The recent development involving United Arab Emirates to accept Somaliland Passport or its recognition of Somaliland Passport as a legal travel document for ordinary Somaliland citizens, while dropping the Somali passport, is a tacit approval of nation’s main ambition of winning recognition from the world sovereign states. In addition, it is a tremendous relief that would give Somaliland business people an easy access to enormous free trade zones in Dubai and elsewhere in the Emirates.
As can be seen on U.A.E.’s online visa application portal, the Somali passport is no longer an option to choose, and Somaliland passport has taken its place. It is not yet officially clear from U.A.E. Immigration Department what would be the fate of the Somali passport after this change, but this news sent shock waves like tsunami throughout Somali communities around the globe.
There is an anxiety and uncertainty brewing in the Somalilander as well as South Somali expatriates holding Emirati residencies in the United Arab Emirates. But fortunately, Somaliland community sees a light at the end of the tunnel where they can transition from the old Somali passport to the Somaliland passport as the latest press release of April 28, 2018 from the Somaliland Mission in UAE assured them.
Somaliland did not easily materialize such great triumph without making tough decisions at different fronts involving many overt and calculated steps taken by the former Somaliland administration as well as the current administration at different times. DP World of Dubai was preferred over Bolloré Africa Logistics (The African arm of France’s Groupe Bolloré) in running the Berbera Port. In February 2017, Somaliland government struck an agreement with U.A.E. establishing the rights to construct a military base adjacent to the Berbera Port in a lease extending for 25 year. After carefully assessing the gulf dispute and taking into account the nation’s interest in a ministerial cabinet meeting in June 2017, Somaliland made a strategic decision of throwing its weight behind the coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
On the other hand, South Somali nationals in U.A.E. found themselves in a dilemma and in an unfamiliar territory knowing one thing for sure, that Somaliland passport is out of their reach and next to impossible to obtain. Surely, their plight has to do a lot with recent series of blunders, which were void of diplomatic protocol and categorically meant to harm Somaliland, explicitly made by their Federal Government in Mogadishu:
Somalia calls for UN action against UAE base in Berbera
Somalia launches complaint with Arab League over Berbera agreement
Somalia seizes $9.6m from UAE plane in Mogadishu
Somalia to Halt UAE Funding for Troops as Relations Sour
Somali military faction raid UAE-backed army camp
Learning an excellent lesson in the hard way, Federal Government of Somalia has not yet publicly commented nor made known its official position on this emerging fact favoring the Somaliland Passport over its own Somali Passport by .U.A.E. However, the president of Somali Regional Administration of Puntland, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, interestingly refuted the behavior of Federal Government of Somali in a press conference held in Abu-Dhabi on April 26, 2018. He painted the real picture of the government in Mogadishu, and sounded like mending fences with U.A.E. by labeling the Somali-Qatari relationship as nuisance.
U.A.E. is not the first country that chose to make such decision, but a dozen of other countries throughout world did so, as widely reported in the internet. For instance, The Republic of Zambia, an African country, added Somaliland passport to its Electronic Visa Application System in February 2016, out of mutual understating. Ethiopia and Djibouti, who both have Liaison Offices in Hargeisa, issue visas to Somaliland passports
Somaliland passport first debuted in the administration of late former president – Mohamed Hagi Ibrahim Egal – and mainly was available to only government officials for their official foreign visits. The Somaliland Immigration Department is the sole authority that enforces Somaliland Immigration Law enacted in 1995 which governs immigration and citizenship issues in Somaliland. It falls under the control of Somaliland Ministry of Interior. On September 9, 2014, Somaliland introduced an e-passport which replaced the old Somaliland passport. The Somaliland E- passport is of three categories – Service passport, Diplomatic passport and Citizens Passport. Around that time, very few countries in the African Continent had actually be using the biometric passport or the e-passport. Kenya will introduce its e-passport in 2019 while Tanzania will do so in 2020 as well.
Beyond the travel relief it offers to the Somaliland people, this event has a wider implications for the Somaliland case.
It indicates that Somaliland is different and distinct from Somalia, and sends out a powerful message that Somaliland is a viable, responsible, and competent country capable to be interacted with. Somaliland administration must not trivialize this development but rather needs to capitalize it by aggressively and seriously taking this message to the world, particularly to other gulf countries, the Arab World, and the African Continent, to follow suit this courageous act of United Arab Emirates or even asking them to go further by recognizing the reclamation of our lost sovereignty.
Ahmed J Yassin
Member of SII USA Team