Refugees, Somaliland part of talksSomalia in spotlight [Archives:2004/788/Front Page]

November 8 2004

Somali President Abdullah Yusuf arrived in Sana'a Saturday morning in an official visit to Yemen.
The visit included discussions about the Horn of Africa and bilateral relations between Somalia and Yemen. This is Yusuf's first visit to Yemen since he was elected as the president of the 13-year war-torn country.
President Yusuf held talks with President Ali Abdullah Saleh after he was received at the airport by Vice President Abdo Raboo Mansour Hadi.
Yusuf's talks with Saleh focused on the situation in Somalia as well as on potential mechanisms which could support Somalia on the international and pan-Arab levels and through bilateral cooperation with Yemen.
President Saleh reaffirmed Yemen's official stance in support of President Yusuf's efforts to maintain the unity of the country and help it stabilize and develop economically.
Yemen already asked the Arab League to set up a fund to support the reconstruction of Somalia in an attempt to help breathe life into this country which was devastated by long years of internal conflict.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi told Yemen Times that Yemen's role in the efforts of reconciliation between the fighting groups is significant. He mentioned that efforts were exerted to energize talks between Somali factions prior to the set-up of the Somali parliament and the president's election in Nairobi two weeks ago.
He pointed out that the security and stability of Somalia is key for the security of Yemen and the entire African Horn region.

Somaliland discussed
However, reliable sources told Yemen Times that the talks also focused on the efforts made by Yemen to have an agreement reached between the Somali government and the government of Somaliland, the self-proclaimed Republic in the north that claimed independence after the eruption of the civil war in 1991.
However, Somaliland is still not officially recognized by the international community.
Yemen intends to play a part in securing an agreement between Hargeisa and Mogadishu despite the fact that the Somaliland insists on remaining as an independent state that will continue to seek international recognition.
In an effort to break the isolation imposed on this territory which has been quite stable and more secure than the south, Ibrahim Othman Yousuf, a prominent figure and investor from Somaliland, was sent by the President of his state Dahir Rayale to Yemen last October with a letter presented to President Saleh urging him to exert more efforts to have direct trade links with Somaliland.
“There are many possibilities and potentials in cooperation between our two states. I am not demanding that Yemen recognized Somaliland as an independent state but rather to at least help the Somali brothers in this part of the country develop their standard of living by providing them with the means to boost their country's economy,” Mr. Ibrahim said in an interview with Yemen Times previously. “The fact that Yemen doesn't recognize Somaliland as an independent state doesn't mean we cannot work together for the mutual benefit of both parties.” he added.

Focus on refugee issues
Another key issue that Saleh and Yusuf discussed was the question of the flood of refugees to Yemen. Reports recently found out that hundreds of refugees flood to Yemen from Somali on a daily basis, most of them illegally. This has exacerbated the economic situation in the country.
Yemen had said many times in the past that it finds it very difficult to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees in the absence of a real contribution from the international community to this humanitarian plight. Government reports said that there are over 600,000 Somali refugees settled in various parts of Yemen while the UNHCR says there are around 60,000 only.
Government officials blame the UNHCR for not being able to accommodate the rest of the refugees scattered in various cities in the camps set in some southern governorates like Lahj and Abyan.
Yemen security officials repeatedly complained from the illegal infiltration of refugees from the African Horn countries as it was found that there are some gangs involved in trafficking refugees to the Yemeni shores for relatively high amounts of money. Several refugees die in their voyage to Yemen or even get killed by the traffickers themselves.
The Yemeni authorities have openly stated that one of the motives to stabilize Somali will help bring the refugees back home as the Yemeni authorities have begun to worry about the future of the Somalis who might become a minority on Yemeni land. Yemeni authorities have even started drafting a law to regulate the situation of the refugees but the cabinet has not passed the law.
Furthermore, the international community showed concern over arms smuggling between Yemen and Somali, which might be used by al-Qaeda militants. A UN report issued last year raised the international concern over the illegal arms trade between Yemen and Somalia, which was accused by the US of harboring al-Qaeda militants.
“We have strong brotherly and historical ties with Somalia and by attending this occasion, we affirm our stance towards the Somali people to keep their security, independence and unity,” said President Saleh in the Kenyan capital where Abdullah Yusuf Ahmed was sworn October 10th.

Call for help
We call on the international community and Arab states to help the Somali government to rebuild Somalia to enable it to take its role in the Horn of Africa for the sake of comprehensive peace in the region,” said Saleh.
Yemen's president also asked the United States, the European Union and other donor countries to provide the necessary financial support to rebuild Somalia which has been in a civil war for the last 13 years.
“We call on the United States, the European Union and all other donors to offer prompt help to Somalia so that it can restore stability and security,” Saleh said.