Somaliland hopes to be independent after election

Published on Sunday 29th June 2008

Somalia: The breakaway state of Somaliland hopes next year's presidential elections will lead to international recognition of the northern Somali enclave as an independent country, officials said on Sunday.

The polls are seen by many as an acid test for the former British protectorate which broke away from Somalia in 1991 when the ouster of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre plunged the Horn of Africa country into anarchy.

Somaliland has enjoyed relative peace and prosperity and has held previous democratic elections, but analysts say it is not recognised globally because of concerns that rewriting colonial borders would open a Pandora's Box of other secession claims.

"The election is a test for Somaliland's recognition bid," electoral commission chairman Mohamed Ismail Mohamed said. "So many countries are waiting to see how we will conduct our election. It will be transparent, free and fair."

According to a European Union study seen by Reuters, the region has substantial untapped resources of oil, coal and metals such as gold, platinum, copper, nickel and zinc.

Somaliland's 850 km (528 miles) of coastline on the Gulf of Aden also offer potential for a fisheries industry.

Presidential elections were postponed in 2007 and again this year due to what officials called technical problems, including inadequate voter registration and planning time.

The polls are due to be held before April 6, 2009, following a civil registration process.

Somaliland's system of government consists of a house of representatives elected directly by the people and an upper chamber, or Guurti, consisting of traditional elders representing the different clans and sub-clans.

"We will do everything to make sure the elections are held. We have a unique infant democracy combining a traditional chamber and a parliamentary system. We can not afford to fail," Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullahi Mohamed Duale told Reuters.