BERBERA, SOMALILAND — To depart Mogadishu’s heavily-armed international airport — Somalia’s “green zone” — is an expensive prospect. Decades of lawlessness and instability in Mogadishu make insurance almost impossible. Few foreigners will pass outside the airport’s heavily fortified walls without armored cars and multiple personal security contractors. Most diplomats in Somalia (including America’s and Europe’s) are either sequestered inside the airport or remain in Kenya.
But Berbera is a different story. The main port in the northern region of Somaliland is thriving. New hotels are opening. Locals and foreigners intermingle on the beach, and both men and women gather on doorsteps and in tea houses in the evening to watch football, gossip, or shop. In Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa, money changers leave bundles of cash unattended as crime is so low. While al-Shabaab repeatedly strikes deep into Mogadishu and Kismayo, there has not been a terrorist attack in Hargeisa in more than a decade. While President Bihi’s government in Somaliland controls approximately 50,000 square miles of territory, President Farmajo in Mogadishu has secured only around 50,000 square feet, equivalent to the grounds of Villa Somalia, Somalia’s heavily-fortified White House.
According to the State Department’s travel warning, there is no difference between the two regions. “Do not travel to Somalia due to crime, terrorism, kidnapping and piracy,” it warns. It declares violent crime pernicious across regions, and continues to warn about piracy, even though Puntland’s pirates have not captured a single ship in more than two years, and Somaliland’s coast guard has never permitted piracy off its 450-mile coast.