In Chapter 6 of Contested States in World Politics, the author of this Book – Deon Geldenhuys – investigates why Somaliland’s entity has been consigned to international limbo, how it is coping with life on the margins of the world community, and how it might exit this awkward existence.

Part II Case Studies

Chapter 6: Somaliland

Deon Geldenhuys

Professor of Politics, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Contested States In World PoliticsAbout the Author

DEON GELDENHUYS is a Professor of Politics at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Specializing in International Relations, he has published several books, including Deviant Conduct in World Politics.

© Deon Geldenhuys 2009

First published in 2009 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN


Chapter 6: Somaliland

Deon Geldenhuys

Professor of Politics, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Table of Contents


From colonialism to secession


Justifications for statehood

Features of statehood

International reactions

Explaining external opposition

What future for Somaliland?




At first glance the Republic of Somaliland should have had a smooth passage to confirmed statehood after its unilateral declaration of independence from Somalia in 1991. Unusual among secessionist entities, Somaliland has not been subjected to competing historical claims to its territory by rival ethnic groups, either from within Somaliland or from the central state of Somalia. This is because the former Somali Democratic Republic was a rare African example of a true nation-state: the entire population spoke one language (Somali), practiced the same religion (Islam), had a shared social structure (clan families) and engaged in common economic activity (pastoral and agricultural).1 Somaliland’s claims to statehood rested on stronger legal and historical grounds than those of many other contested states. Somaliland moreover broke away from a state that was in the throes of implosion and that has still not been able to rehabilitate itself. Whereas Somalia carries the dubious distinction of the world’s longest-limping failed state, the Republic of Somaliland has managed to develop its empirical statehood. Yet Somaliland has been prevented from graduating to confirmed statehood. We need to investigate why the entity has been consigned to international limbo, how it is coping with life on the margins of the world community, and how it might exit this awkward existence.

From colonialism to secession

Because the plight of Somaliland and for that matter Somalia is largely a product of contemporary history, it will suffice to begin our narrative with the advent of colonial rule in the area. In 1884, the year of the Congress of Berlin, the British protectorate of Somaliland was proclaimed over the northern part of the territory inhabited by the Somali people. At roughly the same time France established a colonial presence in an adjacent part of the lands of the Somalis, creating French Somaliland (also known as the French Territory of Afars and Issas, later the Republic of Djibouti). The third European power to occupy Somali territory was Italy, which in 1889 established a protectorate over the larger and more populous southern region.2 After the Second World War Italy renounced all claims to Italian Somaliland, which was converted into the UN Trust Territory of Somalia in 1950. Italy was charged with administering the territory for a transitional period of 10 years pending independence. During the 1950s British Somaliland was likewise being groomed for statehood. Representatives from the two Somali territories met in April 1960 and agreed to merge into an independent republic.3 First, though, they became independent briefly as two separate states.

British Somaliland received its independence on 26 June 1960. The UN registered notification of Somaliland’s independence and 35 UN member countries, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, immediately recognized the new state.4 Only a day after independence, however, the new state’s legislature decided unanimously to press ahead with the intended merger. On 1 July 1960, when the UN Trust Territory of Somalia also gained its freedom, the legislatures of the two newly independent states held a joint session in Mogadishu where they announced their unification as the National Assembly of the new Somali Republic. The consummation of the union of the two Somali territories on 1 July spelled the end of the independent existence of Somaliland after only four days.5 A southerner was elected as the first president of the new state while a coalition government comprising parties from the Southern and Northern Regions (as the two constituent units were called) took power.6

There had from the outset been several forces at work that would contribute to the subsequent collapse and fragmentation of the Somali Republic.7 The first was that the country, despite its seemingly homogenous population, was beset by clan rivalries. Based on ancestry, the dozens of clans could be grouped into six major clan-families, namely the Daarood (35 percent of the national population), Hawiye (23 percent), Isaaq (23 percent), Dir (7 percent), and Digil and Rahanwayan (11 percent). As Mazrui put it, here was ‘a people divided by the same culture’; the combustibility lay at the level of ‘subethnicity’.8 Clan cleavages were in the second place exacerbated by regional divisions. Economic differences, another historical legacy, revolved around the northerners’ pastoral nomadism and cattle raising as against the plantation agriculture of people in the southern region. At the political level the Somali leadership tried to accommodate regional and clan interests in central government. The practice of clan-cum-regional coalition government was continued by successive civilian rulers in the 1960s. Even so, the Union encountered grave difficulties in amalgamating the constituent units’ different administrative, judicial and economic systems. Northerners also complained that their interests were neglected by the Southern-dominated central government in Mogadishu. An abortive military coup in December 1961 was symptomatic of the malaise afflicting the infant state.9

A third feature that sealed the fate of Somalia was that it did not house the entire Somali nation; there were also sizeable Somali communities in neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. The formation of a Greater Somalia that joined together Somalis in the two former protectorates plus those living in the three adjacent countries, became a sacred duty for independent Somalia. Its irredentist dream was symbolized in the five-pointed star on the national flag, representing the five Somali communities. The independence of Kenya in 1963 put paid to any chance of incorporating the Somali-populated Northern Frontier District, while Djibouti’s attainment of independence in 1977 likewise thwarted the chances of absorbing former French Somaliland into the Somali Republic. In the mid-1970s Somalia would launch an abortive military offensive to wrest the Ogaden region from Ethiopia, culminating in a devastating defeat at the hands of Ethiopian forces and their Cuban allies in 1978. While the quest for a Greater Somalia had promoted unity within the Somali Republic, its patent failure – especially the humiliation in the Ogaden war – undermined the legitimacy of the government and emboldened a long-suffering people to rise up against their rulers in Mogadishu.

The architect of the assault on the Ogaden (1976–8) was General Mohamed Siyad Barre, who had seized power in a military coup in 1969. Not only was the newly elected civilian government of Abdirashid Ali Shirmake then deposed and the President assassinated, but Barre suspended the 1960 constitution, dissolved the National Assembly, and banned existing political parties. As head of the Supreme Revolutionary Council, Barre assumed dictatorial powers. The country was renamed the Somali Democratic Republic, a reflection of Barre’s imposition of scientific socialism as the new guiding ideology and of Somalia’s decisive lurch towards the Soviet Union in its foreign relations. The new affinity between Mogadishu and Moscow proved rather short-lived, wrecked by Barre’s decision to invade Ethiopia against the express wishes of the Soviet Union. His former ally brazenly switched sides to the Marxist government of Ethiopia, which managed to expel the Somali invaders thanks to a massive infusion of Soviet arms and Cuban troops. The Americans stepped into the vacuum left by the Soviets, concluding a defence agreement with Somalia in 1980. The opportunistic friendship with the US could not stem the rising tide of domestic resistance to Barre’s rule.

