Published On: Sun, Aug 7th, 2011

Silanyo must take a firm but courteous stance in Beijing

President Silanyo’s visit to Beijing is a significant one, ripe as it is with opportunities. The Chinese are past masters at courting and flattering African leaders and no doubt the President and his extensive entourage will be seduced by the elaborate protocol, lavish hospitality and signs of economic progress. It is right and proper that he is engaging with one of the world’s emerging superpowers, but he must be prepared to demonstrate his diplomatic skill in ensuring that he does not sell Somaliland down the river for the sake of short term economic gain.

Negotiating with the Chinese is notoriously difficult and many fear that Silanyo and his team lack the experience and stamina to ensure that discussions do not end up being one sided. There are a range of issues that the President should raise, but our intelligence suggests that he will not. Any country that seeks to espouse true democratic credentials cannot afford to gloss over the following issues that damage China’s reputation:

• The systematic persecution of Muslim Uighars
• China’s continued occupation of Tibet
• The persecution of the Falung Gong
• Constant censorship and blocking of foreign news outlets and websites
• The denial of democratic freedoms

So what issues will the President raise? To date China has done next to nothing to help alleviate the suffering throughout the Horn of Africa and if China is a true friend of Africa it should be prevailed to do far more.  The President has a duty to ensure that he and his colleagues as servants of Somaliland ensurs that they make further requests of their Oriental friend. He should at least request that:

• China with its permanent seat on the UN Security Council is requested to take the lead in breaking the deadlock with regard to the anarchy in Somaliland’s southern neighbour.
• His Beijing hosts use their considerable influence in the Horn of Africa and the African Union to encourage Ethiopia to moderate its behaviour in the region.
• China gives assurances that it will not allow any of its fishing fleet to be part of the systematic plundering of the fish stocks off the coast of Somaliland and its southern neighbour.
• China will use its ‘good offices’ to help mitigate the causes of maritime piracy off the Horn and play a constructive role in seeking to find a co-ordinated solution.

Naturally, the President has every right to seek China’s support in the quest for international recognition. China for its part will be eager to seek access to Somaliland’s extensive mineral reserves. Whilst trade and possible investment are generally a good thing, it is vital that the birthright of future Somalilanders is not sold for a handful of silver or its dollar or yuan equivalent. Chinese investment and expertise is always welcome, but this must be in a spirit of genuine partnership. Sadly, elsewhere in Africa infrastructure projects have rarely benefitted local people as China has shipped over all its own labourers. Issues such as Corporate Governance and environmental safeguards are invariably overlooked or ignored.

If China and Somaliland are to become true friends there is a need for candour in their relationship. China may be a global power, but that does not mean that Somaliland should just kowtow to China’s wishes and demands.  Somaliland may be a small nation, but it is a nation that seeks to adhere to values of mutual respect. It is a nation that knows only too well what it feels like to be oppressed. Somaliland is happy to engage with different countries in a constructive spirit, one informed by the core tenets of Islam. In extending a hand of friendship, people seek to meet half way and it is earnestly hoped that President Silanyo will negotiate in a robust and purposeful manner, and if necessarily occasionally say; “Thank you, but no thank you.”.

Mark T Jones

About the Author

  • Yusuf

    Mark,

    You are making a good point, but you have forgotten that Silaanyo was in this business for more than 50 years, that is an experience equal to the ages of most of the guys sitting at the opposite side of the negotiation table. further more, he is some one who calculates all his moves with precession.

    unlike most other Africans, the people of Somaliland do not look for short-term fix, but plan ahead for sustainable and ever lasting development that will benefit many generations to come. The Chinese will have no problem finding that out in their first meeting with Silanyo and his team.

  • saddam

    silanyo is an old man but is not old enough for china politics.what i mean is he was snm veteran and a leader of opposition political party in unrecognized country.now in the real life of tricky foreing politics it is miles a part from what he has been doing all those years. those people are not something to joke with especially when it comes to resources. the government needs to hire local and international lawyers to make sure china is kept tight incase of any future problems. i tottally agree with the writter this trip can be very dangers and i dont believe the sl leaders are riped enough for china even though i support working with china but uner watchfull eyes of countrys elite inteleguals.

