The Horn of Africa is regarded as one of the continent‘s most war-torn regions. Somalia in particular crashed into an ever deeper chaos of civil war and terror after the Somali dictator Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. There is still no end in sight. Despite all resistance, however, an island of peaceful coexistence emerged in the north of the country: Somaliland.
The borders of Somaliland go back to the 19th century and the establishment of a British protectorate, which later united with Italian-Somaliland to form Somalia in 1960. Under the dictatorship of Barre, who seized power through a coup nine years later, the inhabitants of the north felt increasingly deprived. The resulting fighting between the guerilla group ”Somaliland National Movement“ and the troops of Barre culminated in the overthrow of the regime, the adoption of a declaration of independence and the founding of the Republic of Somaliland on May 18, 1991. Although the independence of Somaliland is not recognized under international law, it has still managed to build a state out of the ruins. The process of state-building in Somaliland developed from the local population without external influence, from bottom to top. The residents called the clan elders to make peace among themselves after the declaration of independence. From this peace treaty, a stable region with its own money, military and a democratically elected parliament has developed until today. Nothing seems more important to the Somalilanders than their still young peace.
My photo-essay is a journey through this region that investigates and visualizes the collective dream of recognized statehood. The project tells of a region where traditional tribal structures and male prerogatives are as much part of the political system as a parliamentary democracy and peacefully executed changes of power. With a mixture of portraits and documentary images, I try to convey a surprising look at a region whose visual representation often struggles with the stereotypes of an East African crisis region.