BY RAKIYA OMAAR AND SAEED MOHAMOUD
Visiting Colombia in June, 2014, as part of the Africa-Colombia Dialogue of the Brenthurst Foundation, was an opportunity to reflect on the power of misconceptions. Even among conflict veterans, which the people of Somaliland have become, the prospect of a journey to Colombia provoked concern about safety and security. Talking to people in Colombia about Somaliland elicited expressions of sympathy for a far off place they knew very little about. This is unsurprising, given the fact that what they thought they knew was based on the recurrent head- lines about war and violence, bombings by al-Shabaab militants, famine and displacement in Somalia.
The distinction between Somalia and Somaliland is lost on most outsiders, but for the peo- ple of Somaliland, who made the decision to separate from Somalia in May 1991, it is both very real and immensely significant. It has meant living in peace for two decades – a peace brokered, implemented and sustained by local people. There has been neither a military intervention to end a conflict nor substantial political, military or economic engagement with the international community, focused as it has been on the mayhem in Somalia.