Until pirates showed up on the world's media radar few people would have been able to point to Somalia on a map. That all changed in April when a gang of pirates attempted to hijack a US-flagged ship with an American crew. They failed but took the ship's captain hostage.
The days-long stand off ended with the deadly sniping of three pirates by US Navy SEALS.
Dozens of international warships now patrol the waterways between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean. Flying over the Gulf of Aden, cargo ships can be seen on the seas below steaming along in two-by-two formation guarded by foreign navies against the pirates' little wooden skiffs.
While millions of dollars are thrown at the anti-piracy patrols, Somaliland is doing its own thing — unsupported as usual. Berthed in Berbera the Somaliland Coast Guard's three little grey gunships patrol 500 miles of coastline. They've already caught three dozen pirates who are now locked up in prisons in Berbera and Mandheera.
These successes are a source of pride in Somaliland – yet another example of how different this self-declared republic is from Somalia, a country that stands no chance whatever of patrolling its own waters. But it also reveals the schizophrenia of Somaliland's national pride after 18-years of lonely struggle: fiercely independent yet desperate
Everywhere people ask, part forlorn part indignant, why their country is not recognized by the outside world and by the West ("We do everything right. We even fight piracy!" declared the president in an interview).
The unsatisfactory answer – the West is waiting for an African nation to go first – is then followed with muttering about not needing the outside world anyway, "We'll do it ourselves, we don't need anyone else," they say.