The Republic of Somaliland is treated by most of the world as an independent state, and it has functioned as one since 1991, when Somalia—of which it formed the northern third or so, on the Gulf of Aden—collapsed in civil war. No state has ever formally granted it diplomatic recognition. But Somaliland may have come a step closer to legitimacy this week as the city of Sheffield, in South Yorkshire in northern England, recognized its sovereignty.
The City Council decided on April 2nd, in an 83-to-2 vote (with one abstention), to recognize Somaliland’s independence. The resolution called upon “the British government to recognise Somaliland as an independent state and to encourage other governments around the world to do the same.”
Sheffield’s population of a half-million is about 2% sub-Saharan African, including possibly as many as 12,000 ethnic Somalis (many of them Somalilanders). There has been a Somali community in Sheffield since the 1930s. Somalilanders in the United Kingdom include prominent figures such as the Olympic track-and-field gold-medallist Mo Farah (profiled two years ago in this blog).
|Mo Farah, the world’s most famous Somalilander|
|Somaliland’s foreign minister, Mohamed Bihi Yonis, in Sheffield|
But after Russia annexed Ukraine’s republic of Crimea earlier this month, Armenia became one of only 11 United Nations member-states—alongside brutal regimes like those of Syria, North Korea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe—to side with Russia against a U.N. resolution condemning the annexation. This has cast Armenian-Americans in a negative—even unpatriotic light—and is an embarrassment to jurisdictions such as the U.S. states of Massachusetts (as reported at the time in this blog) and Rhode Island (ditto), New South Wales in Australia (see article), and most recently the City of Los Angeles, who have supported the N.K.R., a puppet regime not much unlike the Russian one in Crimea that ushered in the annexation. In fact, many believe the N.K.R. may be the next territory to be formally annexed, either by Armenia or by an expansive Russia. The post-Crimea world order is also making it difficult for aspirant states like Somaliland to secure recognition, since they inevitably use many of the arguments used so disingenuously by the Russian government in regard to Crimea.
|Somaliland has everything except a seat at the U.N.|
|Monty Python’s Michael Palin, who was born in Sheffield, is an activist on behalf|
of Somali asylum-seekers in the U.K. He is shown here with his fellow activist, Musa Ibrahim.