Somaliland at a Glance
A breakaway, semi-desert territory on the coast of the Gulf of Aden, Somaliland declared independence after the overthrow of Somali military dictator Siad Barre in 1991.
The move followed a secessionist struggle during which Siad Barre's forces pursued rebel guerrillas in the territory. Tens of thousands of people were killed and towns were flattened.
Though not internationally recognised, Somaliland has a working political system, government institutions, a police force and its own currency.
The former British protectorate has also escaped much of the chaos and violence that plague Somalia.
The government of the de facto state of Somaliland regards itself as the successor state to the former British Somaliland protectorate.
In the form of the briefly independent State of Somaliland, united as scheduled on 1 July 1960 with the Trust Territory of Somaliland (the former Italian Somaliland) to form the Somali Republic.
Somaliland lies in northwestern Somalia, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden. It is bordered by the remainder of Somalia (per international recognition) to the east, Djibouti to the northwest, and Ethiopia to the south and west.
Its claimed territory has an area of 176,120 square kilometres (68,000 sq mi),with approximately 4 million residents. The capital and the largest city is Hargeisa, with the population of around 1,500,000 residents.
In 1988, the Siad Barre government began a crackdown against the Hargeisa-based Somali National Movement (SNM) and other militant groups. Theseh were among the events that led to the Somali Civil War. The conflict left the country's economic and military infrastructure severely damaged.
Following the collapse of Barre's government in early 1991, local authorities, led by the SNM, unilaterally declared independence from Somalia on 18 May of the same year and reinstated the borders of the former short-lived independent State of Somaliland.
Since then, the territory has been governed by democratically elected governments that seek international recognition as the Government of the Republic of Somaliland.
The central government maintains informal ties with some foreign governments, who have sent delegations to Hargeisa. Ethiopia also maintains a trade office in the region.
However, Somaliland's self-proclaimed independence remains unrecognised by any country or international organisation.
It is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, an advocacy group whose members consist of indigenous peoples, minorities and unrecognised or occupied territories.
Culture of Somaliland
Somaliland has a population of about 3.5 million people. As of 2006, the largest clan family in Somaliland is the Isaaq, making up 80% of the total population.
The clan groupings of the Somali people are important social units, and have a central role in Somali culture and politics. Clans are patrilineal and are often divided into sub-clans, sometimes with many sub-divisions.
Somali society is traditionally ethnically endogamous. To extend ties of alliance, marriage is often to another ethnic Somali from a different clan.
It is considered polite for one to leave a little bit of food on one's plate after finishing a meal at another's home. This tells the host that one has been given enough food. If one were to clean their plate that would indicate that one is still hungry.
Most Somalis do not take this rule so seriously, but it is certainly not impolite to leave a few bits of food on one's plate.
Somali breakfast typically includes a flatbread called lahoh (injera), as well as liver, toast, harakoo, cereal, and porridge made of millet or cornmeal. Lunch can be a mixture of rice or pasta with meat and sauce.
Also consumed during lunchtime is a traditional soup referred to as maraq, which is also part of Yemeni cuisine. Maraq is made of vegetables, meat and beans and is usually eaten with flatbread or pita bread.
Later in the day, a lighter meal is served that includes beans, ful medames, muffo (patties made of oats or corn), or a salad with more lahoh/injera.
The Somaliland Campaign, also called the Anglo-Somali War or the Dervish War, was a series of military expeditions that took place between 1900 and 1920 in the Horn of Africa, pitting the Dervishes led by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (nicknamed the "Mad Mullah") against the British.
The British were assisted in their offensives by the Ethiopians and Italians. During the First World War (1914–1918), Hassan also received aid from the Ottomans, Germansand, for a time, from the Emperor Iyasu V of Ethiopia. The conflict ended when the British aerially bombed the Dervish capital of Taleh in February 1920.
The Fifth Expedition of the Somaliland campaign in 1920 was the final British expedition against the Dervish forces of Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (often called the "Mad Mullah" derogatorily by British ), the Somali religious leader.
Although the majority of the combat took place in January of the year, British troops had begun preparations for the assault as early as November 1919. The British forces included elements of the Royal Air Force and the Somaliland Camel Corps.
After three weeks of battle, Hassan's Dervishes were defeated, bringing an effective end to their 20-year resistance.
The Italian conquest of British Somaliland was a military campaign in East Africa, which took place in August 1940 between forces of Italy and those of several British and Commonwealth countries. The Italian expedition was part of the East African Campaign.
State of Somaliland
In May 1960, the British government stated that it would be prepared to grant independence to the then protectorate of British Somaliland, with the intention that the territory would unite with the Italian-administered Trust Territory of Somaliland under Italian Administration (the former Italian Somaliland).