Several clan-based opposition groups emerged from the late 1970s onwards, taking up arms against Barre’s government. These movements became major forces in the ten-year civil war that began in 1980. The Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) was formed in 1978 by rebel military officers belonging to the Majeerteen clan (part of the Daarood clan-family). Based largely in the northeast of the country, it was the first opposition movement committed to overthrowing the government by force. The Somali National Movement (SNM), established three years later by exiled dissidents, drew its support mainly from the Isaaq clan based in the northwest (the former British Somaliland). Ogadeni army deserters created the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) in the south in 1985. Finally, the United Somali Congress (USC) was founded by exiled Hawiye notables in 1989. Except for the SSDF which collapsed in the mid-1980s, the other three movements’ guerrilla offensives had placed them in control of large swathes of Somalia by the end of the 1980s. The USC’s stronghold was in the center of the country, the SPM held sway in large areas of the south, while the SNM made its presence felt in the northwest.

An SNM offensive in May 1988, during which the rebels briefly held the Northern Region’s capital Hargeysa, escalated the low-intensity conflict in the area to a full-blown civil war. In retaliation, central government forces bombed civilian targets in the North. By the time the SNM had finally defeated central forces in Somaliland in early 1991, between 50,000 and 100,000 people may have died in the hostilities and another 500,000 displaced. Hargeysa was roughly 90 percent destroyed.10 Security forces had reacted with similar ferocity to popular demonstrations in Mogadishu in July 1989, causing about 450 deaths.11 These harsh responses tended to obscure the fact that Somalia’s armed forces and indeed the entire system of government were gradually buckling under the pressures of simultaneous insurgencies across the country, coupled with rising popular disaffection. Towards the end of 1990, the World Bank reported, ‘for all intents and purposes the government administration had ceased to function at all’.12 As the institutions of the state collapsed, Mogadishu was plunged into internecine warfare between remnants of government forces and USC guerrillas. In January 1991 Barre fled the capital and the USC installed itself in power in Mogadishu.

Ali Mahdi Mohamed was named interim President in February. Although he and most other members of government belonged to the Hawiye clanfamily, Ali Mahdi’s appointment split the Hawiye-based USC into two factions: the opposition group was led by General Mohamed Farah Aidid, a member of the Habar Gidir clan of the Hawiye, while Ali Mahdi and his followers were members of the Abgaal clan. The USC’s establishment of a provisional government also placed it on a collision course with the SNM and the SPM. A further cause of conflict was the decision taken at the Burao peace conference of northern clans in May 1991 to dissolve the North-South union of 1960 and ‘restore’ Somaliland as a sovereign state. Coupled with this unilateral declaration of an independent Republic of Somaliland, SNM leader Abd ar-Rahman Ahmed Ali was elected as interim President of the new state. The USC and its interim government in Mogadishu rejected the North’s bid to secede from Somalia and made abortive efforts to engage the SNM in unity talks. At the urging of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Italy, various Somali factions met in Djibouti in May and June to devise a formula for a national government; this effort was also in vain. In the capital of Somalia things went from bad to worse as clan-based armed formations effectively partitioned the city. All-out civil war completed the collapse of the state of Somalia. All the while the human cost of the mayhem rose. In the first six months of civil war an estimated 14,000 people were killed and a further 27,000 wounded.13

Justifications for statehood

The founders of the Republic of Somaliland insisted that theirs was not an act of opportunistic secession precipitated by the anarchy that engulfed Somalia. While there is no doubt that the implosion of the Somali Republic provided an opportune moment for the North to separate from the rest of the country, both historical and contemporary factors weighed with the state creators. To make the point that Somaliland was not conceived and born in secessionist sin but instead represented the restoration of its previous post-colonial status, its leaders and supporters belabored the territory’s earlier separate colonial status, the reasons behind the unification of former British and Italian Somaliland in 1960, and the North’s painful experience of life in the union with the dominant South. Its case was unique in Africa, the territory’s Foreign Minister declared in 2007, ‘because Somaliland was a separate colonial entity from Somalia and was recognized previously as an independent state in 1960 before it joined the disastrous union with Somalia’.14 In like vein a Somaliland communiqué issued in 2007 stated that the Republic of Somaliland as reconstituted in May 1991 did not secede from the Somali Democratic Republic, but ‘is a reversion to the independent state of Somaliland of 1960 within the same agreed borders of the 1960 state’.15 Far from violating the sanctity of colonial borders in Africa, Somaliland insisted it was merely returning to the borders it had at the time of independence in 1960. In so doing Somaliland could be said to uphold the international law principle of uti possidetis juris (‘as you possess [in law], so you may possess’) and comply with the AU Constitutive Act’s prescription regarding ‘respect of borders existing on achievement of independence’ (article 4).16

The new Republic of Somaliland, then, defined itself on the basis of the territory, frontiers, and population of former British Somaliland. The British Protectorate had been legalized under international law through a set of treaties and protocols that the United Kingdom concluded with other imperial powers – France, Italy, and Abyssinia – between 1888 and 1897.17 During the 1940s the Protectorate’s separate existence was interrupted twice: in 1941 when the Italians conquered the territory and, following their defeat, by the union of British and Italian Somaliland under British military administration. In 1948 the British Protectorate was restored to its separate, pre-war status until granted independence on 26 June 1960.18

Why did Somaliland agree to forego its independent statehood in 1960 for the sake of creating a new sovereign entity through a merger with the South? At the time people in both territories widely believed that their act of union was a prelude to the unification of all Somali territories under a single flag – an ideal widely shared in both North and South. The people of Somaliland also hoped for more immediate material benefits: they were keen on retrieving the Haud area, the fertile traditional grazing areas that Britain had transferred to Ethiopia in 1956.19 We have already noted that none of the other Somali territories joined the process of unification, confining the Somali Republic to the sum of its two original parts.20

The Northern Region, despite its initial enthusiasm for unification, soon developed second thoughts. In a referendum on a new constitution for Somalia held in June 1961, voter turn-out in the former British Protectorate was low due to an orchestrated boycott of the poll. Of the ballots cast in the North, over 50 percent rejected the proposed unitary arrangements. In the Southern Region, by contrast, 1.8 million affirmative votes carried the day.21 This negative verdict in the former Somaliland was in later years cited as evidence that the union between North and South did not meet the legal requirements set by municipal and international law. In support of the latter argument, reference was also made to the dubious legal standing of the actual merger. The de facto unification of the two entities in July 1960, it was contended, had never been consummated de jure because

North and South adopted two distinct acts of union.22 In the words of Somaliland’s Foreign Minister, the union between Somaliland and Somalia was ‘only an informal partnership’.23 Sceptics viewed such arguments, popular in contemporary Somaliland, as ex post facto rationalizations for the territory’s separation from Somalia in 1991. The unified Somali Republic had after all lasted for three decades.

