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The government of the self-declared republic of Somaliland indicated it will not partake in the upcoming Istanbul conference scheduled for June this year despite receiving an official invitation from the Turkish government over the weekend.
Addressing reporters in Hargeisa, Somaliland Foreign Minister Abdilahi Mohammed Omar said among others, the conference lacks clarity on its agenda and does not grant Somaliland the status it received during the London conference hosted for Somalia on February this year.
“We will not participate in the Istanbul conference even though we’ve been invited to do so... but already the manner in which we were invited has caused suspicion among us. We wanted the Istanbul conference to be similar to the London conference where Somaliland was accorded a unique and important status, unfortunately that is not the case with this one,” Omar explained.
The foreign minister added that the gist of the Istanbul conference is the Somalia Road Map and the draft constitution which according to him does not concern Somaliland. “Somaliland has nothing to do with the Road Map and we did not participate in the constitution making process of Somalia since its inception. These are the main issues to be discussed and they are irrelevant to us,” he added.
The Somaliland government’s stance on the upcoming conference has received backing from the members of the opposition notably Faisal Ali Warabe, the chairman of Justice and Welfare Party (UCID), who recently met with Somali President Sheik Sharif Ahmed in Dubai where they discussed the stalled Somaliland-Somalia talks.
Speaking to Somalia Report in Hargeisa, Warabe said participating in the conference will make Somaliland appear part and parcel of Somalia and diminish all the gains Somaliland accrued over the years. “Our participation will be a confirmation that we are indeed part and parcel of Somalia, we have strived for 20 years to reach where we are, we fought and persevered and more importantly made a lot of gains .... in peace and democracy all of this will be washed away if we are involved in the conference,” he explained.
It took a lot of “soul searching” and convincing for Somaliland which is known for its political rivalry with Somalia to attend the London conference on Somalia. Due its sensitivity and exceptionality, it needed the backing of key and different players like opposition and traditional leaders and an overwhelming endorsement by Somaliland bi-cameral parliament and the House of Representatives, and for the President Ahmed Mohammed Silanyo and his entourage to attend.
Also the British government initially had to contact Silanyo through its foreign secretary, William Hague, after repeated visits by the British Ambassador in Ethiopia failed to yield anything.
The relationship between Somaliland and Somalia remains frosty and landmark talks between the two which emanated from the London conference stalled after Somaliland protested the inclusion of two persons in the Somalia committee which it claimed hails from regions that fall under the British Somaliland boundaries.
Locally there has been an outcry over traditional elders from Somaliland participating in the ongoing conference on Somalia constitution. Some people including politicians have termed their actions treasonable and called for their arrest upon return to Somaliland.