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Somaliland votes for new president amid tight contest



MOGADISHU, SOMALIA People in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Somaliland are voting Monday to elect their fifth president Monday as the ruling party faces a strong challenge from opposition candidates.

More than 700,000 registered voters are expected to cast their votes at more than 1,600 polling stations across Somaliland amid tight security in the peaceful enclave.

This election will be the first in Africa one to use iris-scan biometric technology to prevent anyone from voting more than once, said Somaliland’s electoral officials.

Three candidates are running for president following weeks of election campaigns. The current president is stepping down after his five-year term was controversially extended for two and half years because of a shortage of funds and a drought. Muse Bihi Abdi, the candidate for the ruling Kulmiye party and his main challenger Abdirahman Irro from the opposition Wadani party are slight favorites over Feisal Ali Warabe, a veteran politician from the opposition party UCID.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. local time and will close at 6 p.m. Long lines have formed outside polling stations as soldiers stood guard nearby.

Results are expected by Friday. The new president will serve a five-year term that can be renewed once. The vote will be monitored by a British-funded team of 60 international observers from 27 countries.

The Somaliland government will block access to social media during the vote-counting period to try to prevent the spread of rumors about election results.

Somaliland, a haven of relative peace in northwestern Somalia declared its unilateral independence from Somalia in 1991. However, no country has so far recognized it as an independent state. Some voters said they hope Monday’s vote will help Somaliland’s push for international recognition.

“We hope it’ll be a peaceful election that will prove to the world that Somaliland deserves an international recognition,” said Barkhad Jama, a resident in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital.


Anglo-Turkish Genel Energy might starting drilling in Somaliland in 2019 -CEO



LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) – Kurdistan-focused Genel Energy might start drilling in Somaliland next year, Chief Executive Murat Ozgul said on Thursday, as the group reported 2017 results broadly in line with expectations.

“For the long term, I really like (our) Somaliland exploration assets. It’s giving me a sense of Kurdistan 15 years ago,” Ozgul said in a phone interview. “In 2019 we may be (starting) the drilling activities.”

Chief Financial Officer Esa Ikaheimonen said Genel will focus spending money from its $162 million cash pile on its existing assets in Kurdistan but added: “You might see us finding opportunities… somewhere outside Kurdistan.”

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UAE to train Somaliland forces under military base deal: Somaliland president



ABU DHABI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will train Somaliland security forces as part of a deal to establish a military base in the semi-autonomous region, Somaliland’s president said on Thursday.

UAE government officials could not immediately be reached for comment – but the UAE has committed to invest hundreds of million dollars in recent years in the territory on a strategically important stretch of coastline on the Gulf of Aden.

The UAE began construction last year of a base on a site at the airport of the Somaliland port city Berbera, and will be allowed to maintain a presence for 30 years. Berbera is less than 300 km (190 miles) south of war-torn Yemen, where UAE troops are fighting rebels as part of a Saudi-backed coalition.

President Muse Bihi Abdi said the UAE would train police and military in Somaliland, which wants independence from war-torn Somalia but is not recognized internationally. He said he expected the agreement to be finalised within two months.

“They have the resources and the knowledge,” Abdi told Reuters in an interview in Abu Dhabi.

UAE has become more assertive in its foreign policy in recent years. The UAE Armed Forces have been fighting in the Yemen conflict since 2015 and in the past deployed in international operations including Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Abdi said the military base, which he expects will be completed this year, will guarantee economic development and security for Somaliland and act as a deterrent to extremist groups in the region.

Somaliland’s Foreign Minister, Saad Ali Shire, who was present during the interview, declined to disclose how many UAE soldiers would be stationed at the base.


Several regional powers have set up military bases along the Horn of Africa coastline, including Turkey in Somalia’s capital. The United States, China, Japan and France all have bases in neighboring Djibouti.

“It’s safer to have a lot of military in the area,” Abdi said.

Abdi said he hoped UAE investments, including a new civilian airport and a road connecting Berbera to landlocked Ethiopia, will lead to a “huge creation of employment” in Somaliland where unemployment is rampant.

“The biggest threat to Somaliland is poverty,” he said.

Dubai’s DP World is also developing Berbera port and building a free trade zone nearby.

This week, Somalia’s parliament voted to ban DP World from the country, an act that it said had nullified the agreement.

Abdi said the vote was a “joke” and a “political mistake” that would have no impact on the DP World agreement that includes the government of Ethiopia.

Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 and has acted as a de-facto state since then..

Abdi also said he expected the UAE would make a hard currency deposit into Somaliland’s central bank but added that there had been no agreement between the two sides.

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Somalia bans Dubai ports World from operating in Somaliland



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