The state of Somaliland, which seeks to attain international recognition has opened talks with Uganda about a consulate in Kampala.
Somaliland, a tiny country in the horn of Africa, was granted independence by the British in 1960 and shortly after joined Somalia, a former Italy colony to form the Somali republic.
The union soured in 1991 after a civil war, prompting Somaliland to declare independence from Somalia. Since then, the international community has not yet recognised it as sovereign.
Now, Somaliland intends to add Uganda to the list of countries with which it has diplomatic ties and they include; Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Belgium, United Kingdom, France and South Sudan.
While the Somaliland community in Uganda was celebrating their 27th independence on Sunday in Kampala, a Somaliland government representative, Dr Mustapha Awil, said they were engaging Uganda to have a consulate in Kampala to ease movement of Somaliland nationals to Uganda, especially students.
“We enjoy diplomatic relations with countries like Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, United Kingdom and the European Union. We are engaging Uganda and we are looking forward to see that it follows suit,” Awil said.
Somaliland issues passports which Uganda does not recognise according to Margaret Kafeero, the head of public diplomacy at Uganda’s foreign affairs ministry. Awil said that they have written to Uganda’s ministry of foreign affairs.
Kafeero said today that “I’m not aware of the letter but it very well could have been received. We get very many groups or communities world over that seek political recognition. Somaliland would not be an exception.”
Some Somaliland students here told The Observer that to get into Uganda, they first have to go to Mogadishu, Somalia, attain a Somalia passport and then apply for a Ugandan visa.
The former minister of state for Economic Monitoring in the Office of the President, Henry Banyenzaki, who is now the director of Monitoring and Evaluation at the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) said that since the African Union had just signed the Africa Free Trade Zone agreement, Somaliland should be included.
“We intend to explore all the avenues of how the issue of Somaliland can be addressed to see to it that they are recognised,” Banyenzaki said.
According to the national chairman of the ruling party’s entrepreneurship league, Robert Mwesigwa, who was the chief guest, recognition of Somaliland should be looked at in terms of business.
“The unification of Germany started with entrepreneurs. I have been reading about the investment opportunities available in Somaliland and I think we should embrace them,” Mwesigwa said.
by JONATHAN KAMOGA