Somaliland (Somali: Somaliland; Arabic: صوماليلاند Ṣūmālīlānd, أرض الصومال Arḍ aṣ-Ṣūmāl), officially the Republic of Somaliland (Somali: Jamhuuriyadda Somaliland, Arabic: جمهورية صوماليلاند Jumhūrīyat Ṣūmālīlānd), is a self-declared country in the Horn of Africa, internationally considered to be part of Somalia.[9][10] The government of Somaliland regards itself as the successor state to British Somaliland, which, as the briefly independent State of Somaliland, united in 1960 with the Trust Territory of Somaliland (the former Italian Somaliland) to form the Somali Republic.[11]

Republic of Somaliland

Jamhuriyadda Somaliland  (Somali)[1]
جمهورية أرض الصومال (Arabic)
Jumhūrīyat Arḍ aṣ-Ṣūmāl
Anthem: حياة طويلة مع السلام
Long life with peace
Controlled territory (dark green) and territory claimed but not controlled (light green)
and largest city
9°33′N 44°03′E
Official languagesSomali
Second languageArabic,[2] English
GovernmentUnitary presidential republic
Muse Bihi Abdi
Abdirahman Saylici
Bashe Mohamed Farah
 Chief Justice
Adan Haji Ali
House of Elders
House of Representatives
Unrecognised independence 
from Somalia
 Establishment of British Somaliland
 Independence of the State of Somaliland
26 June 1960
1 July 1960
18 May 1991
176,120[5] km2 (68,000 sq mi)
 2014 estimate
3.5 million[6]
25[6]/km2 (64.7/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)2019 estimate
$2.5 billion[7]
 Per capita
CurrencySomaliland shilling
Time zoneUTC+3 (EAT)
Date formatd/m/yy (AD)
Driving sideright
Calling code+252 (Somalia)

Somaliland lies in the Horn of Africa, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden. It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Ethiopia to the south and west, and Somalia to the east.[12] Its claimed territory has an area of 176,120 square kilometres (68,000 sq mi),[5] with approximately 3.5 million residents in 2014.[6] The capital and largest city is Hargeisa.

In 1988, the Siad Barre government began a crackdown against the Hargeisa-based Somali National Movement (SNM) and other militant groups, which were among the events that led to the Somali Civil War.[13] The conflict left the country's economic and military infrastructure severely damaged. Following the collapse of Barre's government in early 1991, local authorities, led by the SNM, unilaterally declared independence from Somalia on 18 May of the same year and reinstated the borders of the former short-lived independent State of Somaliland.[14][15]

Since then, the territory has been governed by democratically elected governments that seek international recognition as the Government of the Republic of Somaliland.[16][17][18][19] The central government maintains informal ties with some foreign governments, who have sent delegations to Hargeisa.[14][20][21] Ethiopia also maintains a trade office in the region.[22] However, Somaliland's self-proclaimed independence has not been officially recognised by any country or international organisation.[14][23][24] It is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, an advocacy group whose members consist of indigenous peoples, minorities and unrecognised or occupied territories.[25]

Name and etymology

The name Somaliland is derived from two words: "Somali" and "land". The area was named when Great Britain took control from the Egyptian administration in 1884, after signing successive treaties with the ruling Somali Sultans from the Isaaq, Issa, Gadabursi, and Warsangali clans. The British established a protectorate in the region referred to as British Somaliland. In 1960, when the protectorate became independent from Great Britain, it was called State of Somaliland. Four days later on 1 July 1960, Somaliland united with Italian Somaliland. The name "Republic of Somaliland" was taken upon the declaration of independence following the Somali Civil War in 1991.



Neolithic rock art at the Laas Geel complex depicting a long-horned cow.
Wild animals depicted in the caves of Dhaymoole, many of which have gone extinct in the region.

Somaliland has been inhabited since at least the Paleolithic. During the Stone Age, the Doian and Hargeisan cultures flourished here.[26] The oldest evidence of burial customs in the Horn of Africa comes from cemeteries in Somalia dating back to the 4th millennium BCE.[27] The stone implements from the Jalelo site in the north were also characterized in 1909 as important artefacts demonstrating the archaeological universality during the Paleolithic between the East and the West.[28]

According to linguists, the first Afroasiatic-speaking populations arrived in the region during the ensuing Neolithic period from the family's proposed urheimat ("original homeland") in the Nile Valley,[29] or the Near East.[30]

The Laas Geel complex on the outskirts of Hargeisa in northwestern Somalia dates back around 5,000 years, and has rock art depicting both wild animals and decorated cows.[31] Other cave paintings are found in the northern Dhambalin region, which feature one of the earliest known depictions of a hunter on horseback. The rock art is in the distinctive Ethiopian-Arabian style, dated to 1,000 to 3,000 BCE.[32][33] Additionally, between the towns of Las Khorey and El Ayo in northern Somalia lies Karinhegane, the site of numerous cave paintings of real and mythical animals. Each painting has an inscription below it, which collectively have been estimated to be around 2,500 years old.[34][35]

Antiquity and classical era

Shaláw Sabaean writing, Sanaag.
Sculptures have the cobra emblem (uraeus) that is wedged in the personages headdress Discover in Berbera, Somaliland
The tomb of Sheikh Isaaq, the founding father of the Isaaq clan, in Maydh, Sanaag.

