I've seen a couple of comment pieces today about Somalia following the hijacking of the oil tanker by Somali pirates. Suddenly, it seems, everyone is an expert on Somalia and the causes of the increase in piracy.
I'm no expert, but I do know that Somalia has been a hell hole since it became independent - back in 1960. Whatever is wrong with Somalia today is not the fault of George W Bush, the neocons or any recent western government's foreign policy. It's been like that for 40 years.
I also know that the former British part of Somalia - Somaliland - which split from the main part of the country in 1991, has since managed to rebuild significant parts of its infrastructure, enjoys a relatively prosperous economy, remains largely peaceful, holds proper democratic elections which are internationally recognised as free and fair, has a free press and is actively resettling former refugees back into their homes and has done all this while not being officially recognised by any major nation.
Somaliland is an African success story. The striking characteristic of its success is that it has been achieved without recognition as a nation state - and therefore without much of the aid which other African nations swallow up annually without producing anything like the reforms and success of Somaliand. It is a shining example that Africans can, if left to their own devices, build their nations and be masters of their own destiny.
Somaliland doesn't ask for aid either. All it wants is recognition as an independent state - and the trade that comes from being a legitimate state. Not only is it a rarity as a modestly successful nation in Africa, but it is also a rarity in being a truly democratic, moderate Moslem nation.
Above all that, it is desperate to be allies with the west - an offer which we continue to decline for fear of upsetting the despotic African regimes that surround it. Somaliland is strategically important too - being on the Horn Of Africa and right at the entrance to the Red Sea.
We are crazy to let this opportunity go by. Somaliland could be a crucial ally in the region, but the longer we ignore its request to recognise its independence the more likely it is to turn to someone else and that someone else is likely to be China or Russia.
Our government must give Somaliland official recognition and, as it is a former British colony, admit it to the Commonwealth where it can enjoy some status as a favoured trading partner. No more prevarication and procrastination. No more considering the "sensibilities" of the African Union ...
Recognition for Somaliland NOW!!!!