Somalia: A secret British Foreign Office "A base for subversion into Africa"

London (HAN) February 2, 2015- Expert Analysis, Your Power & Regional Influence Magazine, opinion page by Osman Farah.

The questions are, Why British Documents released Now? A secret Foreign Office archive from 50 years ago shows that senior British officials feared Somalia could be a base for subversion into east and central Africa, with violence spreading across its border into Kenya.

Documents released on Friday reveal that the warnings came, not in response to al-Shabaab, the group held responsible for this week’s attack in Nairobi, but in relation to Somalia’s impending independence.

“The political situation in Somalia is already unstable and the government may lose control,” Sir Patrick Dean, the chairman of the JIC in April 1960, said. “The country might relapse into anarchy and tribal warfare.”

Intriguingly, a passage following a reference to “the formation in Somalia of a base for subversion into east and central Africa” has been censored.

The papers that have been released show senior British colonial officials and intelligence officers were deeply anxious about instability when Somalia won independence from Italy and Britain in 1960.

“Neither administratively nor economically will the country be viable as an independent sovereign state without outside help,” British colonial officers warned.

The committee was concerned about the radical Somali Youth League and problems on the Kenya/Somali border caused by “warlike tribes, grazing land disputes … and the influx of refugees”. A leading Somali figure from the south expressed concerns that Kenya’s northern frontier district would “fall in due course like a ripe plum”, and a report by Whitehall’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) points up the threat to neighbours.

“The political situation in Somalia is already unstable and the government may lose control,” Sir Patrick Dean, the chairman of the JIC in April 1960, said. “The country might relapse into anarchy and tribal warfare.”

Intriguingly, a passage following a reference to “the formation in Somalia of a base for subversion into east and central Africa” has been censored.

Other papers released on Friday reveal that Britain offered thousands of pounds to the Cypriot informers and interpreters who helped the colonial forces in their struggle against the Eoka insurgency in the 1950s to enable them to resettle in the UK.

In echoes of the current dispute over whether Afghans who have helped British forces have the right to settle in the UK, the files give details of 35 Cypriot informers, though their names are redacted. More than 100 Cypriots are estimated to have settled in Britain, and some of them were rewarded with more than £200,000 in today’s money.

Other files uncover a British intelligence report on Cyprus from 1960 which complained that “there were too many individuals and agencies concerned in the collection of intelligence … with little control and practically no co-ordination”.

The same complaint, with police, special branch, MI5 and army officers not telling each other about their different informers and agent networks, was made repeatedly by intelligence chiefs years later in Northern Ireland.


 

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