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Somaliland ( , Arḍ aṣ-Ṣūmāl) is an autonomous country, which is not part of the Somali republicmarker located in the Horn of Africa. Those who call the area the Republic of Somaliland consider it to be the successor state of the former British Somaliland protectorate. Having established its own local government within Somaliamarker in 1991, the country's self-declared independence remains unrecognized by any country or international organization.

Somaliland is bordered by Somaliamarker in the East and south, Ethiopiamarker in the south and West, Djiboutimarker in the Northwest, the Gulf of Adenmarker in the North.


In 1991, after the collapse of the central government in Somalia, the main part of the territory asserted its independence as the "Republic of Somaliland" on May 18, 1991. It regarded itself as the successor state to British Somaliland (which was independent for a few days in 1960 as the State of Somaliland), but did not receive any international diplomatic recognition for various reasons.

The economic and military infrastructure left behind by Somalia had been severely destroyed by war. The people of Somaliland had rebelled against the Siad Barre regime in Mogadishumarker, which prompted a massive reaction by the government.

Abderahman Ahmed Ali Tuur was the first president of Somaliland. Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal was appointed Tuur's successor in 1993 by the Grand Conference of National Reconciliation in Booramamarker (Borama), which met for four months, leading to a gradual improvement in security, as well as a solidification of the fledgling state. Egal was reappointed in 1997, and remained in power until his death on May 3, 2002. The vice president, Dahir Riyale Kahin, was sworn in as president shortly afterwards, and in 2003, Kahin became the first president of Somaliland elected in a free and fair election.

The 2006 War in Somalia between the Islamic Courts Union, the forces of Ethiopiamarker and Somalia's transitional government did not directly affect Somaliland.

Politics and government

Somaliland has formed a hybrid system of governance under the Constitution of Somaliland, combining traditional and western institutions. In a series of inter-clan conferences, culminating in the Boorama Conference in 1993, a qabil (clan or community) system of government was constructed, which consisted of an Executive, with a President, Vice President, and Council of Ministers, a bicameral Legislature, and an independent judiciary. The traditional Somali council of elders (guurti) was incorporated into the governance structure and formed the upper house, responsible for selecting a President as well as managing internal conflicts. 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 this formula of government. In 2002, after several extensions of this interim government, Somaliland finally made the transition to multi-party democracy, with district council elections contested by six parties.

Relations with other regions

Somaliland has political contacts with the United Kingdommarker, Ethiopiamarker, Belgiummarker, Ghanamarker, South Africa, Swedenmarker and Djiboutimarker. On January 17, 2007, the European Union sent a delegation for foreign affairs to discuss future cooperation. The African Union has also sent a foreign minister to discuss the future of international acknowledgment, and on January 29 and January 30, 2007, the ministers said that they would discuss acknowledgement with other member states In June 2007, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi held a conference with President Kahin during which he was referred to in an official communique by the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry as the President of Somaliland, the first time that Somaliland has been officially acknowledged as a sovereign state by another government. While this is not claimed as a move to official recognition by Ethiopia, it is seen as a possible step towards a unilateral declaration by Ethiopia in the event of the African Union failing to move its recognition of Somaliland forward.

A delegation led by the President of Somaliland was present at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2007 in Kampalamarker, Uganda.

On November 27, 2007, Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck of the ELDR, one of three main parties in EU, mailed a letter to Javier Solana (the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Secretary-General of both the Council of the European Union (EU)) and to Dahir Rayale Kahin the president of Somaliland, in which there is required an acknowledgment of Somaliland by EU.In December 2007 the Bush administration discussed whether to back the shaky transitional government in Somaliamarker or to acknowledge and support the less volatile Somaliland secessionists.Politics plays a big part in the new independent Somaliland region with the highly respected university Amoud with the university's first benefactor Bashir Mohamud Yusuf.

Border disputes

Somaliland continues to claim the entire area of the former British Somaliland. It is currently in control of the western half of the former British Somaliland, with northeastern Maakhir having declared a separate, unrecognized autonomous state within Somalia on July 1, 2007. Formation of Maakhir state to eastern Somaliland. and with the disputed southeastern Soolmarker state under the control of neighboring Puntlandmarker since 2003. A separatist movement exists also in the westernmost Awdalmarker province.

