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Somaliland elections: Why the world ignores Horn of Africa's oasis of stability

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Barkhad Kaariye/AP/File

(Read caption) In this June 26 photo Ahmed Mohamud Silanyo, chairman of the KULMIYE Party, waves to his supporters at a polling station where he arrived to cast his vote in Hargeisa, in the self-declared republic of Somaliland. Silanyo has said he hopes the presidential election will help win Somaliland international recognition.

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A little over a year ago, I boarded an aged Russian propeller plane in Djibouti for a short flight into Somaliland. It was my first and, so far, my only visit to that self-declared republic, which broke away from Somalia 20 years ago while no one seemed to be looking.

Strangely enough, the world still isn’t looking.

Last weekend, Somaliland held elections and – unlike elections in more respectable nation-states like Kenya, Sudan, and Burundi – there were no claims of foul play, no international election observers citing “irregularities.” Not even a “hanging chad.” Al Qaeda issued warnings for voters not to participate, but the voters ignored them. And when the results came in, and the country’s president lost, there was a peaceful transfer of power to the president’s rival.

Of course, it’s easy to ignore Somaliland. Unlike Sudan, Nigeria, and Angola, it doesn’t produce oil. Unlike Burundi, it hasn’t had a recent spate of genocide. Unlike Kenya, it isn’t a vibrant commercial hub for the region with occasional self-destructive tendencies. Somaliland’s biggest export is mutton, and I can’t remember the last time the international community intervened in a country over mutton. Even when it’s nice and lean.

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