News / Africa

Somaliland Hails British Step Forward in Independence Bid

Somaliland Hails British Step Forward in Independence Bidi
Henry Ridgwell
April 05, 2014 3:22 AM
A city in Britain has become the first to officially recognize Somaliland's claim to independence. The vote -- which is symbolic and has no legal weight -- is nevertheless being hailed by Somaliland leaders as a big step forward in their decades-long campaign to break away from Somalia. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Somaliland Hails British Step Forward in Independence Bid
Henry Ridgwell
A city in Britain has become the first to officially recognize Somaliland’s claim to independence. The vote -- which is purely symbolic and carries no legal weight -- is nevertheless being hailed by Somaliland leaders as a big step forward in their decades-long campaign to break away from Somalia.

Somalilanders celebrated outside Sheffield city hall after the council voted Thursday to recognize the region’s right to self-determination. Thousands of people of Somaliland origin live in the northern British city.

Somaliland’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Bihi Yonis attended the vote; he later told VOA of its symbolic importance. “Somaliland has the border, the population [in favor of independence], the currency, the independence, the elections, the democracy, the rule of law, the human rights record of Somaliland. And I think they have looked into all of those areas and realized that Somaliland has met the requirements of statehood.”

Somaliland occupies the northern section of Somalia.

The rest of the country has been plagued by lawlessness and violence since the overthrow of Somalia’s leader in 1991. Later that same year, Somalilanders voted in a referendum to become independent -- a vote that has not been recognized by any nation.

Oasis of peace

Mohamed Yonis calls Somaliland a relative oasis of peace. “We have a proper functioning government and institutions, while the other part of Somalia is actually burning and having a lot of difficulties as you know -- issues of piracy, terrorism, al-Shabab [Islamic militants].”

Somaliland did gain brief statehood upon its independence from Britain in June 1960. But its government chose to merge with Somalia.

Convincing the world that Somaliland should be recognized as independent will not be easy, according to Alex Vines of London-based policy analyst group Chatham House.

“Internationally, everybody says it would have to be led by Africa," said Vines. "When you talk to African leaders, it’s like, ‘Well, we might consider it, but we wouldn’t be the first.’”

Somaliland authorities insist the region’s economy would support independence.

Thriving economy

The port of Berbera lies just west of the tip of the Horn of Africa. It’s a chaotic, dusty trade hub; camels, goats and sheep are transferred from trucks and carts into the market, to be exported across Africa and the Gulf.

Agriculture is the backbone of Somaliland’s economy; Minister of Livestock Abdi Aw Dahir Ali said the industry can grow even bigger. “It does not export only livestock from Somaliland. Berbera exports livestock from Ethiopia, from Somalia, from Kenya. So it's a center of export of all livestock from the Horn.”

Somaliland authorities have handed out exploration licenses to a number of foreign oil firms, to the anger of the Somali government in Mogadishu.

The country also could offer an export hub for neighboring landlocked Ethiopia, said Vines.

“It wouldn’t be necessarily against the interests of neighboring Ethiopia. But the precedent of recognizing Somaliland would then add complexity to Ethiopia itself,” he said.

Somaliland authorities say talks with the Somali government are progressing. Observers say Mogadishu favors unity, though, and few expect any countries to follow Sheffield’s lead in the near future.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Mohammed Shukri from: London
April 18, 2014 1:31 PM
Somali should let Somaliland be independent.

by: yusuf from: hargeisa,somaliland
April 08, 2014 8:48 PM
we will decorate sheffeilds name on many important places in our country. you are heroes and we will always remember you. thank you sheffeild..

by: Ahmed from: Zambia, Lusaka
April 08, 2014 12:56 AM

by: asia ali from: oxford uk
April 06, 2014 10:19 AM
I would like to thank and congratulate the Somaliland community in Great Britain Specially in Sheffield. This step interprets your true love for our blessed land. The pain the unity in 1960`s caused to Somali Landers didn’t heal yet let alone talking about unity again with Somalia. The international community should respect and support our will for independence as we have achieved what many recognised countries couldn’t achieve. The west wasted billions of dollars in Somalia to establish a functioning government and failed. I think its time to support the ambitious people of Somaliland. I also would like to mention that we wish peace and stability for our neighbouring brothers in Somalia.

Thanks for the article
In Response

by: Dhagaxmadoobe from: Selel
April 11, 2014 10:42 AM
And Ina Warabe speaks for me? Listen dude, Somaliland might not be perfect but at least we share it and we have more in common with those who are our neighbors than anyone in the south.
In Response

by: Ina Waraabe from: London
April 06, 2014 6:11 PM
Asia, how about the State of Awdal land and the State of Qaatumo land who want to be recognized by the Sheffield City councils?
Do you support their independent aspirations from Somaliland?