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. While celebrating Puntland's 11th birthday on 2 August 2009, Puntland officials vowed to recapture Las Anodmarker. In its essence, the conflict between both 'lands' in northern Somalia is about the future of Somalia. 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.

The Somaliland Defence Forces took control of the town of Las Qorey in eastern Sanaag on 10 July 2008, along with positions five kilometres east of the town. The Somaliland Defence Forces completed their operations on 9 July 2008 after the Maakhir and Puntland militia in the area left their positions.


The Somaliland Armed Forces are the main military system in the Somaliland region along with the Somaliland Police Force, all of whom are part of the internal security forces and are subordinate to the military. Currently around 400,000 personnel are active in Somaliland. The Somaliland Armed Forces takes the biggest share of the government's budget with the police and security forces. The current head of Somaliland's Armed Forces is the Minister of Defense Mudane Adan Mire Mohammed MP.

Some military facilities were bought during Egal's administration to assist the military's usual duties and the necessary movements.

Administrative divisions

Regions in the Somaliland macro-region of Somalia:
Map of Somaliland

Map of Somaliland

Somaliland State Capitals Area

1 Salal Zeilamarker n/a n/a
2 Awdalmarker Boramamarker n/a n/a
3 Gabileymarker Gabileymarker n/a n/a
4 Gaaroodi Salahley n/a n/a
5 Sahil Berberamarker n/a n/a
6 Odweynemarker Odweynemarker n/a n/a
7 Togdheermarker Buraomarker n/a n/a
8 Cayn Buuhoodlemarker n/a n/a
9 Sarar Caynabamarker n/a n/a
10 Soolmarker Las Anodmarker n/a n/a
11 Sanaagmarker Erigavomarker n/a n/a
12 Maakhir Badhan n/a n/a
13 Hawd Baligubadlemarker n/a n/a
14 Maroodi Jeex Hargeisamarker n/a n/a

The main cities and towns in Somaliland:

State Capital Annexed
Gabileymarker Gabileymarker Maroodi Jeex
Maakhir Badhan Sanaagmarker
Cayn Buhoodlemarker Togdheermarker
Salal Zeilamarker Awdalmarker
Sarar Caynabamarker Soolmarker
Odweynemarker Odweynemarker Togdheermarker
Hawd Baligubadlemarker Maroodi Jeex

16 new Districts:

District Region Annexed Region
Haji Salax Odweyne Togdheer
Kalabaydh Sool region -
Wajale Gabile Hargeysa
Widh-widh Buhoodle Sool
Qorulugad Buhoodle Togdheer
Go’Da Weyne Sahil -
Harasheekh Odweyne Togdheer
Raydab Khatumo Odweyne Togdheer
Garba Dardar Salal Awdal
Boon Sala Awdal
Harirad Salal Awdal
Las Idle Sahil -
War Idad Sarar Togdheer
Elal Sarar Togdheer
War Imran Togdheer -
Magalo Ad Awdal -

The eastern portions of Sanaag and Sool Regions are disputed by Puntlandmarker.


Map of Somaliland

Somaliland is situated in northwestern Somaliamarker in the Horn of Africa. It lies between the 08°00' - 11°30' parallel north of the equator and between 42°30' - 49°00' meridian east of Greenwich. The Somaliland region is bordered by Djiboutimarker to the west, Ethiopiamarker to the south, and the Puntlandmarker region of Somaliamarker to the east. Somaliland has a coastline with the majority lying along the Gulf of Adenmarker. The region is slightly larger than Englandmarker and has an area of 137 600 km² (53 100 sq miles).

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 (3,000-7,000 ft) above sea level. The Awdalmarker, Saaxil and Maroodi Jeex regions are fertile and mountainous, while Togdheermarker is mostly semi-desert with little fertile greenery around. The Awdal region is also known for its offshore islands, coral reefs and mangroves.
Hargeisa countryside
Ten kilometres to the north of Ceerigaabomarker are the remains of a juniper forest, running along the edge of the escarpment which looks down to the Gulf of Adenmarker. The escarpment is about above sea level, where the road from Ceerigaabo drops down to the coast. Two kilometres (1 miles) to the west it rises to the highest point in Somaliland and Somaliamarker alike; At high, it is known variously as (Somali Shimbirismarker or Shimbir Beris) meaning in English the abode of the birds.

Due to the fertility and greenery of some of the regions of Somaliland, wild animals (e.g. zebras) come to the area either to breed or to graze on the grassland savanna. There are many animals which are native to Somaliland. Prominent animals are the kudu, wild boar, Somali Wild Ass, warthog, antelope, the Somali sheep, wild goat, camel, lion and cheetah. There is also the largest world population of caracals in the Burco area. Moreover, many birds and different types of fish are also found in and around Somaliland.

Extreme recorded temperatures range from at Ceerigabo to at Berbera.The combination of a yearly average temperature of and the high level of humidity makes Berbera one of the hottest cities in the world.


Somaliland's economy is in its developing stages, as is the region itself.

The Somaliland shilling, while stable, is not an internationally recognized currency and currently has no official exchange rate. It is regulated by the Bank of Somaliland, the central bank, which was established constitutionally in 1994.

Remittances from the large Somali diaspora contribute immensely to Somaliland's economy. Remittances come to Somaliland through money transfer companies, the largest of which is Dahabshiil, one of the few Somali money transfer companies, sometimes known as hawala, to conform to post-9/11 money-transfer regulations. "The World Bank estimates that remittances worth around $1 billion a year reach Somalia from emigres in the U.S., Europe and the Gulf states. And industry experts reckon that Dahabshiil may handle around two-thirds of that and as much of half of it may reach the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland."

In 2009, the Banque pour le Commerce et l'Industrie - Mer Rouge, based in Djiboutimarker, opened a branch in Hargeisamarker, to become the first bank in the country since the collapse in 1990 of the Commercial and Savings Bank of Somalia.

The bulk of Somaliland's exports are livestock, which has been estimated at 24 million. In 1996, 3 million heads of livestock were exported to the Middle East. In February 1998, this export was badly affected by a Saudi Arabianmarker ban on imports of beef. The ban was eventually lifted in December 2006, allowing the industry to recover. Other exports include hide, skins, myrrh, and frankincense.

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 hugely diverse quantities of mineral deposits.

Recent research in Somaliland shows that the region has large offshore and onshore oil and natural gas reserves. There are several wells that have been excavated over the past few years, but due to the region's unrecognised status, foreign oil companies and coal companies have not been able to benefit from this.

Since the Eritrean-Ethiopian Warmarker, Somaliland has grown as a major export port for Ethiopiamarker. Ethiopia signed an agreement with the region specifying that the port city of Berberamarker will export and import goods for Ethiopia, while the latter will pay for it.


The Somaliland region of Somalia has a budding tourist industry and is home to what is often considered to be one of the most interesting attractions in the Horn of Africa, the Laas Gaalmarker cave paintings. Currently, a small number of tourists travel to the region to see this sight. The paintings are situated near Hargeisamarker and were discovered by a French archaeological team in 2002. The government and locals keep the cave paintings safe and only a restricted number of tourists are allowed. Other notable sights include the Freedom Arch in Hargeisa and the war memorial in the city center. Natural attractions are very common around the region. The Naasa Habloodmarker hills are twin hills located on the outskirts of Hargeisa that Somalis in the region consider to be a majestic natural landmark.

The Ministry of Tourism has also encouraged travellers to visit historic towns and cities in Somaliland. The historic town of Sheekh is located near Berberamarker 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 Zeilamarker. Zeila was once part of the Ottoman Empire, a dependency of Yemenmarker and Egyptmarker and a major trade city during the 19th century. The city has been visited for its old colonial landmarks, offshore mangroves and coral reefs, and its towering cliffs and beach. The nomadic culture of Somaliland has also attracted tourists. Most nomads live in the countryside.


