Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Trouble In Somaliland

Somaliland, the independent, though internationally-unrecognized, nation that broke away from Somalia in the early 1990s, has long tried to draw a distinction between itself and its much better-known neighbor to the south.  While Somalia seems to be in a perpetual state of conflict and anarchy, Somaliland has remained relatively quiet and prosperous since breaking away from Somalia, Somaliland even completed a rarity for Africa – a relatively peaceful transition of power between rival political groups at the ballot box.

But government actions last week threaten to undermine this carefully crafted image that Somaliland is trying to present to the world.  On Sunday, the government of Somaliland announced that they were shutting down the television network Horn Cable TV for allegedly airing “anti-government propaganda”.  To make matters worse, the government then arrested 13 journalists who were part of a protest in Hargeisa (Somaliland's capital) against the closure of Horn Cable TV, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists, in what they called “a blatant misuse of powers”.  The National Union of Somali Journalists contends that Horn Cable TV was shut down for reporting on a meeting by tribal elders who were pushing for increased autonomy from the Somaliland government.  For their part, the Somaliland government says that the journalists' protest was illegal and that one of the journalists struck a student with the butt of a handgun he was carrying, which prompted his arrest.

Though still internationally considered part of Somalia, several neighboring African nations, like Ethiopia, maintain quasi-official diplomatic relations with the Somaliland government.  Somaliland also issues its own currency and is trying to grow its tourism sector to boost the local economy.
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