This Horn of Africa country is among the poorest countries in the world, despite it has proven reserves of oil and gas
By Kevin O’Sullivan
Somaliland is a country in the north of Somali with its government and ambitions for statehood. The former British protectorate received independence in 1960. Five days after gaining sovereignty, it united with the Italian-colonized Somali to the south. After 31 years it declared independence at the same time as the dictatorship of Siyad Barre fell in 2001.
Since then, it has had six presidential and local council elections based on the one-person, one-vote principle. It has seen peaceful transitions; the handing over of power from one group of clans to another in stark contrast to other east African neighbors and the rest of Somali.
It has its own functioning political, judiciary (though Sharia law applies in some rural areas), law enforcement, a police force, and an army. It has its currency though the US dollar has the supremacy.
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It has an estimated population growth rate of 1.3 percent; 55 percent of the 3.5 million population have either a nomadic or semi-nomadic existence, with the remainder living in urban centers or rural towns. Average life expectancy for women is 55 years; 50 years for men.
Somaliland has been relatively calm since independence; unlike south and central Somalia where the al-Qaeda-linked extremist group al-Shabaab has had a destabilizing influence.
Somaliland’s relative calmness can be marred by “sub-clan” conflicts over territories in some regions, notably with neighboring Puntland, and fighting over water points. Concern Worldwide has operations in three regions. Outside the capital Hargeisa, all movements of international staff require an armed escort by a special government unit call SPU.
While Somaliland is among the poorest countries in the world, it has proven reserves of oil and natural gas. Concerns about the potential political volatility, combined with uncertainties around the country’s unrecognized statehood and the protection that can be given, most major international energy companies remain hesitant to embark on any big investment project in Somaliland.