The Executive Director of SONYO Mr. Saeed Mohamed Ahmed , was among the those eleven youth leaders chosen to participate in this year’s International Visitor Leadership Program, Mr. Saeed met had the opportunity to with Mr. Grant Harris who is the President Obama’s Special Assistant on African Affairs and Policy Advisor on Africa during a visit to the white House.
The session was interactive and more of information-sharing. Saeed has interacted with Harris by also briefing on the processes of peace-building, state-building and democratization that Somaliland has managed to successfully pursue in the last two decades. In addition, Saeed urged Obama’s administration to come close to the real context in Africa and particularly stand up for the support of the growing democracy and the blossoming development in Somaliland. He said: “for Obama to be able to go down to the practicality of his fourfold strategy on Africa and push forward the growing democracies in the African world, it is imperative to support Somaliland and consider its case as a unique phenomenon that should be promoted for contributing to the desired peace and stability of the Horn of Africa and also setting a live example for the states that still need to recognize the importance of democratic governance”. In continuing his discussions with the Special Assistant of the US President, Saeed has also asked about the US’s plan on inviting Somaliland’s president to the upcoming African Leaders Summit in the United States. He said: “Our president is a democratically-elected leader and while he has been in office, he tried to consolidate Somaliland’s relations with your state, are you going to invite him in your upcoming African Leaders Summit as even a de facto state president?
In responding to the questions of Saeed, the Special Assistant and Senior Policy Advisor said: “Somaliland has a very unique case and we do respect its efforts and great work. We will continue to engage with Somaliland to reach its vision. But, as you know, we have recognized the current Somalia government and we also invested in the security sector so that Somalia can also cope with its challenges and build a strong peace”. Mr. Harris also mentioned that USA welcomes Somaliland’s good work and would also like to see its processes of democratization and peace-building continue for consolidation. Mr. Harris also mentioned that they will only invite African heads of de jure states in the upcoming African Leaders Summit.
Mr. Saeed, and fellow participants in the “International Visitor Leadership Program” most pof whom who came from Africa, got a briefing from Harris regarding President Obama’s agenda on Africa. In the briefing, it was told that the engagement of the leaders of the next generations—for building sustainable friendship and ties with Africa—is very important and a priority for the United States strategy on Africa. In addition, it was also mentioned that President Obama’s agenda on Africa has four key strategic objectives:
• Increase the trade and investment with and in Africa
• Strengthen democratic institutions in the African states
• Advance security and promote peace in Africa
• Extend the development channels for African socio-economic empowerment by identifying the actual constraints on the ground and looking for sustainable solutions
In conclusion, the meeting members were given chance to interact further with the adviser and have photo sessions with him. The meeting concluded with very good atmosphere. It was really a great opportunity for the mostly youthful participants of the program and particularly for Somaliland to have its voice heard in such important forum.