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Washington's K-Street lobbyists take on Hargeisa

Worried by Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi's bid to get the US to recognise his government as independent from Somalia, some clan leaders have hired advisors

The political and diplomatic battle between the federal government of Somalia and Somaliland has been given an unusual twist. Washington lobbyists, Von Batten-Montague-York, led by the improbably-named Republican consultant Karl-Marx von Batten, have been hired by the clan leaders of the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn, all contested areas of Somaliland (AC Vol 63 No 16, Hassan Sheikh seeks new foreign allies).

The contract, for which Von Batten-Montague-York will receive a nominal $1 fee, initially involved a meeting with the staff of Democrat Senator Tim Kaine, to discuss 'development relating to the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn regions petitioning the federal government of Somalia for Federal Member Statehood status.'

According to documents filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the lobbyists will also 'lobby, advocate and push matters beneficial to the Clan leaders'.

Von Batten-Montague-York has had the Somali federal government as a client since June last year, also on a $1 contract, first to obtain Somali access to tariff-free exports offered by the United States' African Growth and Opportunity Act.

In practice, they are waging an aggressive social media campaign against the possibility that the US government – or any other international bodies – would recognise Somaliland as an independent state. They dismiss what the lobby firm describes as the 'Somaliland regime fantasy world'.

Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi's visit to Washington last March had been billed as an attempt to secure US recognition. However, in recent weeks, the US ambassador to Mogadishu, Larry André, has referred to Somaliland as a federal region of Somalia, prompting an angry response from Hargeisa (AC Vol 63 No 8, Washington eyes a base at Berbera). 'Somaliland is no friend of the US & does not share US values. We will continue to oppose Somaliland actions to seek US recognition or circumvent Somalia sovereignty,' tweeted Von Batten-Montague-York.

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