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Somaliland President Visits Five African Nations

Somaliland’s president is on a tour of five African countries, trying to gain more support for his breakaway region. President Dahir Riyale Kahin is visiting Tanzania Friday after a stop in Kenya earlier this week. His other stops include Zambia, Rwanda and Uganda.

Professor Iqbal Jhazbhay is an expert on the Horn of Africa at the University of South Africa. From Johannesburg, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the reasons for the Somaliland president’s official visits.

“It’s clear that the head of Somaliland, President Kahin, had submitted a formal application for membership of the African Union. He recently met with the chairman of the African Union, Professor Alpha Konaré. And as part of the diplomatic initiative and a follow-up on the African Union’s fact-finding mission to Somaliland last year, the president of Somaliland is undertaking a regional tour.”

Jhazbhay says that Kahin was invited to visit Kenya this week by President Kibaki, and indications are the meeting went well. “I think the regional states as well as the international community are open to seeing how they could really promote stability, state building and democracy on the Somali coast.”

The South African professor says the AU may be willing to consider membership for Somaliland, because the region conforms to old colonial boundaries, similar to southern Sudan and Eritrea, which have been looked upon favorably by the AU. He calls Somaliland an example of “home grown democracy,” which may be attractive to the United States as it fights elements of terrorism in the region.