Ancient pyramidical structures, mausoleums, ruined cities and stone walls, such as the Wargaade Wall, are evidence of an old civilization that once thrived in the Somali peninsula.[36][37] This civilization enjoyed a trading relationship with ancient Egypt and Mycenaean Greece since the second millennium BCE, supporting the hypothesis that Somalia or adjacent regions were the location of the ancient Land of Punt.[36][38] The Puntites traded myrrh, spices, gold, ebony, short-horned cattle, ivory and frankincense with the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, Indians, Chinese and Romans through their commercial ports. An Egyptian expedition sent to Punt by the 18th dynasty Queen Hatshepsut is recorded on the temple reliefs at Deir el-Bahari, during the reign of the Puntite King Parahu and Queen Ati.[36] In 2015, isotopic analysis of ancient baboon mummies from Punt that had been brought to Egypt as gifts indicated that the specimens likely originated from an area encompassing eastern Somalia and the Eritrea-Ethiopia corridor.[39]

The camel is believed to have been domesticated in the Horn region sometime between the 2nd and 3rd millennium BCE. From there, it spread to Egypt and the Maghreb.[40] During the classical period, the northern Barbara city-states of Mosylon, Opone, Mundus, Isis, Malao, Avalites, Essina, Nikon, and Sarapion developed a lucrative trade network, connecting with merchants from Ptolemaic Egypt, Ancient Greece, Phoenicia, Parthian Persia, Saba, the Nabataean Kingdom, and the Roman Empire. They used the ancient Somali maritime vessel known as the beden to transport their cargo.[41]

After the Roman conquest of the Nabataean Empire and the Roman naval presence at Aden to curb piracy, Arab and Somali merchants agreed with the Romans to bar Indian ships from trading in the free port cities of the Arabian peninsula[42] to protect the interests of Somali and Arab merchants in the lucrative commerce between the Red and Mediterranean Seas.[43] However, Indian merchants continued to trade in the port cities of the Somali peninsula, which was free from Roman interference.[44]

For centuries, Indian merchants brought large quantities of cinnamon to Somalia and Arabia from Ceylon and the Spice Islands. The source of the cinnamon and other spices is said to have been the best-kept secret of Arab and Somali merchants in their trade with the Roman and Greek world; the Romans and Greeks believed the source to have been the Somali peninsula.[45] The collusive agreement among Somali and Arab traders inflated the price of Indian and Chinese cinnamon in North Africa, the Near East, and Europe, and made the cinnamon trade a very profitable revenue generator, especially for the Somali merchants through whose hands large quantities were shipped across sea and land routes.[43]

In 2007, more rock art sites with Sabaean and Himyarite writings in and around Hargeysa region were found, but some were bulldozed by developers.[46]

Birth of Islam and the Middle Ages

The Sultan of Adal (right) and his troops battling King Yagbea-Sion and his men. From Le livre des Merveilles, 15th century.
Ruins of the Adal Sultanate in Zeila, Awdal.

Various Somali Muslim kingdoms were established around this period in the area.[47] In the 14th century, the Zeila-based Adal Sultanate battled the forces of the Ethiopian emperor Amda Seyon I.[48] The Ottoman Empire later occupied Berbera and environs in the 1500s. Muhammad Ali, Pasha of Egypt, subsequently established a foothold in the area between 1821 and 1841.[49]

Early modern sultanates

In the early modern period, successor states to the Adal Sultanate and Ajuran Sultanate began to flourish in Somalia. These included the Isaaq Sultanate and Habr Yunis Sultanate.[50]

19th century German map showing Sultan Nur's Domain in central Somaliland

The first engagement between Somalis of the region and the British was the 1827 "Articles of Friendship and Commerce between the Tribe of Habr Awal and England.[51] This was followed by a British treaty with the Governor of Zeila in 1840. An engagement was then started between the British and elders of Habar Garhajis and Habar Toljaala clans of the Isaaq in 1855, followed a year later by the conclusion of the "Articles of Peace and Friendship" between the Habar Awal and East India Company. These engagements between the British and Somali clans culminated in the formal treaties the British signed with the henceforth 'British Somaliland' clans, which took place between 1884 and 1886 (treaties were signed with the Habar Awal, Gadabursi, Habar Toljaala, Habar Garhajis, Esa, and the Warsangali clans), this paved the way for the British to establish a protectorate in the region referred to as British Somaliland.[52] The British garrisoned the protectorate from Aden and administered it as part of British India until 1898. British Somaliland was then administered by the Foreign Office until 1905, and afterwards by the Colonial Office.[53]

British Somaliland

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera covering the start of the British Somaliland offensive
Aerial bombardment of Dervish forts in Taleh.

The Somaliland Campaign, also called the Anglo-Somali War or the Dervish War, was a series of military expeditions that took place between 1900 and 1920 in the Horn of Africa, pitting the Dervishes led by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (nicknamed the "Mad Mullah") against the British.[54] The British were assisted in their offensives by the Ethiopians and Italians. During the First World War (1914–1918), Hassan also received aid from the Ottomans, Germans and, for a time, from the Emperor Iyasu V of Ethiopia. The conflict ended when the British aerially bombed the Dervish capital of Taleh in February 1920.[55]

The Fifth Expedition of the Somaliland campaign in 1920 was the final British expedition against the Dervish forces of Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (often called the "Mad Mullah" derogatorily by British ), the Somali religious leader. Although the majority of the combat took place in January of the year, British troops had begun preparations for the assault as early as November 1919. The British forces included elements of the Royal Air Force and the Somaliland Camel Corps. After three weeks of battle, Hassan's Dervishes were defeated, bringing an effective end to their 20-year resistance.[56]

The Italian conquest of British Somaliland was a military campaign in East Africa, which took place in August 1940 between forces of Italy and those of several British and Commonwealth countries. The Italian expedition was part of the East African Campaign.[57]

State of Somaliland

Somaliland Flying for the first time: The White and Blue Somali Flag at the Independence Celebrations on 26 June 1960 Prime Minister of the State of Somaliland and second president of Somaliland Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal salutes the flag.
Agreements and Exchanges of Letters between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Somaliland in connexion with the Attainment of Independence by Somaliland[58]
The Somaliland Protectorate Constitutional Conference, London, May 1960 in which it was decide that 26 June be the day of Independence, and so signed on 12 May 1960. Somaliland Delegation: Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal, Ahmed Haji Dualeh, Ali Garad Jama and Haji Ibrahim Nur. From the Colonial Office: Ian Macleod, D. B. Hall, H. C. F. Wilks (Secretary)

