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Somaliland's British past

Helen Szamuely of EU Referendum quotes the New York Times on Somaliland, and wonders dryly about the lessons to be learnt. She refrains from commenting on one interesting aspect of Somaliland's past. The Times reports:

In 1991, as Somalia’s government disintegrated and clan fighting in the south spun out of control, Somaliland, traditionally one of the poorest parts of Somalia, claimed its independence. But no country acknowledges it as a separate state and very few even contribute aid — which makes Somaliland’s success all the more intriguing.

Its leaders, with no Western experts at their elbow, have devised a political system that minimizes clan rivalries while carving out a special role for clan elders, the traditional pillars of Somali society. They have demobilized thousands of the young gunmen who still plague Somalia and melded them into a national army. They have even held three rounds of multiparty elections, no small feat in a region, the Horn of Africa, where multiparty democracy is mostly a rumor. Somalia, for one, has not had free elections since the 1960s.

Somaliland includes the former British Somaliland protectorate, an area of about 53,128 square miles, which was established, with some regrettable loss of life, in 1886. In contrast, Somalia was colonised by Italy.

Undoubtedly there are many reasons for Somaliland's current success. But “It all goes back to the Brits,” said Hajji Abdi Waraabe, an 89-year-old member of Somaliland’s upper house of Parliament, to the Times.

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