Editor’s note: After mutual recognition with Taiwan, and the subsequent establishment of representative office in Taipei in July, the nation of Somaliland in the Horn of Africa has garnered more and more recognition from fellow African states.
The following is an interview by our friends at the Somaliland Chronicle with the head of a visiting delegation from South Africa.
Somaliland Chronicle: As far as I remember the first South African delegation that visited Somaliland was in 2000.
The delegation included Prof Iqbal who later became a great supporter of Somaliland and its quest for recognition but at the same time, the delegation back then paved the way for political understanding and sympathy in South Africa for Somaliland’s cause.
Are you here to revive that informal relationship between South Africa and Somaliland?
Mr. Nxumalo: Yes and no. Yes in a sense that we want to resuscitate the relationship between Somaliland and South Africa but what we want to do now is to take it to another level. We want it to be formalized.
The problem with the initial plan was that it was never formalized which made it easier for that kind of arrangement to be reversed because there was no paper trace where you can make a reference to the existing relationship.
Now what we want to do is, we want South Africa as a country to formally make a decision as a country to recognize Somaliland as a state which will then go to the region, to SADC do the same and then go formally and make our own submission to the African Union and say as South Africa we want the opportunity to recognize Somaliland as a nation.
So it will be easier with a paper trail so that whoever comes to leadership, the decision is there and it is a formal decision.
Somaliland Chronicle: We want to get on the economic potential of bilateral ties between Somaliland and South Africa, what areas do you think the two countries can work together be it trade, people to people diplomacy after the dust settles and maybe there is a recognition from South Africa?
Mr. Nxumalo: No, no, there is nothing that must happen before the other, some things will run concurrently. For example, as part of the delegation, we brought people from the Chamber of Commerce and one business person already.
Once we are dealing with the political question we are also asking them to interact with people in business so they start to share ideas about what is possible that they do in Somaliland and South Africa but in addition to that, sometime next year, the first quarter of next year, we are convening what we are calling Somaliland Trade and Investment Conference where we are inviting Somaliland and South African businesses, the relevant departments from both countries, but also identify other countries in the continent that we think are strategic in terms of the development of Somaliland in investment or trade.
We will also invite those so at a conference there could be a certain minimum agreement that can be reached on things that can happen, whether the political questions have been resolved or not. Parallel tracks.
And I think the business people in the delegation have already started to agree on certain things be it the issue of energy, mining, transport, rail, ports, manufacturing, and agriculture. There are certain things already we can say we are almost very close to the minimum things that can be done.
Somaliland Chronicle: In 2018, we asked Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, Ambassador Tibor P. Nagy, Jr. about why the United States has not engaged Somaliland in a meaningful way. And although he acknowledged Somaliland’s legal case for recognition, he stated that the appropriate forum is the African Union.
It seems that Somaliland has embarked on that path and is looking inward into the continent, currently. Somaliland is hosting a delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malawi Mr. Eisenhower Mkaka, your delegation is here, and the President just came back from Kenya where he met with Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta.
So how do you see Somaliland’s effort and looking inward into to the continent in trying to get the recognition from Africa as opposed to looking potentially to the US or UK and other countries?
Mr. Nxumalo: One of the things we have indicated today in our meeting with the President is that we are quite impressed by what we have seen in the past few days, especially when the President visited Nairobi and the meeting with the President of Kenya and some of the agreements that were reached but also the fact that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malawi has just left now.
It is also an important part that the country must double its efforts in mobilizing other states in the continent so that when we begin to engage with people outside of the continent we engaged as a united Africa instead of having Somaliland saying something and South Africa saying something else.
Now, the work that is being done now, and we are not saying that Somaliland should not engage with countries outside of the continent, if there is any country outside of the continent that shows potential it must be pursued.
It will be important that we engage broadly in the continent before we can go outside of the continent.
Special thanks to the Somaliland Representative to South Africa Mr. Ahmed Jama Hassan for arranging the interview with Mr. Mhlekwa Nxumalo, who is currently leading the South African delegation visiting Somaliland.
This article first appeared in the Somaliland Chronicle and is republished with permission.