Somalilandsun – “Apart from the issue of recognition we are taking back a clear message to the British government about the imperatives of enhancing consular services and presence in Somaliland
This was stated by MP Stephen Doughty during an interview with Somalilandsun in Hagias where he was leading an All UK Party Parliamentary Group for Somaliland on a three days fact finding mission.
The three member team chaired by MP Stephen Doughty- Labour party from Cardiff included MP Liz McInness-Labour Party from Greater Manchester and MP Mathew Offord-Conservativer Party representing North London
Briefing on their three days program in Hargeisa the UK legislator revealed that interinary of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Somaliland he chairs included meetings and fruitful discussions with
Government officials among them the ministers of Foreign affairs ,interior , planning and that of trade and investment culminating with candid discussions with Somaliland Vice president Abdirahman Ismail Sayli.
“We also held very candid discussions with opposition parties leaders represented by Abdirahman Irro of Wadani and Eng. Feisal Ali Warabe of UCID” followed by constructive talks with National Election Commission as pertains status post November 2017 presidential elections and the way forward as per 2019 planned parliamentary and local council polls.
Other meetings included a visit to the university of Hargeisa where a ground tour of facilities was followed by discussions on their programs and how British universities can assist while most impressive was a sojourn to the journalism faculty where a modern studio is nearing completion.
Another was a round table hosted by the Hargeisa Cultural Centre HCC with youths discussed revolved around their aspirations and frustrations especially travel to the UK for one purpose or another owing to the non-recognition of Somaliland.
Similar sentiments by the youths were expressed during a Meeting with British- Somalilanders who shared practical concerns with consular services support i.e. passport renewals and lack of business investment support which usually require expensive trips to Nairobi
Discussions with Civil Society organizations were also under by the three members UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Somaliland where views by the non-state actors on various local issues were shared
Another meet of note was with business leaders where various issues were discussed notably that of DP world contract to manage and develop the Berbera port worth $420m and spanning 30 years as of 2017.
On the purpose behind constitution of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Somaliland, the legislator from Cardiff said
“Our group is part of several others dealing with specific issues with membership from all parties in the UK parliament but more specifically the All Party Parliamentary Group for Somaliland has the mandate of Educating the legislature about Somaliland, Raise awareness more so on issue of recognition, regional issues, trade etc. pertinent to Somaliland, Call for debates in parliament and ask concerned ministries on issues Somaliland.
Another important function is that of hosting Somaliland delegations visit the UK be it from government, political parties or business community.
According to MP Doughty the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Somaliland is apolitical thence don’t take sides in domestic politics but listen to ruling and opposition parties as well as engage diaspora
“We listen to all stakeholders” said the British legislator
Queried on the issue of UK funding to Somaliland as pertains amount and channeling the MP said
“Having worked as an advisor to DFID during the last Labour, I can empirically state that good programs are receiving UK funding though Desire for more support to infrastructure development i.e. rods electricity and buildings and plea that if not from UK others might
The other issue is though most UK funding passes through multilateral institutions in the name of Somalia thence not very clear what portion is allocated Somaliland
“To this effect it is apparent that a clear distinction of funds ender user be it either Somaliland or Somalia, does not exist and that said its worth mentioning that other EU countries among Denmark are also chipping in nicely in addition to that from EU itself
On the position of UK on issue of the much talked about multimillion DP world Berbera port contract MP doughty said he could not speak for the British government though on a personal level the investment is very crucial for the advancement of Somaliland while stressing that “Somalia has no purview of this contract despite taking its objections to the UN Security council with the objective of having it scrapped
Though the British legislator was very conducive to the DP world contract, and while treading diplomatically the on works UAE military base in Berbera is of concern
“I have some caution about Somaliland getting involved in the wider military rivalry that might result from hosting an UAE military base in the country more so as pertains ongoing conflict the Emiratis are embroiled in Yemen through the Saudi led coalition waging war in the neighbouring country not to mention the conflict with Qatar
Stressing that Somaliland has a good security reputation, being pulled into regional conflicts might smear this “though the ultimate decision rests with the people and government of this country”
On the oft claimed border dispute with Puntland which is a regional administration of Somalia and with Britain having been responsible for demarcating it over a century ago, the silence by the UK government that might resolve the dispute at a click is disconcerting, the MPs take was
“It is indisputable that present Day Somaliland was a British protectorate until 26th June 1960 when the Queen signed its proclamation of independence, followed by a voluntary union with present day Somalia which is a former Italian colony” It joined this union with clearly defined borders thence any jurisdictional dispute is a sham”
Stressing that creation of new boundaries is according to international law illegal unless with acquiescence of concerned stakeholders MP Stephen Doughty was of the opinion that the border between Somaliland and Somalia should not be disputed for they are not only legal but historical as well.
Queried on Brexit vis ‘a’ vis Somaliland and Scotland, The legislator who chairs the All parliamentary group on Somaliland was of the opinion BREXIT does not determine how the UK deals with the issue of Somaliland recognition as opposed to that of Scotland for the former now self-ruling for 27 years since withdrawing its voluntary later turned fateful union with Somalia
Said he, “Considering developments in Democracy, trade, security etc., to me it seems perverse that we do not acknowledge these achievements of which I have picked a lot of frustration both locally and within the diaspora community in the UK
Pushed on the fact that this failure by Britain might push Somaliland to seek Russian and Chinese recognition MP Doughty Said “I have on numerous occasions raised this concern and will continue to do so adding that failure to act as well as Somalilanders frustration with the condition of one more election in which they continue to wonder how many it will take, the United Kingdom might lose its influence unless it acts fast.
“Apart from the Historical and legal claim realities on the ground here in Somaliland dictate that the UK government in partnership with parliament make the right decision if for nothing else, to sustain its foot and influence”
Finally MP Stephen Doughty thanked the government and people of Somaliland for the welcome accorded him and team members of MP Liz Moinnes and MP Matthew Offord during their three days working visit in the country.
The last all UK parliamentary group on Somaliland visit was in 2017 under the leadership of Rt Hon Alun Michael MP who was then Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Somaliland that culminated with A report to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association titled Somaliland: Home-grown Democracy in Action