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
April 05, 2014 3:01 PM
Britain's Sheffield Councils never realised that the barbaric British policy of "Divide-and-Rule" in Africa has long gone. European colony caused irreversible damages to Somali people by dividing the country into several portions of land.

The Somaliland joined the rest of Somalia with burning emotion in 1960. Now with same fervent emotion they want to break up this small tiny country, ..well, it's not going to be so easy because we are no longer in 1960's.
In Response

by: Guled from: Canada
April 05, 2014 6:14 PM
Haaji dhagax are you kidding me you are stick in 1969 and move on to 2014. Divide and rule still exists and look at South Sudan that got recognition not too long ago and Somaliland will get recognition when the time is right, and your country signed a contract do you know what a contract is, that the government of Somalia should respect Somaliland's voyage for recognition and that unity is out of the question and check that Turkish meeting contract out.
In Response

by: Guled from: Canada
April 05, 2014 5:57 PM
Xaaji Dhagax or rock your comments are incoherent and what year are you living this is the 21st century not the 1980's Somalia, that day is over and Somaliland left Somalia a few years after your government collapsed and the people of Somaliland after years of fighting the Somali army the somalilanders were like enough is enough and Somali screwed us when joined in 1960. Learn a little history in 1960 Somaliland was recognized before Somalia and then a few days latter Somaliland joined with Somalia and there was unity. The unity turned into a failure and a nightmare to the people of Somaliland and they were treated like second class citizen at the time. Hiding behind computers and calling the media for a tribal feud over Somaliland getting recognition in Sheiflied won't help up if you guys in the south are against Somaliland and then I suggest you tell your friends to organize a protest in the capital Mogadishu, and with all due respect we respect Somalia as our neighbors but we will never join them and we will never be one country ever again. Your country is a joke people are fighting each other and there is always chaos in your capital and there are more 20,000 foreign troops on your soil and you government should not be sticking it's nose in peoples business and respect is a foregin concept to you people in the south.

by: Not Again from: Canada
April 05, 2014 10:29 AM
The right of self determination of people, especially ancestral people, on their lands should be absolute. Given the history of Somaliland, not only should they be considered for self determination and statehood, but they should be encouraged to do so. Much the same as Europe went trough the city states and principality states, in the evolution of national entity and in the evolution of cultural and social normes, the city/tribal state model is essential. At a future date, much as we have seen in other parts of the world, Somaliland and its people could chose to amalgamate into greater countries. Stability needs to start at the basic unit, which is the tribal unit and on/over the normal ancestral tribal ranges as much as possible. The dastardly imperial borders are not conducive to peace, progress, and stability, they are destructive administrative borders. The nations of the World should support the aspirations to independence by the people of Somaliland. It makes sense, it is the will of the people, and it will increase stability in the region, because it will come about by the will of the people.
In Response

by: Guled from: Canada
April 05, 2014 6:10 PM
Not again you make valid point. Somaliland is exactly like a country that is recognized. It has what a country that is recognized already has. Somaliland has a government, currency, military, police force, peace and stability, full functioned and secured airports and borders, business is thriving and a healthy tourism. Somaliland will get the recognition it deserves and this Shefield deal is a wonderful start and you are from Canada and hopefully our community in North America will aside their differences and work together on the Somaliland recognition process.

by: Joseph Effiong from: uyo - nigeria
April 05, 2014 4:42 AM
If this people can live in peace and harmony why not support the statehood of somaliland. Muslims has caused hardship to many nations because of terror gene inherited from Muhammed . Many muslims are uncomfortable with Islamic ideology but because of parental, communal and nationalistic influence they pretend to be good muslims but inwardly, their belief, character and otherwise are different .
In Response

by: Guled from: Canada
April 05, 2014 12:29 PM
Joseph That is very insensitive and rude what you said about Islam, ignorant people believe religion is only with violence and oppresses people and Islam does not support violence or terrorism and Islam is a religion of peace and those terrorists are not muslim and they don't give a damn about Islam and they want the religion is an excuse so that they can destroy islam. Religions and cults don't mix and all religion is about peace and prosperity especially Islam. Don't be blame the world on Islam and it is not fair and I am sick and tired of hearing uneducated people saying that Muslims destroyed and ruined everything and they haven't. Arabs are the ones to blame not muslims. Somaliland should get recognition as soon as possible and the Somalilanders of the UK congratulations, Somalilanders right here in North America Shame on you.
In Response

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
April 05, 2014 12:11 PM
The issue with Somaliland have got nothing to do with Islam or being Muslims. It has to do with secession mentality based on tribalism ideology and implementation of our European master's rule and divide policy.
Unlike Nigerians, all Somalis share one language, one culture/tradition and one religion. Like Nigerians, who rejected and defeated tribal based secessionist state of Biafra, Somalis are trying to do the same thing; rejecting and defeating tribal based secessionist region of so called new Biafra of Somaliland.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs