President Biden Advised to Recognize Somaliland Following A UK Lead

INDIA-G20-SUMMIT INDIA-G20-SUMMIT Biden and Rishi Sunak are both being urged to think anew about Somaliland (Image: Getty)
INDIA-G20-SUMMIT INDIA-G20-SUMMIT Biden and Rishi Sunak are both being urged to think anew about Somaliland (Image: Getty)


Pressure is mounting in both the UK and USA to recognise a key ally in the Horn of Africa as the Houthi crisis escalates.

A former Defence Secretary and ex-Attorney General have called on the UK and US to “move quickly” in recognising a vital African country which could be key to tackling the Red Sea Houthi crisis.

With one of the world’s most important shipping lanes under siege from the Houthi factions in Yemen, Sir Gavin Williamson and Sir Michael Ellis have urged both the Joe Biden administration and the UK Government to formally recognise Somaliland which is strategically placed on the Gulf of Aden.

It comes as pressure is mounting in Washington DC for Biden to follow the British lead on Somaliland, a former UK protectorate which gained independence in 1960, after Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron told MPs he was “sympathetic” to formal recognition of Somaliland.

Sir Gavin has told that “sentiment is shifting” on the international status of the African country.

It has in effect been independent for 33 years having joined Somalia in 1960 days after leaving the British Empire. But even though its borders are internationally recognised from its previous status as a British protectorate, the international community has accepted Somalia’s claim to the country.

Matters were further complicated by Barack Obama accepting Somalia’s claim when he was President and Biden was his Vice President.

But with a vital international trade route under threat pressure on Biden to reverse that decision has been revealed in an article in the influential The Hill publication, based in Washington DC.

Contributor Eliot Wilson, who used to be clerk to the Commons Defence Select Committee, urged recognition.

Somaliland has higher education links to major western universities (Image: Getty)

Wilson was responding to an attack on Ethiopia by Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for recognising Somaliland in a memorandum of understanding.

Omar claimed that she would prevent Biden from following suit on behalf of Somalia where her family was from.

She said: “The U.S. government will do what we tell the US government to do. That is the confidence we need to have as Somalis. As long as I’m in Congress, no one will take over the seas belonging to the nation of Somalia.”

But Wilson said that in fact Biden needed to ensure Somaliland is recognised before Donald Trump potentially wins the White House and changes US foreign policy on the Red Sea crisis.

He said: “The United States should carefully examine the prospect of recognizing Somaliland. 80 percent of the population is made up of the Isaaq clan, making it ethnically distinct from Somalia. Despite lack of international recognition, it has created a reasonably free and democratic society over the past 30 years, with presidential elections in 2003, 2010 and 2017, and is due to go to the polls again this November.”

He went on: “It is time to make radical changes, to stop using the interests of a failed shell of a state as the fulcrum of US policy. Somaliland has made astonishing economic and political progress over the past 30 years without the benefit of statehood — and now deserves a modest helping hand.”

The article has boosted optimism that there is a change of mood about Somaliland in Washington and London.

Sir Gavin, who has been an advocate for recognising Somaliland since he was Defence Secretary, said: “It is becoming increasingly obvious that the United States is starting to recognise the strategic importance of Somaliland and the pivotal role that they can play in being a beacon of stability and democracy in this troubled part of Africa. It is important that the UK and the US move quickly to recognise Somaliland so that we can work with them as key strategic allies to bring peace and stability to the Red Sea and beyond.”

Meanwhile, Sir Michael noted: “I think there is a head of steam building up on Somaliland. It does make sense, for several reasons.”

Somaliland was a UK protectorate that became the 17th African country to be given full independence on June 26 1960 but within days it united with Somalia.

However, after years of persecution and ethnic tensions, Somaliland declared independence in 1991 using its original boundaries as the British protectorate but has not been officially recognised for 33 years.

Supporters of recognising its independence point out that it is a functioning, peaceful democracy while Somalia has been riven with civil war and is often described as “a failed state”. The Freedom House table puts Somalia as the world’s least democratic country and it has become a haven for pirates and, allegedly, the Houthis.

By David Maddox

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