Somaliland


            We’re locked down in BC until the long weekend and although nothing much changes for us, it is stopping tourists and any non-essential travel to and from the Sunshine Coast. I wanted to check the numbers yesterday and just put in the date but the stats from a year ago came up. Wow. This year our infections are ten times higher but our hospitalizations and mortality percentages are lower. Still, a wakeup call. 

            I wanted to talk about something else with Camp besides the bloody covid for a change and came across an interesting piece of journalism the other day. Camp was already enjoying his pint, looking out at the rainy-day weather. 

            ‘Camp, did you ever hear about Somaliland, the small African country the size of Greece that’s an independent and peaceful nation? 

            ‘You mean Somalia?’

            ‘No, Somaliland won its independence from Somalia in a brutal civil war 30 years ago when Siad Barre, the dictator from Mogadishu, bombed the rebellious region into total ruin. Thousands died; hundreds of thousands fled abroad but the rebels won their independence.’ 

            ‘Never heard of the place.’

            ‘Neither has the rest of the world. Somaliland is one of the forgotten countries; never received any foreign aid, is not recognized by the UN and has no debts because nobody ever lent them any money.’

            ‘Maybe this is a blessing’, Camp said. ‘There is a good book about that theme by Dambisa Moyo, a US citizen from Zambia who wrote ‘Dead Aid’ in 2009. She claims that development aid was and still is an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster for developing countries. It only leads to corruption and conflict and prevents free enterprise.’

            ‘Not in Somaliland,’ I said. ‘Taiwan is the only country with an embassy and Coca Cola has a bottling plant in Hargeisa, the capital. That’s the sum total of the world’s involvement. In Somaliland, a Muslim country where women go to school, make up 70% of university grads, drive cars, go to fitness centres, play basketball and run businesses. They go to conferences and can speak their mind and wear colourful modern clothes. Somaliland has miles of beautiful beaches and prehistoric cave paintings but no tourists.’

            ‘Really, it sounds almost unreal,’ Camp said.

            ‘It is. With over 800km of coast on the Gulf of Aden, Somaliland is between Somalia, its failed and dangerous neighbour where corrupt politicians and brutal Islamic militias terrorize their citizens, and Ethiopia to the north. Hargeisa is one of the safest cities on the continent, with about a million inhabitants and is a modern, peaceful city with malls, pizzerias and ice-cream parlors, open markets and no beggars or homeless people. There is even a large cultural centre which hosts one of the biggest yearly literary festivals in all of Africa.

            ‘It sounds like a Netflix movie,’ Camp said, shaking his head full of grey curls.

            ‘It is an exceptional experiment, ignored by the world that isn’t coming to Somaliland. ‘Then we have to go out into the world’, says Edna Adan, once the regional head for WHO and wife of the former president. She has been travelling the globe for decades to promote recognition of her small country in the horn of Africa. To her huge disappointment they were turned down in 2005 by the African Union as just another rebellious region, despite proper borders and their own currency, the Somaliland Schilling.

            ‘How do they survive? Where do they get their money? Camp asked.

            ‘A third of the country’s income comes from the diaspora which is larger than the resident population but the 2ndgeneration of expats is not quite as passionate about the land of their parents and remittances are diminishing. They also raise goats and sheep for export and they’re building a massive sea port to service Ethiopia. But still, Somaliland is a very poor country, often at the mercy of draughts and severe weather and structural problems. For example, they have no centralized electricity system and several suppliers hang their wires on the same poles. Also, as in many neighbouring countries, there are not enough jobs for the young people who were born after the independence war and don’t want to work the fields or raise goats. They want to go to university and see the world but they cannot travel since passports have to be issued by their hated neighbour Somalia.’

            ‘Wow, I never knew such a place existed. I’ll have to look this up,’ Camp said.

            ‘All this talk makes for a mighty thirst,’ I said and just like magic, Vicky dropped two foaming pints off. ‘I’m gonna get my vaccination next week,’ she said. ‘Maybe it’s the beginning of the end of this darn pandemic.’ We drank to that. The end can’t come soon enough.

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