The putative Republic of Somaliland – the peaceful northern half of troubled African country – has been recognised by Tower Hamlets Council.
Tower Hamlets has one of the oldest British communities of people from Somaliland – a region a which declared independence from the Somali Republic in 1991 following a long-running war with the Mogadishu-based national government.
Although a separate country once before, Somaliland regards itself as the successor state to the former British Somaliland protectorate, which as the State of Somaliland united July 1, 1960 with the Trust Territory of Somaliland, the former Italian Somaliland, to form the Somali Republic. The more recent declaration has never been recognised by the United Nations or the African Union.
Councillor Amina Ali, who put forward the motion, said: “I am really proud, very humbled. One of the things I wanted to do when I became a councillor is push this motion through because Tower Hamlets has the oldest Somaliland community in England.”
Hussein Abdi Dualeh, Minister of Energy and Minerals for Somaliland, said: “Somaliland has a historic and legal basis. This isn’t a fragment of imagination that all of a sudden we want to become independent. We were an independent country back in 1960. We’re restating our independence and it is 26 years and counting.”
Dualeh said: “It was a pleasure to witness it on behalf of the Somaliland government. Soon we’re going to have enough to really light a fire under Westminster.”
He continued: “The Somaliland National Movement started here, which were the rebel forces which ousted the last dictator in Somalia. Tower Hamlets has also been a really informative place in the hearts of Somalilanders back home and it only seemed right that if a London council was going to recognise Somaliland, it would have to be Tower Hamlets.”
Tower Hamlets is the third council to recognise The Republic of Somaliland after Sheffield City council, April 2014, and Cardiff City council, March 2015.
Councillor Rachael Saunders, who co-sponsored the motion, said: “It’s a real privilege to support a community that is campaigning hard for its own future and for the status and recognition it needs.”
Abdirashid Hirad, a community activist and campaigner, said: “It was absolutely delightful. A tremendous sense of achievement.” Hirad describing the virtues of Somaliland said: “They have a functioning parliament. It’s an absolute democracy. It’s seen as a beacon and it’s something for other African nations to copy. It’s not a dictatorship. It’s a democracy. It’s absolutely fantastic.”
Dualeh said: “It’s a domino effect. We will continue to push the issue of Somaliland and hopefully, eventually Westminster will have to hear us out. So, we’re going to keep pushing.” Ali said: “There’s a bigger world out there. It’s not just the UK. There’s countries like Bangladesh that is showing interest. There are countries like India and Mauritius. I want to take it beyond the city council level to a national level.”
Hirad said: “We need to keep the momentum going. We’re going to continue lobbying our MPs, the commonwealth, the European Parliament, to anyone that is willing to listen to our cause until we get recognised.”