Another familiar justification for Somaliland’s break-away has been mistreatment at the hands of the rulers in Mogadishu. Popular discontent with Barre’s dictatorship had become widespread by the late 1970s, most acutely so in the North. The people in the region were subjected to blatant economic deprivation (receiving under 7 percent of nationally disbursed development assistance), severe restrictions on trade and growing centralization of administrative functions in Mogadishu. Northerners were moreover targeted for harsh repression by government forces, in particular the politically influential Isaaq clan from whose ranks the SNM rebel movement drew most of its recruits.24 Although the Barre government had also targeted other resistance groups and their followers during the period of insurgency, ‘no other Somali community faced such sustained and intense state-sponsored violence’ as the people of former British Somaliland.25

The deliberate, state-sponsored killing and population displacement that accompanied Somali military operations in the North have been depicted by the government of Somaliland and by human rights bodies as acts of ethnic cleansing, genocide and war crimes.26 While others may dispute these categorizations, fact is that ‘Somaliland continues to define itself with respect to the persecution of northerners under the Barre regime and thus with the generally accepted right to rebellion of a people subjected to the systematic violation of fundamental rights and freedoms’.27 These arguments seemed to resonate with the AU’s Somaliland Fact-finding Mission of 2005. In its report the panel noted that the ‘plethora of problems confronting Somaliland [are in part] the legacy of a political union with Somalia, which malfunctioned, [and] brought destruction and ruin, thereby overburdening the population’.28 Mazrui used a colorful metaphor to make the point that Somalia had forfeited its moral authority to deny Somaliland a separation: ‘In a union between two individuals, wife beating can be grounds for divorce. Is it not about time that partner-abuse became grounds for divorce in a marriage between states also?’29

When the remainder of Somalia was thereafter plunged into anarchy, there was no effective or legitimate central authority to offer Somaliland any security guarantees to entice it back into the fold. If anything, the collapse of Somalia reinforced the conviction of the people in the North that their safety and survival demanded a formal separation from the South.30

It is only fair to record that no fewer than 14 unsuccessful attempts had been made in the course of the 1990s to restore peace and re-establish a functioning central government in Mogadishu. In one of the more memorable efforts, clan leaders meeting in neighboring Djibouti in August 2000 elected a new president of Somalia, who was to lead the process of forming the Transitional National Government. Lacking legitimacy and authority, the new government failed to bring peace and order to the fractious capital, not to mention the rest of Somalia. In a searing indictment of the ‘risible’ transitional government, Pham recorded that in three years it went through four premiers, hundreds of cabinet ministers, misappropriated vast amounts of donor funds and controlled little more than the area comprising the presidential villa in Djibouti.31

Another internationally mediated peace effort produced an accord signed by Somali politicians and warlords in Kenya in January 2004. It provided for a set of Transitional Federal Institutions to rule the Somali Republic during a five-year period culminating in national elections in 2009. These included a charter (constitution), federal government and parliament.32 It is instructive that the Transitional Federal Charter declared that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Somali Republic – within the borders created by the act of union in July 1960 – ‘shall be inviolable and indivisible’.33 The Transitional Parliament was duly inaugurated in Kenya in August 2004 and assigned the task of appointing a new Somali president. Two months later Abdullah Yusuf Ahmed was installed in office – in a ceremony held in Nairobi.34 It was only in 2007 that President Ahmed dared to set foot in Mogadishu after the hold of the Union of Islamic Courts, a group of radical Islamic militias, over the capital had been broken by the Ethiopian forces that invaded Somalia in late 2006. Since Ahmed’s return, the security situation in Mogadishu has remained fraught as the Ethiopian soldiers failed to root out the Islamic insurgency. The Transitional Federal Government has also been plagued by internal divisions and charges of denying some clans their fair share of the spoils of power.35 In early 2007 over 1,300 people were killed in the worst fighting Mogadishu had witnessed in 16 years.36 In another round of fierce fighting a year later, Islamic militants captured a number of key towns from the transitional government and its Ethiopian allies.37 The fact that Somalia’s coastal waters were among the most dangerous in the world because of piracy38 was another reminder to the world community of the consequences of state collapse. These features merely reinforced Somaliland’s determination to go it alone.

Aware that secession is a taboo in Africa, the leaders of Somaliland have been at pains to distance themselves from secessionist movements elsewhere on the continent. As indicated, they portrayed the entity’s second declaration of independence in 1991 as ‘predicated upon the territory’s prior existence as a recognized, independent state’.39 In this regard Somaliland prided itself on being ‘among the first African States to be free from colonial rule’.40 Instead of an act of secession, Somaliland’s (second) independence constituted ‘the dissolution of a voluntary union between sovereign states’. The phenomenon of a state exiting a union with another was not necessarily unlawful or unprecedented. During the life of the Organization of African Unity, for instance, Senegal, Gambia, Mali, and Egypt were allowed to regain their sovereignty upon the dissolution of unsuccessful unions. By returning to the status quo ante, Somaliland’s declaration of independence in 1991, therefore, did not threaten the territorial integrity and stability of any other African state. As Somaliland maintained, its resumption of sovereign statehood did not alter but instead restored colonial borders.41

Predictably, Somaliland’s compliance with the Montevideo Convention has been cited in support of statehood. Its territory was defined by three colonial treaties of the late 19th century and comprised a geographic area of 137,600 km2 (roughly a third of Somali territory), comparable in size to Greece. Somaliland had a coastline of some 850 km on the Gulf of Aden and bordered on the Republic of Djibouti in the west, the Somali-populated region of Ethiopia in the south, and the Puntland region of Somalia in the east.42 Hargeysa was still the capital of Somaliland and the territory had a current population of anywhere between 2.5 and 3.5 million people (against over eight million in the Somali Republic). The government was in effective control of most of the territory (the exception being the disputed territories of Sool and Sanaag) and hence displayed one of the defining features of a state, namely the maintenance of reasonable order.43 Finally, Somaliland certainly had the capacity to engage in relations with other states. However, like all contested states, its disputed international status severely circumscribed the utilization of that ability.

For the US and its Western partners, formal ties with Somaliland could allow them to expand their counter-terrorism operations in the area. The Pentagon was particularly concerned about al-Qaeda gaining a foothold in Somalia and suspected the Islamic Courts movement of being affiliated with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist franchise. The US military establishment accordingly favored closer links with Somaliland, even to the extent of formal recognition; the State Department did not share this view.44

Economic development has also featured among the justifications for statehood presented by Hargeysa and foreign supporters of Somaliland’s cause. An internationally recognized Somaliland, it was suggested, offered the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) the opportunity to advance its goals of good governance and stability in the Horn of Africa.45 A further argument was that diplomatic recognition would grant Somaliland greater access to sorely needed development assistance from abroad and so stimulate regional prosperity and integration too.46 Foreign countries have also been called upon to reward Somaliland for its achievements in the face of heavy odds and in sharp contrast to the turmoil in Somalia. Over the same period that Somalia had seen numerous rounds of abortive peace talks, civil war and a failed UN-US military intervention, Somaliland – without foreign intervention, limited international assistance, and no formal recognition – ‘enjoyed peace, economic growth, and democratic elections’.47 Even the 2005 AU report acknowledged that compared to ‘other regions of Somalia’, Somaliland had experienced relative peace and stability and ‘made significant headway in the fields of health, education and economic management’.48 At a meeting of AU foreign ministers in 2006, three African countries – Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia – called for the recognition of the peace and stability Somaliland had established.49 Although such appeals stopped short of proposing outright recognition of Somaliland’s statehood, they were indicative of what some protagonists considered a political duty to give the contested state some acknowledgment and others viewed as a moral imperative.