In May 1960, the British government stated that it would be prepared to grant independence to the then protectorate of British Somaliland, with the intention that the territory would unite with the Italian-administered Trust Territory of Somaliland under Italian Administration (the former Italian Somaliland).[59] The Legislative Council of British Somaliland passed a resolution in April 1960 requesting independence and union with the Trust Territory of Somaliland, which was scheduled to gain independence on 1 July that year. The legislative councils of both territories agreed to this proposal following a joint conference in Mogadishu.[60] On 26 June 1960, the former British Somaliland protectorate briefly obtained independence as the State of Somaliland, with the Trust Territory of Somaliland following suit five days later.[11] During its brief period of independence, the State of Somaliland garnered recognition from thirty-five sovereign states.[61] The following day, on 27 June 1960, the newly convened Somaliland Legislative Assembly approved a bill that would formally allow for the union of the State of Somaliland with the Trust Territory of Somaliland on 1 July 1960.[60]

Somali Republic

On 1 July 1960, the protectorate and the Trust Territory of Somaliland (the former Italian Somaliland) united as planned to form the Somali Republic.[62][63] Inspired by Somali nationalism, the northerners were initially enthusiastic about the union.[64] A government was formed by Abdullahi Issa, with Aden Abdullah Osman Daar as President and Abdirashid Ali Shermarke as Prime Minister (later to become president, from 1967 to 1969). On 20 July 1961 and through a popular referendum, the Somali people ratified a new constitution, which was first drafted in 1960.[65] The constitution had little support in the former Somaliland, and was believed to favour the south. Many northerners boycotted the referendum in protest, and over 60% of those who voted in the north were against the new constitution. Regardless, the referendum passed, and Somaliland became quickly dominated by southerners. As result, dissatisfaction became widespread in the north, and support for the union plummeted. British-trained Somaliland officers attempted a revolt to end the union in December 1961. Their uprising failed, and Somaliland continued to be marginalized by the south during the next decades.[64]

In 1967, Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal became Prime Minister, a position to which he was appointed by Shermarke. Shermarke was assassinated two years later by one of his own bodyguards. His murder was quickly followed by a military coup d'état on 21 October 1969 (the day after his funeral), in which the Somalian Army seized power without encountering armed opposition. The putsch was spearheaded by Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, who at the time commanded the army.[66] The new regime would go on to rule Somalia for the next 22 years.[67]

Somali National Movement, Barre persecution

Exhumed skeletal remains of victims of the Isaaq genocide found from a mass grave site located in Berbera, Somaliland.

The moral authority of Barre's government was gradually eroded, as many Somalis became disillusioned with life under military rule. By the mid-1980s, resistance movements supported by Ethiopia's communist Derg administration had sprung up across the country. Barre responded by ordering punitive measures against those he perceived as locally supporting the guerrillas, especially in the northern regions. The clampdown included bombing of cities, with the northwestern administrative centre of Hargeisa, a Somali National Movement (SNM) stronghold, among the targeted areas in 1988.[13][68] The bombardment was led by General Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan, Barre's son-in-law.[69]

Up to 90% of Hargeisa (2nd largest city of the Somali Republic) was destroyed by Somali government.

According to Abou Jeng and other scholars, the Barre regime rule was marked by a targeted brutal persecution of the Isaaq clan.[70][71] Mohamed Haji Ingiriis and Chris Mullin state that the clampdown by the Barre regime against the Hargeisa-based Somali National Movement targeted the Isaaq clan, to which most members of the SNM belonged. They refer to the clampdown as the Isaaq genocide or Hargeisa holocaust.[72][73] A United Nations investigation concluded that the crime of genocide was "conceived, planned and perpetrated by the Somali Government against the Isaaq people".[74] The number of civilian casualties is estimated to be between 50,000–100,000 according to various sources,[75][76][77] while some reports estimate the total civilian deaths to be upwards of 200,000 Isaaq civilians.[78] Along with the deaths, Barre regime bombarded and razed the second and third largest cities in Somalia, Hargeisa and Burao respectively.[79] This displaced an estimated 400,000 local residents to Hartasheikh in Ethiopia;[80][81][82] another 400,000 individuals were also internally displaced.[83][84][85] The counterinsurgency by the Barre regime against the SNM targeted the rebel group's civilian base of support, escalating into a genocidal onslaught against the Isaaq clan. This led to anarchy and violent campaigns by fragmented militias, which then wrested power at a local level.[86] The Barre regime's persecution was not limited to the Isaaq, as it targeted other clans such as the Hawiye.[87][88] The Barre regime collapsed in January 1991. Thereafter, as the political situation in Somaliland stabilized, the displaced people returned to their homes, the militias were demobilized or incorporated into the army, and tens of thousands of houses and businesses were reconstructed from rubble.[89]

Somali Civil War

5 May resolution of the Burao grand conference. At the second national meeting on 18 May, the SNM Central Committee, with the support of a meeting of elders representing the major clans in the Northern Regions, declared the restoration of the Republic of Somaliland in the territory of the former British Somaliland protectorate and formed a government for the self-declared state.[90]
MiG monument in Hargeisa commemorating Somaliland's breakaway from the rest of Somalia during the 1991s.

Although the SNM at its inception had a unionist constitution, it eventually began to pursue independence, looking to secede from the rest of Somalia.[91] Under the leadership of Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur, the local administration declared the northwestern Somali territories independent at a conference held in Burao between 27 April 1991 and 15 May 1991.[92] Tuur then became the newly established Somaliland polity's first President, but subsequently renounced the separatist platform in 1994 and began instead to publicly seek and advocate reconciliation with the rest of Somalia under a power-sharing federal system of governance.[91] Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal was appointed as Tuur's successor in 1993 by the Grand Conference of National Reconciliation in Borama, which met for four months, leading to a gradual improvement in security, as well as a consolidation of the new territory.[93] Egal was reappointed in 1997, and remained in power until his death on 3 May 2002. The vice-president, Dahir Riyale Kahin, who was during the 1980s the highest-ranking National Security Service (NSS) officer in Berbera in Siad Barre's government, was sworn in as president shortly afterwards.[94] In 2003, Kahin became the first elected president of Somaliland.[95]

The war in southern Somalia between Islamist insurgents on the one hand, and the Federal Government of Somalia and its African Union allies on the other, has for the most part not directly affected Somaliland, which, like neighbouring Puntland, has remained relatively stable.[96][97]

2001 Somaliland constitutional referendum

Presidential decree ratifying the Somaliland constitution by Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal

In August 2000, President Egal's government distributed thousands of copies of the proposed constitution throughout Somaliland for consideration and review by the people. One critical clause of the 130 individual articles of the constitution would ratify Somaliland's self-declared independence and final separation from Somalia, restoring the nation's independence for the first time since 1960. In late March 2001, President Egal set the date for the referendum on the Constitution for May 31, 2001.[98]

A constitutional referendum was held in Somaliland on 31 May 2001.[99] The referendum was held on a draft constitution that affirmed Somaliland's independence from Somalia. 99.9% of eligible voters took part in the referendum and 97.1% of them voted in favour of the constitution.

