Somaliland: Coming to America. President Muse Bihi accompanied by high level delegation visit US

A High-level delegation led by the President of the Republic of Somaliland Hon. Muse Bihi Abdi is expected to depart for the United States on Saturday following a special invitation from the US government.

Somaliland President, Muse Bihi Abdi on his arrival from Addis ababa (PhotoFile)

The President’s delegation consists of members of the Cabinet and some of Somaliland’s leading business entrepreneurs.

The members of the President’s delegation include the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr. Isse Kayd Mohamud, the Minister of Interior Mohamed Kahin Ahmed, the Minister of Information, Culture and Public Awareness Saleban Ali Koore, the Minister of Trade Mohamud Hassan Sa’ad, and Minister of Environment Shukri Haji Ismail Bandare, the longest-serving environment minister holding her position for the last 12 years.

The president’s delegation also includes Dahabshiil Group Chief Mohamed Said Duale, Somcable and MSG CEO Mohamed Said Gedi, Telesom Group CEO Abdikarim Mohamed Eid, and Abdinasir Adan Nur who is among Telesom’s Board of Directors.

Jama Muse Jama, director of Hargeisa Cultural Center, is the only civil society member accompanying president Bihi’s visit to Washington DC.

This will be president Bihi’s first visit to the United States since his 2017 election, building on last November’s visit to the US by Somaliland Foreign Minister Dr. Essa Kay and Dr. Edna Aden Ismail, the president’s special envoy for Somaliland/Somalia talks.

During his visit to Washington, president Bihi is expected to meet a number of United States officials, members of Congress, and also US policymakers.

President Muse Bihi will give his official policy speech at The Heritage Foundation on 14th March, 2022 and he is expected to address issues about Closer US-Somaliland ties, Somaliland’s guest for Recognition, its vital geographical location, and investment opportunities for the US companies.

President Muse Bihi Abdi, the 5th president of Somaliland, will be the fourth president to visit the United States during their time in office. The last head of state who visited Washington DC was the former Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo on 22 April 2013, three years after his election in 2010.

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According to diplomatic sources briefed on the matter, Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has sought Qatar’s help in convincing the United States Department of State to deny visas to the President of the Republic of Somaliland HE Muse Bihi Abdi, and members of his delegation. Sources add that Farmajo’s appeal to the Qatari Amir during his recent visit to Qatar comes after Somalia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ similar appeals to regional embassies were unsuccessful.

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11am Washington Time, President Biihi’s speech delivered at the Heritage Institution.

Somaliland’s leader makes pitch for autonomy in Washington


FILE - A woman and child relax next to a mural of Somaliland's flag, in Hargeisa, Somaliland, a semi-autonomous breakaway region of Somalia, on Feb. 9, 2022. The leader of Somaliland urged the international community on Monday, March 14 to recognize his territory's quest for independence, saying negotiations with Somalia had failed. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)
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FILE - A woman and child relax next to a mural of Somaliland’s flag, in Hargeisa, Somaliland, a semi-autonomous breakaway region of Somalia, on Feb. 9, 2022. The leader of Somaliland urged the international community on Monday, March 14 to recognize his territory’s quest for independence, saying negotiations with Somalia had failed. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The leader of Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Somaliland has urged the international community to recognize his territory’s quest for independence, saying negotiations with Somalia had failed.

Muse Bihi Abdi charged that in a decade of talks “Somalia has demonstrated a complete lack of interest in meaningful dialogue,” forcing Somaliland to press ahead with its quest for international recognition as an independent country.

“Dialogue has failed to achieve its objectives,” he said on Monday in Washington at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation, the conservative policy think tank.

Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, said he believes the “U.S. and Somaliland should be strong partners.” In a region beset by violence and the threat of extremists, a relatively calm Somaliland offers the U.S. the possibility of “a truly sustainable partnership” in the Horn of Africa, Roberts said.

“This territory, of its own accord, has stuck with a democratic system and process for three decades. It hasn’t been perfect, just like no democratic system is perfect,” he said. “But the old saying is that character is how you behave when no one is watching. Somaliland has stayed faithful to democracy when hardly anyone is noticing.”

Abdi, who has been Somaliland’s president since 2017, said he was “pursuing all available avenues” in asserting his territory’s autonomy from Somalia.

“The international community has a moral obligation to support Somaliland’s pursuit of international recognition,” he said.

Somaliland has no formal diplomatic relations with the U.S., and Abdi said he wants to see the U.S. joining some countries that maintain a diplomatic presence in Hargeisa, the capital.

Somaliland is strategically located by the Gulf of Aden, and Abdi spoke of recent efforts by his government to refurbish the port of Berbera in efforts to open up the region to global trade.

Somaliland’s territory of more than 3 million people broke away from Somalia in 1991 as the country collapsed into warlord-led conflict.

Despite lacking international recognition, Somaliland has maintained its own independent government, currency and security system. The region has largely succeeded in holding regular elections over the years, including parliamentary polls held last year.

Somaliland’s relative stability over the years has sharpened the sense of failure in Somalia, where deadly attacks by Islamic extremists are frequently reported and elections have been delayed because there is no agreement on how the vote should be carried out.

Somalia still sees Somaliland as part of its territory.

It remains unclear how the Somali federal government will respond to Somaliland’s move to seek international recognition as an independent country. Since 2012 several rounds of talks over possible unification have failed to reach a breakthrough.

Abdi said in his speech Monday that the war in Ukraine brought back painful memories of deadly military conflict with Somalia.

“We feel the pain and anguish that the people of Ukraine feel because we went through the same experience,” he said.

Faisal Rooble’s take

Breaking — United States Government Pledges Direct Engagement with Somaliland

According to sources present in today’s meeting between the delegation led by the President of Somaliland Muse Bihi Abdi and officials from the Departments of State and Defense and USAID, the two sides agreed on cooperating on a range of issues, most notably security and economic cooperation. Sources add that President Bihi held a brief private discussion with Molly Phee, who heads the Bureau of African Affairs.

Security cooperation that was discussed by President Bihi’s delegation and officials from the Department of Defense, as well as members of Africa Command, will include direct cooperation with Somaliland security forces in counter-terrorism and maritime security. This will be the first time the United States works directly with Somaliland on matters pertaining to security. Sources declined to confirm if the United States will share critical and real-time intelligence for counter-terrorism purposes.

A statement issued by the State Department Bureau of African Affairs confirmed the meeting between President Bihi’s delegation and US government officials and the discussion of US engagement with Somaliland and although it ended that all cooperation will be within the framework of a single Somalia policy, sources stated that the only time Somalia came up in a conversation was a question that was posed to President Bihi on his view of the possibility of further Somaliland and Somalia talks when there is a different regime in Mogadishu where he responded that he sees little value in continuing such fruitless talks and that Somaliland already has what it wants and that is its independence and sovereignty.

One of the immediate things that will be implemented as part of the discussion between the governments of the United States and Somaliland is to update the State Department’s Travel Advisory to reflect the favorable security conditions in Somaliland.

Although far from recognition, the pledge by the United States Departments of State and Defense of direct engagement with the Republic of Somaliland reflects a turning point in US government policy where the Executive Branch of the US government is not in alignment with members of Congress and will implement the security cooperation in Senator Risch’s Amendment in the Defense Authorization Act.

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