Published On: Fri, Feb 2nd, 2024
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Somaliland is a friend in an unstable world and must be recognised, says Sir Michael Ellis | Express Comment | Comment

The Red Sea is a crucial artery for international trade- and the free passage of it is essential for the maintenance of international order.

The strategic importance of this area has been highlighted in recent weeks by the damage caused to world trade by yet another of Iran’s terrorist proxies, this time the Houthis in Yemen, and their persistent attacks on maritime flow.

Most cargo vessels now prefer to take alternative routes at enormous expense and delay rather than risk piratical attacks or drone strikes.

Meanwhile, despite repeated countermeasures by the Americans and British, the Houthis continue their offensive, risking loss of life on board these vessels as well as oil pollution from damaged tankers and the economic damage caused by diverting the flow of international trade.

But the West have a little-known strategic ally in the Red Sea region which could help restore stability to troubled waters- indeed a friendly pro-West government on the coast of East Africa, bordering the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

A country with historic colonial ties to the UK- the former British Protectorate of Somaliland.

Somaliland has been actively trying to build relationships with the West. In the United States this has apparently angered the controversial Democratic Representative Ilan Omar of Minnesota who has recently been accused of siding with Somalia in a speech which she says was incorrectly translated.

Somaliland is not currently recognised by the international community as an independent state, which is ironic as it was under British control from the 1880s, a British colony from 1898 and a British Protectorate until its orderly independence in 1960.

Today its borders are exactly the same as those signed over to them by the late Queen’s representative Lord Mountbatten in June 1960.

Ethiopia recently issued a memorandum acknowledging recognition of Somaliland as a sovereign state- the first country to do so and a logical step when one considers that when Somalia was formed in 1960 there was no formal agreement between the newly independent Somaliland and the rest of what is now Somalia to create a formal union.

An informal union was agreed soon after independence in 1960 but was discontinued in 1991 when civil war broke out in Somalia. For the past 33 years Somaliland has been de facto its own state, but unrecognised by the international community.

Somaliland is not a breakaway region of Somalia. It was simply an independent state which formed an informal union with another state in 1960 and when the violent civil war in Somalia began in 1991 the Republic of Somaliland was proclaimed, with the government in Hargeisa reverting to their former British Somaliland boundaries.

The port of Berbera on Somaliland’s Gulf of Aden coast is strategically important and a potential location for American and British warships. Ethiopia’s move to recognise Somaliland is an important first step.

The West needs all the friends it can get in a time of worrying instability in the world and here is a friend looking to help the West in a region where such allies are few and far between. It is in the UK’s strategic and economic interests to recognise Somaliland- but it would also be the morally right thing to do.

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