Recognition of Somaliland

By: Assel Seidualiyeva

History of Somaliland

By the end of the 20th century, during the process of decolonization in Africa, more than 50 sovereign states arose within the borders of the former colonies and protectorates, which did not recognize ethnic makeup or tribal allegiances.

African nationalism was associated with the struggle to unite disparate 'administrative' tribes into one nation (Nigerian, Ivorian, etc.). Those who sought to divide their country according to the ethnic principle or the absolute dominance of one of the peoples living in it were not accused of nationalism, but tribalism.

African decolonization brought to life not only states recognized by the international community, but also numerous tribal movements that sought to revise the colonial borders.

Attempts to form new states on the basis of any one ethnic group were unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the political map of Africa after decolonization did not remain completely unchanged. Eritrea (in 1993) and South Sudan (in 2011) achieved independence and international recognition.

Along with recognized independence state, two unrecognized countries in Africa also arose - The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara,1976) and The Republic of Somaliland (1991).

Just by looking at the name, Somaliland, it is clear that it is related in some way to Somalia. The history of the African state is complex and turbulent.

Previously, the territory of Somaliland was called British Somaliland (since 1887), in 1960 Somalia gained independence when two former colonies - Italian Somalia and British Somaliland merged to form an independent state.

In 1991, Somalia essentially ceased to exist as a functioning state. If in the territory of the former Italian Somalia many principalities were formed, headed by field commanders constantly conflicting among themselves.

Recognition of Somaliland

In Somaliland however, the situation was and is relatively peaceful, and the standard of living, much higher.

After a successful independence referendum in which an overwhelming majority voted democratically to form an independent state, the Republic of Somaliland has not been recognized by a single country.

We examined one point of view as to why Somaliland has not received international recognition as a state. Consider other options, the argument against Somaliland’s independence rests largely on factors beyond the country’s control.

Somaliland officials are used to hearing that if their independence were recognized, it would set off a domino effect for other nationalist and tribal movements across Africa, destabilizing the continent.

If Somaliland were independent, what would stop other regions from trying the same thing? International organizations such as the African Union and the Arab League are hostile to the idea of recognizing further territorial divisions. Countries wary of their own separatist movements don’t want to establish any sort of precedent and therefore have not recognized an independent Somaliland..

Why then has there been international recognition of Eritrea, South Sudan, partial recognition of the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic. At the same time, the situation, both political and socio-economic situation in Somaliland is much better than in the above countries. Then why have these state been accepted but not Somaliland?

The real reason for this is because the above mentioned states recieved recognition from the state they separated from and their sovereignty was mutually agreed upon. As such, the international community followed suit in recognizing the newly independent states. Somaliland however, received no such blessing from internationally recognized Somalia.

In the early years of de facto independence, Somaliland differed little from Somalia. The Isaaq clans fought among themselves; in the west, near the border with Djibouti and Ethiopia. Yhe authorities were opposed by the Gada-Bursi and Issa tribes, in the east - by the Darod, who relied on the help of neighboring Puntland - an autonomous region of Somalia.

International Support for Somaliland

Since 1991, Somaliland has been seeking recognition from the international community. The nature of relations with Ethiopia and Djibouti suggests that both countries already recognize de facto Somaliland, although they did not officially declare recognition.

The name Somaliland is used in official documents not only in English, but also in the Somali language (Jamhuriyadda Somaliland, Republic of Somaliland) and since 2003, the UK has partly funded elections in Somaliland.

The US supports Somaliland through non-governmental organizations. The 2005 parliamentary elections and the 2010 presidential elections were funded directly by the International Republican Institute affiliated with the Republican Party.

The United States adheres to the so-called “dual track strategy” on the Somali issue, supporting both relatively strong new entities (Somaliland and Puntland) and a weak Somali government in Mogadishu. Somaliland has political relations with the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Belgium, Ghana, South Africa, Sweden and Djibouti.

On January 17, 2007, the European Union sent a delegation of specialists in international relations to Somaliland to discuss the possibilities for further development of relations.

