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Tuesday, 15 August, 2000, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Somaliland calls for 'special status'

President of the self-declared republic of Somaliland Mohamed Ibrahim Egal has called for it to be given special status by the United Nations.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Egal said the breakaway republic needed to pursue separate development outside Somalia.

His comments are a significant climbdown from his previous determination to secure international recognition for Somaliland as an independent state.

He said an interim status like that of Kosovo or East Timor would allow Somaliland to deal with donors and international financial institutions - and unlock international purse strings.

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

Investment

"We accept the fact that the international community at the moment is not geared towards giving us sovereign recognition," Mr Egal told the London-based newspaper.

Somaliland
Broke away from Somalia - 1991
Population - 3.5m
Life expectancy - 48
Capital - Hargeisa
Currency - shilling
"So what we say is that, just like the Palestinians or the Kosovans or the people in Timor, we should be given a special status, an interim special status whereby we can at least deal with donors and the international financial institutions."

Somaliland is relatively stable compared to Somalia and it is keen to encourage investment from foreign companies and from its diaspora.

It has several airlines and telecommunications companies operating out of its capital, Hargeisa, and also offers the cheapest internet access rates in the region.

However, the lack of international recognition stifles development.

In the banking sector credit and money transfers are impossible; in the oil industry insurance rates are at the astronomical war levels applicable in neighbouring Somalia.

Hence the appeal by President Egal.

He has also signed a new law to set up political parties within 18 months, by which time a constitutional referendum will be held.

Somaliland opposes the current UN-backed efforts to reunite Somalia, which it sees as a threat to its current autonomy.

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24 Jul 00 | Africa
Government-in-exile for Somalia?
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