HARGEISA, Somalia – The semi-autonomous region of Somaliland is renewing calls for international recognition of its self-declared independence from Somalia.
Somaliland on Wednesday celebrated 25 years since the region proclaimed independence from Somalia. Thousands of civilians and military personnel paraded in front of dignitaries in the capital Hargeisa as the government showed off its Soviet-era military arsenal.
Somaliland asserted independence in 1991 after the overthrow of Somali dictator Siad Barre. The region has experienced relative stability and economic prosperity over the years, even though neighboring Somalia has been wracked by deadly violence.
"We do not want any special treatment form the international community," said Sa'ad Ali Shire, Somaliland's foreign minister. "We simply want recognition of the reality that has existed in Somaliland for 25 years."
The celebrations came as Somaliland's main port, Berbera, is set to receive a substantial amount of funding from the United Arab Emirates. The two countries signed a development contract on May 9 that includes the planned renovation of Berbera, which connects Somaliland to Ethiopia. The total deal is reportedly worth $400 million.
Among those attending the celebrations Wednesday was Kenyan lawmaker Mohamed Shidiye, who told The Associated Press that for him "the (Somali) government in Mogadishu is clinically dead. It doesn't exist."
"I'm here to celebrate together with the Somaliland people their achievements in the past 25 years and to call on the international community to recognize them," he said.
Somaliland, with a population of approximately 4 million, has established its own government based in Hargeisa but it hasn't yet received any recognition from the international community. Previous efforts to mediate between Somalia and Somaliland by Turkey and Djibouti have failed, with officials in Hargeisa accusing mediators of favoring the Somali government, which is facing a deadly rebellion by the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab.