5.3 Government

As Somaliland has not achieved international recognition, it has not been provided with support for post-conflict reconstruction from foreign countries. The local mediation process thus resulted from internal peace efforts and mechanisms, and in particular, it was based on the traditional role of clan leaders that enabled the creation of a unique governmental system, which corresponds to the Somali social structure.

During the first twelve years, the traditional way of government based on clan leaders and clan institutions prevailed, which was later replaced with a Western-style system of political parties and institutions (Bradbury, Abokor and Yusuf 2003: 458).

The Grand Conference of the Communities in Somaliland in Borama (shirbeeleed), which was held from January to May 1993, established the government system and institutions based on traditional clan principles, the so-called “beel” system. The Conference adopted the National Charter which defines government institutions as follows: Golaha Guurtida (Council of Elders); Golaha Wakiillada (Constituent Assembly); Golaha Xukuumadda (the government or the executive power, i.e. the President, the Vice-president and the Board of Ministers).


The power in the state was divided according to the patrilinear clan lines to achieve a balance of power among individual clans (Brons 2001: 250–251; Bradbury, Abokor and Yusuf 2003: 460). According to Balthasar (2013), the formation of institutions in Somaliland did not include purely “bottom-up” processes, but also partly “top-down” policies and “elitist power politics”. Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal, a former Prime Minister of the Republic of Somalia, descending from the Isaaq clan, was elected President because hardliners within SNM thought they would be able to manipulate him.

Paradoxically, civil war for resources and the control over strategic places which were fought for in the territory of Somaliland in the middle of the 1990s resulted in the strengthening of the state and the power of the President (Balthasar 2013).

In 1999 President Egal announced the commencement of the transformation process of the hybrid political system, partly based on traditional clan elites, towards multi-party parliamentary democracy in relation to Somaliland’s efforts to achieve international recognition.

The transformation of the political system was also motivated by the establishment of the regional autonomy in Puntland in 1998 and the creation of the Transitional National Government (TNG) at a conference in Arta, Djibouti, in 2000, both of which questioned the legitimacy of Somaliland (Bradbury, Abokor and Yusuf 2003: 463).

The first step in the transformation process of the Somaliland political system was the referendum on the Constitution held on 31 May 2001, which was considered to be a referendum on independence. A total of 97.9% of 1.18 million voters voted for the adoption of the Constitution, which was considered as confirmation of support for the independence of Somaliland.[5]

The Constitution anchored a new political system in Somaliland, i.e. multi-party parliamentary democracy where the president, parliament, and regional boards are directly elected by the inhabitants. The Constitution also limited the number of political parties to compete in nationwide elections to three, in order to prevent political instability (Bradbury, Abokor, and Yusuf 2003: 463–464).

At the first stage of transfer to the multi-party democracy, elections to local councils were held with international support and supervision on 15 December 2002 on the basis of which three parties should be identified which should compete in the subsequent nation-wide election (Terlinden and Ibrahim 2008:75). A year later, a presidential election was held in which President Kahin won by a close margin. According to international observers, the election complied with democratic principles and thus confirmed the legitimacy of the Somaliland political government and their efforts to achieve international recognition (Bradbury, Abokor, and Yusuf 2003: 97).

On 29 September 2005, the first parliamentary election was held in Somaliland which represented the factual passage from the political system based on clan membership to modern representative democracy (Terlinden and Ibrahim 2008: 76).

The question remained of how the upper chamber of the parliament, Guurti, should be transformed to correspond with the standards of modern democracy. With regard to the fact that the parliament was unable to agree on the new form of the upper chamber, its mandate was only prolonged (Henwood 2007: 171).

Between 2007 and 2010 Somaliland faced internal problems due to the growing dissatisfaction with the government of President Kahin. As a result of the second presidential election held on 27 June 2010, the power passed to the hands of the newly elected President Ahmed Mohammed Sillanyo, who was nominated by the Kulmiye party. Thus, Somaliland became only the fourth African state where the defeated current president handed over power to a newly elected one in a peaceful manner (Farley 2010: 787).

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