Ten Minute Rule Motion: Republic of Somaliland (Recognition) – Sir Gavin Williamson

Republic of Somaliland (Recognition)

Debated on Tuesday, 4 July 2023

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

1.26 pm

Sir Gavin Williamson

(South Staffordshire) (Con)

Ten Minute Rule Motion Republic of Somaliland (Recognition) - Sir Gavin WilliamsonI beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require His Majesty’s Government to recognize 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 neighboring 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 recognize 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 recognize 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 neighborhoods—it has difficult neighbors—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 recognize 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 recognize 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).

About Sir Gavin Williamson


Gavin was born in Scarborough on 25th June 1976.  He went to Raincliffe Comprehensive School and Scarborough Sixth Form College. He gained a Bachelor of Science from the University of Bradford.

After graduation, Gavin began a career in manufacturing, successfully turning around a struggling pottery in Staffordshire.  He then became the Managing Director of an architectural design firm which has been involved in the design of many schools, public sector and commercial buildings.

Gavin’s involvement in the voluntary sector has been extensive. He has been a Charitable Trustee at his local Citizen’s Advice Bureau and a school governor.

Political Experience

Gavin was elected as a County Councilor in 2001, during which time he was involved in community matters, but he has also had a strong interest in education issues.  He stood down, in 2005, to contest the seat of Blackpool North and Fleetwood in Lancashire.  Afterwards he became Deputy Chairman of Staffordshire Area Conservatives, Chairman of Stoke on Trent Conservative Association, and Vice Chairman of Derbyshire Dales Conservative Association.

In 2010, Gavin ran for and was successful in winning the parliamentary seat of South Staffordshire. Since entering Parliament in May 2010, Gavin has become a member of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and Chairman of the All Party Group on Motor Neurone Disease.  He was also elected to the Executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and spent three years as co-chairman of the Parliamentary Group on Design, because of his interest in the manufacturing and design sector.

In October 2011, Gavin became Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Rt. Hon. Hugo Swire MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland.  In July 2012, Gavin became Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Rt. Hon. Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.  In September 2012, Gavin moved to become Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Rt. Hon. Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport. Finally, Gavin was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP, in October 2013.

In May 2015, Gavin was appointed as a Privy Counsellor by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

In July 2016, the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP appointed Gavin as Chief Whip (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)

In August 2016, as part of David Cameron’s Resignation Honors, Gavin was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for political and public service.

Gavin became Secretary of State for Defense in November 2017. During this time, he pioneered the strategy of tilting British naval resources more towards the Indo-Pacific, directed the first British freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea in more than a generation, increased the UK’s commitment to NATO, and staved off cuts to British armed forces. He was an outspoken critic of both Russian aggression and moves by the People’s Republic of China to increase their economic, military, and political reach.

In July 2019, Gavin became Secretary of State for Education. During this time, he worked to promote skills-based education, protect academic freedom and free speech in universities, and steered England’s schools through the pandemic. He left this role in September 2021.

Gavin was knighted in 2022 for Political Service.

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