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Somaliland, known by its constitutional name Republic of Somaliland, is an unrecognized breakaway state and de jure Somalian territory. Authorities in Somalia lay claim to the de facto independent territory with the rest of the United Nations member nations and non-member observer states backing Somalia's territorial claim. Their independence is due to a combination of older colonialism and armed conflict.


Scramble for Africa[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Scramble for Africa

The current troubles between Somalia and Somaliland stem from the Scramble for Africa when Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, and Ottoman Turkey began colonizing Africa. Tensions between European colonists and indigenous tribes fueled frequent conflict. The situation for the indigenous tribes became worse due to racism, infighting and nationalism among all of them. The British and French gained a strong foothold in north Africa, thanks to their advanced technology and medicine for that period of time as well as infighting among various tribes.[1] The British had control over the northern portion of the Horn of Africa until 1889 when Italy invaded and took over most the territory.

Modern history[edit]

Italy, which already had a hold on southern Somalia, invaded the British colony and largely taking control of it; in 1939 Italian Somaliland was merged with Italian East Africa.[2] This was fueled by the tensions between Ethiopia and Italy. When World War 2 began, France, which sought out allies against Nazi Germany, made a draft treaty between them and Italy that involved ceding territory to Italy. However, the treaty was never ratified. When Italy took control of Ethiopia, their new territory completely surrounded French and British Somaliland, making it ripe for invasion. In 1935, Italy under Benito Mussolini annexed Ethiopia and merged it with Italian Somaliland. Predictably, this imperialistic land grab led to violence between the people living in Ethiopia, Somaliland and the invaders. This culminated in the Italo-Ethiopian War and ended with Ethiopia falling under Italian control.[3] When World War 2 officially began, French and British Somaliland fell under Italian military occupation. In 1939, the allied forces began a military campaign in northern Africa against Italy. This conflict lasted till the Allied Forces victory. After the war, all but French Somaliland found itself under British civil administration. Ethiopia, British Somaliland and Italian Somalia engaged in small skirmishes until Ethiopia gained control of the British Somaliland territory which they claimed sovereignty over and what remained of Italian Somalia went back to Somalia. When this happened, Somalia would begin the process of independence from the UK.[4]

Current conflict between Somaliland and Somalia[edit]

Somaliland independence fighters pose for the camera.

On July 1, 1960 a completely united Somalia declared independence from the UK. This is when the current conflict took off. After years of colonialism, racism and cultural divide, a civil war began.[5] General Said Barre came into power after a military coup and ruled the country as a totalitarian dictatorship. Civil liberties were restricted as opposition leaders, journalists, academics, and civilians suffered severe brutality from the Somalian government. Small scale insurgencies boiled over into a deadly civil war that is still ongoing to this day. Places such as Somaliland sustained severe damage from a near genocidal conflict with the people of Somaliland. This began a war of independence that created an independent Somaliland for a few decades before rejoining Somalia until 1991.[6] Said Barre was ousted by rebels thus ending the dictatorship in 1991, only to cause a power vacuum with nobody knowing who was in charge. Political parties, warlords, clans and tribes took control of various parcels of land.[7]


The Somaliland House of Representatives.

The government of the Republic of Somaliland is a hybrid system mixed between Sharia, traditional Somali customary law (xeer), and Westernized governmental systems. The separatist held territory is lead by a president. A legislature votes on national laws. A judiciary branch manages legal affairs within the nation, much like the United States Supreme Court. Women do not get any real representation.[8]

Human rights (or lack there of)[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Human rights

Being what amounts to a theocracy, the human rights situation is dismal. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of religion are often oppressed by the government. Arbitrary arrests are commonplace.[9] Criticism of the government generally results in arrest. Any depiction of the flag of Somalia is illegal. Religious minorities are targeted by the government.[10] Female genital mutilation is very common. Racism is a serious problem as ethnic minorities face severe oppression with militias frequently killing those people.[11]

Government instability[edit]

Despite de facto independence and having a stable government during a deadly civil war, not everything is going well for the separatist authorities. Due to the lack of civil liberties and the illegal occupation of territory in Puntland, the stability of the Somaliland separatist government is being affected.[12] While the US and UK have made security deals with separatist authorities, in context of the "One Somalia Policy", some residents of the breakaway state are demanding reunification with Somalia. Protesters have torn down Somaliland flags and replaced them with the flags of Somalia. [13]

Over 200 people were killed in fighting between Somaliland authorities and clan militias in the town of Las Anod in early 2023. The "local clans" of Las Anod would prefer to be governed by the federal Somali government over the separatist Somaliland government. Continued fighting in the region is precipitated by a crippling drought. The Las Anod Hospital has been virtually obliterated by shelling from Somaliland forces, and there were over 1000 wounded as of March 6, 2023. Puntland wants to dislodge Somaliland from the Sool region, where Las Anod is located, but Somaliland won't give these territories up easily because to do so would hurt their bid for international recognition.[14]

International recognition[edit]

The Republic of Somaliland lacks recognition of its sovereignty by any country. The main reason behind Somaliland's lack of recognition is that it could further destabilize the Horn of Africa region. Due to loopholes in international law, many companies have set up shop in the separatist held territory.[15] The lack of recognition might change. Taiwan and Somaliland have become major economic partners. Taiwan has even opened up a representative office in Somaliland.[16]

According to Ahmed Hadi, founder of a Mogadishu-based think tank, continuation of the above-mentioned fighting in the Sool region and its effects on civilians there will damage Somaliland's reputation and "hurt its bid for international recognition."[14]


The GDP per capita of Somaliland is the fourth lowest in the world, and huge socioeconomic problems need to be addressed by the Somaliland government in order to create a functioning country. These socioeconomic problems include a 70% rate of unemployment among the young and a high rate of illiteracy amongst women and the elderly.[17][18]

The economic situation isn't helped by Somaliland's almost total diplomatic isolation on the world stage, as donors of international aid find it particularly difficult to get aid to Somaliland in the first place. Somaliland instead gets most of its revenue through tax remittances and aid from the Somali diaspora.[19]


  1. Somali Link, Retrieved May 30, 2022.
  2. Britannica, May 31, 2022.
  3., Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  4. Britannica, Retrieved on May 31, 2022.
  5. Colonization of Somalia, Retrieved on May 31, 2022.
  6. Google Books, Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  7. Organization for World Peace, Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  8. World Atlas, Retrieved June 3, 2022.
  9. HRC, Retrieved June 3, 2022.
  10. Human Rights Watch, Retrieved June 3, 2022.
  11. Web Archive-Freedom House, Retrieved June 3, 2022.
  12. Zwaya, Retrieved on Jan 17, 2023.
  13. [ People's Dispatch], Retrieved on Jan 17, 2023.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Over 200 Killed in Fighting in Disputed Somaliland Town" - Voice of America News. Published March 6, 2023.
  15. SPECPOL, Retrieved on June 4, 2022.
  16. Yahoo News, Retrieved June 4, 2022.
  17. "New World Bank GDP and Poverty Estimates for Somaliland". 
  19. Daniel Harris with Marta Foresti 2011. Somaliland's progress on governance: A case of blending the old and the new Archived entry. London: Overseas Development Institute