Welsh politicians have renewed calls for Somaliland to gain international recognition as an independent country at a St David’s Day community event in Cardiff.

Thousands of people from the north African country live in Wales, and many attended the event at the Temple of Peace to celebrate the links between the two nations.

Academics from Cardiff University have helped draw up an economic development plan for Somaliland, which broke away from Somalia following an uprising against a brutal dictator.

Alun Michael, now Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales and formerly the Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, said: “Essentially Somaliland has operated as an independent country based on democratic elections for the last 25 years, which is a record any country in Africa or indeed in most parts of the world would regard as exemplary.

“I’m not going to say everything is perfect because without international recognition there are some real challenges in terms of business, trade and the use of international institutions. But the progress Somalilanders have made has been quite exceptional.

“There is a very special relationship between Somalilanders and Cardiff which goes back to the middle of the 19th century and through two world wars, when Somali sailors and soldiers supported Britain very well.”

Asked why despite the long record of democracy in the country, Somaliland had not achieved international recognition, Mr Michael said: “They’re on the ‘too difficult’ list. When I chaired the Parliamentary group on Somalia and Somaliland I led a delegation that discussed the issue with the President of Ethiopia and the African Union, whose deputy chairman at the time had written a report which supported international recognition. But there were concerns that could create a precedent, with a region of Ethiopia and another in northern Kenya where there was a strong Somali presence also seeking to break away.”

Stephen Doughty, the current MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, said: “Somaliland has been a beacon of relative stability, development and progress in an otherwise troubled region. I have seen for myself the progress they have made in a visit last year. Not least because of its unique historical, legal status and its close history with Britain and in particular south Wales it’s time we and others in the international community formally recognised Somaliland – as Cardiff and so many others across Wales have already done.

“We should work with them to build a strong partnership for peace, development and human rights – especially those of women and girls – and for mutually beneficial trade.”

MARTIN SHIPTON Chief reporter