On Saturday, December 11, 2021, the Humpty Dumpty Institute (HDI) departed Washington, D.C., with a U.S. Congressional Staff Delegation to Hargeisa, Somaliland, for a five-day program. HDI partnered with the Horn of Africa Education Development Fund (Abaarso Network), the Cheetah Conservation Fund, the Somalilander-American Health Association, and The Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Hargeisa.
This program followed the ongoing series of HDI’s international Congressional Delegations with the aim to enhance and foster greater understanding on the part of the U.S. Congress of various countries around the world through direct dialogue and an exchange of ideas with government officials and other thought leaders. The goal of this trip was to get a better understanding of the complexities of the region through meetings with the Somalilander government, business, environmental and cultural leaders. Somaliland, with its strategic location in the Horn of Africa, is very important to U.S. interests in the region in the current geopolitical situation. It is crucial for U.S. political, academic, and business leaders to get a better understanding of current dynamics and strategic concerns.
This delegation was composed of five senior Congressional Staffers: Ms. Elizabeth Lewis (Senior Policy Analyst for Senator James Risch), Mr. Piero Tozzi (Staff Director for Congressman Christopher Smith), Mr. Scott Gaber (Chief Counsel for Senator Lindsey Graham), Mr. Cole Rojewski (Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Kay Granger), and Mr. Christopher Del Beccaro (Chief of Staff for Congressman Michael McCaul).
Conservation and women’s issues were the focuses of the first day of the program. The delegation met with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change of Somaliland and had the opportunity to tour the Cheetah Conservation Fund Safe House. There, they discussed environmental challenges facing Somaliland, specifically the impact of climate change, the prolonged drought, and the impact of the loss of grazing land on the local economy. Also, that day, the participants discussed issues concerning gender equality and women’s rights and women’s access to education in Somaliland with leaders of civil society.
The second day concentrated on exploring the most pressing issues concerning Somaliland and its role in the region, with discussions focused on the current economic and political situation. As HDI’s mission is to foster dialogue, the delegation met with the political parties in the current administration and with opposition parties. The program also allowed HDI’s Chairman Al Khalafalla to meet with Taiwan’s representative in Somaliland, Ambassador Allen C. Lou. Dr. Khalafalla and Ambassador Lou discussed possible HDI/Taiwan humanitarian programs in the region. HDI has a long history of working with Taiwan globally.
Another area of concentration for the delegation was education. The delegation visited the Abaarso School, an internationally recognized 7th-12th grade co-ed boarding school just outside of Hargeisa, where it had the opportunity to discuss education access and educational opportunities of local students. The in-depth discussion focused on the challenges of running educational institutions in Somaliland. On the afternoon of December 14, the group met with the leadership of the University of Hargeisa, the largest university in Somaliland, where they explored possibilities of student exchanges.
Also, while in Somaliland, the group met with business leaders with the intention of increasing U.S. business opportunities in the region. They also traveled to Berbera, the site of a major naval port and the longest runway in Africa, used as a space shuttle emergency landing site. The delegation focused on the strategic importance of the port to regional and U.S. interests, specifically to counter China’s growing influence in Africa.
HDI is honored to be able to arrange programs that foster dialogue and advance U.S. strategic interests. All HDI’s Congressional Programs adhere to regulations set forth by the U.S. House Committee on Ethics and the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics and are approved prior to travel.