Freelance journalist, and editor of Somalilandspan, Mohamoud Walaaleeye (MW), had an interesting conversation with the Honorable Charles Tannock (marked as CT), a member of the European Parliament and a leading figure in an outspoken of Somaliland friends among MPs in the EU parliament and in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Tannock candidly, and most convincingly, touched on a number of issues sentral to Somaliland’s 25-yearquest for an international recognition to an independenced it wrenched back in 1991 from a 31-year grip of a Somalia it hastily – sand most regerattably united – only after days into its internationally recognized independence in 1960.

Mr. Tannock also expressed his view of a possible postponement to the scheduled presidential elections for early 2017, and, especially, in the face of the prevalent drought conditions the country is reeling with at present.

MEP Tannock played a visible role in a meeting of MEPs held in Brussels in which the issue of an international recognition for the Republic of Somaliland was raised. His Excellency the Somaliland Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Saad Ali Shire, participated.

The meeting was chaired by Conservative Development spokesman Nirj Deva MEP as well as prominent scholars cum MEP’s like Charles Tannock, James Carver, Former assistant UN Secretary General Sir Desmond de Silva. Member states of the EU parliament were represented at the meeting, respectively, as follows: UK delegation: Robert Taylor; Polish delegation: Katarzyna Ochman; German delegation: Michael Strauss on; Flemish delegation: Yannick Vanderveeren; Danish delegation: Kristian Olesen;Czech delegation: Jan Krelina; Dutch delegation: Maarten Van Der Flierte; Finnish delegation: Otto Juote; Latvian delegation: Karlis Bumeisters.

At the end, it was moved/ proposed that if the Commission failed to act to “end the perverse limbo state of independence without recognition”, the MEPs do so through law, some suggesting that the recognition be taken to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to adjudicate.

Dr. Charles Tannock is London Conservative MEP, ECR Foreign Affairs Coordinator and a retired NHS doctor and psychiatrist  .

The interview went this way.

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MEP Charles Tannock

MW: How far do you expect will the motion you concluded with in your last ECR Group hearing on Somaliland independent “We must find ourselves committed to passing a resolution through the European Parliament, demanding the international community’s attention and recommending that this case be sent to the International Court of Justice” succeed?

CT: I would very much like to see a resolution of the Parliament to this effect but the process for passing resolutions in the European Parliament is always based on consensus and compromise. I would like to see more discussions with other groups first, in order to see whether we could find sufficient support. The cross-party makeup of the Somaliland MEP supporters proves that there is support from across the political divide, the question is just how much.

MW: The severe drought in Somaliland resulted in death of people and the loss of countless heads of livestock, though, unfortunately, the outside world has yet to fully appreciate or cover its magnitude or impact. On the other hand, less than 4 months remain of the date set for next year’s presidential election to happen. If it doesn’t rain very soon , it is possible that the elections might be postponed,  and we hear the International community already loudly decrying and condemning such an eventuality. Would the Somaliland government be at fault if a scenario of this type arises?

CT: Somaliland has a tradition of democracy and a good track record in peaceful handovers of power. The drought affecting the Horn of Africa is very concerning and you are right to note that its occurrence and consequences have received little coverage in the media, at least in the Western press.

All democracies make allowances for temporary term extensions and delayed elections in times of natural disasters and emergencies.

So long as it was evident that this was the genuine reason for delaying the elections, I see no reason for the European Parliament and EU Member State Governments to express any serious objection.

MW: After Brexit, Could it be possible for the UK stand with Somaliland recognition turn more positive, given the UK’s initiative in starting a dialogue between Somalia and Somaliland which seems so far a fruitless exercise?

CT: The new Government in the UK, particularly in terms of the Brexit debate, has made much of the need to renew its links with the Commonwealth and parts of the former British Empire. Whilst sadly I personally do not see the UK unilaterally recognising Somaliland, it may wish to develop trade links further and as part of this seek to take a more proactive role in trying to encourage a settlement between Somaliland and Somalia.

This, however, is something that only the UK Government can offer comment on.

I am sure that drawing on the precedent of the peace agreement between Sudan and the South Sudanese rebels, the UK Government would not exclude after a period of reflection and negotiations between Hargeisa and Mogadishu, an amicable divorce process and the eventual recognition of an independent Somaliland.

My personal impression, having spoken to British ministers after the Somalia conference in London, however, is that they would prefer to see negotiations between Hargeisa and Mogadishu aimed at one last attempt for a viable federal Somalia before independence is contemplated. Again, personally, my impression is that in these circumstances the UK Government would still not wish to be the first mover and would much prefer for the  lead to be taken by one or more African states.

MW: You suggested in your meeting in Addis Ababa with late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Addis Ababa, on 1st September 2011, that Ethiopia should take the lead and drecognize Somaliland as an independent state. What was his reaction? Did you raise the matter with any other leader?

CT: The late Prime Minister showed a great deal of sympathy for the Somaliland question but explained that Ethiopia could only go as far as informal ties, including missions in each other’s capitals, but must fall short of full, formal diplomatic recognition of Somaliland by Addis Ababa as an independent sovereign state.

The reason given was firstly that Ethiopia hosts the seat of the African Union and therefore it would be inappropriate for Ethiopia to take a lead in recognising a new state in Africa without a consensus of the African Union membership. Secondly, he quoted the fact that he had been part of the revolution which overthrew the murderous Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, and that it had been his predecessor’s policy of dismantling a unitary Somalia, and therefore it would have been inappropriate for him to have sent the same signal to Mogadishu, with whom he wished to have good relations.

This is how I recollect the conversation although this was now some five years ago.

MW: What is your advice toward Somaliland government and its populace at large regarding furthering its recognition quest?

CT: I have always supported Somaliland’s claim for independence and believe that there are strong arguments in support of this. I believe that a mediated split between Somaliland and Somalia is most preferential. This is something that I would encourage the African Union to take a lead on. Finding a framework, at least for talks, is the first and most crucial step to starting the process.

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