First step to international recognition for breakaway state of Somaliland
MPs have approved the first reading of a Bill that would see the UK recognise the north east African country of Somaliland as an independent republic.
The former British protectorate – which has strong links with Wales, where around 15,000 Somalilanders live – broke away from its neighbour Somalia in 1991 following a civil war and has functioned as a de facto democratic state ever since.
But the international community has refused to grant Somaliland recognition and now a cross-party group of MPs is pushing for the House of Commons to back a private member’s Bill that would force the UK Government to do so.
Former Conservative Cabinet Minister Sir Gavin Williamson told the Commons: “On June 26 1960, Britain granted independence to the British protectorate of Somaliland. It was in the euphoria of that moment that Somaliland a few days later entered into a union with the old Italian trust territory of Somaliland, a union that proved deeply unhappy.
“While it started in hope and optimism, that union ended in tragedy. It saw the rise of a brutal military dictatorship based in Mogadishu, whose next steps were the persecution and genocide of many Somalilanders. Over the following years, that union saw a genocide unfold with the loss of many lives – I am talking about not just tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands of lives. In the capital city of Somaliland, it saw Somali air force jets rising to the skies to drop bombs on the people of Hargeisa. Some 90% of the city was completely destroyed, and there was destruction in many other cities right across Somaliland.
“That union also saw many of the nomadic tribes of Somaliland persecuted, with their wells – their only source of life, which provided them vital water – being poisoned. Hundreds of thousands of people died in that genocide and, sadly, much of the world did not notice or pay attention. The impact was not just on the people killed; every single family in Somaliland was touched by that violence and many families either were displaced within the borders of Somaliland or had to flee to neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia and Djibouti.
“Out of that genocide, out of that civil war, we saw the emergence once again of an independent country. In 1991, Somaliland was able to declare itself free of Somalia. It was able to stand proud and independent, away from the persecution and genocide that it had suffered for so long. Somalilanders have asked the world for recognition for more than 30 years now.
“They have asked the world to recognise what is there on the horn of Africa. They have listened to countries such as Britain, the United States, France and Germany, which have turned to them and said, ‘We expect certain things: a democratic process, parliamentary and presidential elections, and a judicial process. We expect you to educate your boys and girls. We expect you to be welcoming and a safe place for people to visit.’ And Somaliland has delivered that, yet it still waits for recognition from countries such as Britain, the United States, France, Germany and so many others. That wait is too long.
“Somaliland is a country doing everything that it believes people expect a democratic free country to be doing, but it asks for something in return. The people of Somaliland have, over so many decades, been willing to look to Britain as a friend. In fact, when we were in our greatest need during the second world war, the people of Somaliland joined with us in our battle against fascism.
“They fought side by side with British soldiers. When I was in Hargeisa, I visited the Commonwealth war graves cemetery, where I saw British names and the names of Somalilanders. Blood was spilled by both our nations for those common values and interests. We now need to step up as a nation and do something more than just being there. It is time to recognise Somaliland.”
MPs backed the Bill without a vote and it will have its second reading on November 24. Among the presenters of the Bill is Vale of Glamorgan Tory MP Alun Cairns.
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