ON JULY IST 1960, five days after it cut its colonial ties, the former British Somaliland merged with the one-time Italian Somaliland to form a united Somalia. It was a bad move. The dictatorship of Siad Barre, who took office in 1969, marginalised and massacred Somalilanders. On May 18th 1991, five months after his fall, what was by then simply Somaliland declared independence. It was a statement of intent—and regret. Exiles returned home to rebuild their nation. “Hargeisa had been destroyed to rubble,” recalls Suad Ibrahim Abdi, a campaigner for women’s rights. “There were no buildings, no water.”
What happened next is Somaliland’s founding story. At confabs—under trees or desert stars—clans agreed to share power. Presidential elections followed with regularity. The country is poor but, without much aid, it has developed somewhat. Hargeisa is not the prettiest capital, but it serves a fine camel-milkshake. All of this contrasts with the chaos in Somalia, where foreigners have lavished money and guns.