Politics and government

Muse Bihi Abdi
Abdirahman Saylici
Vice President
The outgoing president, Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur, leaves the hall alongside newly elected President Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal. Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur is being congratulated by an elder on his decision to accept the outcome of the election and stand down peacefully after several days intense debate and negotiation..

The guurti worked with rebel leaders to set up a new government, and was incorporated into the governance structure, becoming the Parliament's House of Elders.[100] The government became in essence a "power-sharing coalition of Somaliland's main clans," with seats in the Upper and Lower houses proportionally allocated to clans according to a predetermined formula, although not all clans are satisfied with their representation. In 2002, after several extensions of this interim government, Somaliland transitioned to multi-party democracy.[101] The election was limited to three parties, in an attempt to create ideology based elections rather than clan based elections.[100] As of December 2014, Somaliland has three political parties: the Peace, Unity, and Development Party, the Justice and Development Party, and Wadani. Under the Somaliland Constitution, a maximum of three political parties is allowed.[102]

The Executive is led by an elected president, whose government includes a vice-president and a Council of Ministers.[103] The Council of Ministers, who are responsible for the normal running of government, are nominated by the President and approved by the Parliament's House of Representatives.[104] The President must approve bills passed by the Parliament before they come into effect.[103] Presidential elections are confirmed by the National Electoral Commission of Somaliland.[105] The President can serve a maximum of two five-year terms.

House of Representatives (Lower House) of the Somaliland Parliament.

Legislative power is held by the bicameral Parliament. Its upper house is the House of Elders, this chamber is chaired by Suleiman Mohamoud Adan, and the lower house is the House of Representatives.[103] The lower house is chaired by Bashe Mohamed Farah.[106] Each house has 82 members. Members of the House of Elders are elected indirectly by local communities for six-year terms. The House of Elders shares power in passing laws with the House of Representatives, and also has the role of solving internal conflicts, and an exclusive power to extend the terms of the President and representatives under circumstances that make an election impossible. Members of the House of Representatives are directly elected by the people for five-year terms. The House of Representatives shares voting power with the House of Elders, though it can pass a law that the House of Elders rejects if it votes for the law by a 2/3's majority, and has absolute power in financial matters and confirmation of Presidential appointments (except for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court).[107]

The judicial system is divided into district courts, (which deal with matters of family law and succession, lawsuits for amounts up to 3 million SL, criminal cases punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment or 3 million SL fines, and crimes committed by juveniles), regional courts (which deal with lawsuits and criminal cases not within the jurisdiction of district courts, labour and employment claims, and local government elections), regional appeals courts (which deal with all appeals from district and regional courts), and the Supreme Court (which deals with issues between courts and in government, and reviews its own decisions), which is the highest court and also functions as the Constitutional Court.[108]

Somaliland nationality law defines who is a Somaliland citizen,[109] as well as the procedures by which one may be naturalised into Somaliland citizenship or renounce it.[110]

Women in the Somaliland, wearing the colors of the Somaliland flag, prior to parliamentary elections in 2005.

The Somaliland government continues to apply the 1962 penal code of the Somali Republic. As such, homosexual acts are illegal in the territory.[111]

Freedom House ranks the Somaliland government as partly democratic.[112] Seth Kaplan (2011) argues that in contrast to southern Somalia and adjacent territories, Somaliland, the secessionist northwestern portion of Somalia, has built a more democratic mode of governance from the bottom up, with virtually no foreign assistance.[113] Specifically, Kaplan suggests that Somaliland has the most democratic political system in the Horn of Africa because it has been largely insulated from the extremist elements in the rest of Somalia and has viable electoral and legislative systems as well as a robust private sector-dominated economy, unlike neighbouring authoritarian governments. He largely attributes this to Somaliland's integration of customary laws and tradition with modern state structures, which he indicates most post-colonial states in Africa and the Middle East have not had the opportunity to do. Kaplan asserts that this has facilitated cohesiveness and conferred greater governmental legitimacy in Somaliland, as has the territory's comparatively homogeneous population, relatively equitable income distribution, common fear of the south, and absence of interference by outside forces, which has obliged local politicians to observe a degree of accountability.[114]

Foreign relations

The President of Somaliland Muse Bihi Abdi, visit to the Republic of Guinea and He received a high-ranking delegation headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guinea Mamadi Touré in 2019.

Somaliland has political contacts with its neighbours Ethiopia[115] and Djibouti,[116] non-UN member state Republic of China,[117][118] as well as with South Africa,[115] Sweden,[119] the United Kingdom[120] and the micro-nation of Liberland.[121][122][123][124][125] On 17 January 2007, the European Union (EU) sent a delegation for foreign affairs to discuss future co-operation.[126] The African Union (AU) has also sent a foreign minister to discuss the future of international acknowledgment, and on 29 and 30 January 2007, the ministers stated that they would discuss acknowledgement with the organisation's member states.[127] In early 2006, the National Assembly of Wales extended an official invitation to the Somaliland government to attend the royal opening of the Senedd in Cardiff. The move was seen as an act of recognition by the Welsh Assembly of the breakaway government's legitimacy. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office made no comment on the invitation. Wales is home to a significant Somali expatriate community from Somaliland.[128]

In 2007, a delegation led by President Kahin was present at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala, Uganda. Although Somaliland has applied to join the Commonwealth under observer status, its application is still pending.[129]