The Legislative Council of British Somaliland passed a resolution in April 1960 requesting independence and union with the Trust Territory of Somaliland, which was scheduled to gain independence on July 1 that year.
The legislative councils of both territories agreed to this proposal following a joint conference in Mogadishu.
On June 26, 1960, the former British Somaliland protectorate briefly obtained independence as the State of Somaliland, with the Trust Territory of Somaliland following suit five days later. During its brief period of independence, the State of Somaliland garnered recognition from thirty-five sovereign states.
The following day, on June 27, 1960, the newly convened Somaliland Legislative Assembly approved a bill that would formally allow for the union of the State of Somaliland with the Trust Territory of Somaliland on July 1, 1960.
Somali National Movement, Barre persecution
Exhumed skeletal remains of victims of the Isaaq genocide found from a mass grave site located in Berbera, Somaliland.
The moral authority of Barre's government was gradually eroded, as many Somalis became disillusioned with life under military rule. By the mid-1980s, resistance movements supported by Ethiopia's communist Derg administration had sprung up across the country.
Barre responded by ordering punitive measures against those he perceived as locally supporting the guerillas, especially in the northern regions. The clampdown included bombing of cities, with the northwestern administrative centre of Hargeisa, a Somali National Movement (SNM) stronghold, among the targeted areas in 1988. The bombardment was led by General Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan, Barre's son-in-law.
According to Abou Jeng and other scholars, the Barre regime rule was marked by a targeted brutal persecution of the Isaaq clan.
Mohamed Haji Ingiriis and Chris Mullin state that the clampdown by the Barre regime against the Hargeisa-based Somali National Movement targeted the Isaaq clan, to which most members of the SNM belonged.
They refer to the clampdown as the Isaaq genocide or Hargeisa holocaust. A United Nations investigation concluded that the crime of genocide was "conceived, planned and perpetrated by the Somali Government against the Isaaq people".
The number of civilian casualties is estimated to be between 50,000-100,000 according to various sources,while some reports estimate the total civilian deaths to be upwards of 200,000 Isaaq civilians.
Along with the deaths, Barre regime bombarded and razed the second and third largest cities in Somalia, Hargeisa and Burao respectively.
This displaced an estimated 400,000 local residents to Hartasheikh in Ethiopia; another 400,000 individuals were also internally displaced.
The counterinsurgency by the Barre regime against the SNM targeted the rebel group's civilian base of support, escalating into a genocidal onslaught against the Isaaq clan. This led to anarchy and violent campaigns by fragmented militias, which then wrested power at a local level.
The Barre regime's persecution was not limited to the Isaaq, as it targeted other clans such as the Hawiye. The Barre regime collapsed in January 1991.
Thereafter, as the political situation in Somaliland stabilized, the displaced people returned to their homes, the militias were demobilized or incorporated into the army. Tens of thousands of houses and businesses were reconstructed from rubble.
Somali Civil War
May 5 resolution of the Burao grand conference. At the second national meeting on May 18, the SNM Central Committee, with the support of a meeting of elders representing the major clans in the Northern Regions, declared the restoration of the Republic of Somaliland in the territory of the former British Somaliland protectorate and formed a government for the self-declared state.
Although the SNM at its inception had a unionist constitution, it eventually began to pursue independence, looking to secede from the rest of Somalia.
Under the leadership of Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur, the local administration declared the northwestern Somali territories independent at a conference held in Burao between 27 April 1991 and 15 May 1991.
Tuur then became the newly established Somaliland polity's first President, but subsequently renounced the separatist platform in 1994 and began instead to publicly seek and advocate reconciliation with the rest of Somalia under a power-sharing federal system of governance.
Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal was appointed as Tuur's successor in 1993 by the Grand Conference of National Reconciliation in Borama, which met for four months, leading to a gradual improvement in security, as well as a consolidation of the new territory.
Egal was reappointed in 1997, and remained in power until his death on 3 May 2002.
In 2003, Kahin became the first elected president of Somaliland. The war in southern Somalia between Islamist insurgents on the one hand, and the Federal Government of Somalia and its African Union allies on the other.
For the most part, it did not directly affect Somaliland, which, like neighbouring Puntland, has remained relatively stable.
The Somaliland Armed Forces are the main military command in Somaliland. Along with the Police Force and all other internal security forces, they are overseen by Somaliland's Ministry of Defence. The current head of Somaliland's Armed Forces is the Minister of Defence, Mudane Ahmed Haj Adami.
