Somaliland Government Calls for African Recognition, Help Fighting Piracy

Somaliland appealed to African nations to grant the semi-autonomous region recognition as a sovereign state and called for international help to deal with piracy off its coast.

“We need more support from African states,” Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdillahi Omar said in an interview on June 15 in the capital, Hargeisa. “We need recognition, cooperation and assistance from African states.”

Somaliland, a former British colony, declared independence from Somalia in 1991, following the ouster of former Somali dictator Mohammed Siad Barre. No sovereign state has formally recognized the area as independent. In March, the region opened a maximum-security prison built with United Nations funding to incarcerate pirates convicted of attacks off the coast of Somalia.

An increase in piracy, spurred by a 36-fold jump in ransom payments in five years, has threatened vessels carrying 20 percent of world trade and raised expenses for shippers. Costs linked to piracy may reach $13 billion to $15 billion by 2015 as global trade rebounds and pirates operate over wider areas, according to research firm Geopolicity Inc.

The impact on Somaliland has been that fewer ships are visiting its main port of Berbera, doubling the cost of its exports, Omar said. He didn’t provide more detailed figures.

Somaliland’s economy relies on shipments of camels, cattle, sheep and goats to the Middle East and North Africa, as well as remittances sent home from citizens living abroad, to generate foreign exchange.

‘Hijack Fears’

“Many ships have stopped coming to Berbera Port because of the fear of being hijacked by pirates,” Omar said. “The price of exports has doubled and we need to have more cooperation with the international community to discuss how to handle that burden.”

Somaliland’s Finance Ministry currently estimates the size of the economy at $1.2 billion, while the central bank puts the figure at $700 million, Bank of Somaliland Governor Abdi Dirir Abdi said last month.

As a step toward gaining recognition, the country has begun working more closely with neighboring countries including Djibouti, where it has opened an embassy, Ethiopia and Kenya, Omar said. “We are hoping to gain a better understanding of our aims in the near future,” he said, without providing further details.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mohamoud Ali Mohamed in Hargeisa via Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

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