  • OSLO NORWAY

    We are in no position to talk about Tibet or any other Chinese domestic issues.
    If u think we can go to them and insult them with matters like that then u are deluded.
    In this political world everyone have agendas, and Somaliland`s agenda at the moment is not about Chinas
    domestic politic`s.

    1. Somaliland agenda is to care for its people.
    2. Get people`s living standard to rise.
    3.Develop the country`s infrastructure.
    4. secure Somaliland borders/ security for the people.
    5. Last but surely not least the long awaited sovereignty for Somaliland.

    Mr Mark T Jones before we go on and talk about what China should and shouldn't do, we must feed our own people. Even America dont talk to them about those issues anymore! so why should little tiny Somaliland do it? SHOULDN'T WE MIND OUR OWN INTEREST FIRST, BEFORE WE GO ON AND TALK ABOUT TIBET???

    • Muruq Maal Man

      ABSOLUTELY WELL SAID
      as i was reading i was actually laughing at the suggestion of Somaliland question China on their Human rights record !! Is this guy for real loool ? None of the rest of world who trade billions and billions of dollars which China ask these questions, The US who owe china trillions dont even ask them , Mr Oslo well said my friend

      i cant have said what you said better HEAR HEAR !!
      . My only concern would be china MUST builds somalilands capacity to deal with future maintenance of the infrastructure.i.e write in to the contracts that or every 1 chinese engineer there be 4 nationals working under him and there has to be training involved. Anything somaliland does must be in view of the LONG TERM Plan, we cant be too short sighted. Somaliland is in a special position, what many of the wealthy african nations earn from china are not used to help their people but rather to payback the never ending IMF AND WORLD BANK LOANS that they took out some with 200% interest rates which translates to "I OWE YOUR ASS FOR LIFE"..

      SOMALILAND IS IN A SPECIAL POSITION AND THEREFORE SHOULD learn of fellow african nations mistakes. My trust is with Silanyo, his a very experienced man, !!

      And to the guy calling him self "Saddam,"^^^ ,,what are your views on Hillary Clinton ,wife of a EX US president !! she is a foreign minister for the largest superpower on the world and she had no experience in the political world….You resemble the hallmarks of typical uneducated somali man ,,one who shows no belief in the ability his fellow somali professionals just for the fact that they are somali too. its a disease that plights whole Africa !! Give Silanyo some credit sxb!!

  • Boqoljire

    It all depends how they make themselves ready to engage the Giant that is hungry for energy. Mr. President is economist and a politician for over 50 years, but it all depends how the other part [Chinese] treat the delegation and what importance they attach to this part of the world. I believe it's too early to judge, what the real discussion is all about, and how far this engagement is important for both sides.

    We hold on to our faith and ability of our President's delegation that they will negotiate seriously with their counterparts. The pressing issue for our government is how to find jobs for the everygrowing youth that catch up with the education since we separated from the meihem of Somalia, and they deserve the attention of their leader to leave no stone unturned to find way out for their joblesness.

  • Kayse

    Hello Mark,

    I am sorry to say but we Somalilanders will not discuss issues that only the West uses to betray China as a monster. If your own UK cares about the freedom of others, instead of crying crocodile tears after Tibet, don't you think it would be wiser to let the people of Ireland go and let them unite in their own way? Why does UK call it self "United" and wishes to divide others?

  • Kayse

    We do not care about Tibet or Taiwan, we will sit with China as Somalilanders after their own interest and treating China no different to UK.

    We will sit with Taiwan too on equal bases.

    We don't care about Chinese demostic issues nor should China care about our own ones—we are for business and they should be up for it too.

    President Silaanyo needs to offer the Chinese a military base in Berbera, the Japanese, Americans and French are in Djibouti, China needs to keep them at bay.

    I personally encourage the President to seek military ties with China as well as economic one.

    We will not listen to Western propaganda who robbed Africa and enslaved our people- we share more things in common with China than the West.

    We are glad China is no longer a weak element the West can abuse, China's rise is Africa's economic freedom. No more IMF and world bank control by the West.

    Don't listen to Mr Jones Mr Silanyo.