The Somaliland Army consists of twelve divisions equipped primarily with light weaponry, though it is equipped with some howitzers and mobile rocket launchers. Its armoured vehicles and tanks are mostly of Soviet design, though there are some ageing Western vehicles and tanks in its arsenal.
The Somaliland Navy (often referred to as a Coast Guard by the Associated Press), despite a crippling lack of equipment and formal training, has apparently had some success at curbing both piracy and illegal fishing within Somaliland waters.
The Somaliland shilling, which cannot easily be exchanged outside Somaliland on account of the nation's lack of recognition, is regulated by the Bank of Somaliland, the central bank, which was established constitutionally in 1994.
It may not be considered valid tender in disputed areas such as Ayn or the district of Badhan, which are not administered as part of Somaliland and continue to use the Somali shilling despite being claimed by the Somaliland government.
Since Somaliland is unrecognized, international donors have found it difficult to provide aid. As a result, the government relies mainly upon tax receipts and remittances from the large Somali diaspora, which contribute immensely to Somaliland's economy.
Remittances come to Somaliland through money transfer companies, the largest of which is Dahabshiil, one of the few Somali money transfer companies that conform to modern money-transfer regulations.
The World Bank estimates that remittances worth approximately US$1 billion reach Somalia annually from émigrés working in the Gulf states, Europe and the United States. Analysts say that Dahabshiil may handle around two-thirds of that figure and as much as half of it reaches Somaliland alone.
Since the late 1990s, service provisions have significantly improved through limited government provisions and contributions from non-governmental organisations, religious groups, the international community (especially the diaspora), and the growing private sector.
Local and municipal governments have been developing key public service provisions such as water in Hargeisa and education, electricity, and security in Berbera.
In 2009, the Banque pour le Commerce et l'Industrie – Mer Rouge (BCIMR), based in Djibouti, opened a branch in Hargeisa and became the first bank in the country since the 1990 collapse of the Commercial and Savings Bank of Somalia. In 2014, Dahabshil Bank International became the region's first commercial bank. In 2017 Premier Bank from Mogadishu opened a branch in Hargeisa.
Various telecommunications firms also have branches in Somaliland. Among these companies is Telesom, one of the largest operators in Somaliland.
Founded in 2002 with the objective of supplying the local market with telecommunications services such as GSM, fixed line, and Internet access.
It has an extensive network that covers all of Somaliland's major cities and more than 40 districts in both Somalia and Somaliland.
Telesom also offers among the cheapest international calling rates at US$0.2 less than its nearest competitor. Other telecommunication firms serving the region include Somtel, Telcomand NationLink.
Livestock is the backbone of Somaliland's economy. Sheep, camels, and cattle are shipped from the Berbera port and sent to Gulf Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia.
Mining also has potential, though simple quarrying represents the extent of current operations, despite the presence of diverse quantities of mineral deposits.
The rock art and caves at Laas Geel, situated on the outskirts of Hargeisa, are a popular local tourist attraction.
Totaling ten caves, they were discovered by a French archaeological team in 2002 and are believed to date back around 5,000 years. The government and locals keep the cave paintings safe and only a restricted number of tourists are allowed entry.
Other notable sights include the Freedom Arch in Hargeisa and the War Memorial in the city centre. Natural attractions are very common around the region.
The Naasa Hablood are twin hills located on the outskirts of Hargeisa that Somalis in the region consider to be a majestic natural landmark.
The Ministry of Tourism has also encouraged travellers to visit historic towns and cities in Somaliland. The historic town of Sheekh is located near Berbera and is home to old British colonial buildings that have remained untouched for over forty years. Berbera also houses historic and impressive Ottoman architectural buildings.
Another equally famous historic city is Zeila. Zeila was once part of the Ottoman Empire, a dependency of Yemen and Egypt and a major trade city during the 19th century.
The city has been visited for its old colonial landmarks, offshore mangroves and coral reefs, towering cliffs, and beach. The nomadic culture of Somaliland has also attracted tourists. Most nomads live in the countryside.
Map showing the distribution of the Afro-Asiatic Somali language in the Horn of Africa. Many people in Somaliland speak two of the three official languages: Somali, Arabic and English, although the rate of bilingualism is lower in rural areas.
Article 6 of the Constitution of 2001 designates the official language of Somaliland to be Somali, though Arabic is a mandatory subject in school and is used in mosques around the region and English is spoken and taught in schools. English was proclaimed an official language later, outside the constitution.
The Somali language belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family. Its nearest relatives are the Afar and Oromo languages. Somali is the best documented of the Cushitic languages, with academic studies of it dating from before 1900.
