Somali Government must open the London Embassy – UM

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo co-chairs the London conference in May last years with UK Prime Minister Theresa May and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Mogadishu (UM) – Things are looking very bad in England. Prime Minister Theresa May’s BREXIT plan was voted down in a historic and embarrassing defeat and the European Union (EU) member states are becoming very impatient with the British Government and people because they still are unable to agree on their future relationship with European Union. Most want no relationship at all, some just want to trade and others want to have another vote on whether to stay in or leave the EU. The situation is so serious that the Prime Minister may lose her job this week. Even if she survives, her authority and morale will be badly dented. Why and how does this matter for Somalia? Well, this is a question the Federal Government does not seem to be asking itself. 

The UK bilaterally and as part of the EU has supported and continues to assist Somalia in key areas like security and development assistance. The UK has been a champion of Somalia at the international forums, including the EU, where they had greater clout than many, including Italy, South Somalia’s coloniser and close ally. The UK is also one of the most open, tolerant and diverse nations in which a large number of Somalis from across the world have settled and are now thriving. The UK was one of the first Western states to open its embassy in Somalia and one of the few western states where senior officials visit regularly. Not to mention, two of the key Somali Partnership Forums were hosted and championed by the UK. This makes the UK one of Somalia’s key partners and supporters without whom much of the current achievements would not have been made possible. 

The Somali Government appears to understand the value of the UK as a partner and has attempted unsuccessfully to establish a functioning embassy since the last administration. Sadly, neither of the two Ambassadors appointed to London did not last long and all attempts ended up in vain. One was interested in political opportunities at home and the last one was left without funds by this Government. The result is, again sadly, Somalia is one of the few nations without an embassy in London despite its enormous importance. With or without EU membership, the UK will remain an important, relevant and influential world power. It retains its seat as a UN Security Council Permanent Member, a key NATO player and, whatever happens, a destination of opportunity for both EU and other refugees, migrants and professionals. For Somalia, staying close to the UK is a must because remittance flows, people to people ties, attracting British investment and political backing at the highest levels of Global governance depend on it for a fragile nation still fighting terrorism on its soil and seeking debt relief from creditors, including the Paris Club and the World Bank and IMF. 

Opening the Somali Embassy in London is a sensible political and diplomatic policy and its financial costs, often exaggerated, must be weighed against the greater national benefits and the strategic advantage it yields. With qualified and effective diplomats in London, bilateral relations between the two countries will improve further. British and Somali businesses will have opportunities to meet and form partnerships.  The large Somali Diaspora will be able to have greater links to their homeland and visiting Somali Ministers and dignitaries will not have to rely on their cousins and clan for hospitality and to organise meetings with the Government and private sector. While it is crucial to open the London Embassy, it will be a wasted expense if more political appointees are sent. This is the same everywhere else, including Washington DC which remains unfilled since the current Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad left it.