On 24 September 2010, Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, stated that the United States would be modifying its strategy in Somalia and would seek deeper engagement with the governments of Somaliland and Puntland while continuing to support the Somali Transitional Government.[130] Carson said the US would send aid workers and diplomats to Puntland and Somaliland and alluded to the possibility of future development projects. However, Carson emphasised that the US would not extend formal recognition to either region.[131]

Map of diplomatic missions in Somaliland
  States with consulate or representative office in Somaliland

The then-UK Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham MP, met President Silanyo of Somaliland in November 2010 to discuss ways in which to increase the UK's engagement with Somaliland.[132] President Silanyo said during his visit to London: "We have been working with the international community and the international community has been engaging with us, giving us assistance and working with us in our democratisation and development programmes. And we are very happy with the way the international community has been dealing with us, particularly the UK, the US, other European nations and our neighbours who continue to seek recognition."[133] Recognition of Somaliland by the UK has also been supported by the UK Independence Party, which came 3rd in the popular vote at the 2015 General Election. The leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, met with Ali Aden Awale, Head of the Somaliland UK Mission on Somaliland's national day, 18 May, in 2015, to express UKIP's support for Somaliland. Nigel Farage said that "Somaliland has been a beacon of peace, democracy and the Rule of Law, in the Horn of Africa for the past 24 years. It is about time the UK and the rest of the international community recognised Somaliland's case for recognition. It's about time peace was rewarded. For the UK to turn its back on their legitimate demands for sovereignty, is wrong. It is extraordinary that we have not been lobbying for their admittance to the Commonwealth. In recent years, we have supported the admission of countries such as Mozambique which have no historic links to Britain, but Somaliland, a former protectorate is left in the cold. This must change".[134]

In 2011, Somaliland and the neighbouring Puntland region each entered a security-related memorandum of understanding with the Seychelles. Following the framework of an earlier agreement signed between the Transitional Federal Government and the Seychelles, the memorandum is "for the transfer of convicted persons to prisons in 'Puntland' and 'Somaliland'".[135]

Somaliland Foreign Minister Hagi Mohamoud with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen

On 1 July 2020, Somaliland and Taiwan signed an agreement to set up representative offices to promote cooperation between the two countries.[136] Cooperation between the two polities on education, maritime security, and medicine began in 2009, and Taiwanese staff entered Somaliland in February 2020 to prepare for the representative office.[137]

Border disputes

Celebrating Somaliland'ś Independence Day, 18 May 2016

Somaliland continues to claim the entire area of the former British Somaliland.[15] It is currently in control of the western half of the former British Somaliland, with northeastern Maakhir having declared itself a separate, unrecognised autonomous state within Somalia in July 2007, and the disputed southeastern Sool state had been under the control of neighbouring Puntland. A coalition of Gadabuursi intellectuals hailing from the westernmost Awdal province have threatened to secede if Somaliland's independence is recognised.[138][139]

Tensions between Puntland and Somaliland escalated into violence several times between 2002 and 2009. In October 2004, and again in April and October 2007, armed forces of Somaliland and Puntland clashed near the town of Las Anod, the capital of Sool region. In October 2007, Somaliland troops took control of the town.[140] While celebrating Puntland's 11th anniversary on 2 August 2009, Puntland officials vowed to recapture Las Anod. While Somaliland claims independent statehood and therefore "split up" the "old" Somalia, Puntland works for the re-establishment of a united but federal Somali state.[141]

Somaliland forces took control of the town of Las Qorey in eastern Sanaag on 10 July 2008, along with positions 5 km (3 mi) east of the town. The defence forces completed their operations on 9 July 2008 after the Maakhir and Puntland militia in the area left their positions,[142] but control of the territory was later assumed by Puntland as Maakhir was incorporated into the autonomous region in January 2009.

In the late 2000s, HBM-SSC (Hoggaanka Badbaadada iyo Mideynta SSC), a local unionist group based in Sanaag was formed with the goal to establish its own regional administration (Sool, Sanaag and Cayn, or SSC).[91] This later evolved into Khatumo State, which was established in 2012. The local administration and its constituents does not recognise the Somaliland government's claim to sovereignty or to its territory.[143]

President Silanyo and Ali Khalif signing the Somaliland-Khatumo Agreement in Aynabo in October 2017

On 20 October 2017 in Aynabo, an agreement was signed with the Somaliland government which stipulated the amendment of Somaliland's constitution and to integrate the organisation into the Somaliland government.[144][145] This signalled the end of the organisation even though it was an unpopular event amongst the Dhulbahante community.[146][144]


Somaliland Police
Women in Somaliland Army.

The Somaliland Armed Forces are the main military command in Somaliland. Along with the Somaliland Police and all other internal security forces, they are overseen by Somaliland's Ministry of Defence. The current head of Somaliland's Armed Forces is the Minister of Defence, Abdiqani Mohamoud Aateye.[147]

The Somaliland Army consists of twelve divisions equipped primarily with light weaponry, though it is equipped with some howitzers and mobile rocket launchers. Its armoured vehicles and tanks are mostly of Soviet design, though there are some ageing Western vehicles and tanks in its arsenal. The Somaliland Navy (often referred to as a Coast Guard by the Associated Press), despite a crippling lack of equipment and formal training, has apparently had some success at curbing both piracy and illegal fishing within Somaliland waters.[148][149]

Administrative divisions

A map of Somaliland regions.


