What Is Somaliland, And Who Controls It?

A map exhibiting Somaliland and its neighbours.
A map exhibiting Somaliland and its neighbours.

What Is Somaliland, And Who Controls It?

Somaliland has remained largely unrecognized following its self-declared independence from Somalia in 1991. Even so, many countries continue to send delegates or invite the government to important official events. As an Islamic state, the country abides by Sharia laws and the constitution prohibits any promotion of practices contradicting Islam. Somali is the national language, and Arabic makes up the education curriculum, and some schools speak and teach English. The Republic of Somaliland has no recognized currency. However, the country’s conditions continue to improve. Somaliland has had many disputes with Puntland. However, the current instability that has afflicted Somalia rarely affects Puntland, and so far the country is stable.

Overview Of Somaliland

Somaliland is a self-declared state. It lies northwestern of Somalia and southeastern of the Gulf of Aden. The autonomous area of the Puntland lies to the east, Ethiopia to the west and south, and Djibouti to the northwest. The county has an area size of about 53,100 square miles and a population of 4 million. Hargeisa is the largest and capital city with a population of approximately 1,200,000 residents. Like most of Somali, Somaliland is an Islamic country. The citizens adhere to Sunni Branch of Islam, and there are also Sufism believers. As per the constitution, Islam is the country’s religion governed by the Sharia laws. As such Arabic and Somali are the national languages and English is also taught in schools.

Disputes Related To Somaliland

Somaliland is in control of the Western half of Somali, but the government continues to claim the entire former British Somaliland region. Between 2002 and 2009, tensions between Somaliland and Puntland resulted into severe violence. More clashes between armed forces of the two regions took place in October 2004 and October 2007 in Sool capital city of Las Anod. The city has been a major feud for the two states. However, while Somaliland aims at splitting Somalia into independent states, Puntland fight for the reestablishment of federal Somali State. As such, they are always in constant arguments. The Awdal and Khatumo State established in 2010 and 2012 respectively do not also recognize the Somaliland sovereignty claims.

Politics And Government

Under the constitution of Somaliland, the country has a hybrid system of governance which combines the aspects of traditional and western institutions. The current system of governance was established in 1993 at the Boorama Conference. Under the constitution, there are three branches of the Puntland government, the executive, judiciary, and the legislature. An elected president leads the executive and comprises of the Council of Ministers and the vice president. A president serves a maximum of two five-year terms, and the National Elections Commission confirms the elections. Somaliland has a bicameral Parliament with the House of Elders as the Upper House and House of Representatives as the Lowe House. Each house has 82 members and functions in passing laws and solving external conflicts. The Judicial branch is made up of the district, regional, local appeal courts, and the Supreme Court. The constitution also allows a maximum of three political parties in the country namely; Peace, Unity, and Development Party, Wadani, and For Justice and Development Party. The constitution prohibits any parties defined by religion or clan. President Mohamed Silanyo is the current president of Somaliland as from July 2010.

Economy Of Somaliland

Since Somaliland is not an internationally recognized Country, the currency “Somaliland shilling” has no official exchange rate. Also, the territories of Ayn, Sanaag, and Sool do not recognize it. The bank of Somaliland and Central Bank regulate the shilling. The country economy relies heavily on remittances from the Somali Diaspora that come to the country through money transfer companies like Dahabshiil. The Wolrd Bank estimates that about US$1 billion remittances from émigrés working in the US, Europe, and the Gulf States reach Somalia. Over the years, service provisions have improved. Limited government regulations and financial contributions from NGOs, international communities, religious groups, and the private sector have grown the economy of Somaliland. The public sector has also developed gradually with local and municipal governments facilitating clean water supply in Hargeisa and electricity, security, and education in Berbera. Golis Telecom Somalia has a branch in Somaliland and offers services such as internet access, GSM, and fixed line. Its extensive network covers major Somalia cities and many districts in Somaliland and Puntland regions. Other telecommunication firms in the region include Telcom, Somtel, and NationalLink. Livestock rearing is the backbone of Somaliland’s economy. The country exports are sheep, camels, and cattle from Berbera to the Gulf States. Other key contributors to the economy are Agriculture especially the production of cereals and horticulture, mining, and tourism.

International Relations

Even though it is widely unrecognized internationally, Somaliland has maintained relationships with Ethiopia, Djibouti, and South Africa, as well as the UK and Sweden. The Welsh Assembly also recognizes Somaliland as a separate entity, and in early 2006 it had invited the government to the Senedd royal opening in Cardiff. The African Union and the European Union have also sent delegates in the country to discuss plans on how to have the state acknowledged internationally. The country has pending Commonwealth application, but even so, the government was represented by a presidential delegate in Kampala, Uganda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2007. Even though the US does not extend former recognition to Somaliland, Johnnie Carson the State for African Affairs Assistant Secretary on September 24, 2010, stated that the US seek a deeper relationship with the Somali and Puntland Governments and will continue to support and aid the Somali Transitional Government. In 2011, Somaliland and Puntland Government entered a security-based memorandum of understanding with Seychelles.


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