An extension of the moral argument held that it was manifestly unfair of states to support the ‘fictional’ Somalia’s presence in international forums at the expense of giving ‘functional’ Somaliland even a hearing.50 In the same vein it has been said that Somalia could no longer be allowed to veto Somaliland’s international recognition. With over a dozen failed peace conferences, five transitional governments and a hugely expensive international peacekeeping mission, Somalia has had more than a fair chance to pull itself together.51 Leaving discussion of Somaliland’s final status in limbo until the situation in Somalia was resolved, the ICG remarked, ‘holds Somaliland hostage to events over which it has very little control’.52

Features of statehood

Somaliland, as noted, met the basic requirements of statehood in terms of territory, population, government and the ability to engage in relations with other countries. It also displayed such standard symbols of statehood as a flag, anthem, coat of arms and currency.53 Perhaps its greatest achievement over the past 17 years has been the maintenance of relative peace and stability in contrast to the war and collapse that wracked Somalia. True, Somaliland experienced bouts of political violence in 1991 and 1997, but these were contained reasonably quickly.54 In 1993 the country successfully navigated its first transfer of power when clan representatives elected Mohamed Ibrahim Egal as President when Ahmed Ali’s provisional rule ended.55 Somaliland’s relative tranquility also owed a great deal to its successful demobilization and disarmament of legions of armed rebels after the declaration of independence.56

The same peacefulness has not been evident in Somaliland’s relations with neighboring Puntland, which proclaimed itself an autonomous region of Somalia in 1998. Puntland promptly declared the Sool and Sanaag areas part of its territory based on clan ties. Somaliland by contrast claimed Sool and Sanaag because they were located geographically within the borders of pre-independence British Somaliland.57 This triggered a fierce turf battle between the two sides. The status of the capital of the Sool region, Las Anod (or Laas Caanood), became the centerpiece of the contest. Initially part of Somaliland, Las Anod was captured by Puntland forces in 2003 and remained under Puntland’s heavily disputed control until 2007.58 In that year forces from Somaliland supported by local militia seized control. Puntland’s leaders accused Somaliland of flagrant aggression and vowed to recapture the town, sparking fears of full-scale civil war in the area.59 To add to Puntland’s woes, a chunk of the Sanaag region has seceded from Puntland, declaring itself a self-governing entity called Makhir.60 To this volatile mix we should add the presence of oil and gas in Puntland, causing tensions between the territory, Somaliland and Somalia over the allocation of exploration rights and ultimately ownership of a potential bonanza.61 Matters have not been helped either by the fact that the President of Puntland, Abdullah Yusuf, subsequently became President of the Somali Transitional Federal Government and claimed jurisdiction over Somaliland. A former warlord, Yusuf was loathed by the leaders of Somaliland because he had invaded Hargeysa in the late 1990s.62 It is then not surprising that armed skirmishes between troops from Somaliland and Puntland have continued into 2008, with no resolution of the conflict in sight.63

The unsettled relationship between Somaliland and Puntland stood in sharp contrast to the consolidation of a functioning constitutional democracy in Somaliland – something glaringly absent in Somalia and scarce in the Muslim world. The process of democratization began with a referendum on a new constitution in May 2001. Because the constitution affirmed Somaliland’s withdrawal from the union with Somalia, many voters took the referendum as a survey of popular opinion on the entity’s independence. Of the 1.18 million ballots cast (representing an estimated two-thirds of the eligible voters), nearly 98 percent supported the new constitution. Equally important is that the referendum had, according to foreign observers, been conducted ‘openly, fairly, honestly and largely in accordance with internationally recognized election procedures’.64 As such the result provided domestic legitimacy to the separate albeit contested statehood of Somaliland. In 2002 credible, competitive local elections were staged, the first in over three decades.65

The constitution of 2001 passed its first major test when President Egal died in office a year later. In accordance with the constitution the VicePresident, Dahir Rayale Kahin, immediately took over the reins of power, effecting a smooth transition.66 A notably free and fair presidential poll, with a large contingent of international observers in attendance, followed in 2003. Incumbent President Rayale won the closely contested election, becoming Somaliland’s first popularly elected head of government in over three decades. The country’s maiden parliamentary election took place in 2005. The composition of Parliament was a rarity in Africa: opposition parties were in control.67 Somaliland’s leaders had good reason to proclaim to the world that theirs was a government representing the freely expressed will of the people – not only on the question of who should lead them but also on the critical issue of statehood for Somaliland.68

Somaliland’s second democratic presidential election is due in the last quarter of 2008, when Rayale’s successor is to be chosen. Local government elections will be held around the same time. The fact that the presidential and local elections were postponed more than once – and Rayale’s term as a consequence extended beyond the expiry date of May 2008 – sparked considerable controversy in Somaliland. The official reason for the deferments, supported by all three registered political parties, was that more time was needed to complete voter registration.69

Somaliland’s democratic credentials have meanwhile become tarnished by actual or alleged human rights abuses. In 2007 SHURO-Net, a local human rights network, campaigned for the release of hundreds of citizens (including journalists) jailed on the orders of government security committees without any recourse to the courts.70 In July of that year three leading figures of the Qaran political association, an emergent but unregistered opposition party, were imprisoned for seditious assembly. They violated a constitutional limitation on the number of political parties (being the three represented in the national legislature). Perhaps sensing the bad publicity generated by the conviction, President Rayale pardoned them five months later.71 In a further controversial move the Somaliland government expelled 24 Somali journalists from the territory in December 2007. The group, which had previously fled from violence and grave human rights violations in Somalia, were ordered out of Somaliland for allegedly ‘endangering the national security’ (read: endangering Somaliland’s vital relations with Ethiopia by writing articles offensive to Addis Ababa).72

The aspirant state’s Achilles heel may be its fragile economy. Given the severe environmental conditions – the greater part of the country was dry savannah with no perennial rivers – animal husbandry was the mainstay of the economy. Livestock exports were the principal source of revenue, while remittances from the Somaliland diaspora made a further vital contribution to the economy. An estimated US$ 150 million to 200 million was transferred to Somaliland each year from the ranks of the roughly 500,000 Somalilanders living abroad.73 Other obstacles to economic growth and to foreign and domestic investment included the paucity of external trade (in part the product of Somaliland’s contested international status); the decay of key infrastructure such as roads, ports and airports due to insufficient maintenance funds; and the lack of adequate banking and insurance services.74 But nature may come to the rescue of Somaliland’s rickety economy. The country has some oil and gas reserves as well as rich fishing waters off its coast. A further asset was the deep-water harbor of Berbera, a major port for landlocked Ethiopia’s exports and imports and already a sizeable income generator for Somaliland. The two neighbors have concluded the Berbera Corridor Agreement providing for an expansion of their trade relations and the coordination of transportation and taxation matters.75 Berbera has also been developed as a free zone to which Somaliland hoped to attract major foreign investment.76

International reactions

The international response to the (re)birth of Somaliland has been marked by an overwhelming lack of interest. For most of the world community Somaliland, even if its de facto existence was noted, simply did not matter. One reason was that Somali territory had lost much of its Cold War strategic significance. Another was that Somaliland may, paradoxically, have become the victim of its own success: its peace and stability amid the turmoil of Somalia did not capture media headlines or arouse humanitarian concerns. More damaging for Somaliland than the isolation of indifference was that several influential states resorted to a ‘knee-jerk insistence on the unity and territorial integrity of Somalia as a precondition to peace talks’ between North and South. Such prerequisites effectively precluded the Somaliland leadership from meaningful participation in the peace process. This initiative has been driven by the states of the region (under the aegis of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development, IGAD) rather than by the world community acting through the UN. Surrounding countries have displayed very little sympathy for Somaliland’s claims to self-determination.

