By: Sayid J Madar
LONDON (Somalilandsun) – Last week, the British Government issued a warning through its Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to its citizens to avoid travelling to Somalia, including Somaliland.
In a statement the FCO stated that they “… advise against all travel to Somalia,” because of “high threat from terrorism to western, including British interests from terrorism from Somalia, including Somaliland.”
The British Government went on to expose these threats as coming from “Al-Shabab, a prescribed terrorist groups opposed to the Somali Government.” You may wonder what this has to do with Somaliland and the reason behind issuing this warning. To understand the situation, you first have to look at Africa as a whole and understand the recent developments, mainly in Northern African states.
Recently, a terrorist group which has links to Al’Qaeda took hostages in an oil field in Algeria; this triggered a diplomatic crisis, especially since a majority of the citizens who were kept hostage were British. There were also citizens of several different countries including France and Japan. Several British citizens were killed which has led to international action to curb terrorism in Africa.
As you all may be aware, there is a current war in Mali where France is leading the surge to combat these groups. Britain announced after the crisis in Algeria which was perpetrated by the same group that they would send three hundred troops to assist France with their operation. This was met by a response from the group that “…Western interest in the region will be targeted.” This led to several Governments’ announcing travel advice to its interest in the region, this included Britain which has issued its statement in regards to Somaliland.
I strongly believe that the British Government is aware of the stability in Somaliland; however it is in the Government’s interest to mitigate the risk of ‘kidnapping’ as a result of the British intervention of Mali. The republic of Somaliland has one of the largest concentrations of British citizens in the region; therefore it is in the interest of the British Government to warn its citizens of the potential threat. By issuing this statement, the government will be able to wipe its hand of a costly diplomatic crisis if a situation would ever arise.
However the government has also stated on the FCO that “British Nationals planning to visit Somaliland in spite of our advice should register their presence with the British Embassy in Addis Ababa.” This proves to me that the Government is aware that the diaspora will not heed its warning.
In conclusion, it is important to understand that after the lessons in Algeria, the British Government would not want the same situation to occur as a result of its interference in Mali, by issuing this warning it has effectively mitigated the risk and any British Citizen who does not heed its warning will not be guaranteed their right of assistance. I’m certain the Government is aware that regardless of its warnings, many diaspora will still return to Somaliland, as they have done for many years.
Instead of focussing of the negatives, everyone must look to the positive and understand that from its statement Britain clearly recognizes that Somaliland and Somalia are two separate entities. Therefore instead of protesting and looking for someone to blame; the way forward isn’t words but actions. Continual support for development and infrastructure in Somaliland is vital to gaining recognition. I would advise the Government of Somaliland to continue on its path of development. It is important to remember that there are other countries which Somaliland should focus on because the current economic turmoil of the Western world will introduce new, powerful economic countries such as China, Brazil and India. I understand that while it’s important to remember the British history in Somaliland, it must not be a hindrance that affects the progress of Somaliland.