HARGEISA (Reuters) - Somaliland’s new leader, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, was sworn in as president on Tuesday, furthering the breakaway Somali enclave’s democratic credentials as it fights for international recognition.
International observers said June’s election had been largely free and fair, and was seen as an impressive achievement when compared to the two decades of civil war in southern and central Somalia where foreign peacekeepers prop up an almost powerless government in the face of an Islamist insurgency.
“I am handing over the presidency with good spirit and welcome President Silanyo who won the election,” outgoing President Dahir Rayale Kahin said at the ceremony.
“I tell my supporters that the campaign and election are over and that the people of Somaliland are expected to unite and work for the future of Somaliland and recognition.”
Colonised by Britain while the rest of Somalia was under Italian administration, Somaliland declared independence in 1991 as the rest of the country disintegrated into anarchy.
But the African Union and foreign powers have not recognised Somaliland. Many in the breakaway republic suspect the African Union fears its formal recognition would trigger a flurry of secession bids across the continent.
Silanyo, who will make his official inauguration speech on Wednesday and announce his cabinet, pledged equality and justice and said he would strive to strengthen Somaliland’s democracy.
Somaliland won independence from Britain in 1960, just a few days before Italy relinquished control of southern and central Somalia. The republic of Somalia was created, but Somaliland, rapidly felt marginalised.
Years of fighting against the south ensued and galvanised Somaliland’s population, dominated by a single clan, to turn its back on civil war and seek independence.