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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 January 2005, 13:15 GMT
African politics within the UK
In the second of three pieces on his impressions of African immigrant communities in the UK, the former editor of the BBC's Focus on Africa, Robin White, describes the importance of home to the exiles.

Last year more Somalis received British citizenship than Australians, Canadians, Jamaicans and Americans put together.

By far the most tightly knit community that I met, is the Somali community in Cardiff, capital of Wales.

There are about 10,000 of them, and almost all come from Somaliland and are avid supporters of Somaliland's self-declared independence.

They go back years. Under British colonial rule Somali seaman were encouraged to come to Wales to work in the merchant navy. First the Somali seamen brought their wives and families over.

If Britain were to recognise our independence, aid would flow and our poverty would be a thing of the past
Somalilanders in Cardiff
Then, as Somalia disintegrated into civil war in the 1980s they arrived in floods fleeing the onslaught of Siad Barre's army against his enemies in the north.

The Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, was flattened by the Somali air force, and Somalilanders have neither forgiven nor forgotten. In 1991, as central government in Mogadishu crumbled, they declared their independence.


Even though many of Cardiff's Somalilanders were born in Wales, they are obsessed by life back home.

They take their children there whenever they can afford it, and they raise money for good causes.

While I was in Cardiff a delegation arrived from Hargeisa to raise funds for the rebuilding of Hargeisa hospital.

Hundreds turned up to hear them, and they dipped deep into their pockets.

They are determined that Somaliland should succeed and they are very cross that the British government is doing so little to help.

"If Britain were to recognise our independence", they say, "aid would flow and our poverty would be a thing of the past"

Late-night debates

England's second city of Birmingham is host to a small, but noisy, community of Sudanese.

Most are from southern Sudan, but of late they've been joined by a sizable number of asylum seekers from Darfur, in the west.

Kuon Ruah Jany from southern Sudan, making friends with a Bull in Birmingham's  famous Bullring shopping centre
The southern Sudanese community are divided over politics
They talk politics most of the day, and late into the night.

Southern Sudanese appear to be divided into thee factions: Faction one supports SPLA leader John Garang; faction two doesn't like Mr Garang much but thinks that this is not the time to get rid of him; faction three hates him and thinks he should be overthrown right now.

Mr Garang is clearly a controversial figure amongst UK-based Sudanese, but they are all happy about the recent peace agreement with government in Khartoum - so that they can go home and pick up their lives where they left them so many years ago.

All the Sudanese I met in Birmingham vividly remember the day government troops burned down their home, bombed their village, drove them into exile, separated them from the families or threw them out of their job.

One young mother is already planning what she will plant outside her burned out home in the hills near Juba.

Read Robin White's other pieces on Africans in the UK

Country profile: United Kingdom
13 Oct 04 |  Country profiles
Regions and territories: Somaliland
10 Nov 04 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Sudan
12 Jan 05 |  Country profiles



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