Article: Somaliland – Open for Business

Quman Jibril Akli of Somaliland Focus quoted in the Guardian…. click here to read

Blog: International Engagement in Somalia – Lessons from Somaliland?

A new post from Dr Michael Walls of Somaliland Focus… click here to read

Press release: Somaliland holds lessons for London Somalia conference

Somaliland Focus (UK) welcomes the attendance of a senior political delegation from Somaliland as a non-signatory participant at this week’s London Somalia Conference

Bearing in mind the long history of tension over the issue of recognition of Somaliland, the interest of the British government in having Somaliland’s senior political representatives at the table is a positive step, as is the willingness of Somaliland’s representatives to participate in an event bringing together key political actors from across the Somali region as well as international leaders.

We hope the event can act as a springboard for a shift in international focus away fromSomaliaas a source of woe for the world and towards solutions that seek to offer lasting benefit and stability to Somalis themselves. Such solutions can only work in the long term by utilising local indigenous political and social institutions.

Somalilandoffers many lessons in this regard. Since declaring independence fromSomaliain 1991 it has, through grassroots negotiation, defused fraught local rivalries to build a genuine democracy through a series of elections. In 2010, its presidential vote saw a peaceful and orderly transition of power, a rarity inAfrica, in an election declared free and fair by international observers.

We thus urge participants in the conference to take note of the examples offered by practices in Somaliland in crafting a path forward forSomalia. WhileSomalilandcannot provide a transferrable model for peace, experience there demonstrates the importance of external support for locally-led processes.

External military intervention has not served to promote Somali stability or development in the past, and cannot be expected to provide any more than interim stability in the future. There is, for example, a real danger right now that extremism which has plagued the south of Somalia could be displaced to Somaliland and neighbouring areas, and any decisions taken need to pay due attention to this risk.

We welcome the UK Prime Minister’s recognition that solutions to UK security concerns for the Somali areas must be built on local development. We urge his government and all those present at the conference to take this commitment seriously. Indigenously-based solutions require long-term engagement with localised groups, and demand willingness from international actors to engage with all groups who are able to demonstrate legitimacy at a community level, regardless of whether they claim religious or clan affiliation or both.

Cecilia Milesi, chair of Somaliland Focus (UK) said: “Somaliland’s quest for recognition is well-known. Less well-known are its efforts to build a state and democracy from the bottom up, with the recent launching of a national development plan showing how farSomalilandhas travelled. We urge all participants in this week’s conference to learn fromSomaliland’s example. Creative ways must be found to giveSomalilandassistance to keep following its path.”


Somaliland Focus (UK) was established in Londonin 2005 by a group of individuals with an interest in Somaliland.  Founding members included a number who had worked as international election observers at the parliamentary elections in September 2005, as well as members of the Somaliland diaspora in the UK, and others with an interest in the territory. In June 2010, Somaliland Focus (UK) participated in the international election observation mission to Somaliland’s second-ever presidential elections. Read about us at or follow us on Twitter @SomalilandFocus.

For further comment, or to request an interview, please contact Cecilia Milesi at, or Dr Michael Walls at

Blog: Somaliland – proof that aid doesn’t work…?

…or lessons on some of the kinds that do (sometimes)

A blog piece by Dr Michael Walls, outgoing SFUK chair, in response to media coverage of how Somaliland’s lack of recognition supposedly has a bearing on the aid effectiveness debate. You can read the blog here.

Letter to Minister of Information about press freedom

The below letter was sent by Somaliland Focus to Somaliland’s Minister of Information, following reports about the lack of due process involved in recent arrests of journalists and closure of media outlets.

The Committee to Protect Journalists‘ article on this subject can be found here: In Somaliland, crackdown on the press continues

Ahmed Abdi Mahamud ‘Haabsade’
Minister of Information
Republic of Somaliland

17 January 2012

Dear Minister,
I am writing to you once again on behalf of Somaliland Focus (UK) which as you may know was formed in London in November 2005 by a group of observers of the election to the House of Representatives that year. Since our formation we have been making the case for wider awareness of Somaliland and its democratic process. We were joint coordinators of the international observers to 2010’s presidential election, and were one of the organisations which helped to form the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Somaliland.

We’ve been proud to be associated with the achievements of Somaliland. This is what moves us to write now, seeking clarification about recent arrests of journalists, the closure of Horn Cable TV, and the apparent lack of due process involved.