The following regions are taken from Michael Walls: State Formation in Somaliland: Bringing Deliberation to Institutionalism from 2011, Somaliland: The Strains of Success from 2015 and ActionAID, a humanitarian organization currently active in Somaliland.[150][151][152]

1AwdalBoramaBaki, Borama, Zeila, Lughaya
2SahilBerberaSheikh, Berbera
3Maroodi JeehHargeisaGabiley, Hargeisa
4TogdheerBuraoOdweyne, Buhoodle, Burao
5SanaagErigavoEl Afweyn, Erigavo, Lasqoray
6SoolLas AnodAynabo, Las Anod, Taleh, Hudun


Location and habitat

Satellite image of Somaliland

Somaliland is situated in northwestern Somalia. It lies between the 08°00' – 11°30' parallel north of the equator and between 42°30' – 49°00' meridian east of Greenwich. It is bordered by Djibouti to the west, Ethiopia to the south, and the Puntland region of Somalia to the east. Somaliland has a 740 kilometres (460 mi) coastline with the majority lying along the Gulf of Aden. In terms of landmass, Somaliland's territory is comparable to that of Uruguay, with an area of 176,120 km2 (68,000 sq mi). Somaliland's climate is a mixture of wet and dry conditions. The northern part of the region is hilly, and in many places the altitude ranges between 900 and 2,100 metres (3,000 and 6,900 ft) above sea level. The Awdal, Sahil and Maroodi Jeex (Woqooyi Galbeed) regions are fertile and mountainous, while Togdheer is mostly semi-desert with little fertile greenery around. The Awdal region is also known for its offshore islands, coral reefs and mangroves. A scrub-covered, semi-desert plain referred as the Guban lies parallel to the Gulf of Aden littoral. With a width of twelve kilometres (7.5 miles) in the west to as little as two kilometres (1.2 miles) in the east, the plain is bisected by watercourses that are essentially beds of dry sand except during the rainy seasons. When the rains arrive, the Guban's low bushes and grass clumps transform into lush vegetation.[153] This coastal strip is part of the Ethiopian xeric grasslands and shrublands ecoregion.

Cal Madow is a mountain range in the northern part of the country. Extending from the northwest of Erigavo to several kilometres west of the city of Bosaso, it features Somalia's and highest peak, Shimbiris, which sits at an elevation of about 2,416 metres (7,927 ft).[3] The rugged east–west ranges of the Karkaar Mountains also lie to the interior of the Gulf of Aden littoral.[153] In the central regions, the northern mountain ranges give way to shallow plateaus and typically dry watercourses that are referred to locally as the Ogo. The Ogo's western plateau, in turn, gradually merges into the Haud, an important grazing area for livestock.[153]


Somaliland is located north of the Equator. It is semi-arid. The average daily temperatures range from 25 to 35 °C (77 to 95 °F). The sun passes vertically overhead twice a year, on 22 March and 23 September. Somaliland consists of three main topographic zones: (1). A Coastal Plain (Guban) (2) The Coastal Range (Oogo) (3) A Plateau (Hawd) The Coastal Plain (Guban) is a zone with high temperatures and low rainfall. Summer temperatures in the region easily average over 100 °F (38 °C). However, temperatures come down during the winter, and both human and livestock populations increase dramatically in the region.

The Coastal Range (Ogo) is a high plateau to the immediate south of Guban. Its elevation ranges from 6,000 feet (1,800 m) above sea level in the West to 7,000 feet (2,100 m) in the East. Rainfall is heavier there than in Guban, although it varies considerably within the zone. The Plateau (Hawd) region lies to the south of Ogo range. It is generally more heavily populated during the wet season, when surface water is available. It is also an important area for grazing. Somalilanders recognize four seasons in the year; GU and Hagaa comprise spring and summer in that order, and Dayr and Jiilaal correspond to autumn and winter respectively.[154]

The average annual rainfall is 446 millimetres (17.6 in) in some parts of country according to availability of rain gauge, and most of it comes during Gu and Dayr. GU, which is the first, or major, rainy season (late March, April, May, and early June), experiences the heaviest rainfall in Ogo range and Hawd. This constitutes the period of fresh grazing and abundant surface water. It is also the breeding season for livestock. Hagaa (from late June through August) is usually dry although there are often some scattered showers in the Ogo range, these are known as Karan rains. Hagaa tends to be hot and windy in most parts of the country. Deyr (September, October, and early November), which roughly corresponds to autumn, is the second, or minor, wet season; as the word "minor" suggests, the amount of precipitation is generally less than that of Gu. Jilaal, or winter, falls in the coolest and driest months of the year (from late November to early March). It is a season of thirst. Hawd receive virtually no rainfall in winter. The rainfall in the Guban zone, known as "Hays", comes from December to February. The humidity of the country varies from 63% in the dry season to 82% in the wet season.[155]


500 Somaliland Shillings, 1000 Somaliland Shillings, 5000 Somaliland Shillings.

The Somaliland shilling, which cannot easily be exchanged outside Somaliland on account of the nation's lack of recognition, is regulated by the Bank of Somaliland, the central bank, which was established constitutionally in 1994. It may not be considered valid tender in disputed areas such as Ayn or the district of Badhan, which are not administered as part of Somaliland and continue to use the Somali shilling despite being claimed by the Somaliland government.[156]

Since Somaliland is unrecognised, international donors have found it difficult to provide aid. As a result, the government relies mainly upon tax receipts and remittances from the large Somali diaspora, which contribute immensely to Somaliland's economy.[157] Remittances come to Somaliland through money transfer companies, the largest of which is Dahabshiil,[158] one of the few Somali money transfer companies that conform to modern money-transfer regulations. The World Bank estimates that remittances worth approximately US$1 billion reach Somalia annually from émigrés working in the Gulf states, Europe and the United States. Analysts say that Dahabshiil may handle around two-thirds of that figure and as much as half of it reaches Somaliland alone.[159]

New DP World Berbera Container Terminal Port.

Since the late 1990s, service provisions have significantly improved through limited government provisions and contributions from non-governmental organisations, religious groups, the international community (especially the diaspora), and the growing private sector. Local and municipal governments have been developing key public service provisions such as water in Hargeisa and education, electricity, and security in Berbera.[157] In 2009, the Banque pour le Commerce et l'Industrie – Mer Rouge (BCIMR), based in Djibouti, opened a branch in Hargeisa and became the first bank in the country since the 1990 collapse of the Commercial and Savings Bank of Somalia.[160] In 2014, Dahabshil Bank International became the region's first commercial bank.[161] In 2017 Premier Bank from Mogadishu opened a branch in Hargeisa.[162]

A shopping mall in downtown Burao.