Throughout the 1990s they preferred an empty Somali chair in multilateral forums to Somaliland occupying a new seat in its own right. After the creation of the Transitional National Government (TNG) of Somalia in 2000, these bodies upheld the fiction that the new authority was the sole legitimate international representative of the entire Somalia, North and South. For its part the TNG, however weak and ineffective, immediately claimed sovereignty over the entire Somali Republic, including Somaliland.77 Without any UN member state objecting, the President of the TNG took Somalia’s seat in the General Assembly during the Millennium Summit in 2000.78 The successor Transitional Federal Government was allowed to retain the Somali seat in IGAD, the AU, UN, Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference. For a while Somaliland was interested in obtaining ‘special interim international status’, comparable to that of the Palestinian Authority, pending de jure recognition. Such an arrangement, Hargeysa hoped, would allow Somaliland to access more foreign aid from multilateral and bilateral donors. The proposed formula failed to attract international support.79

The AU has sent out mixed signals on the question of Somaliland’s final status. On the one hand the continental organization engaged Hargeysa ‘within the context of the unity of Somalia’, as the head of the AU’s Peace and Security Council explained.80 This view of course endorsed Mogadishu’s claims of sovereignty over Somaliland and denied of the latter’s right of independent statehood. What is more, collapsed Somalia, an entity devoid of empirical statehood, was placed in the position of veto state over Somaliland. On the other hand the AU’s Fact-finding Mission to Somaliland in 2005 reported that the presumptive state’s quest for recognition was ‘historically unique and self-justified in African political history’. The AU should, the mission recommended ‘find a special method of dealing with this outstanding case’. As a guideline, the AU was advised ‘to judge the case of Somaliland from an objective historical viewpoint and a moral angle vis-à-vis the aspirations of the people’.81 In recognition of the decisive role the AU could play in determining the entity’s future, Somaliland was keen to join the organization. In 2004 it requested observer status in the AU82 and the following year Rayale submitted an application for full membership.83 The issue of Somaliland’s future status was discussed by AU foreign ministers in 200684 and in 2007 Alpha Konare, Chairman of the AU Commission, told the body’s Executive Council that African states had to deal with the reality of Somaliland’s existence and address the territory’s unsettled international legal status.85 A divided AU has so far failed to rise to the challenge, preferring a Somaliland left in international limbo to an organization torn by such an emotive issue. Yet the AU was the very institution to which the international community turned for guidance on the future of Somaliland.

Despite its twilight existence, Somaliland’s international isolation has been far from complete. Like other contested states, Somaliland has established semi-official ties with several countries, including the US and Britain – thus gaining a measure of de facto recognition of its purported statehood. Its most extensive links were with neighboring Ethiopia, with Somaliland maintaining a liaison office in Addis Ababa and Ethiopia in turn running a trade office in Hargeysa. Ethiopia also allowed Somaliland government officials to enter the country on Somaliland passports. We have already recorded the two neighbors’ bilateral agreement on transit trade via Berbera; Ethiopia envisaged that up to 20 percent of its foreign trade would eventually flow through the Somaliland port. Another vital transport link was the regular flights of Ethiopian Airlines between Addis Ababa and Hargeysa. In the field of finance, the Ethiopian Commercial Bank has maintained a formal relationship with Somaliland’s Central Bank. The two neighbors worked closely on matters of security too. One of the agreements Djibouti concluded with Somaliland was aimed at improving mutual understanding and cooperation and permitted Somaliland to operate a liaison office there. Some African and European countries have allowed entry to Hargeysa’s officials using Somaliland travel documents. Among them was South Africa, which also hosted a Somaliland liaison office.86

Another indicator of the extent of Somaliland’s international interactions was the foreign visits of its leader. President Rayale’s recent foreign destinations included Ethiopia, Djibouti, South Africa, Ghana, America, Italy, Norway, Germany and Britain. An official Somaliland delegation led by the Foreign Minister was allowed to meet with representatives from member states on the sidelines of the Commonwealth summit in Kampala in November 2007, courtesy of the host state.87 The reverse flow of foreign dignitaries to Hargeysa has been modest. A notable recent visitor was the US Under-Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer. Several delegations of foreign parliamentarians have however traveled to Somaliland, including groups from Ghana, Kenya, Britain and the EU. Legislators from Somaliland have in turn been invited to Britain, among other countries.88

Somaliland has managed to obtain various forms of foreign aid. There had been some foreign assistance in the reconstruction of Somaliland after the war and UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations have continued to provide humanitarian and development assistance.89 The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has since 2002 been supporting the repatriation of Somaliland refugees to the territory.90 The EU, UN and several other donors maintained larger aid programs in Somaliland than elsewhere in former Somalia and concluded direct cooperative agreements with Hargeysa.91 In what could be an intimation of greater foreign involvement, representatives from the World Bank, UN and EU attended meetings in Hargeysa in November 2007 on Somaliland’s Reconstruction and Development Programme for 2008.92 The UN Development Programme (UNDP) was indeed set to launch several development projects in Somaliland in 2008.93 Somaliland’s commitment to democracy has meanwhile earned it electoral assistance from the EU, America, Britain, Germany and Denmark, among other donors.94

It would be safe to say that the external assistance mentioned has been far below Somaliland’s needs – a consequence of its contested statehood. The AU’s fact-finding team acknowledged as much in 2005: ‘The lack of recognition ties the hands of the authorities and people of Somaliland as they cannot effectively and sustainably transact with the outside to pursue the reconstruction and development goals’.95

These instances of limited international engagement with Somaliland have not been translated into anything more than de facto recognition of its separate existence. A notable failure has been access to regional and global organizations. At the bilateral level not even immediate neighbors, despite their familiarity with the territory’s suffering under Mogadishu and regardless of the kinship ties some of them had with Somaliland, showed any sign of extending de jure recognition. Djibouti, for instance, has instead been the principal backer of Somalia’s transitional government in the international arena. Egypt’s enthusiastic support for the interim rulers in Mogadishu was been matched by its hostility towards Somaliland. Even Eritrea, a recent product of a successful struggle for self-determination, has refused to side with Somaliland lest other African states accused it of fomenting secession elsewhere on the continent. Ethiopia has been equally reluctant to support Somaliland’s claims to statehood, even though Addis Ababa maintained fairly wide-ranging ties with Hargeysa.96

