Sunday, August 07, 2005

Awil’s Secret Meeting With Geedi Somaliland Times, Issue 185, August 6, 2005

Addis Ababa, August 6, 2005 (SL Times) – Somaliland’s Finance Minister Mr. Hussein Ali Duale, widely known as Awil, had reportedly held a secret meeting in Addis Ababa last month with Mr. Ali Geedi, premier of the Abdillahi Yusuf-led faction in the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.

News that the secret meeting took place was first reported by our sister newspaper “Haatuf” in its July 26, 2005 edition. Mr. Awil denied that the meeting took place. In a written response to Haatuf, (see the full text in Haatuf’s July 27, 2005 edition), Mr. Awil described the news about his purported meeting with Geedi as baseless. Accusing Haatuf of following a pattern of habitual fabrication of lies about national leaders, Mr. Awil also instructed his staff to cancel the finance ministry’s subscription to the country’s leading independent daily with immediate effect. However, the Somaliland Times can now confirm that Mr. Awil actually met with Geedi in Addis Ababa’s Sheraton Hotel shortly after the arrival of the latter in the Ethiopian capital on July 20, 2005. Officially, there is no information yet on the nature of the topics that the two men had actually discussed during their meeting. But one of Somalia’s news websites quoted Mr. Geedi last week as saying that he was highly satisfied with the outcome of his talks with Awil.

An investigation conducted by the Somaliland Times revealed that Awil arrived in Addis Ababa a few days before Mr. Geedi got there. (Geedi’s visit to Addis Ababa was reported in a news dispatch datelined July 21 by the official Ethiopian News Agency). The Somaliland finance minister concealed his arrival in Addis Ababa as well as his intention to meet Geedi from officials of the Somaliland mission in the Ethiopian capital. Word about Awil’s pre-arranged meeting with Geedi first surfaced when 2 TFG supporters living in Addis Ababa started looking for the Somaliland finance minister’s whereabouts. For this purpose, the 2 men contacted a number of the members of the Somaliland community in Addis Ababa. When asked why they were so interested in finding Awil, the 2 TFG agents disclosed that they were supposed to inform minister Awil that Mr. Geedi was in town and ready to receive him at the Sheraton Hotel. How Awil was finally located remains unclear. But according to highly reliable sources, he eventually managed to meet with Geedi, in the latter’s residence, at Addis Ababa Sheraton Hotel on Wednesday July 20, 2005.

Officials of the Somaliland mission in Addis Ababa contacted by the Somaliland Times on July 24, stayed non-committal on the whole affair. But after being pressed the next day by the Somaliland Times for a response, at least one of those officials conceded that the meeting between Awil and Geedi did happen. He however quickly pointed out that no one from the mission had prior knowledge about the meeting between the duo or had taken part in it. Credible independent sources confirmed to the Somaliland Times that the head of the Somaliland Liaison Office, Mr. Yusuf Jama Burralle, was actually unaware about the meeting. Since becoming finance minister in June 6, 2003, Mr. Awil was often criticized for spending more time on suspicious trips to East African capitals, particularly Addis Ababa and Nairobi, than on his work at the ministry in Hargeysa.

Omar Haji Mahmoud, a former chief of Somaliland mission in Addis Ababa recalled by saying, “It wasn’t unusual for Awil to appear unannounced in Addis, and then be seen conducting meetings with the strangest kinds of peoples.” When recently the US consulate in Addis Ababa declined to issue him a US visa, Awil insisted to friends that his application was still being considered.

Despite Awil’s poor performance, whether as finance minister or as a special diplomatic emissary, he continued to enjoy blind support from President Rayale. Instead of distancing himself from Awil’s latest blunder in meeting Geedi, Mr. Rayale not only remained silent about the issue but bizarrely enough commissioned his controversial finance minister to fly to Djibouti last Tuesday to meet with a visiting US Congressional delegation. A lot of people now believe that Awil wouldn’t have met with Geedi had he not received a green light from Mr. Rayale. The President’s passive response to the whole affair of the meeting between Awil and Geedi has already led many people to question for the first time his true stand on the issue of Somaliland’s independence. While the Somaliland government returned Osman Atto from Hargeysa airport on July 11 on the pretext that he was a member of the Mbagathi government, the Awil-Geedi meeting is seen as though Mr. Rayale is up to something fishy.

It has been the policy of successive Somaliland governments, including the present one, headed by President Dahir Rayale Kahin, not to meet with the officials of any government of Somalia that claims jurisdiction over Somaliland. Since its liberation from Somalia and declaration of independence in 1991, Somaliland has never participated in the series of internationally and regionally sponsored attempts to resolve the conflict in Somalia. The country’s position has been that independent and peaceful Somaliland should not allow itself to melt into the externally-led efforts to form a central government for Somalia. Somaliland held that any such attempts to form a government for Somalia, should deal with the former Italian colony of Somalia only. According to this policy, Somaliland and Somalia can talk about their future relations as two equal and sovereign countries, a position that Premier Geedi’s government has not yet accepted.

As predicted by most political analysts, Mr. Awil’s clandestine meeting with a senior official of a government officially claiming to have legal jurisdiction over Somaliland territories is likely to spark further public backlash against President Rayale’s government, which is already faced with widespread popular discontent.

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