Ethiopia praises Somaliland polls

2010-07-05 08:20

Addis Ababa - Ethiopia pledged support on Sunday for Somaliland and praised the breakaway state's presidential candidates for carrying out a peaceful transfer of power after polls last week.

"The government of Ethiopia pays tribute... to (outgoing) President Dahir Riyale Kahin for his high sense of obligation to the people of Somaliland... and to the leader of the winning party Ahmed Mohamud Silaanyo for his magnanimity and for his commitment," a foreign ministry statement said.

"The people of Somaliland can always count on the full support of the government and people of Ethiopia as they continue to preserve their peace and stability and ensure the democratic process is protected," it added.

Silaanyo won the June 26 polls that were praised by observers for being transparent and peaceful despite threats of attacks from the Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebaab operating in neighbouring Somalia.

The president-elect subsequently vowed to campaign "vigorously" for international recognition for his Horn of Africa republic.

The former British colony has close political and commercial ties with regional powerhouse Ethiopia, but Addis Ababa has so far declined to grant recognition and only maintains a trade office in Hargeisa.

Tacked on to Somalia when the latter gained independence from Italy in 1960, Somaliland has remained reasonably stable, spared the clan warfare that has dogged Somalia thanks to the domination of the Issaks.

It broke away from Somalia in 1991, after the overthrow of Siad Barre plunged the country into anarchy.

Silaanyo's election marks the second democratic transfer of power in 19 years, which voters saw as a fresh opportunity to demonstrate their aspiring state's democratic credentials.

The region has been spared much of the violence that has ravaged Somalia, where an Islamist insurgency is battling to overthrow the Western-backed government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.