America likewise followed a policy of non-recognition and engagement towards Somaliland. ‘While the United States does not recognize Somaliland as an independent state, and we continue to believe that the question of Somaliland’s independence should be resolved by the African Union’, the State Department explained in January 2008, ‘we continue regularly to engage with Somaliland as a regional administration and to support programs that encourage democratization and economic development in the Somaliland region’.97 The amount Washington spent on these programs was exceedingly modest.98 Britain’s policy towards Somaliland was rather confusing. ‘The UK does not recognize Somaliland as an independent state’, a Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office declared in 2008, and offered ‘the Somaliland authorities’ the gratuitous advice that they ‘should negotiate with the Transitional Federal Government to determine their future relationship’.99 At about the same time a British diplomat sounded a different note by commending Somaliland for its achievements of the last 17 years and declaring that London was ready to strengthen relations between the two countries and to support Somaliland’s efforts to promote good governance and economic development.100 Earlier another Foreign Office official had been even more accommodating: ‘Our policy is to do whatever we can to help [Somaliland], short of recognition’.101

Explaining external opposition

Why the unanimous international rejection of Somaliland’s claims to statehood? One reason, especially pertinent in Africa, was a dogmatic commitment to the sanctity of inherited colonial borders and hence a deep-seated antipathy to secession. This was coupled with an almost pathological fear of setting precedents that would encourage disaffected ethnic minorities to break away from existing states. Africa remained determined to treat the Eritrean case as sui generis and hence not applicable to Somaliland or any other unit within an established state on the continent.102 It is worth noting, though, that the AU’s 2005 mission to Somaliland maintained that its case ‘should not be linked to the notion of “opening a pandora’s box”’ – in terms of spawning imitators – but was instead an exceptional instance requiring special treatment.103

Another African concern may have been that two Somali states (or even three, if Djibouti was added) could be fierce rivals and draw surrounding countries into their contest – thus jeopardizing regional peace and stability.104 A related worry was that an independent Somaliland increased the danger of a renewed North-South conflagration because a new government in Mogadishu in effective control of its territory could be expected to claim jurisdiction over Somaliland and even press its demands by forcible means.105

Questions have also been raised about the level of popular support for Somaliland’s independence, despite the referendum of 2001. The pro-independence constituency was concentrated in the dominant Isaaq clan; other clans appeared more divided on the issue, with some still favoring a united Somalia. The creation of Puntland, discussed earlier, has added to the doubts about political loyalties in the region. Not only was Puntland committed to a federal Somalia, but clans from Somaliland had been prominent in establishing the entity.106

A further common argument against Somaliland’s statehood was that it lacked economic viability. Poor, underdeveloped and one of the most resource-scarce countries in the world, Somaliland cannot stand on its own feet, it was said. And the world cannot allow the creation of yet another economic basket-case forever dependent on foreign aid. Typical counterarguments were that Somaliland’s economic prospects were no worse than those of Eritrea or Djibouti. Moreover, intrinsic wealth was a lesser determinant of economic success than the quality of political leadership and economic management. The fact that Somaliland has not merely survived for 17 years against immense odds but actually maintained peace and stability and a degree of economic progress, were offered as evidence of its inherent qualities and sustainability as an independent entity.107

Although Somaliland has been an island of relative tranquillity in the sea of turbulence that engulfed the old Somalia, the country – like other contested states – could conceivably exercise negative power too. Somaliland could become a spoiler in the neighborhood if radical Islamic groups were to use its territory as a safe have or transit route to surrounding states. This could happen through acts of omission or commission on the part of the Hargeysa authorities. Omission could flow from Somaliland’s limited capacity to monitor and control the activities of such transnational groups, not least because of its exclusion from Interpol and normal intergovernmental intelligence networks. Acts of commission implied active government support for extremist groups, such as providing them with sanctuary and arms. The latter approach would not win Somaliland any respectable foreign friends; instead, it would further reduce the territory’s chances of gaining international sympathy and acceptance. On the other side of the ledger, though, Somaliland could try to use its weakness in countering the threat of international terrorism, coupled with its suitable location for intelligence-gathering (on Somalia and other countries in the region), as a lever to extract at least security assistance from major Western powers. More broadly, Somaliland had good reason to argue that it could not be expected to meet the obligations of a good international citizen if it were not treated as one.108

What future for Somaliland?

The shaky transitional government in Mogadishu has demanded that Somaliland remain part of Somalia ‘forever’, to quote interim President Yusuf.109 The world community for its part has refused to endorse Somaliland’s separation from its original state – notwithstanding the protracted anarchy in the South. Somaliland, therefore, seems unable to capitalize on the South’s travails by gaining international support for its statehood; the wreck that is Somalia still acted as an influential veto state over Somaliland. The collapse of authority in the Somali Republic has, however, given the North some breathing space: the international community is unlikely to coerce Somaliland into rejoining the South under prevailing conditions. The implication is then that the future of Somaliland could be settled only once Somalia has been restored to health and was able to engage the North as a credible partner in status talks. That stage may not be reached any time soon. Whether a rehabilitated Somalia would one day agree to partition and international recognition of two Somali states – along the lines of Czechoslovakia’s ‘velvet divorce’ – is questionable.110 A rebuilt South may indeed become more rather than less assertive in pursuing reunification with the North.

The final status option preferred by Somaliland has consistently been confirmed statehood separate from Somalia. ‘Somaliland’s desire for international recognition of its independence will not go away’, its Foreign Minister asserted in 2007. ‘The government and people of Somaliland will continue to press for recognition as long as it takes’.111 Somaliland’s development into ‘the largest, wealthiest and best-armed authority within the Somali Republic’112 has of course encouraged Hargeysa to stick to its guns. The strained personal relations between the leaders of Somaliland and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government have further bedeviled any joint exploration of a common future for the two entities.113

Given the poor prospects for a negotiated settlement, the ICG has recommended that the international community devise ‘pragmatic responses’ to Somaliland’s claims to statehood. This is in the place of continuing to ‘insist upon the increasingly abstract notion of the unity and territorial integrity of the Somali Republic’. The choice facing the world community in Somaliland was becoming considerably clearer, the ICG argued in 2003: the question ‘is no longer whether Somaliland should be recognized as an independent state, but whether there remain any viable alternatives’.114

In a subsequent report the ICG set out a pragmatic response. The AU was advised to grant Somaliland an interim international status while the organization reviewed the issue of final status. It would be similar to the observer status the AU had given 31 non-African states and the Palestinian Authority enjoyed in the UN. Interim observer status would allow Somaliland to attend open sessions of the AU dealing with the territory’s status, and participate in AU meetings to which it was invited but without the right to vote. In short, such interim status for Somaliland would give both sides to the dispute a fair hearing in the AU.115 A pragmatic approach of a different kind has meanwhile been adopted by Sweden when it decided in 2007 to treat Somaliland as a ‘self-governing area’ when providing development aid. Stockholm insisted, though, that it was not recognizing the independence of Somaliland.116

