Somaliland is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2024, Freedom House’s annual study of political rights and civil liberties worldwide.

This is a detailed report of Somaliland’s status on the yearly Freedom House releases.


Somaliland—whose self-declared independence from Somalia is not internationally recognized—has seen a consistent erosion of political rights and civic space. Journalists and public figures face pressure from authorities. Minority clans are subject to political and economic marginalization, and violence against women remains a serious problem.


Somaliland* Partly Free (Score 43 out of 100)

Political Rights 17/40
Civil Liberties 26/60


44/100 Partly Free

Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.


Freedom In The World 2024 — Somaliland Country ReportNote

Freedom in the World reports assess the level of political rights and civil liberties in a given geographical area, regardless of whether they are affected by the state, nonstate actors, or foreign powers. Disputed territories are sometimes assessed separately if they meet certain criteria, including boundaries that are sufficiently stable to allow year-on-year comparisons. For more information, see the report methodology and FAQ.


Somaliland—whose self-declared independence from Somalia is not internationally recognized—has a political system that has allowed democratic transfers of power between rival parties. However, over the past several years it has experienced an erosion of political rights. Journalists and public figures face pressure from authorities. Minority clans are subject to political and economic marginalization, and violence against women remains a serious problem.

Key Developments in 2023

  • Throughout the year, hundreds of people in the Sool Region were killed by fighting between Somaliland security forces and separatist Dhulbahante militias. Local journalists and the rights group Amnesty International reported that Somaliland security forces launched indiscriminate attacks in the town of Las Anod, killing dozens of civilians.
  • In July 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that the National Electoral Commission (NEC) had the authority to set the date for long-delayed elections. The NEC scheduled presidential and party elections for November 2024.

Political Rights

A. Electoral Process

A1 0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 0/4

The president is directly elected for a maximum of two five-year terms and appoints the cabinet.

The NEC announced that a presidential election originally set to take place in 2022 would be postponed until 2023 due to “time, technical, and financial constraints.” However, in October 2022 the parliament’s upper house extended President Bihi’s mandate to November 2024, giving the president two extra years in office rather than the nine months requested by the NEC. Somaliland’s main opposition parties refused to recognize Bihi’s presidency as legitimate past the original election date.

In July 2023, the NEC set a date for the presidential election in November 2024.

Score Change: The score declined from 1 to 0 because the presidential election was postponed for a second year, and the president remained in office despite the expiration of his original term in 2022.

A2 0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?


Members of the 82-seat lower legislative chamber, the House of Representatives, are directly elected for five-year terms, while members of the 82-seat upper chamber, the Guurti, are clan elders indirectly elected for six-year terms.

Long-delayed parliamentary and local elections were held in May 2021. The two opposition parties, the Somaliland National Party (Waddani) and the Justice and Welfare Party (UCID), won 31 and 21 seats, respectively, allowing them to form a coalition government. The previous ruling party, the Peace, Unity, and Development Party (Kulmiye), won 30 seats. The elections were credible and competitive, though election observers noted some irregularities in the polls, and voter turnout was 65 percent.

The Guurti has repeatedly extended its mandate since its members were initially selected in 1997. Guurti elections scheduled for May 2022 did not take place, and that October the Guurti unilaterally extended its own mandate by five years.

A3 0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?


The legal and administrative framework for elections is largely fair. However, ambiguities in some laws, as well as technical and logistical challenges, have led to chronic election delays.

Delays in the confirmation process for new electoral commissioners contributed to the NEC’s postponement of the 2022 presidential election. Opposition leader Faisal Ali Waraabe of the UCID accused the president of having “tactically disbanded” the NEC in order to delay the vote.

In July 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that the NEC had the authority to set the date of elections, prompting the commission to schedule new elections for 2024.

B. Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 3/4

The constitution allows for a maximum of three officially recognized political parties at a time. Currently, they are Kulmiye, UCID, and Waddani.

In 2021, the parliament amended existing electoral laws to establish the direct election of political parties; the three that take the most votes are declared eligible to contest national elections for a period of 10 years and compete freely in practice.

The first direct election of the officially recognized political parties was set to be held in December 2022, one month after the scheduled presidential election, but was postponed. A dispute between the ruling party and the opposition over the order in which the two polls would be held contributed to the delay.

In July 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that the NEC had the authority to set the dates for elections, despite pressure from President Bihi to have the election of official parties held before his term ended. The NEC scheduled combined presidential and party elections for November 2024, ending the debate around the timeline of the two elections.

B2 0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 3/4

The political system allows democratic transfers of power between rival parties. In the parliamentary and local elections held in May 2021, the two opposition parties, the UCID and Waddani, overtook the formerly ruling Kulmiye party to form a ruling alliance.

B3 0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 2/4

Clan elders play an influential role in politics, both directly with their kinsmen and through the currently unelected Guurti, which has the authority to extend officials’ terms in office and approve election dates.

B4 0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 2/4

Women and various clans formally enjoy equal political rights. However, larger clans tend to dominate political offices and leadership positions. Cultural barriers also limit women’s political participation. No women won seats in the May 2021 parliamentary elections.

Since February 2023, Dhulbahante militias who claim their clan has been sidelined by the dominant Isaak clan have been fighting Somaliland security forces in pursuit of self-administration.

C. Functioning of Government

C1 0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 1/4

While decisions made by national authorities are implemented in most of Somaliland’s claimed territory, chronic election delays have at times undermined the legitimacy of the elected government. In October, the Guurti extended President Bihi’s term by two years, to November 2024. The Guurti also unilaterally extended its own mandate, which had already expired, for five more years. The opposition refused to recognize these term extensions as legitimate, but both Bihi and the Guurti remain in office.

