Somaliland: The Country No One Will Recognize

In 1991 Somaliland declared independence. Still today no country will recognize Somaliland as an independent country.

The horn of Africa is torn with civil war, terrorist training camps and pirate hideouts. A region called Somaliland is fairly peaceful, stable and well run and yet no one will recognize the independence of this country.


Somaliland is bordered to the south by Somalia, the Gulf of Aden to the north and Ethiopia and Djibouti to the west. For many years, Somalia has been torn by civil war between the UN backed Transitional Federal Government and an extremist Islamic group, al-Shabaab. When al-Shabaab gains control, Ethiopia invades to put the TFG back in control. More foreigners are coming into Somalia to join the Islamic group while pirates attack ships from the coast into the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.

The History of Somalia and Somaliland

The British signed an agreement in 1884 establishing the protectorate of British Somaliland. To the south was the Italian Somaliland. In 1960, both the British and the Italians gave independence to both countries. For a few days in late July 1960, Somaliland was actually a recognized independent country. On July 1, 1960, the northern territory joined with the south to form the country of Somalia, with the capital in Mogadishu of the south. A 1969 coup in Mogadishu put General Mohamed Siyaad Barre in power. For the next 20 years there was a campaign against the north resulting in 500,000 refugees leading to a civil war in 1988.

In 1991, the main government of Somalia broke down when Muhammad Siyaad Barre was overthrown in a coup. At this time the former British Somaliland proclaimed the independent Republic of Somaliland. Since that time Somalia has been in complete turmoil. In 1993 US Army Rangers were killed in the famous “Black Hawk Down” incident while helping the UN. Warlords, terrorist and ethnic fighting continue today in Somalia. In the past several years attention has once again been drawn to Somalia as pirates hiding in the country attack and hijack everything from cruise ships to oil tankers off its coast.


While Somalia is in ruins with continuing war, Somaliland to the north and its capital city of Hargeysa are mostly quiet. Though in October 2008, three bomb blasts killed dozens of people in Hargeysa. Depending on which news agency you read, the bombs have been blamed on al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda with trying to cause instability in Somaliland or the opposition Kulmiye party [2].

There is no official boundary that marks the separation of the two countries. There have been recent clashes on the border with Somalia in the Sanaag and Sool regions of the Puntland. The border region of Puntland has recently declared it to be semi-autonomous state and does not want to be part of Somaliland. Somaliland claims this land as theirs since it was their land in the pre-1960 treaty when they were then the British Somaliland.

Somaliland is between Djibouti and the yellow line.

Since the 1991 proclamation of independence and no real government to the south, Somaliland has basically governed its own country. It has an elected president in Dahir Rayaale Kahin [1]. Presidential elections that were supposed to be held in April 2008 have been put off and rescheduled five times and still no election. There is speculation that the president has no intention of allowing elections and will follow in the footsteps of other African dictators such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who do not allow new or fair elections.

The people of Somaliland at one time believed that their land could withstand the troubles of the Horn of Africa and become a recognized country. At this time there is increasing anger and worry about the stalled elections and the time could be slipping away for recognized independence.

Arguments For Recognizing Somaliland

Proponents for separate country status point out that when the British gave independence to Somaliland in 1960, the UN, the United States and many other countries recognized Somaliland as a separate entity. And two days later Somaliland voluntarily joined with the newly independent country of Somalia and in accordance with international law, they have the right to abolish or put an end to that union, which they did in 1991 by proclaiming their independence. A May 2001 referendum showed that 97% of the 3.5 million people in Somaliland want independence.

Arguments Against Recognizing Somaliland

There are numerous recently recognized countries around the world like Eritrea, East Timor and the former Soviet and Yugoslavian countries. All have been recognized as their own countries, so why not Somaliland.

Some of the reasons and worry connected to formal recognition of Somaliland are:

· The UN backed reconciliation for all of Somalia under the TNG government will be derailed if there were to be recognition of Somaliland.

· Recognizing Somaliland as a separate country will open the door for more regions of Africa to secede from their current countries, causing more civil wars on the continent.

· There is still the problem of the border area of Puntland and the districts of Sanaag and Sool. Would the actual border include these regions, as they were when it was British Somaliland or along ethnic borders, which might not include these two regions.

· Fear that recognizing Somaliland will cause further war between the TNG and various groups.


The United States and other countries believe that it is up to the African Union (AU) to make the first move in recognizing Somaliland as an independent country. Once that happens, it could open up the door for other countries to recognize Somaliland as a separate country. The situation changes daily in Somalia and Somaliland, to stay updated, you can refer to references below.

© 2010 Sam Montana


[1] The name of the president is also spelled Dahir Riyale Kahin

[2] Markacadey Net

Photo of flag courtesy of

National Geographic


Voice of America

Center for Strategic and International Studies/Africa Forum

Somaliland Government

Harowo News

Somaliland Press

Wardheer News


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