Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Election in Somaliland compels a positive response from the international community

2nd July 2010

Charles Tannock MEP endorses comments by UK government minister and EU diplomats on breakaway region's vote

The recent peaceful, free and fair presidential elections in the breakaway region of Somaliland underline the importance of reconsidering Somaliland's desire for official re-recognition as a sovereign independent state, ECR Group spokesman on foreign affairs Dr Charles Tannock MEP said today as he congratulated the winner, President-elect Ahmed Mahmoud Silanyo.

Dr Tannock said that the verdict of observers (including some from Dr Tannock's alma mater University College, London) that the election was conducted according to international norms and standards compels the international community to consider how best to support Somaliland's evolving democracy, including the possibility of according Somaliland official recognition.

The MEP's comments came in the wake of a statement by EU heads of mission in Nairobi congratulating Somaliland on the conduct of the election, and a similar statement by UK Foreign Office minister Henry Bellingham MP, who added that the UK looked forward to working closely with Somaliland in the future.

Dr Tannock, who met Mr Silanyo at a Somaliland community event in his London constituency during his own election campaign in 2009, praised Mr Silanyo's statesmanlike qualities and said that UK-educated Mr Silanyo had already shown himself to be a unifying political force by deciding not to contest the extremely tight result of Somaliland's previous presidential election.

Somaliland broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991 after the collapse of the Siad Barre regime and has since created a relatively stable, prosperous and moderate society, whose government in Hargeisa is committed to fighting the scourge of piracy in the seas off the Horn of Africa and the al-Shabab jihadi terrorists active in Somalia. Previously Somaliland was a British protectorate that was briefly independent in 1960 before merging with Italian Somaliland to join the Somali Republic.

Dr Tannock said:

"Somaliland has proved once again to the world that its democracy is not only stable but growing stronger.

"Somaliland is a rare African success story that deserves to be recognised as such by the international community.

"As for the issue of Somaliland's official recognition as a sovereign independent state, it's time the EU gave serious consideration as to how best to support this relatively prosperous and progressive corner of Africa.

"There seems to be a growing international consensus that Somaliland's progress needs to be reinforced and rewarded through official recognition.

"I hope the election of President-elect Silanyo will provide fresh momentum to Somaliland's evolving democratic story.

"Given the chronic instability in the Horn of Africa generally and the rest of Somalia in particular, we ignore Somaliland at our peril.

"Although we should congratulate the people of Somaliland for the conduct of this election, we need to understand that these hard-won gains could easily unravel if Somaliland's aspirations and ambitions are totally disregarded.

"President-elect Silanyo strikes me as a moderate, sensible and capable politician committed to standing up for the interests of the people of Somaliland.

"He showed after the previous presidential election that he put Somaliland's interests above his own by not contesting a very tight result.

"I wish him well and hope Somaliland will continue to gain in international stature under his leadership."