Friday, December 29, 2006

MP urges support for Somaliland

Toronto -- The instability in Somalia could turn it into a second Afghanistan if the international community does not take steps to engage the stable parts of the country, Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis said yesterday.

"You look at Sudan, you look at Ethiopia, you look at Somalia -- that whole region can explode in a couple of days; we cannot sit idly by," said the Toronto-area MP for Scarborough-Agincourt. "Unless we have a robust international commitment into the Horn of Africa, things are not going to get any better."

He called for Canada and other Western governments not to squander opportunities in Somalia's northern province, Somaliland, which has embraced democracy and remains relatively peaceful since it declared independence in 1991. Although Somaliland is not recognized internationally, the region has had three democratic elections since 2002 and has its own government.

Mr. Karygiannis said failure to provide political and economic support could result in this stable region being dragged into the chaos that has plagued the rest of Somalia, and puts the country at risk of becoming a terrorist safe-haven, as Afghanistan was under the Taliban.

The international community, including the United Nations, must recognize that Somaliland is not at war and that there is an opportunity to work with this peaceful region to bring stability to the rest of Somalia, he said.

Mr. Karygiannis visited Somaliland in 2002 and again in 2003 as an international observer for the region's presidential elections. The MP said he has spent years asking the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs to act in this region of Africa, to no avail.

"The Canadian government should take the lead to engage Somaliland to work with them," he said. "We have to make sure we are fully engaged in the Horn of Africa for a peaceful solution."


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