Finally, various forms of voluntary union between Somalia and Somaliland have been proposed. The options include a confederation, an association of states, a federation and an asymmetrical union.117 According to one version of a proposed confederation, the two-component units’ symbols of separate statehood would range from own legislatures, executives, civil services and defense forces to separate UN membership; shared features would include a common currency, joint foreign embassies and common passports. Asymmetrical sovereignty would involve a federation of three or four provinces in the South that would jointly enter into a confederation with Somaliland.118


Its secessionist origins have condemned the Republic of Somaliland to contested statehood. The wannabe state has now lived in international limbo for 17 years, unable to secure any formal recognition. But within the constraints of its diplomatic isolation, Somaliland has managed to establish meaningful semi-official links with a number of states and intergovernmental organizations. The domestic transformation Somaliland has undergone in this period has been far more impressive. The war-ravaged former Northern Region of Somalia has established relative peace and order (except for the disputed Sool and Sanaag areas), created a democratic political system (not without blemishes) and recorded progress in economic development (against huge geographic odds).

Somaliland’s achievements contrast vividly with the anarchy that has during the same period consumed Somalia, its country of origin. Although devoid of empirical statehood, Somalia has retained its juridical statehood – a feature that has allowed it to effectively veto Somaliland’s progress to confirmed statehood. African countries have allowed this absurdity by their dogmatic commitment to the phantom state of Somalia over the factual state of Somaliland. The world community has deferred to the AU in deciding Somalia’s international status.

Somaliland’s claims to statehood do not rest primarily on the collapse of Somalia, though. Among existing contested states, Somaliland probably has the strongest historical and legal claims to full statehood. Recognition is, however, a political act and those who could give a positive lead in elevating Somaliland to confirmed statehood – the African countries – remained trapped by their self-imposed taboos.


1 Henry Srebrnik, ‘Can clans form nations? Somaliland in the making’, in Tozun Bahcheli (ed.), De Facto States: The Quest for Sovereignty, Routledge, London, 2004, p.210.

2 The Europa World Year Book 2005, Routledge, London, 2005, p.3907; Somaliland: A Promising Country, Éditions Couleur Locale, Djibouti, 2004, p.18.

3 The Europa World Year Book 2005, p.3907.

4 Edna A Ismail, ‘Somaliland – Africa’s secret success story’, Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Somaliland, to the South African Institute of International Affairs, Johannesburg, 3 February 2005, p.1; ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, Africa Report No. 110, 23 May 2006, p.4.

5 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state: Somaliland and the challenge of international recognition’, in Paul Kingston & Ian S Spears (eds), States-Within-States: Incipient Political Entities in the Post-Cold War Era, Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, 2004, p.170.

6 The Europa World Year Book 2005, p.3907.

7 This part draws largely on Deon Geldenhuys, Foreign Political Engagement: Remaking States in the Post-Cold War World, Macmillan, Houndmills, 1998, pp.124–31.

8 Ali A Mazrui, ‘The blood experience: The failed state and political collapse in Africa’, World Policy Journal, Vol. 12, Spring 1995, p.30.

9 Hussein M Adam, ‘Formation and recognition of new states: Somaliland in contrast to Eritrea’, Review of African Political Economy, Vol. 21(59) March 1994, pp.24–6.

10 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Briefing Paper: The Case for Somaliland’s International Recognition as an Independent State, Hargeysa, August 2002, p.6; ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.5.

11 Deon Geldenhuys, Foreign Political Engagement, p.129.

12 Quoted by Matthew Bryden, ‘Somalia: The wages of failure’, Current History, Vol. 94(591), April 1995, p.146.

13 Deon Geldenhuys, Foreign Political Engagement, p.130; The Europa World Year Book 2005, p.3908; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Briefing Paper: The Case for Somaliland’s International Recognition as an Independent State, p.6.

14 Somaliland Official Website, ‘Somaliland Minister of Foreign Affairs welcomes first-ever discussion of Somaliland at an African Union summit’, 27 January 2007,…

15 Awdalnews, ‘Somaliland’s communiqué to African leaders’ summit in Accra’, 5 July 2007,

16 ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, pp.15–16.

17 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Briefing Paper: The Case for Somaliland’s International Recognition as an Independent State, p.7.

18 U Mattei, ‘Patterns of African constitution in the making’, in Michael Likosky (ed.), Transnational Legal Processes, Butterworths, London, 2002, pp.282–5.

19 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Briefing Paper: The Case for Somaliland’s International Recognition as an Independent State, p.3.

20 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.171.

21 Hussein M Adam, p.25.

22 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.170; Hussein M Adam, p.24; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Briefing Paper: The Case for Somaliland’s International Recognition as an Independent State, p.3.

23 Edna A Ismail, ‘Somaliland – Africa’s secret success story’, Address to the South African Institute of International Affairs, Johannesburg, 3 February 2005, p.2.

24 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.171.

25 ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.6.

26 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Briefing Paper: The Case for Somaliland’s International Recognition as an Independent State, p.6; Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failedstate’, p.172.

27 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.172.

28 Quoted in ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.15.

29 Quoted in ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.17.

30 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.172.

31 J Peter Pham, ‘Significant stakes suggest Somaliland shift for U.S.’, World Defense Review, 13 December 2007, p.3.

32 African Union, Report of the Chairperson of the Commission on the Situation in Somalia, Peace and Security Council, Addis Ababa, 29 April 2004, pp.3–4; Peter J Pham, p.3.

33 Quoted in ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.19.

34 Timothy Othieno, ‘Somalia’s elections and clan politics: A new opportunity or a temporary ceasefire?’ Global Insight (Institute for Global Dialogue), Issue 40, November 2004, pp.1–4.

35 The Washington Post, 4 December 2007; Stephanie Hanson & Eben Kaplan, ‘Somalia’s Transitional Government’, Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder, 12 May 2008,

36 Reuters AlertNet, ‘Somaliland leader rules out reunion with Somalia’, 2 May 2007,

37 ICG, CrisisWatch No. 57, 1 May 2008,

38 ‘Somaliland and the African Union’, Umrabulo, No. 26, August 2006,

39 Somaliland Ministry of Foreign Affairs memorandum, April 2002, quoted in Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.170.

40 Edna A Ismail, ‘Somaliland – Africa’s secret success story’, p.7.

41 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Briefing Paper: The Case for Somaliland’s International Recognition as an Independent State, pp.9–10; Edna A Ismail, ‘Somaliland – Africa’s secret success story’, pp.2, 7.

42 U Mattei, ‘Patterns of African constitution in the making’, in Michael Likosky (ed.), pp.282–5.

43 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state: Somaliland and the challenge of international recognition’, in Paul Kingston & Ian S Spears (eds), States-Within-States: Incipient Political Entities in the Post-Cold War Era, Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, 2004, pp.168–70, 178; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Briefing Paper: The Case for Somaliland’s International Recognition as an Independent State, p.11; ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, pp.4, 11, 13.

