By Gareth Axenderrie
Two of Cardiff’s most iconic buildings were lit up in the colours of the Somaliland flag on Tuesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the country declaring independence.
Cardiff Castle and the Wales Millennium Centre were lit in green, white and red, a celebration of Cardiff’s long established Somaliland community.
There has been a Somaliland diaspora in Wales since the 1800’s, with most living in Cardiff.
A former British colony, Somaliland briefly gained independence in 1961, but merged with Somalia five days later after Mogadishu gained independence from Italy. After years of conflict, Somaliland declared independence on May 18, 1991
Despite not being recognised internationally as a part of Somalia, Somaliland has political contacts with several countries including its neighbours Ethiopia and Djibouti, non-UN member state Taiwan, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Ali Abdi, Founder of Wales Somaliland Youth Links and the organiser of the Somaliland National Day Celebrations in Cardiff, said: “For as long as I can remember Somaliland and Wales has had a close relationship.
“In fact, whenever I have visited Somaliland they have appreciated the support and love from Cardiff and Wales.
“So, for me, it was important that our home city joined in with the celebrations of Somaliland success and coming of age.
“I would really like to pay tribute to Cardiff Council and the Wales Millennium Centre for lighting up our iconic buildings and displaying solidarity with us during this tremendous milestone.”
th a population of about 4 million, Somaliland has its own army, its own currency and legal system, and holds regular elections for both parliament and president.
It enjoys relative peace and stability, unlike Somalia, where the government continues to fight al-Shabab and Islamic State militants.
Due to its lack of international recognition, Somaliland struggles to receive foreign aid and its economy is largely dependent on its diaspora community.
In 2015, Cardiff council became only the second in the UK after Sheffield to recognise Somaliland.
Speaking of the celebrations of the country’s 30th anniversary, Huw Thomas, leader of Cardiff Council, said: “Cardiff has both one of the oldest and largest Somali populations in the UK, and the Somali community play an important and much valued role within our diverse city.
“In 2015 I was very proud to vote in favour of Cardiff Council giving official recognition to Somaliland, becoming only the 2nd Council in the UK to do so.
“As Somaliland celebrates the 30th anniversary of its independence, I’m delighted that the walls of Cardiff Castle – the city’s most historic building – will be lit up in the colours of the Somaliland flag to honour the occasion.”
The events received praise from people in Wales and throughout the world.
Director of the Wales Somaliland Community and Senior Advisor to the Republic of Somaliland Government Mr Abdikarim Adan, said: “For over 30 years I have promoted Somaliland to Cardiff Council and the Welsh Parliament.
“To have Cardiff Castle and the Millennium Centre flourished with the colours of the Republic of Somaliland is special to me and our Somaliland Diaspora community and families back home.
“This signals a sense of belonging and camaraderie that Cardiff council has once again recognised our presence and the significant achievements and progress Somaliland has made.”
Speaking of the deep historical links between Cardiff’s bay area and Butetown, Graeme Farrow, Artistic Director at the Wales Millennium Centre, said: “Cardiff has been home to the Somaliland community for over a century and many people in this community are our neighbours in Butetown.
“We are proud to light up our building to recognise Somaliland and the contribution of its people to Wales on the 30th anniversary of independence.”