What is Somaliland? | Bitesize Geopolitics: The Geopolitics of Somaliland

Situated in the North-Eastern portion of the Horn of Africa is the breakaway territory of Somaliland.

Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 after a decade-long war of independence, which was considered to be the main theatre of the larger Somali rebellion against the government of then-President Siyad Barre which began in 1978.


The de-facto state, unrecognized by any other country in the world, controls an area largely similar to that of its British colonial predecessor, British Somaliland, barring two areas to its South and East, which are under the control of the Officially recognized Somali government but also claimed by Somaliland as part of its territory.

Geopolitics: The Geopolitics of Somaliland

Somaliland is considered stable by local standards, having its own constitution, currency, elections, military and police. Were Somaliland recognised as a state, it is estimated it would be the fourth poorest country in the world as of 2012.

Given its position overlooking the Gulf of Aden and the nearby Bab-El-Mandeb Strait, through which roughly 10% of the world’s seaborne oil flows each year, Somaliland’s geostrategic position is important, and this has drawn the interest of many states. Though Somaliland is not recognised by any other country, it does have relations with many states, such as Kenya, Pakistan, Turkey, the US, UK and Germany.

Somaliland also has strong ties with neighbouring Ethiopia which date back to the beginning of the battle for its independence. Given its reliance on the port of Djibouti in neighbouring Djibouti for its trade, Ethiopia, in partnership with the UAE’s DP World and Somaliland, are developing the Berbera Corridor, a trade and logistics corridor that runs from Ethiopia to the port of Berbera in Somaliland.

Another interesting recent addition to Somaliland’s foreign relations has been the United Arab Emirates, whose DP world port company is involved in the aforementioned Berbera corridor project, and the development of the New Berbera Port, which it aims to turn into a new regional logistics hub. Of even more interest was the UAE’s 2017 deal with the Somaliland government to establish a military base near Berbera, but this deal was later cancelled.

Moving forward into the 21st century Somaliland’s status as a relatively stable yet unrecognized de-facto state looks set to continue, though with increasing foreign investment its economic situation will most likely improve. That said, due to its geostrategic position, and the shifting geopolitical dynamic in the horn and wider region, outside interest in Somaliland, will likely grow too.

AR Global Security




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