By: Yusuf M Hasan
HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – The British and Somaliland governments that share lengthily and fruitful relations have agreed to enhance existing cooperation at all fronts.
This Concurrence was as a result of a meeting between the visiting United Kingdom Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds and President Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo at the Hargeisa presidency where diverse issues were discussed and agreed upon.
Following conclusion of the meeting a joint press briefing by Mr. Simmonds and the Somaliland minister of foreign affairs Mohamed Bihi Younis, announcement was made that the UK travel advisory Ban o Somaliland has been lifted with immediate effect.
Queried by Somalilandsun on whether the lifting of the travel ban was related to personal experiences of having the British team had to be escorted by a heavily armed multinational force from Aden Ade international airport to villa somalia in Mogadishu while only his personal minders were in-charge of his security in Hargeisa Mr. Simmonds ha this to say, ” We take the travel advisory we provide very seriously indeed and the travel advice is provided for the benefit of United Kingdom citizens but it has been clear for sometimes that there is some anxiety in the somaliland government about the overarching travel advisory that has been provided for the whole of what we perceive as somalia and what Informed president Silanyo and his ministers this morning is that we have undertaken comprehensive analysis looking at the facts, this is not a political decision, it is a factual decision, and we are downgrading our travel advice to Hargeisa and Berbera Specifically and we are making that very clear in our advisory when it is reposted either today or tomorrow, meaning that we,UK, sees Hargeisa and Berbera as safer than the rest of somaliland and Somalia”
Foreign minister Mohamed Bihi Younis who was first to address the joint press briefing started by extending the gratitude’s of the people, president and government of somaliland for the visit by Mark Simmonds, as he stressed on the importance of the UK minister’s visit in lieu of and as proof of lengthily, fruitful and historic relations existing between Britain and Somaliland.
On the support received from the government of the United Kingdom Minister Bihi who reveled the appreciation of Somalilanders said that various sectors like Security, multi-sectored capacity building and development has played an important part in alleviating livelihood standards country.
On the large Somaliland diaspora in Britain which is very keen to promote the economic development of their motherland through investment Minister Bihi said that the meeting with Mark Simmonds agreed on the imperatives of a Trade and Investment conference for the facilitation of information exchange between Somaliland and its citizens in the diaspora as well as interested British Concerns.
While reiterating the commitment towards the internationally sanctioned two state negotiations with neighbouring Somalia, Bihi Younis upon casually touching on the ongoing border disputes in the east of the country said that though Somaliland is a peace loving country it shall not compromise on its territorial integrity as pertains to its internationally recognized boundaries.
Without mincing words the foreign minister informed his British colleague that Somaliland having been independent for 23 years now without recognition and in respect to the unanimous wishes of its citizens who are adamant on the irrevocability of their Sovereign , and in lieu of the strides made in security, democratization and the rule of law among others, urged Britain and the international community to finally end the impasse of two decades and embrace the country as a full and equal member among other of nations of the world.
On taking the floor the UK’s Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds thanked the president, government and people of Somaliland for the warm welcome accorded him and his team during his maiden visit.
Despite being a first time visitor Mr. Simmonds revealed that he has always been keen to facilitate relations between the United Kingdom and somaliland to make sure that ways can be found to strengthen and deepen what is an historic and important relationship for his country.
On his meeting with the somaliland president Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo and a number of ministers Mark Simmonds had this to say, “Our meeting has been extremely positive and constructive, having discussed a whole range of issues pertinent to our two countries including reducing and lowering the travel advice which am pleased to announce that we will be able to do so, specifically related o Hargeisa and Berbera
The UK minister for Africa who added that other issues discussed included the importance and ways to strengthen relations between Somaliland and Somalilanders who liv in the United Kingdom, using the expertise and skills the diaspora have to continue the development that is happening in Somaliland.
Mr. Simmonds also revealed that the government of the United Kingdom shall facilitate a trade and investment conference in London where the Hargeisa based authority shall be availed an apt opening to showcase existing opportunities in the country and for the Diaspora and Britons with Commercial interests to make informed investment decisions.
“The planned trade and investment conference in London is geared towards making sure that British businesses are aware of opportunities existing here in Somaliland” said Simmonds
While informing that his government is also keen on encouraging in order ensuring there is continued development in the ongoing discussions taking place between Somaliland and Somalia, the minister responsible for the UK’s African desk said it was imperative to reduce escalating tensions between Somaliland and Puntland an administrative region of Somalia
Urging restrain at this particular challenging time Mark Simmonds promised that the UK will play its role in a constructive way to ensure that everybody is focused on the priorities which is economic development and economic growth and job creation
In confirmation of the commitment of the UK towards constructive engagement Minister Simmonds revealed that his government shall contribute to Somaliland €95m annually through its Department for International Development-DFID for support to various sectors.
Accordingly DFID shall expend the annual €95m UK contribution particularly in line with priorities of the government of Somaliland in order to ensure that everybody in the country can benefit from accrued economic growth and development.
In conclusion Mark Simmonds the UK minister for Africa said that he has had a very fruitful visit and was hopeful that the existing historic relations between Somaliland and the United Kingdom shall row from strength to strength.
MarkSimmonds who was in Mogadishu Somalia prior to his Somaliland visit was accompanied by a number of officlas among them the UK ambassaor to Ethiopia.
Somaliland Ministers flanking president Silanyo durin the meeting at the presidency in Hargeisa were Hirsi-Presidency, Dr Oma-Commerce and Internaional Investmen, Waan’ade-Interior, Dr Shire-planning and Bihi-Foreign affairs
The verbatim Press Briefing which was entirely in English with a short session in Somali by PM Bihi can be HEARD HERE