Various telecommunications firms also have branches in Somaliland. Among these companies is Telesom, one of the largest operators in Somaliland. Founded in 2002 with the objective of supplying the local market with telecommunications services such as GSM, fixed line, and Internet access, it has an extensive network that covers all of Somaliland's major cities and more than 40 districts in both Somalia and Somaliland.[163] Telesom also offers among the cheapest international calling rates at US$0.2 less than its nearest competitor.[164] Other telecommunication firms serving the region include Somtel, Telcom and NationLink.[165]

Livestock is the backbone of Somaliland's economy. Sheep, camels, and cattle are shipped from the Berbera port and sent to Gulf Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia.[166]

Agriculture is generally considered to be a potentially successful industry, especially in the production of cereals and horticulture. Mining also has potential, though simple quarrying represents the extent of current operations, despite the presence of diverse quantities of mineral deposits.[16]


Ancient cave paintings near Hargeisa
Naasa Hablood, also known as Virgin's Breast Mountain.

The rock art and caves at Laas Geel, situated on the outskirts of Hargeisa, are a popular local tourist attraction. Totaling ten caves, they were discovered by a French archaeological team in 2002 and are believed to date back around 5,000 years. The government and locals keep the cave paintings safe and only a restricted number of tourists are allowed entry.[167] Other notable sights include the Freedom Arch in Hargeisa and the War Memorial in the city centre. Natural attractions are very common around the region. The Naasa Hablood are twin hills located on the outskirts of Hargeisa that Somalis in the region consider to be a majestic natural landmark.[168]

The Ministry of Tourism has also encouraged travellers to visit historic towns and cities in Somaliland. The historic town of Sheekh is located near Berbera and is home to old British colonial buildings that have remained untouched for over forty years. Berbera also houses historic and impressive Ottoman architectural buildings. Another equally famous historic city is Zeila. Zeila was once part of the Ottoman Empire, a dependency of Yemen and Egypt and a major trade city during the 19th century. The city has been visited for its old colonial landmarks, offshore mangroves and coral reefs, towering cliffs, and beach. The nomadic culture of Somaliland has also attracted tourists. Most nomads live in the countryside.[168]


Bus services operate in Hargeisa, Burao, Gabiley, Berbera and Borama. There are also road transportation services between the major towns and adjacent villages, which are operated by different types of vehicles. Among these are taxis, four-wheel drives, minibuses and light goods vehicles (LGV).[169]

The most prominent airlines serving Somaliland is Daallo Airlines, a Somali-owned private carrier with regular international flights that emerged after Somali Airlines ceased operations. African Express Airways and Ethiopian Airlines also fly from airports in Somaliland to Djibouti City, Addis Ababa, Dubai and Jeddah, and offer flights for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages via the Egal International Airport in Hargeisa. Other major airports in the region include the Berbera Airport.[170][171]


In June 2016, the Somaliland government signed an agreement with DP World to manage the strategic port of Berbera with the aim of enhancing productive capacity and acting as an alternative port for landlocked Ethiopia.[172][173]

Oil explorations

Somaliland oil blocks.

In August 2012, the Somaliland government awarded Genel Energy license to explore oil within its territory. Results of a surface seep study completed early in 2015 confirmed the outstanding potential offered in SL-10B and SL-13 block and Oodweyne block with estimated oil reserves of 1 billion barrel each.[174] Genel Energy is set to drill exploration well for SL-10B and SL-13 block in Buur-Dhaab 20 kilometers northwest of Aynabo by the end of 2018.[175]


An illustration depicting a Somali woman of the Isaaq clan published in Bilder-Atlas in 1870
Population per age group

Somaliland's population was estimated at approximately 3.5 million in 2014. 52.9% of this population was estimated to be urban, 33.8% nomadic, 11% rural, and 2.4% were internally displaced persons.[6]

The Habr Awal subclan of the Isaaq form the majority of the population living in both the northern and western portions of the Maroodi Jeex region, including the cities and towns of northern Hargeisa, Berbera, Gabiley, Madheera, Wajaale, Arabsiyo, Bulhar and Kalabaydh. The Habr Awal also have a strong presence in the Saaxil region as well, principally around the city of Berbera and the town of Sheikh. They also partially inhabit the city of Burao in Togdheer region as well.

The Garhajis subclan of the Isaaq have a sizable presence among the population inhabiting the southern and eastern portions of Woqooyi Galbeed region including Southern Hargeisa and Salahlay. The Garhajis are also represented well in western Togdheer region, mainly in the towns of Oodweyne and Western Burao. The Garhajis also form a majority of the population inhabiting the western and central areas of Sanaag region as well, including the regional capital Erigavo as well as Maydh.[176]

The Habar Jeclo subclan of Isaaq have a large presence in the western and northern parts of Sool, eastern Togdheer region and southwestern Sanaag as well,[177] The Habar Jeclo form a majority of the population living in Eastern Burao as well as in Aynabo district and in the towns of Garadag and Ceel Afweyn.[178]

Eastern Sool region's residents mainly hail from the Dhulbahante, a subdivision of the Harti confederation of Darod sub-clans, and are concentrated at Las Anod.[179] The Dhulbahante clans also settle in the Buuhoodle District in the Togdheer region,[180][181] and the southern and eastern parts of Erigavo District in Sanaag.[182]

The Warsangali, another Harti Darod sub-clan, constitute a large number of residents in the eastern Sanaag, and their population is mainly concentrated around Las Qorey.[182]

Issa man and woman in traditional attire (1844)

The Gadabuursi are the predominant clan of the Awdal Region,[183][184] where there is also a sizeable minority of the Issa subclan of the Dir who mainly inhabit the Zeila district.[185]


Map showing the distribution of the Afro-Asiatic Somali language in the Horn of Africa.

Many people in Somaliland speak two of the three official languages: Somali, Arabic and English, although the rate of bilingualism is lower in rural areas. Article 6 of the Constitution of 2001 designates the official language of Somaliland to be Somali,[15] though Arabic is a mandatory subject in school and is used in mosques around the region and English is spoken and taught in schools. English was proclaimed an official language later, outside the constitution.[186]


Traditional Somali Qur'anic tablet.

