- President Dahir Riyale Kahin of the non-recognised republic Somaliland departed today on a working visit to Djibouti, Ethiopia and South Africa, according to informed sources. He was given an official welcome at Djibouti airport and later met with Djiboutian President Omar Guelleh. A similar reception is expected in Ethiopia.
Somaliland President Riyale, accompanied by a number of his cabinet Ministers, left the port city of Berbera early today and is expected to meet top business, religious and political leaders of Djibouti, Ethiopia and South Africa on his round trip.
Previous news reports said that the Somalilander President was to be accompanied by Information Minister Abdillahi Mohammed Dualeh, Foreign Minister Edna Adan, and others. Given Somaliland's position as a not recognised state, the political leadership has only made very few official state visits, most remarkably to Britain.
President Riyale was reportedly given an official welcome at Djibouti airport where he had arrived at 11 AM local time. The Somalilander and his delegation immediately went into talks with Djiboutian Prime Minister at the State House before holding official talks with President Ismail Omar Guelleh at the Presidential Palace.
According to a statement issued by Somaliland's Information Minister and official Spokesman for the President's delegation, Abdillahi Mohammed Dualeh, receiving President Riyale and his delegation at Djibouti Airport were Delayte Mohammed Delayte, Djiboutian Prime Minister, Mohammed Ali Yusuf, Minister of Cooperation, Mohammed Barkhad Abdillahi, Minister of Labour, Head of Djibouti Protocol and other senior officials.
The statement said that talks between the two Presidents, which covered ways of strengthening bilateral cooperation, were held in a friendly atmosphere. President Riyale later toured the Somaliland Representative Office in Djibouti where he was received by the head of the Office. He also attended a luncheon held in his honour and accompanying delegation by the Djiboutian Prime Minister.
The reception of President Riyale in Djibouti thus included all ceremonial symbols of an official visit by a foreign Head of State. This is seen as an important symbolic victory to President Riyale as Djibouti long has been regarded one of the principal opponents to the recognition of Somaliland, supporting Somali unity.
A thaw in bilateral ties however was recently hinted at by President Riyale when he urged the national press to watch its language when reporting on Djibouti.
Ties with the powerful southern neighbour, Ethiopia, have been good over the years. Ethiopia has profited from the peaceful and orderly conditions in Somaliland and the landlocked country is a major customer of the port facilities in the Somaliland city of Berbera.
President Riyale, when arriving Addis Ababa, probably will meet with the political leadership of Ethiopia. His programme in Ethiopia has however not been announced.
Though not recognised by the international community, Somaliland currently has good diplomatic relations with its neighbours Djibouti and Ethiopia and some key African and European countries, including its former colonial power, Britain.
Somaliland, a former British Protectorate united with the former Italian Somalia in July 1960 to form the Somali Republic, unilaterally restored its sovereignty after the 1991 collapse of Siyad Barre's dictatorial regime, which especially had victimised Somalilanders.
Since then it has restored peace and stability and embarked on a democratisation process, holding municipal and presidential elections. Parliamentary elections are also scheduled to be held in late March 2005, as the last step of the country's democratic transition.
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