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New Somaliland leader to fight for international recognition

The newly-elected president of Somaliland, Ahmed Mohamud Silaanyo, vowed Friday to campaign "vigorously" for international recognition of his breakaway republic in the Horn of Africa.

"During my tenure as president I will vigorously fight for the recognition of Somaliland. The world must recognise our democracy," Silaanyo told AFP a day after the announcement of his election victory.

"The first part of recognition of our independence is acquired as our people recognise themselves as a free country. What we are seeking is recognition by the outside world," he said in an interview.

Silaanyo, a member of the dominant Issak clan, studied economics in Britain and served in the government of former Somali president Mohamed Siad Barre.

A former British colony 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 chaos and anarchy.

An official of the hardline Shebab militia that controls much of southern Somalia said: "The election is a sham and a dictation of anti-Islamic forces."

"Silaanyo must denounce secession and implement Sharia (Islamic law). As far as the Shebab are concerned... Somalia is united and we won't succumb to division," said the official who did not want to be named.

Silaanyo, elected for a five-year term, said his government will "concentrate on development and rehabilitation of public services".

He expressed gratitude to outgoing president Dahir Riyale Kahin, from the Gaddabursi clan, "for his services to the nation, including the holding of democratic elections".

On Friday evening Kahin accepted defeat gracefully.

"This was a friendly match and at the end somebody had to emerge as a winner. I congratulate President Ahmed Mohamud Silaanyo and his Kulmiye party for winning the presidential election," Kahin told journalists.

"I will remain in the country as an opposition leader and I will hand over my responsibilities immediately, in accordance with the law," he said, adding that as "the founder of democratic pillars in Somaliland" he did not want to undermine that achievement.

Silaanyo said he would maintain close links with Ethiopia and called on Somalia to sort out its problems.

"Our neighbour Somalia needs peace more than anyone and it is the Somalis themselves who can achieve that. We are praying for peace in their country," he said.

"The Ethiopians are our neighbours. They have always been friends of Somaliland," said Silaanyo, who takes over from his predecessor who came to power in 2002.

Silaanyo's election marks the second democratic transfer of power in Somaliland since 1991

7 July 2010