On the sidelines of the Somali crisis, the Republic of Somaliland seems to be doing better than other states in the country. Due to a history of altruism and concessions, the State has been able to remain united. Several analysts see Somaliland as a haven of peace in the Horn of Africa. So, Omar Lucien Koffi is one of them.

By Omar Lucien Koffi

On the sidelines of the Somali crisis, the Republic of Somaliland seems to be doing better than other states in the country. Due to a history of altruism and concessions, the State has been able to remain united. This unit is however threatened.

Somaliland proclaimed its independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Somali military regime that ruled the country for two decades. A meeting of the local chiefdoms of the six regions of Somaliland declared the independence of Somalia on May 18, 1991. The Somali National Movement (SNM) ruled the country until 2010. It is since then that the Kulmiye party, from Muse Bihi Abdi, runs the country. Bihi Abdi is currently the President of Somaliland, since 2017.

Even if Somaliland is not recognized by the international community. Rather, this fact is due to the general refusal to include the West in the affairs of the country. Several analysts see the state as a haven of peace in war-torn Somalia and sub-region. However, old resentments are starting to rise.


State of law

Admittedly, the country has experienced clashes between ethnocentric militias in the past. However, Somaliland has found its balance. Compared to Somalia, Somaliland has not experienced foreign entrism in its long journey towards achieving national unity. It is thanks to internal referendums that Somaliland adopted its own version of government. Since the 2001 Constitution, the elections have even taken place in a democratic and transparent manner.

First, the first round of elections between 2002 and 2004 was credible, even in the eyes of international bodies. Despite the rudimentary electoral system, the multiparty system was very real, and especially without foreign interference. The direct and secret ballot, in addition to the referendum culture, has made the electoral process more fluid. Then, a legal arsenal facilitated the development of a multiparty system and political alternation. Little by little, the structure of local governments, administration, and true citizenship were established in a climate of peace, despite the divisions. Another referendum corrected this flaw. A constitutional revision limited the number of political parties to three, in order to prevent social divides.

The electoral system was the most original detail in the 2002 local elections. The police had blocked access between regions, creating an airtight voting space. Only the employees of the Election Commission had access to the voting centers. Envoys from the 6 registered political parties acted as observers. Rural voters were therefore allowed to vote without a registration card. Unlike some African countries, this procedure was well put together. No party contested the election results. Yet four parties, including the one currently in power, had won very few regional council seats.

The gentlemen of Somaliland

So these first elections paved the way for the presidential election. However, some irregularities were noted. And the two main candidates, Rayale Kahin and Mahmoud Sillanyo have come out before the Constitutional Court. When the latter attributed the victory to Kahin, Sillanyo peacefully conceded defeat. Sillanyo was the Kulmiye party candidate and was praised for his decision. This first peaceful and exemplary confrontation made it possible to install a deep democratic practice. Selflessness has dominated ethnic lines. Even if, in 2005, tensions followed the legislative elections. Since the end of another peaceful election, the two majority parties, Kulmiye and UCID, have caused institutional paralysis. The start of political tensions in Somaliland …

However, the political rivalry was ruled by justice. In 2007, a law was promulgated by President Kahin in order to override the parliament, whose elected officials did not want to give up their seats. The impossibility of holding elections lasted until 2010, although the president’s term expired in 2008. Despite the presidential term’s extension, no contestation took place. In 2010, the three local elections, legislative and presidential, took place. On July 26, 2010, the leader of the Kulmiye party, Sillanyo, won the presidential election with more than 50% of the votes.

Then another referendum took place. The choice of the three parties authorized to stand for the presidential election has been transferred to the regional councils. A new political formation, the Waddani party, was born. It was from 2012, the date of the first elections contested by Waddani, UCID, and Kulmiye, that these three parties became the main political rivals.

The return of divisions

Because of cross-border violence, political leaders delayed the 2015 presidential election by two years. The decision was validated by the National Election Commission (NEC). In January 2017, President Sillanyo resigned and the election did take place. This time it was the most recent party, Waddani that challenged the election results. Protests rocked the country for two months, killing several people. This time, the traditional chiefdom held a peace summit, the outcome of which was accepted by political parties. All stakeholders respected the decision of the NEC. Since then, President Abdi has been the head of the country.

Nevertheless, and despite the rather positive record of Muse Bihi Abdi, the 2017 election strengthened the clan leaders. Currently, there are fears of the start of an ethnic conflict in this “country that does not exist”, even if peace remains. Since 2002, Somaliland’s democracy has been relatively successful. The transfer of powers is generally fluid and the company is homogeneous. In Somaliland, the language is unique and the citizens are singularly Muslim.

However, the transfer of the clan trend to politics since the 2017 summit threatens this dynamic. Recently, a difference in the number of members of the CNE caused a delay in the legislative elections. The longevity of Somaliland’s electoral system could be shaken forever in November 2022. The country is also celebrating its 30th anniversary of independence on May 31, 2021. However, it remains in search of its shaken national unity, and of a total independence of Somalia, which must go through international recognition.

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