In a brief phone interview we caught up with Somaliland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr. Issa Kayd who was in Addis Ababa for the second time in less than a month where the African Union 35th Ordinary Summit is taking place, we asked him about the current trajectory of Somaliland’s existing and future bilateral ties, challenges, and his approach to getting the message out about Somaliland and the value it offers to the world.
Somaliland Chronicle: You have recently announced that Somaliland government is suspending the Somaliland – Somalia talks, could you tell us more about your thoughts on the talks in general and what has changed the government’s view about the talks with Somalia?
Dr. Kayd: The genesis of the talks was problematic in the first place and is no secret that the talks led nowhere and frankly the other side lacked any semblance of sincerity and made every effort to falsely repackage the talks as some sort of reconciliation between Somaliland and Somalia. The talks in their most basic form are not in Somaliland’s best interest and we have other priorities that require our full attention; we don’t want to waste our time in fruitless talks with Somalia anymore.
Somaliland Chronicle: There are many foreign ambassadors that are send to Somalia by their respective countries and Somaliland has traditionally worked with them calling them “Ambassador to Somaliland and Somalia “, doesn’t this send the wrong signal to these countries that Somaliland is seeking recognition from particularly the US and UK?
Dr. Kayd: What I can tell is is that we are reviewing many aspects of our foreign outreach and international relations but our posture is that we do not work with anyone who does not regard Somaliland as a sovereign and independent nation. The fact of the matter is that these ambassadors to Somalia do not spend a great deal of time in Mogadishu and when they are there are essentially hostages with body armor that are working in a warzone and they are well aware of the value that Somaliland has to their countries.
One example is the new US Ambassador to Somalia Mr. Larry Andre who is an experienced diplomat who was representing the United States in Djibouti recently and that uniquely positions him to understand the region and Somaliland’s strategic importance to the United States national security interest.
Somaliland Chronicle: Taiwan does not work with the US or the United Kingdom’s ambassadors to China, has Somaliland asked these countries, particularly the UK and the United States which seem to be very interested in Somaliland at the moment to send representatives exclusive to Somaliland?
Kayd: As I said, we are reviewing a lot of things and a lot of options are under consideration. We are working tirelessly to ensure Somaliland is rewarded for the amazing things it has achieved for the last 30 years.
Somaliland Chronicle: Lots of diplomatic barriers have come down in the the middle east in the wake of the Abraham Accords that resulted in many prominent Muslim and Arab countries establishing diplomatic ties with Israel and in a recent interview on i24 Dr. Edna Adan welcomed bilateral ties with Israel . Is Somaliland actively pursuing bilateral ties with the State of Israel?
First, we do not discuss what we are doing with individual countries but my answer once again, Somaliland is open for business and everyone is welcome to Somaliland.
Somaliland Chronicle: It has been a year and seven months years since Somaliland and Taiwan have established bilateral ties and signed agreements on cooperation on the sectors of Health, Agriculture and Information Technology, there is a sense that Somaliland has turned Taiwan into yet another aid agency and nothing tangible was achieved so far. What is your view on what Taiwan and Somaliland has achieved together so far and where do you see this relationship in the future?
Dr. Kayd: We have already achieved tremendous things together but there are always more opportunities for even greater cooperation between our nations. We a resource-rich country, we are asking Taiwan a hand on many fronts to fuel Somaliland’s development in responsibly exploring its abundant natural resources.
What we want from Taiwan is mainly knowledge transfer in the areas of cyber, security food and water security to ensure Somaliland is better prepared for the cyclical droughts exacerbated by climate change, commercial banking, and hydrological mapping to get a full sense of what minerals and other resources are present in our country to be able to attract and negotiate from a position of strength with extractive industry leaders.
On education, we are grateful for the scholarships that Taiwan has offered to our students but dozens of new graduates from Taiwanese universities are a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things and Somaliland needs thousands of subject matter experts in all sorts of disciplines so where we want to be with Taiwan is to get their higher education institutions to twin with public institutions to achieve this.
Another area that is extremely beneficial to both Taiwan and Somaliland is the Free Trade Zone where Taiwanese manufacturers can take full advantage of bringing their products closer to their end consumers in East Africa and beyond and even getting a leg up on their Chinese competitors.
Our intention is to take full control of our airspace and this is an area that Taiwan can be of great help to Somaliland, this is a priority for us and we believe we can learn from Taiwan’s vast expertise in this critical area.
Somaliland Chronicle: As the new Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in just few months there is a noticeable energy and a lot of things are happening what are you doing differently and what is your message to the world about Somaliland?
Dr. Kayd: What we are saying to the world is come and meet with us, come see what we have achieved, the fully-fledged multiparty-based democracy, and the organic security we have achieved. Somaliland is resilient and has unique safety nets that help resolve political disputes which are the hallmarks of democracy. We have two houses of parliament and a constitutional court which time and again have done a remarkable thing to ensure Somaliland’s hard-earned democratic bona fide remains intact. In fact, what we have achieved on our own is a template that can benefit many countries.
As a country that spends more than 30% of its budget on security and we have been an important security ally and a buffer both Djibouti and Ethiopia. We have been successful in keeping our 850km waterways free from piracy and have kept terrorism at bay.
My message to the world is very simple and it is that Somaliland is open for business; our doors are open for everyone who respects our sovereignty and wants to do business with us. Just as we extended our hand in friendship to Taiwan, we are open to establishing bilateral ties with every country on earth.
Somaliland Chronicle: Final question, you were part of President Bihi’s recent delegation to Addis Ababa, what is the purpose of your visit to Addis Ababa and is it a follow up to the previous visit and the meeting with the Ethiopian government and Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed?
Dr. Kayd: Addis Ababa is home to the African Union and is a major diplomatic hub in Africa and no, my visit is not related to our recent visit I am not going into details but this is an equally important event but unfortunately, this is not the right time to discuss it.