Thursday, March 01, 2007

A model for self-reliance — in a nation that doesn't exist

HARGEISA, Somaliland

Here's the ethos of Somalia, as a former Mogadishu resident explained it to me: "If I use a dollar to buy food, then tomorrow I have nothing. If I use a dollar to buy a bullet, then I can eat every day."

That enterprising can-do spirit has turned most of Somalia into the poster child of a failed state, where you feel under-dressed without an assault rifle.
But wait! North of Somalia's carcass is the breakaway would-be nation of Somaliland, and it is a remarkable success — for a country that doesn't exist.
The U.S. and other governments don't recognize Somaliland, so the people here get next to zero foreign aid. And when the "country" was formed in 1991, it had been mostly obliterated in a civil war and was a collection of ruins and land mines. Yet the clans and elders here formed their own government, held free elections and even established an international airline.

Relying on free markets and a general exhaustion with violence, the people of Somaliland embraced tranquility and democracy and searched for ways to make a buck.

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