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Dr. Hawa Abdi, a Somali humanitarian, was honored for her work battling famine, murder, disease, and rape in her native country at the Women in the World Summit, which the conflict at home prevented her from attending. She is pictured here at last year's summit, Marc Bryan-Brown

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Somaliland vice president seeks recognition as autonomous state

Somaliland vice president seeks recognition as autonomous state


The vice president of the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland in northwestern Somalia expressed willingness Monday to seek international recognition as an autonomous state, saying independence from war-torn Somalia is the will of its people.

"It is the voice of the people that made Somaliland decide to reclaim independence," Abdirahman Abdillahi Ismail told Kyodo News in an interview in Somaliland's self-proclaimed capital Hargeisa. "We who have been elected just do what our people want. What they want is to be separated."

Somaliland declared independence from the Horn of Africa country in 1991 but remains unrecognized internationally.

Abdirahman, 55, said that unlike in southern Somalia, which remains in a state of civil war, security in Somaliland is "tight," adding that the self-proclaimed republic is ready to work with the international community to fight pirates, a threat to ships from many countries sailing off Somalia.

The African Union is reluctant to see Somaliland recognized as an autonomous state because doing so might inflame separatist movements in other African countries.

But Abdirahman noted that Somaliland was an independent country before the former British colony merged with an Italian colony in the south to declare independence as Somalia. Independence from Somalia is therefore "still in line" with the AU policy of keeping borders in Africa the same as in colonial times, he argued.

Abdirahman, who assumed the vice presidency after a change of government in an election in 2010, said Somaliland has grown as a country with democracy steadily taking root but the most important thing for the people is infrastructure, such as ports, airports and roads.

"Before recognition (as an autonomous state), people are in dire need of development," he said, asking the Japanese government to help develop infrastructure, such as roads, and help resettle people displaced from their land due to severe drought hitting the region.

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When fire is cried and danger is neigh,
"God and the firemen" is the people's cry;
But when 'tis out and all things righted,
God is forgotten and the firemen slighted.
~Author unknown, from The Fireman's Journal, October 18, 1879


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