SRSG on first visit to Somaliland

The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative (SRSG) to Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, left Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday for Hargeysa, the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, to meet senior members of the government there.

"The SRSG is in Hargeysa to exchange views with senior officials of Somaliland before he pays a courtesy call on his excellency Dahir Riyale Kahin," Babafemi Badejo, the deputy SRSG, said on Monday.

The two-day trip is Fall's first visit to Somaliland since he took up his appointment at the end of May 2005.

Fall had requested to visit Somaliland at an earlier date but the authorities "had expressed preference for a visit after the parliamentary elections were concluded", said Badejo.

Somaliland voters went to the polls on 29 September to elect 82 members of the region's parliament.

The polls are the breakaway republic's third since it declared unilateral independence from the rest of Somalia in May 1991, following the collapse of the administration of former President Siyad Barre.

"The people and their leaders are to be commended for the progress they have made towards security and true democracy," Fall said, according to a statement issued by his office. "They have succeeded in rising above the conflicts that have stifled social progress and the peaceful aspirations of the vast majority of the Somali people for the past 14 years."

Unlike the rest of Somalia, which has been wracked by factional warfare since 1991, Somaliland has remained relatively calm.

"I am delighted to have this opportunity to visit Hargeysa and to listen and learn from Somali leaders there," Fall said.