In 1960, British and Italian Somaliland were joined, and Somalia officially gained its independence after centuries of foreign rule. The first elections were held in 1964, with the SYL winning an absolute majority. Somali politics began to flourish, with women taking an active role. Taken from an Associated Press article published in 1966, the photo above shows a pristine main street in Mogadishu. The caption describes Somalia as "perhaps the most democratic country on the dark continent." A free and fair election has not taken place in Somalia since the 1960s. Four decades later, the country is riveted by despair.