On January 29, 2007, the African Union also sent a foreign minister to discuss future international recognition of the state, and on January 30, the foreign ministers of both sides announced that they would discuss possible recognition of the country's independence with other member states of the Union.

In June 2007, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, held a press conference with President Kahin, during which the official commissar of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the President of Somaliland was published, this was the first event in which Somaliland was presented as an independent state.

While this fact is not interpreted by Ethiopia as recognition of the independence of Somaliland, the event was seen as a step towards recognition by the world community and, above all, the African Union, of the independence of Somaliland.

On November 21, 2007, the President of Somaliland officially took part in the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2007, which was held in Uganda.

On November 27, 2007, Anne-Marie Nates-Uttebrock, representative of the European Party of Liberal Democrats and Reformers, one of the three main parties of the EU, sent a letter to Javier Solana (EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) and Somaliland President Dahir Kahin; In her letter, the politician expressed confidence in the need to recognize the sovereignty of Somaliland by the European Union.

In December 2007, the US administration of President Bush discussed whether to support the US transitional government of Somalia, or to recognize independence and support publicity for the Republic of Somaliland.

On May 18, 2011 in Nairobi, on the 20th anniversary of the independence of Somaliland and on July 9 of that year in Juba, at the ceremony of declaration of independence of South Sudan, Kenyan Deputy Foreign Minister Richard Onionka said that Kenya also plans to recognize the independence of Somaliland.

A number of states, including Ethiopia and Djibouti, have already opened their trade or diplomatic missions in Hargeisa, the next in line, apparently, will be Kenya, who sent an emissary to the capital of Somaliland to create an official representative office.

Perhaps following the December forum, which was organized by the Somaliland government in Nairobi to attract Kenyan investors.

Unrecognized Country

Like other unrecognized countries, Somaliland was not recognized by the 'parent state' - Somalia. Somaliland is neither involved in the Somali conflict nor in its settlement.

The political and economic stability of Somaliland may allow this unrecognized country to claim international recognition in the future. However, without the consent of the neighboring countries of Africa, and especially Somalia, recognition of Somaliland is hardly possible.

In order for new states to claim sovereignty, a declaration of their independence is not the only thing necessary. Without external support, primarily from the former metropolis, such states are constantly threatened with reunification.

Government of Somaliland

Today, Somaliland is a hybrid system of government - there is a Constitution of Somaliland, combining the traditions of local customs and Western European institutions of governing the country.

Through inter-clan meetings and conferences, culminating in the 1993 Buram Conference, the Kabil management system was created (Somal qabil - clan or community). This system consists of an executive body: the president, vice president and the council of ministers (bicameral device), and an independent judiciary.

The Council of Elders (Somal. Guurti), traditional for Somalia, has been turned into a government structure and is responsible for the selection of the President of the country, as well as for resolving the internal conflicts of Somaliland.

The government became the basis of a coalition of the dominant clans of Somaliland, with seats in the upper and lower houses equally divided between clans in accordance with a well-defined formula.

In 2002, after several extensions of this internal governance system, Somaliland finally moved to a multi-party democratic form of government, with the election of a six-party district council. Such a management system is recognized as the most peaceful in the last twenty years.

Today, Somaliland is an unrecognized and democratic state. It has elections, an army, a police force, its own currency and its own unrecognized passports. But without recognition from a single country, foreign investment is hard to come by.

Tourism in Somaliland

Nevertheless, tourists revere Somaliland as a small oasis of peace in the Horn of Africa. Local Somalilanders are kind and friendly to foreigners. This is a state that fought for its right to self-determination, a state that decided not to follow international norms and claim a better future than its neighbour Somalia.


Dobronravin N.V. Western Sahara, Somaliland, and Azawad: Problems of Sovereignization. Scientific letters of the University of Kazan. Volume 3. Kazan. 2013;

When is a nation not a nation? Somaliland's dream of independence <> (14.11.2019);

Zhukov A.E. Separatism in modern Somalia and international perspectives of the de facto independent regions of the country. News of KazUIRaIL. International relationships. Almaty. 2013

#Somaliland #SomalilandTravel #SomalilandTours

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