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.

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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.

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