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Monday, 13 November, 2000, 12:38 GMT
Somaliland leader warns against union
Mohammed Ibrahim Egal
Egal: Concerned that union with Somalia will cause instability
By Nita Bhalla in Addis Ababa

The president of the self-declared state of Somaliland, Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, has warned that moves to unify Somalia could allow "the seeds of civil war to be sown in Somalia forever".

Somaliland, a former British protectorate, unilaterally broke away from Somalia in 1991 and has repeatedly expressed fears of being dragged back into the country's long-running civil war.

Somaliland is relatively stable compared to the rest of Somalia, but still seeks recognition from the international community.

President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan
President Hassan: Egal believes he does not have a mandate
After almost 10 years of civil war in Somalia, Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh led an intiative this year to establish a government in the war torn state.

After three months of talks in the Djiboutian town of Arta, Abdulkassim Salat Hassan was elected in August.


In an interview with the BBC in Ethiopia, Mr Egal said that the Inter- Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) countries, who will meet to discuss the Somali issue on 23 November, should take a collective decision not to endorse the establishment of a government led by Mr Hassan, a member of the previous regime of Mohammed Siad Barre.

Mr Egal, who was visiting Ethiopia to strengthen bilateral links, said the endorsement of the Djiboutian-led initiative would be the "biggest mistake Igad could possibly make".

Somalis are ready for peace - but they don't want to be imposed upon by Djibouti

Mohammed Ibrahim Egal
He accused some Igad members of having their own reason for supporting the new president in Somalia.

"Sudan's President, Omar al-Bashir, sees in Abdulkassim a potential ally as a fellow Islamic fundamentalist," he said.

"And President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea will support anything that he thinks will irritate the Ethiopians", he added.

Anger at Djibouti

But his biggest criticism was to the tiny Red Sea republic of Djibouti, which shares a border with Somaliland.

"That little country, Djibouti, aspires to rule the whole of the Horn of Africa. It aspires to have its own opinions and wishes imposed upon countries that are 1,000 times bigger than it", he said.

The issue is not a power struggle between me and Abdulkassim

Mohammed Ibrahim Egal
"Somalis are ready for peace. They are fed up of all the bloodshed. But they don't want to be imposed upon by one man, President Ismail Omar Guelleh, from a mini country, whom nobody knows", President Egal added.

As he left Ethiopia, he denied accusations that they only reason he would not accept Abdulkassim Salat Hassan, was because he would have to relinquish his control over Somaliland.

"The issue is not a power struggle between me and Abdulkassim. I'm 70 years old and I'd like to give up this post, but I won't run away".

"As soon as Somalia has put their house in order, we are prepared to talk to them - even about a re-unification. But this is not the issue at the moment."

Economic links

Mr Egal, accompanied by eight of his cabinet ministers, arrived in Addis Ababa on Wednesday for talks primarily aimed at strengthening economic links between the two sides.

It is believed that he also was canvassing Ethiopia's support for the Igad summit, which will take place in Khartoum in two weeks' time.

President Egal met Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin during his visit.

Diplomatic sources suggest that Ethiopia and the two other Igad members, Kenya and Uganda, may express reservations about the new Somali Government at the summit.

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See also:

02 Sep 00 | Africa
Somali bloodshed warning
04 Sep 00 | Africa
Somali MP arrested in Somaliland
29 Aug 00 | Africa
Somalia's new civilian leader
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