive committee member, UDUB Party; Omar Areth Galib, former Prime Minister of Somalia; Mahamoud Salah Nur, former Foreign Minister of Somaliland; Abdirahim Abbey Farah, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations; Abdillahi Adan, former Executive of the Arab League; Professor Ibrahim Megag Samater, former leader of the Somali National Movement.

Also David Shiin, former American Ambassador to Ethiopia; Anab Omar, activist and leader, representing Womens Organizations; Roda Elmi Hirsi and Mohamed Omer Hajji, representing Youth Organizations; Professor Iqbal Jhazbhay, lecturer, University of South Africa; Professor Hussein Adan, Holy Cross University; Professor Edmund Keller, University of California Los Angeles; Professor Suleiman Ahmed Gulaid, one of the founders of Amoud University; Dr.Saad Ali, one of the founders of Buroa University; Dr. Mohamed Rashid, director, Academy of Peace and Development; Matt Bryden, International Crisis Group; and Mohamed Ibrahim Yassin, managing director, Daallo Airlines.

Somaliland has been building its own democratic structure for the past 15 years. It has political parties, multi-party elections, a free market economy, and is protective of the rights of women. In 2000, a constitution based on principles of representative democracy was unanimously approved by the people. In 2002 and 2003, municipal and presidential elections were held, and certified as free and fair. When parliamentary elections are held this September, Somaliland will have elected representatives at the local and national level, further enhancing it as a model of democracy on the Horn of Africa.

The former British Somaliland first won its independence in 1960, and with European encouragement, joined with the former Italian Somaliland to form the Republic of Somalia. That merger failed, and a disastrous civil war followed. In 1991, Somaliland declared its independence, and the rest ofSomaliafell to the control of several war lords.

Somaliland was devastated during the civil war, but has reestablished itself. It now seeks recognition from the international community so it can establish normal commercial, economic and institutional relations with the rest of the world. The themes of Somaliland Recognition meets such as this convention focus on democracy and recognition, education and social development, economic development and natural resources, and the role of Diaspora communities in the development of Somaliland.

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