We were frankly alarmed by reports that a large number of individuals associated with media organisations were targeted. It is extremely difficult to imagine a valid justification for such an action as the scale and scope of the arrests strongly suggest a political rather than legal motivation.

We have complained in the past about threats from ministers and security personnel towards the chief editor of YOOL, a daily newspaper, following unfavourable coverage, and the arrest of Mahamud Abdi Jama, the editor of ‘Waaheen’, another daily newspaper and an award-winning African journalist, following articles which accused the government of nepotism. In January 2011, we are aware that he was sentenced to three years imprisonment. Following international protest (including from the Committee to Protect Journalists), he
was granted a presidential pardon. We were again concerned when Ahmed Adan Hirsi, known as Ahmed ‘Dhere’, a reporter for Haatuf, was arrested in Berbera.

The latest actions seem to be far worse. They appear to be occurring on a greater scale, and as I noted above, this makes it extremely hard to imagine an adequate legal justification. We therefore call on the Somaliland Government to immediately and publicly explain the legal grounds behind these arrests and the closure of Horn Cable TV. Furthermore, we would like to understand how the government is ensuring freedom of expression in the country and the safety of media workers who hold the right to work
free of intimidation. We are aware that those arrested have now been released, but we remain seriously concerned at the apparently peremptory nature of the action.

As you know, the media is an important component in Somaliland’s transition into a fully-fledged democratic state. There is a significant need for work on fully institutionalising the freedom of the media, particularly in such areas as making defamation a civil rather than a criminal offence.

Actions against media were a regrettable hallmark of past Somaliland administrations and we are extremely disappointed to see this government continuing to employ such practices. Events such as these reflect poorly on Somaliland and make our task difficult in arguing that Somaliland is a democratising state when basic norms of media freedom are apparently violated. The UK Prime Minister’s recent announcement of a conference on Somalia to be hosted by the UK presented an opportunity for us to lobby for greater recognition of Somaliland’s achievements. This action makes that job extremely difficult.

Yours faithfully,
Cecilia Milesi
Somaliland Focus (UK)

Event: 4th Hargeisa International Book Fair

The fourth Hargeisa International Book Fair (HIBF) will take place on 22-26 July 2011.

HIBF is the main cultural event in Somaliland and one of the largest public celebrations of books in East Africa. Every July, HIBF brings writers, poets, artists and thinkers from Somaliland and from all over the world to share and discuss their art and literary productions with the audience. The main aim of the festival is to promote a culture of reading and writing in the country, by producing and publishing high quality Somali literature and translating international classical literature, (including fiction, poetry and drama) into Somali.

Press release: Moving Libraries 2011

Redsea-online Cultural Foundation and its partners Kayd and Ilays, in collaboration with other Somaliland cultural organisations, present the ‘moving library’ tour as an integral part of the upcoming Hargeisa International Book Fair (HIBF) 2011.

Read the press release here.

Paper: Taxation, Political Accountability, and Foreign Aid: Lessons from Somaliland

Taxation, Political Accountability and Foreign Aid, a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Development Studies by Nicholas Eubank from Stanford says that Somaliland’s lack of eligibility for foreign aid has led to greater government accountability because of its dependency on local tax revenues. He argues that this has: “provided those outside the government with the leverage needed to force the development of inclusive, representative and accountable political institutions.”

You can read an Oxfam blog about the paper here: Is taxation better than aid for state-building? The case of Somaliland

Report: Somaliland: Change and continuity

Somaliland: Change and continuity

Report by International Election Observers on the June 2010 presidential elections in Somaliland

This in-depth report, authored by Steve Kibble and Michael Walls, joint co-ordinators of the mission, goes into detail on the conduct of the mission and the presidential poll, and makes recommendations for the conduct of future polls in Somaliland. It details the huge role played in the mission by members of the Somaliland diaspora, and the wide support the mission had from locally-based organisations in Somaliland.

Event: Somaliland: the way forward, 18 May 2011

After a peaceful election and transfer of power, May 2011 marks the twentieth anniversary of Somaliland’s declaration of independence. At this event, participants presented the findings of the international election observer meeting, assessed Somaliland’s progress over the past 20 years and discussed its future. The meeting launched both the observers report and the book Somaliland: the Way Forward.

