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Published On: Tue, Apr 15th, 2014

Why Sheffield is throwing its weight behind Somaliland

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Women in Hargeisa, which is regarded as the capital of the unrecognised state of Somaliland. Photograph: Pedro Ugarte/EPA

By voting in favour of independence for the breakaway territory, the British city has given its 8,000-strong Somaliland community some hope for the region’s future, writes Magnus Taylor

A council in the British city of Sheffield has voted in support of independence for the Horn of Africa’s famous non-state state, Somaliland.

Somaliland declared independence from the Somali Republic in 1991 following a long-running war with the Mogadishu-based national government. It has, however, never been recognised by the United Nations or Africa Union, despite an ongoing campaign by its politicians, diplomats and prominent citizens.

The vote came this month, following well-organised lobbying from the Somaliland community based in the city. Sheffield’s Somalilander population numbers in excess of 8,000, and as Adam Yusuf, Chair of the Somaliland Community group said: “As local elections come they [councillors] need our votes”.

The Somaliland community group is also extremely well-engaged with two local MPs, Paul Bloomfield and Clive Betts, who are both members of the Somaliland All Party Parliamentary Group and, according to Yusuf, are “well-informed” on issues related to the territory.

It was also clear from a conversation with the Labour Council leader, Mohammad Maroof, who tabled the motion, that following engagement with the Somaliland local community leaders, he was persuaded of the essential moral rightness of this act. The importance of this issue to Sheffield’s Somalilanders was illustrated by what Maroof tells me were “500 – 600 people celebrating outside the hall where the vote was held”. There is even an (unsubstantiated) story that a street in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, has been renamed ‘Sheffield Street’.

What is clear is that after over 20 years of international non-recognition, expectations following this vote are extremely high. Maroof tells me that he has had to repeatedly explain that the vote by Sheffield Council has no legal basis either locally or nationally. However, I think Somalilanders are probably well-aware that the significance of the Sheffield vote is only symbolic. Yusuf tells me that from Cardiff to Birmingham and Tower Hamlets, other UK Somaliland communities want to push through the same kind of motion. They are now contacting the Somalilander community leaders in Sheffield to ask how it can be done. The hope is that they can launch a kind of ‘revolution from below’ following years of frustration for Somaliland diplomats pursuing ‘official’ channels.

The Somaliland Foreign Minister, Mohamed Bihi Yonis, attended the Sheffield vote. He commended the move by the council, stating that: “As Foreign Minister I put our case to governments across the world, and I know how difficult it is to make the progress that the Councillor has made here.”

Yonis thinks that “in recent weeks this Somaliland community, with the support of Councillor Mohammad Maroof, Councillor Neale Gibson and MP Paul Blomfield, has made greater strides towards recognition for Somaliland than we have made through official channels in years.”

And perhaps that’s the real significance of the Sheffield vote. It has given the Somaliland community in the UK a small crumb of hope that they can advance their dream of independence a step further.

Magnus Taylor is editor of African Arguments, a partner of the Guardian Africa Network

 Source: The Guardian

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  1. mohammed ismail says:

    well prepared and congratulation to somaliland community UK Sheffield. we are very appreciated for the much effort u have shown to move forward as cry freedom INSHALLAH will be soon recognized. In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on somaliland the greatest possible gift – a more human face.

    • Mohamed says:

      I am sure that Inshallah we will make it and Somaliland will shine despite the envy of all enemies. Our honorable Somalilanders inside the country and abroad will excel Inshallah. Viva Somaliland!

      • mohammed ismail says:

        thanks for support and encouragement u have shown as somalilander. bravo !!!!!!!!! cheers rise thumb higher

        • Mohamed says:

          Thanks brother, I’m sure with the help of the Almighty Allah and the blessed hard work of our people we will achieve our good aims.
          Keep up with the good work.

  2. Guled says:

    Job well done to the Somaliland community in the city of Sheffield, the UK, and the landers in Europe. We as Somalilander have to follow the examples of the Landers in Sheffield and we can just sit on our behind and wait for recognition, we have to fight for recognition and that Somalilanders in North America are not patriots and they never in 23 years of Somaliland existence fought for the recognition of Somaliland nor talked about development and the time that we get together is for may 18th parties to shake their behinds and they don’t give about Somaliiland and they are lazy and they are not as active as the European Landers. I am proud to the Somaliland not only in Sheffield, the whole of the nation of the UK but all of them in Europe who have made it possible. It is sad that Canada and America are the most powerful countries in the world but the landers there are not doing damn thing about it. I have a right to express my feelings and it is called freedom of expression, and getting angering and denying that this stuff is true is not going to solve anything and it is better to say that we are sorry that we don’t fight for the recognition of Somaliland and we don’t support the developments in Somaliland, and having gatherings for the cause of Somaliland. Instead of saying this I live in Canada and this is not true and Awal you are a liar and you have not lived in Canada for nearly a decade and you don’t have any idea that what the landers think of the country in North America, We don’t ever invite the presidents of Somaliland to Canada, it’s because you guys don’t want show your true colors and the Canadian government would have been delighted that Somaliland president makes a visit to Canada and if we the Somalilanders in Canada and America push for Somaliland’s recognition, then the US and Canada would be one of the first countries in the world to recognize and we as Landers would be honored in the home land and neighborhood would be named after us. After Canada and the US recognizes Somaliland InshAllah GOD willing Many countries allover will follow suit.

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