by Xasan Maxamed Abokor
The unheralded and surprisingly lasting friendship started with a series of meetings on the Somaliland coast in the 1880s. It was to become a lasting testament to what the United Kingdom and Somaliland would see as being a mutually beneficial arrangement.
That it had lasted to this day speaks volumes of the spirit and tenacity of both people built on goodwill, understanding and respect.
The first decade of the twentieth century and into the early twenties brought a certain strain on the relationship as Somalilanders chose conflicting sides in the war with Mohamed Abdalla Hassan and his followers..
After, the expulsion of Mohamed Abdalla Hassan in 1921, peace was restored and until 1939 the pace of nation building and fence mending gathered momentum.
Everything came to a halt at the start of the Second World War. Somaliland’s contribution was considerable in South East Asia. In Burma now known as Myanmar, the Somaliland Camel Corps fought with distinction and bravery alongside Commonwealth forces.
The end of World War II brought back normal relations between Britain and Somaliland. Many Somalilanders of all stripes were trained in civil and military expertise in the UK. One such Somalilander was Abdirahman Ahmed Ali “Tuur” (AHUN), the first president of Somaliland.
Abdirahman Tuur’s successor, Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal (AHUN) also took studied in the UK. Amazingly, the ties that bind Somaliland and the United Kingdom still endure, as the current president of Somaliland Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud Siilaanyo was educated at Manchester University.
The nation was in good hands at its independence in 1960, but we made a horrendous error based on “pan-Somalism” by embarking on an non-ratified union with Italian Somaliland. The idea behind this development was to eventually unite all the five Somali regions in the Horn of Africa.
Unfortunately, the union turned to a still-born child. Successive Somali leaders signed away, firstly, the Northern Frontier Region (NFD) in Kenya and then the Ogaden region in Ethiopia, whilst Djibouti become independent and rejected joining the union in 1977.
The effort by junior officers in 1961 led by Hassan Abdalle Walanwal “Keyd” (AHUN), Hussein Ali Duale ( Awil), Abdilahi “Congo” and other fine officers to reassert our independence came to nothing. The collective conscious of the nation had been aroused and the enormity of our mistake had been realised and brought to the surface.
The decades after brought much hardship to the people of Somaliland. However, Britain stood steadfast with the people of Somaliland by offering sanctuary and allowing them to settle in the UK, especially after the brutal civil war in 1988-1991.
As a young schoolboy living in London I was informed of the formation of Somali National Movement’s first office in the 1981 much later. I am proud to say I was there at the beginning even as a child.
Through tumultuous and good times our friendship has been of one as equals. Partners working hand in hand to help solve Somaliland’s crippling problems as it bounces back from 31 years of neglect.
The people of Somaliland stand shoulder to shoulder with their counterparts in Great Britain and fully support the historic decision they have made. We have been the most staunch of allies and we hope to continue this most enduring of friendships well into the future. Insha Allah.