There is a bus service in Hargeisamarker, Buraomarker, Berberamarker and Boramamarker. There are also services between the major towns and adjacent villages operated by different types of vehicles such as 4 wheel drives and light goods vehicles (LGV) .



Most people in Somaliland speak the region's two official languages: Somali and Arabic. Article 6 of the Constitution of 2001 designates the official language of Somaliland to be Somali, though Arabic is a mandatory subject in school and is used in mosques around the region. English is also spoken and taught in schools.

Somali belongs to a set of languages called Lowland East Cushitic languages spoken by Somalis living in Somalia, Djiboutimarker, and in adjacent territories. Eastern Cushitic is one branch of the Cushitic languages, which in turn is part of the great Afro-Asiatic stock. Arabic is the most widely spoken language of the Afro-Asiatic linguistic family.

The main Somali dialect that is the most widely used is Standard Somali, a term applied to several sub-dialects, the speakers of which can understand each other easily. Standard Somali is spoken in most of Somalia and in adjacent territories (Djibouti, Ogadenmarker, North Eastern Provincemarker), and is used by broadcasting stations in the Somaliland region.

Facility with language is highly valued in Somali society; the capability of a suitor, a warrior, or a political or religious leader is judged in part by his verbal adroitness. In such a society, oral poetry becomes an art, and one's ability to compose verse in one or more of its several forms enhances one's status. Speakers in political or religious assemblies and litigants in courts traditionally were expected to use poetry or poetic proverbs. Even everyday talk tended to have a terse, vivid, poetic style, characterized by carefully chosen words, condensed meaning, and alliteration.

In the pre-revolutionary period, English became dominant in the school system and in government. However, the overarching issue was the development of a socioeconomic stratum based on mastery of a foreign language. The relatively small proportion of Somali (less than 10 percent) with a grasp of such a language — preferably English — had access to government positions and the few managerial or technical jobs in modern private enterprises. Such persons became increasingly isolated from their nonliterate Somali-speaking brethren, but because the secondary schools and most government posts were in urban areas the socioeconomic and linguistic distinction was in large part a rural-urban one.

Even before the 1969 revolution, Somalis had become aware of social stratification and the growing distance, based on language and literacy differences, between ordinary Somalis and those in government. The 1972 decision to designate an official Somali alphabet and require its use in government demolished the language barrier and an important obstacle to rapid literacy growth.

In the years following the institution of the Somali Latin script, Somali officials were required to learn the orthography and attempts were made to inculcate mass literacy—in 1973, among urban and rural sedentary Somalis, and in 1974-75, among nomads. Although a few texts existed in the new script before 1973, in most cases new books were prepared presenting the government's perspective on Somali history and development. Somali scholars also succeeded in developing a vocabulary to deal with a range of subjects from mathematics and physics to administration and ideology.


With few exceptions, the Somalis are entirely Muslims,the majority belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam and the Shafi`i school of Islamic jurisprudence, although some are also adherents of the Shia Muslim denomination. Islam also serves as the state religion. Though traces of pre-Islamic traditional religion exist in Somaliland, Islam is extremely important to the Somali sense of national identity. Many of the Somali social norms come from their religion. For example, men shake hands only with men, and women shake hands only with women. Many Somali women wear a hijab when they are in public. In addition, Somalis abstain from pork, gambling, and alcohol, and receiving or paying any form of interest. Muslims generally congregate on Friday afternoons for a sermon and group prayer. Compliance with these prohibitions depends on each individual's level of orthodoxy.

Nevertheless there has been Catholic missionary activity. In colonial days, British Somaliland was under the care of the Roman Catholic Vicariate Apostolic of Arabia, like the Vicariate Apostolic of the Gallas (including French Somaliland (Djibouti) as well as its Ethiopian main territory) confided to the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.