    • Birmingham, UK

      We shouldn't be giving ANY country military bases on OUR land. China also isn't looking for military bases their not like the US. I think we have the upperhand in the negotations and shouldn't except anything that could tie us down to the Chinese for too long.The key point to look for is recgnintion as a sovering nation from China as well as helping us to develop our nation. I dont agree that we should enter into a long term deal as this can prove to be diffcult if Somaliland get its Independence other countries looking to trade and invest cannot as we have this deal with them so we shouldn't have a deal that is longer than 15 years of continued economic and infrastructure development aid from them.

    • warya

      Giving a military base to the Chinese would alienate our biggest supporter UK as well as ruffle some feathers in Washington. All small nations require powerful international allies on which to lean for assistance and advice and in this regard I would suggest opening up further to the United Kingdom.For example, SL government could request our athletes to be allowed to participate in Commonwealth events and games. Another good idea would be to involve SL forces in Nato exercises as well as minor peacekeeping missions. Any morally acceptable action that could boost Somaliland's regional and global significance should be considered. i.e. joint military exercises and perhaps the refurbishment of our Air and Naval forces.

      With all the envy, opportunism, animosity and destruction rampant in the region, it is my strong belief that Somaliland must establish itself and both the strongest economic and military powerhouse in the region. Anything short of this would be rolling the dice on Somaliland's future.

      My 2 shillings!

  • Kayse

    Our experience with China has been a positive one, they built many of our existing infrastructures without a single demand or some kind of hidden agenda like the West.

    I believe Somaliland and Africa as whole should ban all Western aid agencies and NGOs—and should try Chinese ones…or atleast 50-50….its clear what's letting Africa down is Western aid agencies, who secretly fund tribal wars, smuggle out informations, data and other intelligences.

    Somaliland should get rid off most Western aid agencies.

  • Ahmed

    Hallo Guys

    It is clear that every country persuing his own intrests, parallel lines never meet.. If we as Somalilanders make our point very clear it would be possible that we can gain something.. Although China is recently fast growing economy and their problem is resource scarcity..what we have is resources that they are looking for.

    On the other hand a problem may arise how the mutual contract will be created and here is where I am wondering how it will be fair for our own intrests.

  • mohamoud

    Beggars have no shame and pride.

  • Ali Asad

    Democracy is not a religious doctorine but simply man-made system. In terms of China's system of sticking their own way of living and system of Government of Communism, does not mean, they are undemocratic.
    They really, do not need any democratic ideology but better like to persue their own system, rather than following the Western Ideology of Democracy, All in all, their economy is fastly growing and the standard of their people are more than improving rapidly where their justice system is functioning according to their choice. What is democracy for them then?
    Musa

    • Ahmed

      Good idea its true that China don't need any western ideology like what they call Democracy.

  • Jirdeh

    The president has a clear agenda for his discussions with his Chinese counterparts and that most definitely does not include China's internal affairs or human rights records. The agenda is specific for bilateral relations and economic and trade cooperation. The Chinese have the technological and financial capacities to undertake major developmental projects which will be beneficial to the progress and advancement of Somaliland in all fields, while Somaliland can offer huge and untapped natural and marine resources that are essential for the Chinese development. This is a give and take situation and the only thing required is experience and skillful negotiations which the president and his delegation have. I predict a successful mission.

  • Gobaad

    I definitely agree with Mr. Jirdeh 100 percent. We trust our delegations and have high hopes that they are there only for our own interest and no doubt that they will negotiate in a good faith on our behalf and do a good job. Besides, we (Somalilanders) are very proud people and anybody who knows Somalilanders well will never apply the "kowtow" expression to us. We don't lower ourselves or stoop for some temporary short term gains. And as the Somali saying goes: Waan baahan nahay looma bahalo cuno, which means just because you are hungary, you don't have to eat if you don't what it is or where it came from.

  • Ali

    I totally agree with Kayse that it is time for S/Land to increase bilateral and strategic relationship with China. Te future spoils of political supremacy and domination of key resources such as Middle Eastern oil and the supply routes lays within the Indian Ocean (IO).

