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Regions and territories: Somaliland
A breakaway, semi-desert territory on the coast of the Gulf of Aden, Somaliland declared independence after the overthrow of Somali military dictator Siyad Barre in 1991.
The move followed a secessionist struggle during which Siyad Barre's forces pursued rebel guerrillas in the territory. Tens of thousands of people were killed and towns were flattened.
Though not internationally recognized, Somaliland has a working political system, government institutions, a police force and its own currency. The territory has lobbied hard to win support for its claim to be a sovereign state.
Livestock rearing is a key economic activity
The former British protectorate has also escaped much of the chaos and violence that plague Somalia, although attacks on Western aid workers in 2003 raised fears that Islamic militants in the territory were targeting foreigners.
Although there is a thriving private business sector, poverty and unemployment are widespread. The economy is highly dependent on money sent home by members of the diaspora. Duties from Berbera, a port used by landlocked Ethiopia, and livestock exports are important sources of revenue.
The latter have been hit by embargoes on exports, imposed by some Gulf countries to inhibit the spread of Rift Valley Fever.
Somaliland is in dispute with the neighboring autonomous Somali region of Puntland over the Sanaag and Sool areas, some of whose inhabitants owe their allegiance to Puntland.
A monument commemorates those who fought for secession
Somaliland's leaders have distanced themselves from Somalia's central transitional government, set up in 2004 following long-running talks in Kenya, which they see as a threat to Somaliland's autonomy.
Somaliland was independent for a few days in 1960, between the end of British colonial rule and its union with the former Italian colony of Somalia. More than 40 years later voters in the territory overwhelmingly backed its self-declared independence in a 2001 referendum.
President: Dahir Riyale Kahin
Incumbent leader Dahir Riyale Kahin, from the ruling Unity of Democrats (UDUB) party, won Somaliland's first multi-party presidential elections in April 2003 with a slim majority.
Dahir Riyale Kahin - pressing for world's recognition of Somaliland
He was appointed in 2002 by Somaliland's council of elders, following the death of his predecessor Mohamed Ibrahim Egal.
On taking office he said his priorities would be to ensure the territory's continued security and to press for international recognition for its independence.
Voters went to the polls in September 2005 to elect a new parliament; MPs had hitherto been chosen by clans through a process of consultation. Somaliland's leaders saw the election as the culmination of a democratic process which, they hoped, would better the chances of international recognition.
Since 1991, Radio Hargeysa has been the Somaliland government's official mouthpiece. The government also owns Somaliland National Television (SLNTV).
The authorities maintain a tight hold on broadcasting. Radio is the most accessible form of media, although Radio Hargeysa is the only permitted domestic outlet. The BBC is available in Hargeysa on 89 FM.
A private TV station, Somaliland Television (SLTV), is permitted to operate. A cable TV service is run by Hargeysa Cable.
The press can carry criticism of the government but the market for printed publications is small.