C2 0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 1/4

Somaliland has few institutional safeguards against corruption and nepotism. Prosecutions of officials for malfeasance are rare. An anti-corruption commission created in 2010 has been ineffective.

C3 0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2/4

The government operates with relative transparency in many respects, but contracts for major projects are more opaque. Journalists and civil society activists who attempt to scrutinize government activities often face harassment.

Civil Liberties

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 2/4

A variety of print, television, and online news outlets operate, but many have political affiliations, and the state-run broadcaster has a monopoly in the radio sector. The penal code criminalizes defamation and other vaguely defined press offenses, such as circulation of “false, exaggerated, or tendentious news.” The government has restricted the registration of new newspapers.

Journalists have faced arbitrary arrests, threats, and assaults; impunity for such crimes is common. In May 2023, British-Somali journalist Busharo Ali Mohamed was arrested and beaten as she entered Somaliland from Ethiopia. She was accused of undermining the state and disseminating fake news, but her case was delayed by prosecutors’ failure to produce sufficient evidence during court proceedings.

D2 0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 2/4

Islam is the state religion. The constitution allows for freedom of belief but prohibits conversion from Islam and proselytizing by members of other faiths. Places of worship must obtain government permission to operate, though there is no mechanism to register religious organizations.

D3 0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 2/4

Teachers and professors are often able to pursue academic activities of a political and quasi-political nature without fear of intimidation. While funds allocated for public schools are uneven across Somaliland’s regions, they are generally free from overt political manipulation.

D4 0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 2/4

While individuals can express themselves with relative freedom on political matters, remarks on sensitive social and cultural issues are subject to censure and retribution. Arrests and convictions for controversial social media posts have contributed to greater self-censorship online among residents.

E. Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 1/4

The constitution allows for freedom of assembly, but organized public demonstrations are infrequent, and authorities sometimes employ violence to disperse protests.

In August 2022, security forces used tear gas and live ammunition to forcibly disperse opposition protesters who had taken to the streets to demand that the government not delay the upcoming November presidential election. The demonstrations were marked by violent clashes between protesters—some throwing stones and burning tires—and security forces firing live ammunition. At least 5 people were killed and 100 injured during the protests.

E2 0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 2/4

Local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) often operate without serious interference, but can face harassment for their work.

Somaliland is not recognized by the United Nations and has had strained relations with the organization in recent years.

E3 0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 2/4

The constitution does not explicitly protect the right to strike, though it does permit collective bargaining. The right to belong to a union is generally respected.

F. Rule of Law

F1 0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 2/4

Although some progress has been made in reforming the judicial system in recent years, the judiciary lacks independence, sufficient funding, and proper training. Judges are often partisan, and selected based on clan or political affiliation.

In July 2023, the Supreme Court authorized the NEC to set the date for presidential and party elections despite pressure from President Bihi to hold party elections before his term ended.

F2 0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 2/4

Due process is observed unevenly. Poverty and political factors play a role in how cases are charged and investigated, and whether there is adequate and timely representation for the defendant. Both customary law and Sharia (Islamic law) are used alongside civil law, which complicates adherence to statutory procedure. In practice, police arrest individuals arbitrarily and hold detainees without charge for extended periods. Lawyers are frequently denied access to detained clients. Long delays in court cases are common.

F3 0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1/4

Somaliland’s police and security forces have been accused of using excessive force, and conditions in detention centers are harsh and overcrowded.

Fighting between clans in the Togdheer, Sool, and Sanaag regions killed dozens in the run-up to the May 2021 elections.

In February 2023, Dhulbahante militias who claim their clan has been sidelined by the dominant Isaak clan announced that they would begin to fight for self-administration—and until then, administration by Somalia. The resulting conflict between Somaliland troops and Dhulbahante militias in Las Anod has killed several hundred people and displaced hundreds of thousands. Somaliland security forces have reportedly indiscriminately attacked civilians near Las Anod.

F4 0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 2/4

Members of smaller clans face discrimination, limited access to public services, and prejudice in the justice system. Clan connections play a critical role in securing employment.

Women are also treated unequally, including in the Sharia and customary legal systems. Same-sex sexual relations are criminalized, and LGBT+ people are generally not publicly open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 2/4

Freedom of movement is respected to some extent, but traffic between Somaliland and Puntland is restricted, and the Somaliland government limits travel to and from Somalia’s federal capital, Mogadishu. Clan divisions hinder individuals’ ability to relocate within the territory.

In October 2021, Somaliland authorities began expelling Somali nationals from the disputed Sool Region, claiming they were a security threat.

G2 0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 2/4

Individuals can own property and operate private businesses without undue interference from the government. However, land disputes are common, as tenure is often complicated by lack of documentation and inconsistencies among different legal systems and state authorities.

G3 0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 1/4

Personal social freedoms are constrained by several factors. Marriages between members of major and minor clans are stigmatized. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is common. In 2018, the Ministry of Religious Affairs released a religious edict banning one common type of FGM, but human rights groups criticized the edict for not fully prohibiting the practice.

Domestic violence remains a serious problem, and rape is rarely reported due to social pressures against such complaints.

G4 0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 1/4

The informal sector, including traditional pastoral activities, accounts for much of the economy, and many households rely on remittances from relatives working in other countries. Trafficking in persons for forced labor or sexual exploitation abroad is a serious problem. Refugees and internally displaced people are also vulnerable to exploitation.

See also: 2023 Somaliland Country Report

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