The city’s Somaliland expat community gathered to celebrate the self-declared independence of their home region on Saturday.
Somaliland is a semi-autonomous region in the northwest of Somalia that declared itself an independent country in 1991.
For expats, Independence Day is an opportunity to celebrate the self-declared country’s “peace and stability,” event organizer Abdullahi Mohamed said as a growing crowd began to to fill the Portuguese Cultural Centre in northeast Edmonton on Saturday night.
Although the rest of the world does not recognize Somaliland’s autonomy, the region nevertheless operates as a democracy, with its own elections, currency and judicial system.
Somaliland was previously colonized by the United Kingdom while the rest of Somalia was colonized by Italy.
To celebrate Independence Day, many in attendance wore red, green and white — the colours of the Somaliland flag.
Mohamed, who goes by the stage name “Captain Abdul,” juggled DJ and emcee duties as he spoke about why he has been involved in the Edmonton celebration of Somaliland’s Independence Day for 16 years. He said the party is a chance to recognize Somaliland’s growth and ongoing efforts to have its independence recognized globally.
“The country is really doing well,” he said.
During the early part of the evening elders gave lectures on Somaliland and dinner was served. Mohamed said hundreds more people were expected to arrive as the evening wore on to enjoy the performance of artist Nuur Daalacay and the party that was planned to run until early Sunday morning.
Although the actual anniversary of independence is May 18, the celebration was moved to an earlier time this year so it would not conflict with the beginning of Ramadan, a month of fasting observed by Muslims around the world.
This year’s celebration was special because it was an opportunity to mark the recent election of a new president, Muse Bihi Abdi, who was elected in November 2017, Mohamad said.