Cablegate: Somalia - Us Mission Officers Visit Hargeisa

Published: Fri 12 Sep 2008 08:48 AM
DE RUEHNR #2158/01 2560848
R 120848Z SEP 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Somalia - US Mission Officers Visit Hargeisa
REF: Djibouti 117
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1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On September 9, US Mission officers visited
Hargeisa, Somaliland and met with government officials, political
party representatives, and organizations implementing U.S.
Government-funded activities. The visit provided an opportunity to
reinforce key messages made by Assistant Secretary of State for
African Affairs Jendayi Frazer during her visit in February (reftel)
and for USAID to meet in Somaliland, for the first time in over two
years, with its implementing partners. The government and political
party representatives expressed similar perspectives on dialogue and
compromise which successfully prevented a political crisis earlier
this year. They pledged to cooperate toward free, fair, and
transparent presidential elections in 2009. While they emphasized
the need for formal recognition of Somaliland, the officials told us
they are shifting focus to request direct economic assistance. All
contacts noted the deepening economic crisis caused by high prices,
food shortages, and the pressure of refugees and Internally
Displaced Persons (IDPs). Implementing NGOs noted significant
challenges but emphasized the enormous potential for their
Somaliland programs. All interlocutors asked that U.S. officials
regularly return to Hargeisa to collaborate and strengthen the
U.S.-Somaliland relationship. End Summary.
A Working Visit in Somalia
2. (SBU) On September 9, 2008 Somalia Unit Pol/Econ Officer Jessica
Davis Ba, USAID/East Africa Program Officer for Somalia Hodan
Hassan, and two Assistant Regional Security Officers visited
Hargeisa, the capital of Somalia's self-declared Republic of
Somaliland. The delegation was met at Egal International Airport by
Minister of Interior Abdullahi Ismail Ali, Minister of Civil
Aviation Ali Mohamed, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Saeed
Mohamed Nur, and Head of National Intelligence Mohamed Nur Osman.
The Somaliland government hosted the U.S. mission officers and
coordinated the logistics of the visit.
3. (U) During the visit we reinforced Assistant Secretary Frazer's
messages from her February trip to Hargeisa (reftel), met with our
humanitarian and development partners, engaged with key officials
and government interlocutors, and met with contacts central to the
electoral process in Somaliland. We gained perspectives from USAID
and DOS grantees CARE, International Republican Institute, Education
Development Center, and the Public International Law and Policy
Group. It was the first visit to Hargeisa by a USAID official in
more than two years.
4. (SBU) We established new contacts in the security sector,
including with representatives from the Somaliland police,
intelligence services, and advisors with the United Nations Rule of
Law and Security Program based in Hargeisa. The meetings on
security-related matters will be reported septel.
Somaliland Seeks to Consolidate Relationship
5. (U) We met with Minister of Interior Abdullahi Ismail Ali,
Minister of National Planning and Coordination Ali Ibrahim, Minister
of Education Hassan Mohamud, and Minister of State for Foreign
Affairs Saeed Mohamed Nur. We expressed our gratitude to the
government for hosting the visit and for meeting with us during
Ramadan. Building on points Assistant Secretary Frazer made in
February, we acknowledged that Somaliland's democratization process
has distinguished it from its regional neighbors and is its greatest
asset in Somaliland's quest for formal recognition. We
congratulated all stakeholders for reaching agreement on an election
timetable and returning to consensus politics. We especially
praised their efforts to avoid violence and settle the political
impasse through dialogue and discussion. (Note: In June,
Somaliland's political parties peacefully compromised on the one
year extension of President Riyale's term in office, a new date for
presidential elections date, and an amendment to the voter
registration law and electoral law to accommodate these changes.
End Note.) Expressing our commitment to Somaliland's democratic
development, we encouraged the preparations for free, fair, and
transparent presidential elections in March 2009, based on a
national voter registration exercise.
