, HARGEISA, Jul 27 – The newly-elected president of Somalia\’s northern breakaway state of Somaliland was sworn in Tuesday following June polls widely acclaimed as peaceful and democratic.
Outgoing president Dahir Riyale Kahin handed over power to Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo during a ceremony at the presidential palace in the capital Hargeisa.
"I solemnly transfer power to the new president, my brother Ahmed Silanyo, who defeated me in the recent elections," said Riyale, who had been in power since 2002.
"I will work with him by giving my support and I call upon all of you to unite in his support," he added. "There is a huge and difficult task ahead of our brother so let us help him succeed in his work."
Silanyo, who has a degree from the London School of Economics and runs the Kulmiye party, is Somaliland\’s fourth president since the territory unilaterally proclaimed its independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991.
"I ask for your support to fulfil my commitments and, as of tomorrow, I will start appointing my government," Silanyo said at the ceremony.
The elections were held on June 26, on the day of the 50th anniversary of independence from Britain.
The polls were originally slated for 2008 but were delayed by a protracted dispute over voter registration.
Last month\’s election was nonetheless held without any violence despite a hard-fought campaign and the incumbent gracefully conceded defeat after a ballot foreign observers hailed as generally fair.
Many voters and politicians have voiced hope that the smooth transfer of power would once again prove their democratic credentials and strengthen their territory\’s case for international recognition.
Some Western countries argue Somaliland deserves to become a fully-fledged country and thus gain access to more aid but the African Union is wary of setting a precedent they fear could spur secessions across the continent.