The republic of Somaliland is looking at Taiwan as an example of what it might be some day. Somaliland, like Taiwan, is unrecognized by the international community.
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But in the five years since the president and parliament were appointed, the country has made great strides towards democracy and stability.
Dominated by an arid landscape, Somaliland is a place where rain is always welcome.
Scars of a decade-long civil war are clearly evident in the capital of Hargeisa.
Artillery and air strikes barraged the town, killing an estimated 40-thousand people, and forcing 400-thousand more to flee into Ethiopia. But now reconstruction is taking place, and peace has returned to the area with 30-thousand men having been persuaded to hand in their weapons.
Ken Turk recently moved to Somaliland after spending two years with the International Rescue Committee working in the south of Somalia.
“The people appear to be very interested in rebuilding Somaliland – and very interested in supporting the government here,” said Ken Turk, Somaliland IRC Coordinator
Somaliland remains the only major region of Somalia with a working, if fragile, government.
Three-quarters of the country’s children attend school – the majority in Koranic religious schools, like this one where pupils write in homemade lesson books.
The president and parliament of the self-declared republic are frustrated: their enclave remains unrecognized by the outside world and by the warlords who rule the southern part of Somalia from Mogadishu.
President Mohammed Ibrahim Egal fears that lack of international recognition, which has cost the region (m) millions in aid and trade, could jeopardize the future security and prosperity of the Republic of Somaliland.
Nonetheless, he remains optimistic.
“Taiwan has been living you know without recognition for 50 years now – and we could live for another 50 years providing we are unleashed – you know – and this victimization – you know – and this ostracism has been removed from us,” said Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, the president of the Republic of Somaliland
Raging inflation and runaway food costs have further impoverished a hungry population.
Agriculture and livestock are the most important money-earners.
Spurred on by the safety of the Republic of Somaliland and the enthusiasm of its citizens, the International Rescue Committee started work here last September.
They have concentrated on mainly helping farmers, women and war widows.
Farmers have been shown how to increase production by careful planting, fertilization, and by using the right farming implements.
Wells have also been dug to irrigate croplands and increase yields. These measures have boosted morale as farmers move towards self-sufficiency.
“So our target is just to reach the self-sufficient…in production,” said Ali Abdi Odawa, Somaliland Director-General of Ministry of Agriculture.
Another programme gives loans to women to help them set up small businesses, such as selling cups of tea and cigarettes.
Successful applicants can receive loans of up to 300 U-S dollars.
The training programme for shops is far more extensive, with loans of up to 15-hundred dollars.
The I-R-C’s efforts have had knock-on effects which has boosted the local economy and it is women who are seen as instrumental in this regeneration.
“Most of them, they support their family… their children and their husbands.” Kaltun Mohamed Hassan, Hargeisa Voluntary Youth Committee
While Somaliland’s economy has a long way to go, people are optimistic about their future and are prepared to work hard to get the fledgling republic on its feet.
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