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What’s behind Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's Somaliland controversy?

The oft-criticized Democratic congresswoman expressed support for Somalia in its territorial dispute with Somaliland in a recent speech. The Arab League and Turkey are also backing Mogadishu over the issue.
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks during a news conference calling for a ceasefire in Gaza outside the U.S. Capitol building on November 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. House Democrats held the news conference alongside rabbis with the activist group Jewish Voices for Peace. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) made headlines this week after getting criticized by conservatives on social media for a speech strongly backing Somalia in its territorial dispute with Somaliland.

What happened: A video of Omar speaking in Minneapolis surfaced on social media on Sunday. In the video, Omar, who hails from Somali origins, addressed the dispute between Somalia and Somaliland, specifically the Jan. 1 memorandum of understanding signed between the latter and Ethiopia. Under the agreement, Somaliland would give landlocked Ethiopia access to the Red Sea port of Berbera in exchange for full diplomatic recognition. Somaliland is an unrecognized state in the Horn of Africa, and the territory it claims completely lies within what is internationally recognized as Somalia.

According to the translation in the video, Omar strongly backed Somalia in the dispute, praising President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and saying “Somalia is for Somalis only.” Omar purportedly added that she will use her position in Congress to protect Somalia’s interests.

“Sleep in comfort knowing I am here to protect the interests of Somalia from inside the US system,” she said.

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