Clan system

There are about 3.5 million people in Somaliland. Somali society is organized into clans, which range from 5,000 to over 50,000 in size. The largest clan in Somaliland is the Isaaq. The second largest clan in the region, and that of the current president, is the Gadabuursi Dir. Other clans with a presence in Somaliland include the Issa, Gabooye, and Harti Darod (such as the Warsangali and Dhulbahante). The Warsangali and Dhulbahante mostly reside in southern Soolmarker, some parts of Eastern Sanaagmarker, and a small part of south-eastern Togdheermarker, while the Isaaq are concentrated in the regions of Maroodi Jeex, Sanaag, Sool, Awdal, Togdheer, and Saaxil. The Gadabuursi inhabit the western part of the region, in Awdalmarker and parts of Gabileymarker.

The clan families are divided into lineage units, typically ranging from 2,500 to 10,000 members. It is possible for Somalis to know how they are related by simply giving their name and clan membership. Clan discrimination in Somaliland is highly forbidden and all clans are considered equal by the Government of Somaliland.


Most Somalis in the region choose to marry whomever they desire as long as they are Muslim. In the case of arranged marriages, brides can be much younger than the grooms. Marriage to a cousin from the mother's side of the family (of a different lineage) is traditionally favored to strengthen family alliances, but this practice is not as common as before. Virginity is valued in women prior to marriage. In addition, divorce is legal in Somaliland.


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 his or her plate that would indicate that he or she is still hungry. Most Somalis don't take this rule so seriously, but it is certainly not impolite to leave a few bits of food on one's plate. Traditionally, the main meal of the day is eaten at lunchtime and Somali people usually begin their day with a flatbread called laxoox (or lahoh), as well as liver, toast, cereal or porridge made of millet or cornmeal. Lunch can be a mixture of rice or noodles with meat and sauce. During the pre-independence period, Italian expatriates imported some of their cuisine to Somaliland; for example, Pasta Al Forno (or Baasto Forno in Somali). Also consumed during lunchtime is a traditional soup referred to as maraq, which is also part of Yemenimarker 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 which includes beans, ful medames, muffo (patties made of oats or corn), hummus, or a salad with more laxoox/injera. Turkish coffee and Turkish tea are also imbibed. The latter beverage has been adapted to form what is one of the most famous drinks in the region: Shaax Xawaash. Consumed by the majority of Somalis, Shaax Xawaash is made of cardamom (or Xawaash) and cinnamon barks (Qoronfil).


Islam and poetry have been described as the twin pillars of Somali culture. Most Somalis are Sunni Muslims and Islam is vitally important to the Somali sense of national identity. Most Somalis don't belong to a specific mosque or sect and can pray in any mosque they find.

Celebrations come in the form of religious festivities, two of the most important being Eid ul-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr which marks the end of the fasting month. Families get dressed up to visit one another. Money is donated to the poor. Other holidays include June 26 and May 18, which celebrates Somaliland's independence from Britain and Somalia; however it is unrecognised by the international community.

In a 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 (Somali Haano, the most decorative jugs are made in Ceerigaabo) and their wooden headrests, and traditional dance is important, though mainly as a form of courtship among young people. The traditional dance known as the Ceeyar Somaali in the Somali language is Somaliland's favourite dance.

Also, an important form of art in Somaliland is henna painting (Mehndi) (Somali: Xenna). The Henna plant is widely grown across the region and it was Arab merchants and settlers that first brought the art of henna painting in early Somaliland. 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 joyous celebrations like Eid, weddings etc. The henna designs can be very simple to highly intricate. Unlike Pakistanimarker, Indianmarker or Bangladeshimarker henna designs, the Somali and Arab designs are more modern and simple compared with the latter. Traditionally, only women apply this 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 color. Mostly, elderly men with grey hair apply this procedure because black hair dye is forbidden in Islam. Women are free to apply henna on their hair as most of the time they are wearing a hijab.

See also


Sources and references

  • [8230]
  • Wales Strikes Out On Its Own In Its Recognition of Somaliland
  • Hoehne, Markus V. 2009: Mimesis and mimicry in dynamics of state and identity formation in northern Somalia, Africa 79/2, pp. 252-281.
  • Hoehne, Markus V. 2007: Puntland and Somaliland clashing in northern Somalia: Who cuts the Gordian knot?, published online on 7 November 2007.

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