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Somaliland’s pursuit of recognition, maybe it is time to look East!

by Ahmed N. Amin – Assad
Tuesday, May 22, 2007


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Over the years, Africans looked up to the West for seeking political clout and fortunes to their countries but there seems to be a change in the making. China is now planning an investment in Africa at an unprecedented level. Spending $20bn in infrastructure and trade over a period of 3 years outstrips individual contributions from traditional donors and investors alike. For the first time in history, they hosted African Development Bank meeting which closed in Shanghai  on May 17, 2007.


The projects that China is now pursuing range from tackling shortfalls of electricity in Sub-Saharan countries by building hydroelectric dams in Ethiopia to already announced projects in rehabilitating railway networks in Nigeria and Angola. Obviously most of these large sums of money pouring into Africa are not going for free and the beneficiaries will be expected to pay them back through sustainable debt repayment programmes. But the approach is somewhat different from that of the Europeans and the Americans who have set strict criteria for qualifying long term borrowings. Understandably, having recently written off $50bn in African debt the Western governments have every reason to feel twitchy in giving out further loans.


However, the willingness from China is not about their stubbornness to the so-called international rules but they have long-term vested interest in Africa and their endowed natural resources. Primarily, the two main drivers are:


  • New oil supplies and raw materials to China’s growing industry
  • Potential market for China’s cheaper products

Even at the political arena it became apparent that without China’s influence on Sudan the crisis in Darfur will not be resolved and it is still an ongoing issue at the present time. The reason is that Sudan has contracted its oil produce with China and has signed up long term development and investment programmes.


As for Somaliland, 16 years on in pursuit of international recognition or other political venture and to no avail. The policy followed by the three leaders of Somaliland including the current incumbent, Hon. Dahir Riyale Kahin is to win the hearts and the minds of the Western decision makers by showing good governance and the adherence to the rule of law.


By the African standards, Somaliland’s achievement especially in the last 7 years have been exceptional albeit the limited resources and experiences in certain aspects of this challenging transformation. Yet there is very little sympathy from the outside world, particularly from the Western government who after all seem to preach that they have systems rewarding all the good things we have seen in Somaliland. The reward is yet to come!


On the other hand, the world is changing so much so that some of the old human rules and perceived criteria are no longer applicable in the practical world and we as Somalilanders must adopt and endeavour to capitalise these to our favour.


Have we ever considered sending delegates to China or India to sell our endowed natural resources? Surely, if Puntland warlords managed to strike deals with international companies to explore oil fields in disputed regions within Somaliland borders, our politicians who have been elected democratically are in a more advantageous position to sell the natural resources of their country.


To my opinion 16 years is a long time and the status quo is not sustainable. We simply can’t wait forever and hope for the best as we often do, that someone from the Western leaders will sympathise with us one day! Unfortunately time is no longer with us and it is time we shore up our resources to try something else, maybe look East for one moment, if that is going to make the difference.

Ahmed N. Amin – Assad
Cardiff, Wales (UK)
E-mail: [email protected]

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