Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Somaliland Independence Day
Last weekend, Somaliland celebrated the 20th anniversary of its separation from Somalia. Though the official date was 18 May, celebrations took place for a length of at least three days.
This is a strange country. Though still unrecognized by the international community, people here staunchly maintain that they are different from Mogadishu and the rest of Somalia. After a civil war in the late 1980s, carried out by former president Siad Barre against a rebellion in Hargeisa, Somaliland declared independence in 1991. Twenty years later, Somaliland has maintained peace and stability, while the south has descended into chaos.
Despite differing views on whether this little state 'deserves' independence, it has been clear from Day One that people here are dying for recognition. Even children in Hargeisa will tell you in English 'we want recognition,' which, considering the state of the public schools here, is remarkable. The 'country' has its own flag, its own currency, and its own rule of law.
And, it's own three-day Independence Day.
I had the honor of being one of the few foreigners to attend this celebration. I have done my best to capture the complete outpouring of joy on the streets of Hargeisa, but somehow I think I fell short. Imagine a normally austere, conservative Muslim country in Africa transformed into a countrywide party.
Did I mention that everyone had dressed up in their national colors?
Even an umbrella in the red, white and green.
A member of the female police force.
An Egyptian teacher in downtown Hargeisa, making a pro-Somaliland speech in Arabic. He said that as a member of the 'new Egypt,' he felt that Somaliland deserved recognition.
Happy 20th, Somaliland!