    The West and her Eastern allies (Japan) have already established military bases in key strategic locations near the Indian Ocean (Djibouti) with the false pretext of tackling "Somali pirates". However, many question whether this is a mere response to China assistances and funding of major deep-sea port developments in countries located around the IO such as Pakistan, Sir Lanka, Burma and Bangladesh. Furthermore, many experts believe that this is a long-term Chinese military strategy in securing future Middle Eastern oil and African mineral/food supply.

    We must learn from history…

    Somalia's former brutal dictator Siaad Barre had certainly played his card right during the early 70s and mid 80s by exploiting the then competing superpowers of USA and the former USSR. Both nations had vied to gain sole military access and use of Berbera Port and in each had rewarded the Barre regime with military hardware/training, economic assistance/loans and the further upgrade of Berbera Port from a mere small to a deep-sea port.

    The S/Land must learn from past history of offering access to our port and in return receiving military and economic assistance. Furthermore, with abundance of minerals and resources S/Land has, it is certainly time for us to exploit our nation riches with a viable partner…..which in my opinion is China!!!

  • Mahamed Ciise

    Yes inshallah this inshallah can increase the development of Somaliland and in the future will probably be a country like China inshallah and we will achieve our quest of gaining international recognition as a sovereign nation we must have "sabr" or patience and Allah (swt) is with the patient.

  • ahmed

    No doubt Africa needs new friends, new partners namely china ,,, sorry to say Africa's long term friend which is the west is officially declared bankrupt, so Africa wants a dancing partner therefore Europe/america can't dance at all.

  • hamdi

    At last his going top china, if u ask me shud of gone there be4 going anywhere else. Let’s face it the real investors in the world is not the euroupeans but the chinese. We’l get a better deal from the chinese than the world bank imf, and european deluders.

  • Mustafa

    Cautious and clear self interest is the only negation tool Somaliland needs in these discussions. Getting ourselves involved in China’s old and complex internal affairs will not only damage Somaliland position, but such a drum beats from a country which is not recognised by the international community will not register a single decibel in Beijing. Africa has always been the pawn for Western propaganda and anyone who is holding a magnify glasses to China’s shortcomings only needs to look at what 100 years of American and European values and political ideology has to done for the third world. China is not prefect by any indicators; however this should not deter Somaliland from doing business with China, after all the yuan is the new dollar and for better or worse it does not come with a spending instructions like the dollar and US AID.

    • abdi

      I totally agree with you Mustafa, couldn't have said it better.Our immediate priority and committment is to our people and pulling ourselves from this economic stagnation we have been in for 2 decades of World in action. Engaging in a political cheap shots from a nation that is in need and not yet recognized is a political suicide, but in the future. for sure we would have expressed our concerns.

  • Kayse

    If Africa wants to stay on the handouts by World Vision, IMF and the so called World Bank (Anglo-Saxon Bank) then they should continue in their already failed state system like Somalia, however, if you want something different you have to take risks in life and explore the Chinese option. China will no doubt exploit Africa but gains from China will be worth more than gains from the Western handouts and killer interest rates (one sack of expired grain that comes with 250% interest rate)…

    With China you have to balance things and I am confident in our leadership we will make the right choices.

    We have to bring the Chinese onboard and get them to help us develop this young virgin nation.

    Democracy and human rights are tools used by the West to occupy nations, they really dont care about those things…they just rearranged their old imperial motto which was "Africa is uncivilized, we will bring civilization"—now its "your not democratic enough, we will bring the box ballots".

    They are evils and Somalis are far smarter than they think. We will not fall for their democratic, famine response, human right BS.

    We favor China over them any day.

  • abdi

    lool, you have some great points Keyse, but dont spoil them with by overexpressing your emotions. I think this is just an opportunity to explore potential economic ties with China, and in no way should be construded as done deal yet. Although China is willing to invest in Africa at the moment, it had recently experienced some real setbacks with its investments in both Lybia and in the Sudan, and therefore may be a bit cautious in investing in other African nations and Somaliland is no exception. Our president has a lot of convincing to do in this mission, and I have high hopes.

  • Abraham

    @Kayse
    The Western World call an oppressor an oppressor, so what is wrong with that? Also you need to educate yourself regarding the United Kingdom. The people of Northern Ireland are not denied their right to join the Irish Republic, its them who chose to remain part of the UK and the British government just makes sure the majority's right is not violated by a republican minority.
    Mr Kayse I suggest you stop your hearsay propaganda against the West, they are immeasurably better then the China you support.