6. (U) Minister Ibrahim welcomed embassy officers to Somaliland,
"the oasis of calm in the middle of a sea of insecurity," urging
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that it should be the first of many future visits. Ibrahim stated
that the relationship between the United States and Somaliland is
continually improving and that he sees the visit as a way to further
consolidate relations. Ibrahim described the economic and social
impact of regional insecurity that has resulted in an increased flow
of refugees and IDPs. He said that Somaliland has fulfilled its
international responsibility to accommodate all arrivals, treating
them equally with Somalilanders, and giving them opportunities for
work. The minister said that even without direct development aid or
formal recognition, "We recognize ourselves, rely on ourselves, and
view national unity, sovereignty, statehood, and independence, as
the highest priority."
We Cannot Eat Politics
7. (U) Ibrahim said that in Somaliland, peace and consultative
processes are a tradition that will be maintained. He expressed
appreciation of the U.S. commitment to Somaliland's political
development, but insisted that political and economic development
must go hand in hand. Ibrahim lamented that despite their best
efforts, poverty is deepening. Drought conditions have caused more
of the rural population to seek opportunities in towns, and an
extremely high unemployment rate has resulted in idle youth which he
described as "a time bomb." This pressure is compounded by high
inflation. The price of basic foodstuffs like rice and wheat has
increased 138 percent in the last year in Hargeisa, and between 350
to 480 percent in rural areas, he said. Ibrahim made an urgent
appeal for direct food aid for a population "that is lucky to have
one meal per day."
8. (U) Ibrahim told us the government has just finalized a
five-year reconstruction and development plan that Somaliland needs
the donor community to commit and disburse the USD 550 million
required to implement it. The minister thanked the United States
for its commitment to institutional development projects, but asked
that we also focus on improving livelihoods through job creation and
microcredit, especially for women. Ibrahim said that it is private
sector-generated wealth that is sustaining Somaliland's economy.
Ibrahim noted that the government has just approved a legal
framework for Somaliland's banking industry and parliament is in the
process of ratification. He told us this regulatory framework
should improve banking facilities as Somaliland "moves past hawalas
into a more sophisticated and transparent financial system."
9. (U) Ibrahim concluded that the political system can only be
sustained with a solid economic foundation. Minister of Education
Hassan Mohamud echoed many of Ibrahim's points about the fragility
of the economy and the high cost of living negatively impacting
Somaliland's 4,500 teachers. Mohamud told us that teachers receive
only a limited salary from the government of about USD 50 per month
and rely on individual contributions paid by parents. Mohamud asked
for U.S. assistance to Somaliland's educational institutions with an
emphasis on technical education. The minister lamented that
Somaliland does not have a single vocational training institute,
asserting that if its youth gained skills, they would have more
avenues for opportunity.
Security Concerns and Piracy On the Rise
10. (SBU) Minister of the Interior Abdullahi Ismail Ali expressed
his concerns on the recent explosion in piracy. He asked for
capacity building of the Somaliland Coast Guard "which is no match
for the well-armed and well-equipped pirates now taking over the
coastal waters." Ali said that despite limited capacity, Somaliland
was successful in recently arresting five pirates from Puntland who
were each sentenced to fifteen years in prison. The officials
welcomed our commitment to combating piracy and our continued
collaboration on security planning, particularly in the area of
11. (SBU) In our introductory remarks, we raised concern about
mobilization for armed conflict with Puntland in the disputed Sool
region, noting that renewed fighting would further deplete limited
resources and undermine Somaliland's democratic process. We
encouraged the officials to engage in dialogue to address the
territorial dispute. To this Ibrahim responded, "Peace cannot be at
the expense of our own territory and we have never been the
aggressor in this area." The minister suggested that we engage
Puntland "the aggressor, and caution that it should not provoke
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problems." In conclusion, the ministers reiterated their hope to
have more U.S. delegations visit Somaliland and to continue to
expand our relationship.