Participants were:

  • Steve Kibble, Chair, International Election Observation Team, Somaliland
  • Dr Abdishakur Sheik Jowhar, contributor to Somaliland: the Way Forward
  • Sarah Howard, International Observation Team, Somaliland
  • Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell, Executive Director, African Peoples Advocacy
  • Dr Jama Musse, Editor, Somaliland: the Way Forward


Press release: Somaliland’s women praised for building democracy

Women and young people are playing a key role in building a democratic society in Somaliland, says a report on Somaliland’s 2010 presidential elections by the international election observation team.

Sucaad Odowa-Nielsen, a member of the Somaliland diaspora in the UK who participated as an election observer, described the contribution of women to campaigning as “well-organised, resourceful and articulate in conveying party policy, not only in the country itself, but also in Somaliland enclaves throughout the world”.

Go to the Progressio website to read the press release.

Radio: Election observers – the New Zealand angle

Radio Live (New Zealand) interviewed Michael Walls and Conrad Heine of Somaliland Focus from Hargeisa just after the presidential election. Click here to listen.

An interview with Dr Mohamed Abdullahi Omar

On August 4th 2010, Somaliland Focus chaired a meeting at Chatham House, at which Dr Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, Somaliland’s Foreign Minister, spoke about the post-presidential election environment. We spoke with Dr Omar afterwards.

As Foreign Minister in Somaliland’s new cabinet, what do you see as Somaliland’s main needs from the perspective of your new position, and what are your main priorities?

Somaliland has enormous needs. From a Foreign Minister’s point of view, I think Somaliland needs to be admitted to the UN and AU as a member of state, to have a fairer trade relations with the world, to access international financial systems and foreign investment and to contribute to the regional security. I will be taking a pragmatic approach to achieve these objectives. I will first focus on integrating Somaliland into the region and ensuring our voice is heard more loudly in Africa and will work on getting an effective co-operation with the UN and aid agencies. We seek a political and economic status that allows us to interact with the regional and international community freely and separately. We will also take a responsible role in addressing some of the prolonged conflicts in the region and  ensure we live in peace with our neighbours.

What are your plans and hopes for the relationship between Somaliland and its immediate neighbours – namely Ethiopia and Djibouti?

We will continue to improve our relationships with the neighbouring countries. With Ethiopia we have security and trade relations for a long time and we are committed to that cooperation. Likewise with Djibouti, we have a good relationship. We have high-level delegations from both countries during our recent presidential inauguration. That is an indication of the existing good relationships.

How do you propose to address the relationship between Somaliland and Puntland? And what about Somaliland’s relationship with Somalia?

We are willing to help Somalia where we can in bringing peace and security to that country. When  stable and effective government is in place in Somalia, we can cooperate on matter such as security, piracy, trade and  environmental issues.

How do you hope to engage Somaliland with the various international organisations – African Union, IGAD, UN?

We are now in discussions with IGAD about ways of integrating Somaliland into this regional organisation. Somaliland has a lot to contribute to the region- security, democracy, conflict resolution methods etc. With AU there are some issues to be resolved, which are now being dealt with. We have requested the UN to upgrade Somaliland’s security level, taking into account of the recent successful and internationally declared free and fair election and the power transfer that was extremely peaceful.

The question of recognition has been overaraching. But it may not be achieved. How should Somaliland address this reality?

The search for a full political recognition will remain Somaliland’s goal. But in the absence of this, the people of Somaliland will continue their journey to more peace, more democracy and more economic development. We will work with international community and with regional states in improving the regional security and we will work on generating resource to sustain the institutions and the systems we have put in place in Somaliland.

What in your opinion is the chance of Somaliland achieving international recognition?

I am optimistic that the people of Somaliland will achieve even more in the future and the cooperation with the world will increase too. Recognition will follow.

Event: Somaliland’s Election – reflections on the result

Somaliland’s Election: Reflections on the Result

In association with Somaliland Focus, Chatham House hosted an event to discuss what the result in the presidential election means for Somaliland’s developing democracy and international standing.

Somaliland achieved a peaceful transfer of power from President Riyale to President Silanyo following its June elections, which were declared free and fair by observers. This is remarkable in a region known for conflict and where elections are often questioned by observers. Michael Walls, who was a key member of the international election observation team, discussed what the result means for Somaliland’s developing democracy and international standing with Dr Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, Foreign Minister of Somaliland. The chair was Somaliland Focus member and IEO member Quman Jibril.

Press release: A new president for Somaliland

A new president for Somaliland

Somaliland’s new president inaugurated in Hargeisa following final confirmation of June election results Progressio, the Development Planning Unit at University College London (UCL) and Somaliland Focus (UK)…