44 J Peter Pham, pp.1–2, 4; The Washington Post, 4 December 2007.

45 Somaliland Page, ‘Somaliland Foreign Ministry welcomes U.S. State Department statement’, 8 December 2007,…

46 J Peter Pham, p.4.

47 Former World Bank economist William Easterly, quoted by J Peter Pham, p.4.

48 AU, Report of the Chairperson of the Commission on the Situation in Somalia, Peace and Security Council, Addis Ababa, 29 April 2004.

49, ‘Somaliland statehood discussed at AU summit’, 5 July 2006,…

50 J Peter Pham, p.3.

51 ‘Somaliland and the African Union’, Umrabulo No. 26, August 2006, p.2.

52 ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.17.

53 Farhiya Ali Ahmed, ‘Somaliland: Elusive independence’, New African, No. 447, January 2006, p.35.

54 Carsten Heeger, ‘Somaliland (Somalia): Staatszerfall, Staatenbildung und Friedenskonsolidierung’, in Mir A Ferdowski & Volker Matthies (eds), Den Frieden Gewinnen: Zur Konsolidierung von Friedensprozessen in Nachkriegsgesellschaften, Dietz, Bonn, 2003, pp.217–18.

55 Edna A Ismail, ‘Somaliland – Africa’s secret success story’, p.5.

56 Carsten Heeger, pp.222–4.

57 Alisha Ryu, ‘Tensions between Somaliland, Puntland heat up’, 15 October  2007, Somaliland News Archives,; ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.8.

58 Muhammad S Megalommatis, ‘Somaliland and Puntland in war…’, 20 September 2007, Somaliland News Archives.

59 Garowe Online, ‘Somalia: Protestors oppose arrival of Somaliland delegation…, 1 November 2007, Somaliland News Archives,; BBC Monitoring International Reports, ‘Somaliland forces injure four protestors…’, 17 October 2007, Somaliland News Archives; BBC Monitoring International Reports, ‘Somalia Puntland vows to recapture…’, 22 October 2007, Somaliland News Archives.

60 The Economist, 6 October 2007.

61 The Economist, 6 October 2007.

62 Abdiqani Hassan, ‘Breakaway Somali republic advances into Somalia’, 15 October 2007, Somaliland News Archives,

63 Reuters AlertNet, ‘Ten killed in enclave clashes in Somalia’, 14 January 2008,

64 Quoted by Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.172.

65 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.173.

66 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, pp.172–3.

67 ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.7.

68 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, pp.169, 173; Edna A Ismail, ‘Somaliland – Africa’s secret success story’, p.6; Shannon Field, ‘Somaliland – the little country that could’, Global Dialogue (Institute for Global Dialogue), Vol. 8(2), October 2003, p.17.

69 The Somaliland Times, 10 May 2008,

70 Somaliland Forum, Press release, 3 November 2007,; Amnesty International, Public Statement, ‘Somaliland: Leaders of new opposition party arrested’, 7 August, 2007.

71 Somaliland Forum, Press release, 10 August 2007,; Amnesty International, Public Statement, ‘Somaliland: Opposition party leaders jailed…’, 22 August 2007;, ‘Somaliland frees key political prisoners’, 18 December 2007,

72 Amnesty International, ‘Document – Somaliland’, 5 December 2007,; Africa News, ‘Somalia; Government minister says journalists expelled…’, 7 December 2007, Somaliland News Archives.

73 Somaliland: A Promising Country, Éditions Couleur Locale, Djibouti, 2004, pp.5, 29; Carsten Heeger, pp.225–6; Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.168.

74 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.169.

75 Edna A Ismail, ‘Somaliland – Africa’s secret success story’, p.9; Carsten Heeger, p.227; Somaliland Official Website, ‘Ethiopian delegation arrives…’, 15 November 2005,

76 Somaliland Official Website, ‘Somaliland President welcomes…’, 24 March 2006,

77 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, pp.168, 175–8.

78 Shannon Field, ‘Somaliland – the little country that could’, p.16.

79 ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.3; Matt Bryden, ‘Statewithin-a-failed-state’, pp.173, 180.

80 Quoted by Farhiya A Ahmed, p.35.

81 Quoted by J Peter Pham, p.3 and in Somaliland Page, ‘Somaliland Foreign Ministry welcomes U.S. State Department statement’, 8 December 2007,…

82 AU, Report of the Chairperson of the Commission on the Situation in Somalia, p.5.

83 IFTIN News, ‘Overdue recognition of Somaliland border…’, 4 June 2008,

84, ‘Somaliland statehood discussed at AU summit’, 5 July 2006,…

85 Awdalnews, ‘Somaliland’s communiqué to African leaders’ summit in Accra’, 5 July 2007,

86 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, pp.173–4, 181; ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.2.

87 The Somaliland Times, ‘Somaliland Foreign Minister sets the record…’, 24 November 2007,

88 Information obtained from The Somaliland Official Website,

89 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.174; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Briefing Paper: The Case for Somaliland’s International Recognition as an Independent State, p.11; Farhiya A Ahmed, p.35.

90 UN News Centre, ‘UN refugee agency starts final phase of repatriation…’, 20 November 2007,…

91 ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.2.

92 Somaliland Official Website, ‘Somaliland Reconstruction and Development Programme meeting held…’ 28 November 2007,

93 Somaliland Official Website, ‘UNDP delegation visits Somaliland’, 16 April 2008,

94 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.174.

95 Quoted in Somaliland Page, ‘Somaliland Foreign Ministry welcomes U.S. State Department statement’, 8 December 2007.

96 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, pp.176–7.

97 U.S. Department of State, Office of the Spokesman, ‘Somaliland’, 17 January 2008,

98 See U.S. Department of State, Bureau for African Affairs, ‘United States policy on Somaliland’, 5 December 2007,

99 ‘Q & A: UK Parliament on Somaliland’, The Somaliland Times, 8 May 2008,

100 ‘President Rayale receives British diplomats’, The Somaliland Times, 8 May 2008,

101 Quoted in ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.13.

102 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, pp.178–9.

103 Quoted in ‘Somaliland and the African Union’, Umrabulo, No. 26, August 2006,…

104 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.179.

105 ICG, Somaliland: Democratisation and its Discontents, Africa Report No. 66, 28 July 2003, from the executive summary.

106 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, pp.178, 185; Timothy Othieno, p.6.

107 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, pp.184–5.

108 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, pp.182–4.

109 ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, pp.13, 16.

110 Somaliland Official Website, ‘Somaliland Minister of Foreign Affairs welcomes first ever discussion…’, 27 January 2007,

111 ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.4.

112 Carsten Heeger, p.231.

113 ICG, Somaliland: Democratisation and its Discontents, from the executive summary, index.cfm?id=1682&1=1; ICG, ‘Somaliland: Alternatives to independence?’ 28 July 2003,

114 ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.22.

115 Reuters AlertNet, ‘Somaliland leader rules out reunion with Somalia’, 2 May 2007,

116 ICG, Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership, p.18.

117 Hussein M Adam, p.36.

118 Matt Bryden, ‘State-within-a-failed-state’, p.186.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.