We Must Make War to Get Your Attention
12. (SBU) To emphasize the separation of the executive and the
legislative branches of government, Speaker of the Somaliland
Parliament Abdirahman Abdillahi and Bashe Mahammed Farah, Second
Deputy in the House of Representatives, met with us at the
conclusion of the ministerial meeting. The Speaker began by
categorically stating that the international community has ignored
Somaliland. Unlike Somalia, Somaliland receives no bilateral
assistance, budgetary support, or direct aid. He stated that with
monthly salaries averaging approximately USD 40, basic needs are not
being met. Abdillahi said that contrary to the Transitional Federal
Government (TFG) which receives capacity-building and salaries for
its police, parliament and civil servants, Somaliland gets nothing.
The Speaker said "We must make war; only then will the world pay
attention to us." He stated that instead of focusing on
recognition, Somaliland will stress its development needs. "With
development, recognition will come," he concluded.
13. (U) Abdillahi addressed many of the same issues that he raised
during an August 28 meeting with Ambassador Ranneberger in Nairobi,
such as inflation and worsening economic conditions in Somaliland.
The Speaker objected to President Riyale having improperly awarded
livestock and oil exploration contracts. The Speaker spoke
positively about the burgeoning political parties, representative of
citizens from all regions, instead of being clan-based. Abdillahi
told us that while Somaliland does not have working relations with
the TFG, "We are praying for peace and mutual support of the
Djibouti Agreement."
Political Parties Appeal for Assistance
14. (U) We met with representatives of Somaliland's three political
parties -- the ruling Allied People's Democratic Party (UDUB), the
Kulmiye party, and the Justice and Welfare party (UCID). We opened
the meeting by congratulating them for their efforts to return to
consensus politics. The party representatives deferred to Ahmed
Mohamed Silanyo, Chairman of the Kulmiye party to offer initial
perspectives. After extending a warm welcome, Silanyo said that
while Somaliland has managed to maintain its sanity in an insecure
region, security and economic challenges remained. He discussed the
global economic downturn, the pressure of refugees, and high prices
and food shortages that are causing a humanitarian crisis in
Somaliland. Silanyo concluded, "No matter what, we are determined
as a nation and people to maintain stability, democracy, peace and
15. (U) A representative from the UCID party asked why the United
States could engage directly with Southern Sudan and not with
Somaliland. The opposition party representatives, like the
government representatives, asked for direct assistance to
Somaliland's political and economic development. They requested
food aid with one asking, "Do we not deserve to be helped?" A
Kulmiye representative emphasized the high regard that Somalilanders
have for the United States, saying "Even our Islamists are
pro-American - but America rewards its enemies more than its
friends." He appealed for us to closely follow the next elections.
"If the results are acceptable, the international community must do
its part and reward us for staying on the democratic path."
Preparations on Schedule for 2009 Elections
16. (U) All the party representatives agreed that the election
timetable is being met. They said the democratic process and
political parties are new to Somaliland and in urgent need of
capacity building. They asked for assistance with election-related
transportation, equipment, and training costs, and presented us with
a proposal to assist all three parties. (Note: The proposal is a
request from all three parties for basic office equipment,
computers, supplies, and vehicles with a total budget of about USD
80,000). Jama Mohamed Omar, member of the National Electoral
Commission (NEC) told us that most of the equipment for the voter
registration process has arrived and the NEC will complete its
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recruitment and training of staff during Ramadan. The voter
registration process is on schedule to begin October 14. Omar
concluded that all stakeholders are collaborating with the NEC and
"All Somalilanders are speaking with one voice on elections."
Qaran Leaders Rights Still Not Restored
17. (U) After discussions with the political party representatives,
we met with Dr. Mohamed Abdi Gabose, Chairman of the Qaran political
association. Gabose told us that although President Riyale promised
Assistant Secretary Frazer that he would restore all of the rights
of the Qaran leaders, he remains disenfranchised. Gabose thanked us
for following his case and for the recent intervention by the
Special Envoy who directly addressed this issue with President
Riyale. At that juncture, Riyale gave us complete assurances that
Gabose can participate in the electoral process, not as Qaran, but
as a citizen. However, Gabose told us that his court record has not
been expunged, making him ineligible to register to vote or to
participate in the electoral process. He stated that President
Riyale will need to write a letter to the regional court formally
requesting the restoration of the Qaran leaders' political rights.
