British Foreign Affairs Committee discuss Somaliland and Somalia

LONDON — UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking on Thursday in the House of Commons said Somalia presented the greatest challenges facing the modern world. He said for twenty years Somalia has not had a functioning government and “presents the most acute symptoms of a failed state”. He made the remarks during a debate that saw Somaliland and security topics dominate the talks.

Highlighting the two-fold humanitarian difficulties, Mr. Hague stated that between 50,000 and 100,000 people, mostly children starved to death in Somalia last year alone.

He said unless confronted Somalia’s problems are expected to rise and British interest both in the region and home soil were in the firing line. “We need to do so to reduce our vulnerability to terrorist attacks, to maintain the free flow of trade on which our economy depends, to limit our exposure to the effects of uncontrolled migration, to increase the support that we can give to education and economic development in Somalia and to support the stability of a part of Africa where our country has a great many interests and our nationals have been shown to be vulnerable,” he said.

The British Foreign Secretary reiterated that recent positive developments in Somalia and Britain’s pledge to tackle Somali crisis have convinced London to host a conference that will address terrorism, security, maritime piracy and governance.

“This moment of opportunity is why, in two weeks’ time, we will host the London conference on Somalia, bringing together 50 countries and organisations,” he told the lawmakers.

Cardiff South and Penarth MP Alun Michael, intervened and raised the issue of Somaliland and how its situation is different to Somalia. He urged the Foreign Secretary to retouch its status.

“What the Foreign Secretary says about the situation in Somalia is absolutely true, and his interest in it is greatly appreciated not only in this country but, I am sure, worldwide. Will he take the opportunity to clarify the situation with regard to Somaliland, about which there is sometimes misunderstanding? As he said, there has been no effective central Government in the former Somalia for more than 20 years, but there has been a very effective Government in Somaliland, albeit that it has not been recognised as a separate state. Will he take the opportunity to acknowledge that difference between the situation in the north and the south?” Mr Alun said.

Mr. Hague re-echoed the Welsh Minister’s remarks and admitted that Somaliland did not possessed Somalia’s undesirable characteristics. He stated that he recently spoke to President Silanyo by telephone to persuade him to attend the London conference. He emphasised that it was important for Somaliland to share its experience of peacebuilding to the region.

Conservative MP for Croydon South, Richard Ottaway said he welcomes Mr. Alun’s two-state solution but questioned the Welsh Minister’s motives. “I have to confess that I have an open mind on that question (two-state solution), but I find it slightly ironic that a Welsh MP who believes in the United Kingdom should be calling for such a separation in Somalia,” he said.

MP Alun refuted the remarks by the Conservative MP saying Somalilanders do not have the choices the people of Wale have.

Mr. Ottaway confessed that MP Alun had valid response and pointed out that “countries that function well should stay together, but those that do not function well obviously do not want to know about each other.”

Tony Baldry, Second Church Estates Commissioner, said he was part of a parliamentary delegation that visited Somaliland for the first time in 2004. As well as describing the warm hospitality they received, he spoke eloquently about the history of Somaliland and Great Britain. He welcomed the Prime Minister’s initiatives and the upcoming conference.

Martin Horwood, Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham declared that recognizing Somaliland as an independent nation was complicated but called on the UK government to support its development. He also called for the establishment of greater development cooperation between Hargeisa and London. The MP further highlighted that Somaliland presented difficulties for neighboring Ethiopia when it comes to recognition since the country has “complicated political history with Somalia”. He urged the UK government to encourage nations such as Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa to lead the way for Somaliland’s international recognition.

Seema Malhotra, Labour MP for Feltham and Heston stated that Somaliland will attend the conference as a separate entity to Somalia’s various delegations. “Somaliland will be represented in its own right at the conference. Will the Government continue to acknowledge the separate and successful development achieved by Somalilanders, who have turned Somaliland into a beacon of democracy in Africa?” Seema said.

Labour MP for Wrexham said he welcomes President Silanyo’s commitment to the London conference and that his presence could offer life long lesson to the rest.

Henry Bellingham, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Africa and the United Nations), said the upcoming conference offered Somaliland golden opportunities to explain its case to the international community. “By coming on to the international stage, he (President Silanyo) will meet a large number of international statesmen and Heads of State. He will be able to explain to them what he has done that has worked in Somaliland and why it has been so successful,” he said.

Mr. Bellingham also revealed that the UK government was trying to sign a trilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Somaliland and Seychelles on the issue of pirate transfer. He said the UK government was waiting for President Silanyo to pass his draft piracy law and prisoner transfer law. He added they will discuss the issue further during Silanyo’s visit to London in two weeks’ time.

Source: Somalilandpress

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