Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require His Majesty’s Government to recognise formally the Republic of Somaliland; to make provision in connection with the establishing of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Somaliland; and for connected purposes.
I draw the attention of the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
The fourth of July is often known as independence day for a particular country, but I am not here to talk about the United States—I am here to talk about the republic of Somaliland. On 26 June 1960, Britain granted independence to the British protectorate of Somaliland. It was in the euphoria of that moment that Somaliland a few days later entered into a union with the old Italian trust territory of Somaliland, a union that proved deeply unhappy.
While it started in hope and optimism, that union ended in tragedy. It saw the rise of a brutal military dictatorship based in Mogadishu, whose next steps were the persecution and genocide of many Somalilanders. Over the following years, that union saw a genocide unfold with the loss of many lives—I am talking about not just tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands of lives. In the capital city of Somaliland, it saw Somali air force jets rising to the skies to drop bombs on the people of Hargeisa. Some 90% of the city was completely destroyed, and there was destruction in many other cities right across Somaliland.
That union also saw many of the nomadic tribes of Somaliland persecuted, with their wells—their only source of life, which provided them vital water—being poisoned. Hundreds of thousands of people died in that genocide and, sadly, much of the world did not notice or pay attention. The impact was not just on the people killed; every single family in Somaliland was touched by that violence and many families either were displaced within the borders of Somaliland or had to flee to neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia and Djibouti.
We in this country should take pride in the fact that we welcomed so many of those Somalilanders to our shores and that they made us their home, as so many Somalilanders had done in the past. It is that connection—a connection that goes back long before independence—that ties our two nations together.
Out of that genocide, out of that civil war, we saw the emergence once again of an independent country. In 1991, Somaliland was able to declare itself free of Somalia. It was able to stand proud and independent, away from the persecution and genocide that it had suffered for so long. Somalilanders have asked the world for recognition for more than 30 years now. They have asked the world to recognise what is there on the horn of Africa. They have listened to countries such as Britain, the United States, France and Germany, which have turned to them and said, “We expect certain things: a democratic process, parliamentary and presidential elections, and a judicial process. We expect you to educate your boys and girls. We expect you to be welcoming and a safe place for people to visit.” And Somaliland has delivered that, yet it still waits for recognition from countries such as Britain, the United States, France, Germany and so many others. That wait is too long.
Somaliland is a country doing everything that it believes people expect a democratic free country to be doing, but it asks for something in return. The people of Somaliland have, over so many decades, been willing to look to Britain as a friend. In fact, when we were in our greatest need during the second world war, the people of Somaliland joined with us in our battle against fascism. They fought side by side with British soldiers. When I was in Hargeisa, I visited the Commonwealth war graves cemetery, where I saw British names and the names of Somalilanders. Blood was spilled by both our nations for those common values and interests. We now need to step up as a nation and do something more than just being there. It is time to recognise Somaliland.
For too long, we have resisted that. We always find excuses for inertia and inaction. Now is the time for us to start being brave and reward the people who are doing the things that we as a nation ask them to do. Somaliland does not live in the easiest of neighbourhoods—it has difficult neighbours—but it is a democratic country that wants to educate its boys and girls and has a fair and robust judicial system. Those are things that we need to reward. We need to put them on a pedestal and say, “This is an example that we want others to follow.”
I say that if the Government will not take the action that is required, let it be the British House of Commons that leads the way. If the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is deaf, let us show the will to recognise what is a nation: a country that has its own judicial process, elections, and every other function that we want in a democratic nation. If the Government are reluctant to take action, let this House do it. Let us ensure that we reward those who are doing what is needed.
As we look at Somaliland, we see a country that is developing and that has investment coming into it. I thank the British Government for the investment in Berbera port and the highway north to Hargeisa, but by the simple act of recognition, we could transform the lives of 5.7 million people, making every single one of them more prosperous and enabling Somaliland—a good ally of this country—to play a bigger role on the world stage and a vital role in supporting the values that we in this House hold dear.
Somaliland may seem a far-off place, and I recognise that a nation of 5.7 million perhaps does not seem significant to Britain, but it is. It plays a pivotal role in Africa. I urge this House to take the action that is required to support the republic of Somaliland and ensure that we deliver for its people, as they have defended what we value so dearly: democracy and freedom.
Question put and agreed to.
That Sir Gavin Williamson, Mr Clive Betts, Sir Robert Buckland, Dr Lisa Cameron, Alun Cairns, John Spellar, Ian Paisley, Alec Shelbrooke, Paul Blomfield, Alexander Stafford and Kim Johnson present the Bill.
Sir Gavin Williamson accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 November, and to be printed (Bill 341).