Challenges Exist, Opportunities Plentiful
18. (U) For the first time in Hargeisa, we met with USAID and State
Department-funded organizations working in Somaliland: the
International Republican Institute, CARE, Education Development
Center, Public International Law and Policy Group, and Interpeace.
Our partners spoke very highly of one another's work and the synergy
between them. Several themes emerged from our discussion, including
the vibrancy of civil society, the need to support capacity of
governance institutions, and the challenges related to restrictions
of independent radio in Somaliland.
19. (U) The newest USG-funded organization working in Somaliland is
the Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG). Chief of
Party Casey Kuhlman spoke about the organization's work with the
parliament in the areas of legislative reform and capacity-building.
PILPG collaborates with UNDP's Rule of Law program to support the
development of security sector, environmental, and business
legislation. The International Republican Institute (IRI) is
strengthening the political parties and the parliament. Program
Manager Danny Irungu spoke of the challenge of moderating the
political parties' high expectations vis-a-vis the assistance IRI
can provide. IRI is working with PILPG and Interpeace to support
the upcoming voter registration drive/elections, as well as working
with the parliament. A needs assessment of the political parties
was recently completed and will be shared with USAID.
20. (U) Interpeace shared with us the progress on preparations for
the upcoming voter registration/national identification effort.
Interpeace is providing the NEC with technical assistance and
hardware to carry out the exercise, set to begin on October 14. The
equipment has arrived and the NEC and Ministry of Interior are in
the process of hiring the hundreds of people necessary to staff the
1000 registration sites throughout the country. Interpeace's
Somaliland program officer Peder Pederson asked for us to help
procure 50 to 100 tents for sites in locations without any
21. (U) Education Development Center described the increasing
challenges of operating in south-central Somalia with the worsening
security situation. A large teacher training exercise was cancelled
in the south in the last few days due to insecurity. Nevertheless,
EDC continues to reach over 250,000 children through its radio
instruction programming. Senior Advisor Sera Kariuki spoke of the
great popularity of the illustrated folklore stories and its success
of using the Somali traditional oral culture to enhance literacy.
There are plans to publish similar stories for older children and to
develop an animated DVD. Kariuki also noted the challenges of
obtaining permission from the Minister of Information to
re-broadcast the lessons on Radio Hargeisa. Chief of Party Said
Yassin spoke of the successful training of radio practitioners from
all over Somalia. He remarked that the radio staff from other areas
in Somalia with vibrant competition among private stations
challenged the Deputy Minister of Information for the Somaliland
government's restrictions on independent radio.
22. (U) CARE spoke of its long history in Somalia/Somaliland and
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the USAID-funded civil society programming. Team Leader Tim Muia
remarked that many of the local NGOs working with USAID implementing
partners have benefited from capacity-building support from CARE.
Muia spoke of the need to build the capacity of governance
institutions so there is not an imbalance with better organized
local NGOs. He also noted that local media organizations are
challenging the government on its ban of independent radio. Muia
suggested that the United States may be able to encourage the
Somaliland government to allow independent radios to emerge.
23. (U) All of the partners noted the impact on the social and
physical infrastructure of Hargeisa caused by the influx of IDPs
from southern Somalia and refugees from Ethiopia. In addition, they
lamented that increasing commodities prices and potential drought in
the Sool/Sanaag have resulted in deepening of poverty in Somaliland.
24. (SBU) Although the visit lasted only a few hours, all of our
contacts appreciated the opportunity to talk with us on their turf.
The visit and meetings received positive coverage in the Somaliland
television, print and electronic press, making the front page of
several newspapers. All of our interlocutors shared similar
concerns about the economy and the welfare of the people of
Somaliland. The relationship between the executive and legislative
representatives appeared constructive and the ruling and opposition
parties were respectful to one another. There were no concerns
raised over the voter registration process or the electoral
timetable, which is an excellent sign. Even our implementing
partners seemed to be operating with a sense of synergy. The
collegiality and cooperation among key actors in Somaliland contrast
dramatically with the highly confrontational and divisive relations
that characterize politics in other regions of Somalia.
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