With few exceptions, Somalis in Somaliland and elsewhere are Muslims, the majority belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam and the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence.[187] As with southern Somali coastal towns such as Mogadishu and Merca, there is also a presence of Sufism, Islamic mysticism; particularly the Arab Rifa'iya tariiqa.[188] Through the influence of the diaspora from Yemen and the Gulf states, stricter Wahhabism also has a noticeable presence.[189] Though traces of pre-Islamic traditional religion exist in Somaliland, Islam is dominant to the Somali sense of national identity. Many of the Somali social norms come from their religion. For example, most Somali women wear a hijab when they are in public. In addition, religious Somalis abstain from pork and alcohol, and also try to avoid receiving or paying any form of interest (usury). Muslims generally congregate on Friday afternoons for a sermon and group prayer.[190]

Under the Constitution of Somaliland, Islam is the state religion of Somaliland, and no laws may violate the principles of Sharia. The promotion of any religion other than Islam is illegal, and the state promotes Islamic tenets and discourages behaviour contrary to "Islamic morals".[191]

Somaliland has very few Christians. In 1913, during the early part of the colonial era, there were virtually no Christians in the Somali territories, with about 100–200 followers coming from the schools and orphanages of the handful of Catholic missions in the British Somaliland protectorate.[192] The small number of Christians in the region today mostly come from similar Catholic institutions in Aden, Djibouti, and Berbera.[193]

Somaliland falls within the Episcopal Area of the Horn of Africa as part of Somalia, under the Anglican Diocese of Egypt. However, there are no current congregations in the territory.[194] The Roman Catholic Diocese of Mogadiscio is designated to serve the area as part of Somalia. However, since 1990 there has been no Bishop of Mogadishu, and the Bishop of Djibouti acts as Apostolic Administrator.[195] The Adventist Mission also indicates that there are no Adventist members.[196]


While 40.5% of households in Somaliland have access to improved water sources, almost a third of households lie at least an hour away from their primary source of drinking water. 1 in 11 children die before their first birthday, and 1 in 9 die before their fifth birthday.[197]

The UNICEF multiple indicator cluster survey (MICS) in 2006 found that 94.8% of women in Somaliland had undergone some form of female genital mutilation;[198] in 2018 the Somaliland government issued a fatwa condemning the two most severe forms of FGM, but no laws are present to punish those responsible for the practice.[198]


People in Hargeisa

Somaliland has a population of about 3.5 million people. As of 2006, the largest clan family in Somaliland is the Isaaq, making up 80% of the total population.[199] The populations of five major cities in Somaliland – Hargeisa, Burao, Berbera, Erigavo and Gabiley – are predominantly Isaaq.[200] Of the minority clans, the Gadabuursi of the Dir clan comes second by population, and thirdly the Harti of the Darod clan.[201][202]

The clan groupings of the Somali people are important social units, and have a central role in Somali culture and politics. Clans are patrilineal and are often divided into sub-clans, sometimes with many sub-divisions.[203]

Somali society is traditionally ethnically endogamous. To extend ties of alliance, marriage is often to another ethnic Somali from a different clan. Thus, for example, a recent study observed that in 89 marriages contracted by men of the Dhulbahante clan, 55 (62%) were with women of Dhulbahante sub-clans other than those of their husbands; 30 (33.7%) were with women of surrounding clans of other clan families (Isaaq, 28; Hawiye, 3); and 3 (4.3%) were with women of other clans of the Darod clan family (Majerteen 2, Ogaden 1).[204]


Somali lahoh (canjeero).

It is considered polite for one to leave a little bit of food on one's plate after finishing a meal at another's home. This tells the host that one has been given enough food. If one were to clean their plate that would indicate that one is still hungry. Most Somalis do not take this rule so seriously, but it is certainly not impolite to leave a few bits of food on one's plate. Somali breakfast typically includes a flatbread called lahoh (injera), as well as liver, toast, harakoo, cereal, and porridge made of millet or cornmeal. Lunch can be a mixture of rice or pasta with meat and sauce.

Also consumed during lunchtime is a traditional soup referred to as maraq, which is also part of Yemeni cuisine. Maraq is made of vegetables, meat and beans and is usually eaten with flatbread or pita bread. Later in the day, a lighter meal is served that includes beans, ful medames, muffo (patties made of oats or corn), or a salad with more lahoh/injera.


Hadrawi, a prominent Somali poet and songwriter

Islam and poetry have been described as the twin pillars of Somali culture. Somali poetry is mainly oral, with both male and female poets. They use things that are common in the Somali language as metaphors. Almost all Somalis are Sunni Muslims and Islam is vitally important to the Somali sense of national identity. Most Somalis do not belong to a specific mosque or sect and can pray in any mosque they find.[190]

Celebrations come in the form of religious festivities. Two of the most important are Eid ul-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month. Families get dressed up to visit one another, and money is donated to the poor. Other holidays include 26 June and 18 May, which celebrate British Somaliland's independence and the Somaliland region's establishment, respectively; the latter, however, is not recognised by the international community.[205]

Henna powder is mixed with water and then applied on the hair.

In the nomadic culture, where one's possessions are frequently moved, there is little reason for the plastic arts to be highly developed. Somalis embellish and decorate their woven and wooden milk jugs (haamo; the most decorative jugs are made in Ceerigaabo) as well as wooden headrests. Traditional dance is also important, though mainly as a form of courtship among young people. One such dance known as Ciyaar Soomaali is a local favourite.[206]

An important form of art in Somali culture is henna art. The custom of applying henna dates back to antiquity. During special occasions, a Somali woman's hands and feet are expected to be covered in decorative mendhi. Girls and women usually apply or decorate their hands and feet in henna on festive celebrations like Eid or weddings. The henna designs vary from very simple to highly intricate. Somali designs vary, with some more modern and simple while others are traditional and intricate. Traditionally, only women apply it as body art, as it is considered a feminine custom. Henna is not only applied on the hands and feet but is also used as a dye. Somali men and women alike use henna as a dye to change their hair colour. Women are free to apply henna on their hair as most of the time they are wearing a hijab.[207]

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Sources and references


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