  • Abraham

    Another great article from Mark although I would not advise our president and his delegation to talk to China about their domestic matters. Such talks are for the superpowers like the USA and Europe who can wield both a stick and a carrot to get whatever they want but tiny poor Somaliland can ill-afford to upset its potential new business partner.

  • Mustafe Ahmed

    President Egal RIP, used to argue in the General Assembly back in the 60s for recognizing China. It is still available in the UN archives. The President definitively should remind them of our past history with China. We need a lot of infrastructure as basic as water, schools, hospital and roads etc. so if they take eqivallent of our minerals then so be it. People are starving in when droughts hit our homeland, so we can't afford to let such opportunity pass by. China is the new superpower, we have to be in the game for our own sake.

  • Mustafe Ahmed

    President Egal RIP, used to argue in the General Assembly back in the 60s for recognizing China while the world still recognized Taiwan. It is still available in the UN archives. The President definitively should remind them of our past history with China. We need a lot of infrastructure as basic as water, schools, hospital and roads etc. so if they take eqivallent of our minerals then so be it. People are starving in when droughts hit our homeland, so we can't afford to let such opportunity pass by. China is the new superpower, we have to be in the game for our own sake.

  • Saleebaan Xaaji

    China is doing what it should have done centuries ago, dominate the globe. Somaliland needs an ally, although, so far China is still the opposition camp (one of a few nations with an embassy in Mogadishu). Somaliland needs to find out what China's needs are, and we will them about our needs. It would be foolish to raise the issue of Tibet and Taiwan at this stage. Remember China accepted the Sudan and Southern Sudan solution, does business with both nations. Very pragmatic.

  • Dr. Bashe

    This time I'm not with you with Mr. Jones. Somaliland's interests go first. If China champions the Somalilander's interests which has been ignored by the world at large who cares what China does in its back yard and who are we to teach the giant Asian Tiger how to behave. Our President should put our peoples interests first and formost.

  • Togdheerboy

    adm. be fear. my freind.

  • Aliburco

    Masterate in Economic during 60's and worked as planning and development minister in Siyaad Bing the father of present day Somaliland. Silanyo has got a wealth of experience,he was elected and he aint a dictator, together with his competent cabinet they manage well the first democracy in Somalaland. Even his predecessor was a dictator although he used democracy to come to power.

    In democracy government representatives do plan ahead of their agenda whether it's towards Arab league, AU, or even China. So please let democracy take it's course in Somaliland

  • prof Hersi

    Hi
    Those of you who are for the new china-somaliland relations have every right to encourage and support the president for this mission and the new maneuver, but never underestimate to what Mr jones said, china is very wicked negotiator and it flatters everyone whom they deal with. I strongly believe how Mr Jones unveiled the true nature of China when it comes to negotiation. Negotiating with china is a risk advenger but very necessary one which i can even say it is now or never to attract international investment. Somaliland has been busy to satisfy western democratic nations' egoism and norms for so long but it is the latter who failled to nod and give the recognition to Somaliland. So i can say, bye bye to the west and the double standard democracy and hello to oriental dragon even though i am skeptical about dealing with the shroud red chinese who looted the resources of the whole African continent.

  • STC

    Mark, before you write an article next time you should do your homework. There is no market for double standards, are you suggesting all former British colonies should now make a claim against the UK? By the way, I would like to invite you to comment on the issue of Diego Garcia island in the Indian Ocean, and the massive use of Orange Agent in Vietnam during the Vietnam war, the highly toxic chemical weapon; let's talk about compensation.

    The world has changed, it is all about economic development, food on the table, clean water and good education.
    China had been, and is, and will continue to support Africa. There will be huge investment into the horn of Africa, talk is cheap, let's start by investing USD4 billion into Somaliland.

  • Naliye

    Somaliland is not in a position to criticize any other State because it isn’t one, first get in to the club then chose sides with its members, but your on the outside looking in and that is what you need to change.

  • Jamal Adan

    I 100% agree with Ali, i think his making sence. Barre was brilliant leader despite what he has done because he knew how to take advantage of countries like Russia and US and earn economic assistance and military aid.

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