On October 25th, the Ministry of Planning and National Development issued a directive halting all discussions and consultation of the UN Country Program with the United Nations and all of its agencies in Somaliland.
The authenticity of the directive which first appeared online was confirmed by the Minister of Planning and National Development Hon Hassan Mohamed Ali (Gafadhi), and although the English version of the directive sent to the UN agencies does not provide details or a reason for the government’s action, another directive issued on the same day and sent to government ministries and agencies provided ample information as to what caused the government of Somaliland to take this drastic action.
This directive sent to Somaliland Miniseries and agencies delves right into the heart of the issue and opens with “as you are all aware the Somali Federal Government and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations [Mr. James Swan] have signed an agreement that will govern the working relationship of all the United Nations agencies for the next five years 2020 – 2025.”
The directive continues to describe an exchange in April between the Somaliland government and SRSG James Swan at which Somaliland made its position clear – that it will not be a party to any agreements that are not based on its development agenda, and that it has not signed.
It adds that Mr. Swan had committed to dialogue with the government of Somaliland on his response in July but instead has signed an agreement [with Somalia] without any consultation with Somaliland.
Prior to the issuance of these directives to halt all preparatory activities of the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNCF) signed on October 15th by the Somali Federal Government and the United Nations represented by SRSG James Swan, the Somaliland government condemned the agreement following an extraordinary session of President Bihi’s cabinet on October 17th.
Although multiple outlets reported the issue as Somaliland freezing all activities with the United Nations, in an interview, the Minister of Planning and Development Hon Hassan Mohamed Ali (Gafadhi) has clarified that Somaliland’s government affects the new agreement and that all ongoing activities will continue.
The President of the Republic of Somaliland HE Muse Bihi Abdi addressing the central committee of the ruling party of Kulmiye on October 28th, gave the issue more clarity when he accused the United Nations of following orders from Mogadishu and that the UN and other aid agencies have politicized their activities when it comes to Somaliland.
The President reminded the delegates that safeguarding Somaliland’s sovereignty is the party and his government’s prime directive and will not capitulate to any pressure whether political, economic, or military intended to strongarm Somaliland, but will always stand up for the sovereignty of the Republic.
President Bihi continued “Anyone with a strong military, nuclear weapons or a rich nation, we will not acquiesce Somaliland’s sovereignty and statehood because … if I remind you what happened in this country 30 or 32 years ago, the destruction, death, massacre, fleeing was all a sacrifice to realize Somaliland’s statehood and to withdraw the 1960s union [with Somalia]”.
Speaking of SRSG James Swan, President Bihi said “the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Mogadishu, is there for Somalia. We respect the United Nations and we are ready to work with them, and we have brotherhood and cooperation for every nation including our neighbors as long as they do not encroach on our honor and sovereignty. What we want is to work together with mutual respect and to deal with Somaliland”.
President Bihi continued that “we will not accept from the UN, its agencies and so-called humanitarian organization (to bring us) plans and orders issued from Mogadishu. It is forbidden and we will not accept it“.
According to multiple sources privy to ongoing deliberation, the Somaliland government is intent on ensuring that the development plans of all aid agencies and particularly that of the United Nations conforms to its development agenda and do not lump Somaliland together with the rest of Somalia.
In addition, sources tell Somaliland Chronicle that President Bihi has ordered a complete review of all UN projects particularly the UNDP’s JPLG and possibly major projects funded by the World Bank, and how Somaliland engages foreign governments and their diplomats currently assigned to Somalia – to explore precedents in other parts of the world where countries have sent special envoys to unrecognized countries.
Although the Somaliland government has incorrectly but officially identified ambassadors and other diplomats sent to Somalia as also representing their countries in Somaliland, the most active ambassador in Somaliland, Mr. Nicholas Berlanga is the European Union’s Ambassador to Somalia.
It is unclear if Somaliland will insist on the appointment of a United Nations special envoy to directly engage with Somaliland as a separate and sovereign nation from Somalia or is simply seeking to be a signatory of the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNCF), and if this assertive policy towards its sovereignty will apply to foreign governments with ambassadors in Somalia that the Somaliland government has maintained a working relationship with, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, the European Union, and others.
The Federal government of Somalia has been successful in getting the United Nations, aid agencies, and diplomats to toe the line in painting a rosy picture of its security and development and to comply with its agenda following the persona non grata status of Mr. Swan’s predecessor SRSG Mr. Nicholas Haysom on January 1st, 2019.
This would not be the first time that the Somaliland government has been at an impasse with the United Nations; in 1993, a disagreement with SRSG Admiral Jonathan Howe resulted in the expulsion of AMISOM from Somaliland’ by the late President Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal.
Although public support of the Somaliland government’s limited action to halt the United Nations preparatory activities related to the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNCF) in Somaliland is high, how far the Somaliland government is willing to go to assert its sovereignty and President Bihi’s resolve to stand his ground are yet to be seen.
This article first appeared in the Somaliland Chronicle, and is republished with permission.