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Open Letter to UK MPs regarding House of Commons debate: U.K. Government’s Recognition of the Republic of Somaliland.

Dear Members of UK Parliament,

Cc: The UK Government; the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson; Minister for Africa Vicky Ford; Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs, Lizz Truss.

We write to you today regarding an important matter: the UK Government’s recognition of the Republic of Somaliland.

What is happening?

A House of Commons Adjournment Debate (titled ‘UK Government Recognition of Somaliland’)  is scheduled on Tuesday the 18th of January. The British Somaliland Community has been campaigning for 30+ years for the UK to recognise Somaliland.  It is a welcomed development that the UK Parliament is set to take part in this cross-party debate.

What is Somaliland and why should you care?

Somaliland was the former British Somaliland Protectorate. Its citizens (British-Somalilanders) valiantly fought alongside British troops during both World Wars. Somaliland subsequently gained its independence as a sovereign, independent country on the 26th of June 1960 as ‘The State of Somaliland’. Later, it united with the separate country of Somalia (the former Colony of Somalia Italiana), in a union that was never formally ratified or approved by Somaliland and Somalia’s parliaments or supreme courts.

This ill-fated union between the two countries ultimately failed on conception. Between 1960 and 1991, the people of Somaliland suffered repression, discrimination and a terrible genocide. In what became the ‘Isaaq Genocide’ and ‘Hargeisa Holocaust’, Somalia’s government carried out indiscriminate aerial bombardments, flattened Somaliland’s largest cities, and killed an estimated 50,000-100,000 Somalilanders. Somalia descended into anarchy and terrorism.

Somalilanders understandably chose to dissolve this failed union. They dissolved the union on May 18 1991 and re-declared their independence as the Republic of Somaliland. Through locally-owned initiatives and with no outside support, they rebuilt their cities and country.

In the 30+ years since 1991, Somaliland has been a thriving, peaceful, and stable democracy. Somaliland has fulfilled all the requirements of the Montevideo convention; it has a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and a capacity to conduct international relations. It is often described as ‘the beacon of hope’ in a volatile Horn of Africa region.

What do your constituents need you to do?

We urge MPs to attend the upcoming ‘UK Government Recognition of Somaliland’ debate on the 18th of January, represent the voice of the 200,000 strong British-Somaliland community, and make interventions in support of UK Government recognition of Somaliland.

In addition to the above, we ask MPs to Write to the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, to urge the UK Government to shift its policy towards Somaliland to:

  • support a binding referendum within 2 years to allow Somalilanders to express their democratic will, guaranteed by the International Community;
  • upgrade the U.K Office in Hargeisa, Somaliland, to a dedicated UK embassy that is separate and distinct from the Mogadishu based British Embassy;
  • spearhead an international mechanism to remove Somaliland from financial, security & legal sanctions placed on Somalia (these are clearly inappropriate for a mature, stable and democratic country like Somaliland);
  • request that FCDO and Foreign Secretary to work with the AU, East African Community (EAC), IGAD and UN to recognise Somaliland as a separate and independent country from Somalia.

What has Somaliland got to offer the UK?

Somaliland has a large untapped market. It imported $20bn over the past 10 years. British companies could expand into this fast-growing export market. Particularly through Somaliland’s Berbera port – a growing trade and logistics hub that has attracted upward of $1bn of investment. Dubai’s BP World, the UK’s CDC Group, Coca Cola, Trafigura, Mott Macdonald and other international companies are already active in Somaliland.

In a post-Brexit world, Somaliland is well-positioned to unlock UK-African trade. It serves as the key gateway to the wider Horn of Africa market and its 282 million population market. This is one of the largest untapped consumer and business markets in the world. Recognising Somaliland would unlock significant opportunities for economic growth and UK-African trade.

It is now time for the UK to provide international leadership. It is time for the UK to stand up as a champion of democracies. It is time for the UK to spearhead a process whereby Somaliland is recognised as a sovereign and independent state. It is the right thing to do. It is the moral thing to do. It is in the UK’s self-interest. The world will be a better place for it.

Yours sincerely,

The British Somaliland Community

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