Could Raila Odinga finally be that neighbour with sugar?
- The Republic of Kenya will be electing a new President for the first time since the 2007 Presidential election that was marred by violence and corruption. The world will be closely watching the outcome of the election with hopes of Kenya redeeming itself from the past election.
Their neighbors are also paying considerable attention towards the election. The people of Somaliland are keeping a keen eye on the Presidential election to see who will lead their neighboring country. At a time where the Horn of Africa has recently seen a change of leadership, the government of Somaliland remains hopeful of achieving statehood.
Ethopia’s former strongman Meles Zenawi passed away last summer and was replaced by youthful Deputy PM & Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Somalia moved on from its transitional period and selected rookie politician Hassan Sheik Mohamud as their new President.
President Mohamud has picked up where the transitional government left off by preparing to continue the talks between Somaliland and Somalia. Prime Minister Hailemariam has picked up exactly where Zenawi has left off, maintaining Ethiopia’s close – but not close enough – relations with Somaliland.
Kenya’s outgoing President, Mwai Kibaki, hasn’t acknowledged or reached out to Somaliland during his two terms as President and just as Kenyans are eager see him go, Somalilanders are ready for change as well.
The presumed front runner, Raila Odinga, is no stranger to Somaliland. During his tenure as PM, he’s gone to unexpected heights by inviting and welcoming delegations from Somaliland. He met with several ministers including the Foreign Minister of Somaliland, Mohamed Abdullahi Omar. Odinga is the only high-ranking politician in Africa to do so.
His fellow party members have also made headlines declaring their support for the Republic of Somaliland.Richard Onyonka, Kenya’s Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and ODM party member, announced in May 2011 that his government supports the independence of Somaliland and that he would advocate for its recognition.
This time around, if Odinga is elected, the international attention that we’ve tirelessly been yearning for will fall in to place. That doesn’t mean we will achieve recognition right away.
In 2011, the world welcomed South Sudan as a new country and it enlightened the people of Somaliland. We prematurely assumed that we would be granted recognition and follow their steps to statehood. A year and a half later, South Sudan hasn’t made any effort to explore the idea that we’ve dreamed of.
This is an example why it is imperative that we keep in mind that a new relationship with Kenya – if Odinga is elected- will be built slowly and carefully.
We will likely see an Odinga government that will start focusing on enhancing Kenya’s current diplomatic relations with Somaliland. There will be a primary focus on battling Al-Shabaab. After Kenya was devastated by terrorist attacks within the past year, an Odinga government will be looking for support to achieve this.
The current Somaliland government’s strong attitude towards national security and its efforts of countering Al-Shabaab is exactly what Odinga will be after and it will beyond any doubt strengthen our relations.
Raila Odinga has reached out to Somaliland when our calls have been ignored. From his years as an opposition politician to PM of Kenya, His sincerity and loyalty towards Somaliland hasn’t been seen before by any African politician. As he rose through the ranks, he hasn’t forgotten us. And as he seeks the highest office in Kenya, we wish him nothing but the best.
Robleh M. Lafcanbe