Somaliland Foreign Affairs Minister Welcomes GDC Delegation
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Somaliland Yasin Hagi Mohamoud welcomed Secretary General of the Global Diplomatic Council Hon. Amb. Yohan Byrde to Somaliland during the third week of October 2019 in order to discuss the international relations of Somaliland and the activities of the GDC.
The Global Diplomatic Council has been working for many years with representatives from numerous governments on increasing their international standing and ability to maximize their integration into international institutions. The GDC Secretary General Yohan Byrde and the Deputy Secretary General Jeroen Zandberg had many fruitful discussions with the Foreign Affairs Minister and his advisors on how the long-time experience and extensive network of the GDC in international affairs could best be utilised in order to bring Somaliland into the international fold.
The Republic of Somaliland is a de-facto State located in the Horn of Africa. It has an area of 176,119 km2 and a population of 4.5 million. On 26 June 1960 Somaliland was granted its independence by Britain and became the 15th State to gain independence in Africa. Thirty-five UN Members recognised its independence and sovereignty. However, on the first of July 1960 Somaliland and Somalia signed an agreement which established the Union of Somalia and Somaliland. This Union survived until 18 May 1991 when Somaliland declared its independence. Since that day the government of Somaliland has worked tirelessly on reasserting its presence on the international stage. Somaliland has been an open, democratic and peaceful country since 1991 and serves as a model and a beacon of hope in a region where dictatorships and failed States are not the exception but the rule.
The future of Somaliland looks bright and promising. For instance 2020 will see the finalisation of several major infrastructural works that will play an important role in the future economic development and international integration of Somaliland. The new international airport in Berbera, funded by the UAE, will open its doors. The Free Zone in the coastal city will also be officially opened and the extension of the Port in Berbera by DP World with an additional 800 meters of modern docking facilities will be finalised. A further sign of economic success is the fact that the oil and gas surveys which have been carried out by British Genel and UAE based RAK Gas have moved to the next stage. Contracts between the oil companies and the government of Somaliland have been signed and in 2020 the drilling will start.
During the third week of October 2019, the Global Diplomatic Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Somaliland held many informative and inspiring meetings about the various scenario’s and strategies that could improve the position of Somaliland within international institutions. There are many challenges ahead. These challenges offer great opportunities for the rapid development of Somaliland and the participation of Somaliland in international institutions. This increased recognition will hopefully lead to the fact that Somaliland will again be able to be a full member of the international community and take their rightful place among all the other democratic, prosperous sovereign States. The Global Diplomatic Council is ideally suited to make this a reality and Hon. Amb. Yohan Byrde looks forward to cooperating with the government of Somaliland.
GDC Secretary General Meets Somaliland Diaspora Agency
Representatives from the Global Diplomatic Council (GDC) visited the offices of the Diaspora Agency in Hargeisa, Somaliland on 22 October 2019. Hon. Amb. Yohan Byrde, Secretary General and Executive Chairperson of the GDC and Mr. Jeroen Zandberg, Deputy Secretary General, had several informative meetings with the SLDA Chairman, Abdi Abdullahi Hersi, and numerous project managers of the Diaspora Agency. During these interchanges the SLDA representatives explained the workings of the agency and outlined their plans for the coming years. In the discussions that followed the focus lay on the possibilities of cooperation between the Agency and the GDC and how the international network and other resources of the GDC can best be utilised to support the Agency in their work for Somaliland and the over half a million Somalilanders in the diaspora.
The Somaliland Diaspora Agency (SLDA) was established in 2010 by presidential decree in order to have a better understanding of the diaspora of Somalilanders and to develop and implement a framework to enable the Somaliland communities abroad to keep in touch with their country of origin. Furthermore, the Diaspora Agency is active in attracting investments to Somaliland and provides information and support for those who wish to set up a company or wish to engage in some other form of economic activity in Somaliland. Since the majority of the Somalilanders abroad are engaged in economic activity in their new homes, there is an enormous pool of resources that Somaliland can tap into in order to develop the country further. The remittances of Somalilanders working abroad sent back to the country number many millions of US dollars per year and are vital to the economy of Somaliland. The diaspora is also a major source of funds where it comes to investment in the retail- and hospitality sectors. The majority of the diaspora investments come from the UK, USA and Canada.
The meetings ended in a positive atmosphere and laid the groundwork for a future working relationship between the Diaspora Agency and the Global Diplomatic Council. His Excellency Amb. Yohan Byrde is committed to working with the Diaspora Agency in improving the relations between Somaliland and its Diaspora.
Somaliland has great untapped economic potential, which is slowly becoming known throughout the world. The GDC delegation also visited the coastal city of Berbera which has a modern port that is built and operated by DP World, a Dubai based company, which bought a lease for thirty years and invested 442 Million US dollars into the facilities of the port. The newly established Free Zone is also located in Berbera. This area provides companies in trade and production many benefits and is set to grow rapidly when it is officially opened in 2020. The Berbera port is one of the main channels through which goods are transported to and from landlocked Ethiopia, a country with a population of over 100 million people. The predicted economic growth of Ethiopia therefore also provides real business opportunities for Somaliland.
The extensive network of the Global Diplomatic Council also includes business leaders and state-of-the-art companies who believe in the added value of a globalised value chain and the profits these bring for all. The GDC believes that Somaliland is one of the few diamonds in the rough waiting to be developed and explored with great possibilities for successful businesses. It therefore sees itself as a logical and valued partner of the Somaliland government, its agencies and multinational business corporations.
Supreme Court President of Somaliland Meets GDC Delegation
As part of the fact finding mission to Somaliland, Global Diplomatic Council (GDC) Secretary General and Executive Chairperson Hon. Amb. Yohan Byrde and Deputy Secretary General Mr. Jeroen Zandberg were welcomed by the Somaliland Supreme Court President Aadam Axmed in his office in Hargeisa, Somaliland on 23 October 2019.
The GDC is very involved in the strengthening of (international) institutions and the promotion of peace as part of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. Since many of the projects and partnerships of the GDC are related to SDG 16, the meeting with the Supreme Court President offered a great opportunity to share experiences and find opportunities to cooperate and improve the workings of the Judicial Commission of Somaliland. The Supreme Court President has been in office for six years and prior to his appointment was a professor for 15 years. He combines his excellent knowledge and experience with a high spirited zeal to reform the countries’ judicial system and make peace and justice a reality for all Somaliland citizens. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the Somaliland system, which consists of 300 district courts that cover the entire country, most of which is sparsely populated. The Supreme Court is the body of appeal and in order to be closer to the people, the judges and support staff travel every year to establish themselves for half a year in another part of the country.
The large distances and the low population density in most of the Somaliland regions, combined with the requirement of direct and universal access to the courts, means that the costs are high. Most of these expenses are covered by the court fees, which are collected by the ministry of finance but placed in the 40 million USD budget of the ministry of Justice. Fortunately, Somaliland also receives international support for its dedicated work on the Rule of Law in Somaliland, as well as for training and capacity building of its staff. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has a very ambitious agenda to improve the Somaliland justice system by enhancing the participation of women and marginalised groups within its ranks and to improve the awareness of their legal rights and how they can claim those through the court system.
The GDC looks forward to having a close cooperation with the President of the Supreme Court to strengthen the Rule of Law in Somaliland and provide peace and justice to all its citizens. The GDC already has many programs running in which the Judicial Commission can participate in the near future. On top of that, the meeting provided GDC Secretary General Yohan Byrde with many insights into the state of the judicial system of Somaliland and what further capacity building options are needed and what partners are best suited for this challenge.
House of Representatives and Foreign Affairs Committee Open Their Doors to the GDC Delegation
On 23 October 2019, Global Diplomatic Council (GDC) Secretary General and Executive Chairperson Hon. Amb. Yohan Byrde and Deputy Secretary General Mr. Jeroen Zandberg had a high level meeting with the Speaker of the Somaliland House of Representatives Hon. Bashe Mohamed Farah. Film crews of the main television stations of Somaliland broadcast the arrival of the GDC delegation to the premises of the House of Representative. After a short presentation to the media, the GDC delegation, the Speaker of the House and a number of Somaliland parliamentarians continued their discussions behind closed doors.
The Speaker of the House explained the workings of the parliament in Somaliland politics and emphasised the fact that Somaliland has been a peaceful and democratic country for almost three decades, despite being in a region where failed States and dictatorships are the rule instead of the exception. Unfortunately, the House has no links or communication with their counterpart in Somalia. It has some connections with other parliaments of countries in the region like Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya and the Speaker hopes that these will strengthen and will also be expanded to other countries. This issue is one of the areas in which the GDC offered to play a role in improving the international links with other parliaments.
The House has 82 members who are elected through a popular vote. The next election is scheduled for 2020 and promises to be highly contested, as were most previous elections, showcasing the vibrant democratic culture of Somaliland, which is also reflected in the nine committees of the House of Representatives.
The Chairperson, Hon. Ahmed Abdi Nour, and vice-chairperson, Hon. Abdiaziz Ismail Dualeh, of the Foreign Affairs committee of the House of Representatives participated in the meeting. The Foreign Affairs committee has frequent talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and takes part in meetings. The committee continues to push for a road map that outlines the strategy of the government and provides an impetus to break the deadlock of non-recognition that hinders the further growth of Somaliland. The GDC delegation and the committee members had a lively conversation about the history, present and future of the foreign relations of Somaliland and how the GDC might be able to assist with increasing the international position of Somaliland.
According to the Foreign Affairs Committee Members the recognition process has been halted for some time now with hope fading away of coming to an agreement soon that would do the country and the people justice. The international community holds on to the opinion that the resolution of the status of Somaliland is up to the African Union, which however is reluctant to accept the reality of an independent Somaliland due to the precedence this might provide to other territories in Africa. Until two years ago there were bi-lateral talks, with Turkey being the facilitator. However, these talks were halted. Somaliland is currently looking to restart talks and hopes that several countries will present themselves as mediators, not mere facilitators, between Somalia and Somaliland. The GDC is well equipped to support Somaliland in this process and in the coming months will work closely with the Somaliland government and other institutions to manoeuvre the country into a favourable position that does the aspirations of the people justice.