Campaigners pressing for Britain to formally accept breakaway Somaliland as an independent state in the Horn of Africa have won “recognition” from a local authority in London’s East End.
They packed Tower Hamlets council meeting last night, waving nationalist flags and banners from the public gallery, as members voted overwhelmingly to support them.
The vote in this deprived borough with one of Britain’s fastest-growing Somali communities abroad was to “show this council has listened to the Somaliland people and recognize them as part of our community”.
Nationals filled the public gallery as the aspiring regime’s Minister of Minerals gave an impassioned address to the council chamber.
“We came here because this is history in the making,” Hussain Dualeh later told the East London Advertiser.
“We as British Somaliland were given our independence in 1960, then got involved with Italian Somalia when it became independent to unite all the Somali-speaking people on our own accord.
“But we’ve had nothing but grief out of that union, so we broke away in 1990. It wasn’t a legal union.”
The connection with Tower Hamlets is the East End’s Somali community that dates back to the 19th century when they worked in the London Docks.
“The council recognizing our aspirations helps get a little closer to Westminster for Britain’s support,” Mr Dualeh added.
“They say recognition has to come from the African Union and they tell us we cannot tamper with the old Colonial borders—but we’re repairing those former borders.”
Tower Hamlets is the third UK local authority supporting the campaign for recognition.
Both the Labor administration and Independent opposition councilors backed a resolution claiming a democratic Somaliland “presents a strong case for recognition under international law, meeting the criteria for statehood”.
They compared it to Bangladesh which broke away from Pakistan in 1971—its biggest Bangladeshi community abroad being in Tower Hamlets.
But there was caution from Tory Opposition which abstained, stating any move towards internationally-recognized independence had to come through the African Union.