Somali dialects are divided into three main groups: Northern, Benaadir and Maay. Northern Somali (or Northern-Central Somali) forms the basis for Standard Somali. Benaadir (also known as Coastal Somali) is spoken on the Benadir coast from Cadaley to south of Merca, including Mogadishu, as well as in the immediate hinterland. The coastal dialects have additional phonemes which do not exist in Standard Somali. Maay is principally spoken by the Digil and Mirifle (Rahanweyn) clans in the southern areas of Somalia.
Since Somali had long lost its ancient script, a number of writing systems have been used over the years for transcribing the language. Of these, the Somali alphabet is the most widely used, and has been the official writing script in Somalia since the government of former President of Somalia Siad Barre formally introduced it in October 1972.
The script was developed by the Somali linguist Shire Jama Ahmed specifically for the Somali language, and uses all letters of the English Latin alphabet except p, v and z. Besides Ahmed's Latin script, other orthographies that have been used for centuries for writing Somali include the long-established Arabic script and Wadaad's writing, in addition to various indigenous writing systems developed in the twentieth century.
With few exceptions, Somalis in Somaliland and elsewhere are Muslims, the majority belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam and the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence. As with southern Somali coastal towns such as Mogadishu and Merca, there is also a presence of Sufism, Islamic mysticism; particularly the Arab Rifa'iya tariiqa.
Through the influence of the diaspora from Yemen and the Gulf states, stricter Wahhabism also has a noticeable presence. Though traces of pre-Islamic traditional religion exist in Somaliland, Islam is dominant to the Somali sense of national identity. Many of the Somali social norms come from their religion.
For example, most Somali women wear a hijab when they are in public. In addition, religious Somalis abstain from pork and alcohol, and also try to avoid receiving or paying any form of interest (usury). Muslims generally congregate on Friday afternoons for a sermon and group prayer.
Under the Constitution of Somaliland, Islam is the state religion of Somaliland, and no laws may violate the principles of Sharia. The promotion of any religion other than Islam is illegal, and the state promotes Islamic tenets and discourages behaviour contrary to "Islamic morals".
Somaliland has very few Christians. In 1913, during the early part of the colonial era, there were virtually no Christians in the Somali territories, with about 100–200 followers coming from the schools and orphanages of the handful of Catholic missions in the British Somaliland protectorate.The small number of Christians in the region today mostly come from similar Catholic institutions in Aden, Djibouti, and Berbera.
Somaliland falls within the Episcopal Area of the Horn of Africa as part of Somalia, under the Anglican Diocese of Egypt. However, there are no current congregations in the territory. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Mogadiscio is designated to serve the area as part of Somalia. However, since 1990 there has been no Bishop of Mogadishu, and the Bishop of Djibouti acts as Apostolic Administrator. The Adventist Mission also indicates that there are no Adventist members.
Facts About Somaliland
Official Name: Republic of Somaliland
Capital: Hargeisa (independence not recognised internationally)
Population: 3.5 million
Major languages: Somali, Arabic, English
Major religion: Islam
Currency: Somaliland shilling
Leader of Somaliland
President: Muse Bihi Abdi
Muse Bihi Abdi was elected president in November 2017, succeeding Ahmed Silanyo.
Mr Bihi has served as chairman of the ruling Kulmiye party since its founder and leader, Silanyo, was elected president in 2010.
A retired air force pilot, Bihi's only previous government post was as interior minister of Somaliland in the 1990s.
Media in Somaliland
Since 1991, Radio Hargeisa has been the Somaliland government's official mouthpiece. The government also owns Somaliland National Television (SLNTV).
The authorities maintain a tight hold on broadcasting. Radio is the most accessible form of media, although Radio Hargeisa is the only permitted domestic outlet. The press can carry criticism of the government but the market for printed publications is small.
7th century - Islam starts to make inroads into the area of modern-day Somaliland.
14th century - The area's Islamic sultanates come under the suzerainty of the Christian Ethiopian Empire.
1527 - Sultanate of Adal revolts against Ethiopian rule and subsequently conquers much of Ethiopia, before being defeated with the help of the Portuguese in 1543.
1888 - Britain establishes the protectorate of British Somaliland though treaties with the local sultanates.
1899 - Islamic cleric Mohammed Abdullah rises against British rule, going on to establish the Dervish State, which survives until it is destroyed by British forces in 1920.
1960 - British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland become independent and merge into the Somali Republic.
1991 - The former British Somaliland declares unilateral independence as Somaliland following the ousting of Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre, which plunges the rest of Somalia into anarchy.
2001 - More than 97% of the population votes to endorse the constitution adopted in 1997, in a referendum aimed at affirming Somaliland's self-declared independence.
2016 - Somaliland celebrates 25 years of self-declared independence, but remains unrecognized.
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