Somaliland: UK Investigating Paternity Claims by ‘Son of Dartmouth Man’


Somalilandsun – The newly-appointed British ambassador to Somalia says he will look into claims a Dartmouth man’s son is living in Hargeisa.

Neil Wigan, who only took up his post at the start of this week, was responding to email sent by this newspaper.

He said that prior to taking up his post he had been briefed about the claims made by Nim’an Bowden, published in this paper last week, that his father was Brian Bowden, who had married a Somali woman and worked at the former British embassy in Mogadishu.

Water engineer Brian Bowden, who left Britain for Somalia in 1958, stayed behind when the British embassy was evacuated during the Somalia civil war in 1991. He was killed shortly afterwards by an armed gang.

Mr Wigan said he would be consulting with local colleagues to assess the latest information before getting back to us.

Meanwhile, a humanitarian aid worker based in Hargeisa, Somaliland – which declared its independence from Somalia, though that has not been officially recognised by the UK – told us that Nim’an’s case had received support from around the world.

Hassan Ahmed Yousuf told us that Nim’an quest for British citizenship had backing from supporters in the USA, Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Somalia and Kenya.

He added that pledges had been made to help fund costs the might be incurred during the process.

Hassan said: ‘Nim’an’s mother, Run Aw Daahir Mohamed, died in 1994, when he was six years old, in Hargeisa and so he had lost both parents.

‘The family of his mother were nomads and farmers in the Gabiley district and his grandmother and grandfather were alive at the time.

‘He was once taken to a rural area to help his mother’s family keep a few head of cattle but soon his grandmother died.’

He said Nim’an’s grandfather then took him to an orphanage centre in Hargeisa.

Hassan added: ‘After the death of his grandfather, the young boy suffered and left the orphanage and became a street child, totally neglected. He became a shoe polisher.’

He added: ‘After 2007, Nim’an joined Hargeisa buses for whom he became car washer and also a conductor.

‘He took the driving licence in 2011 and also married 21-year- old Ma’aruf Ahmed Mohamed, who is a Somali-Ethiopian.’

Nim’an is asking the British Government to grant him and his wife British citizenship. They have no children, said Hassan.

It has come to light this week that Nim’an and his supporters have been pressing his case with the British authorities for a number of years.

Mark Jones, the London-based chief executive of the Horn of Africa Business Association, had written to his local MP, Heidi Alexander, in 2011, raising concerns about Nim’an.

Ms Alexander in turn raised the issue with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Henry Bellingham MP, who was Minister for Africa, the UN, Overseas Terrorities and Conflict Issues at the time, responded.

A copy of the letter sent to Mr Jones via Ms Alexander has been sent to us.

In it, Mr Bellingham said: ‘I am sorry to learn of the difficulties Mr Brian Bowden’s family has faced over the past twenty years. The decision in December 1990 to evacuate British nationals from Somalia was made out of concern for the safety of British people in Somalia and was not taken lightly.

‘Our records indicate that only one British national chose to go against the advice and remain in Somalia. Mr Bowden’s decision not to leave the country was a personal one and went against the advice of the British Government; he would have been aware of the risks of staying.’

Mr Bellingham added that it was ‘difficult to say whether Mr Bowden’s family would qualify as British citizens without assessing all the evidence available’ and suggested they contact the UK Border Agency.

As we reported last week, Aidan Hartley, former Reuters journalist, author and correspondent for Channel 4’s Unreported World, met Mr Bowden shortly after the embassy was evacuated in January 1991.

Mr Hartley recalled a conversation with an official at the British High Commission in neighbouring Kenya in his book The Zanzibar Chest.

In it he wrote: ‘I asked why the British were doing nothing to help him. The diplomat explained that under Government regulations, a citizen must cover the cost of his own repatriation, even from a war zone.

‘Bowden was destitute… and he had a black Somali wife and five children. The Government could not under these circumstances evacuate either Bowden or his large mixed-race family.’

The BBC also reported at the time that, in an interview shortly before his death, Mr Bowden said he had stayed behind because his wife was a Somali and he did not have enough money for a flight to the UK.

Nim’an’s supporters have since 2011 been gathering more evidence to support his claim, including searching publicly available family records.

They obtained a copy of Brian Bowden’s birth certificate earlier this year, showing he was born on June 27, 1928, at Prospect House, Horn Hill, Dartmouth.

His father was William Thomas Bowden, a labourer, and his mother Rita Leah Kate Bowden, nee Lidstone.

The supporters, who have sought advice from a major UK charity, now hope people who knew Brian or are related to him will come forward.

If you knew Brian Bowden, please email stuart.nuttall@ or telephone 01548 856353.