On a recent Saturday afternoon Abdirahman Hashi, 26, cut a lone figure on the sand watching small waves lapping against Baathela Beach. He arrived for a swim, he said. Afterward, he began the walk back to town with the coast line all to himself.
Much like the unsignposted beach, there are few international indicators to identify Somaliland’s existence. Most people do not distinguish it from Somalia, and currently, the global community doesn’t either. Although a self-declared independent nation since 1991, Somaliland doesn’t technically exist. Somalilanders, not surprisingly, take umbrage, pointing out the contrary, highlighting how their country has built a functioning, democratic society from the scraps of civil war.
Today, creating a tourist industry based on the country’s beaches, history and cultural sites offers one means to change global perspectives and boost the livestock-export-dependent economy. However, no one thinks it will be easy.
“It seems that when you are doing things peacefully and helping yourself, then no one cares about you,” Ayanle Salad Deria, the acting Somaliland ambassador to Ethiopia, said of the international community’s approach to his country’s situation. “Somaliland has been functioning for 24 years, and we’ve got lots of places to visit, including 850 kilometers [528 miles] of beaches.”
He left his office briefly, returning with a large black ring binder folder full of visa applications he started to flip through. “American … American … European — these are for this month. There’s about 50,” he boasted.
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