Published On: Fri, Aug 26th, 2011

In Somaliland, less money has brought more democracy

Unable to access foreign aid, Somaliland’s government has had to negotiate with citizens and business leaders for financial support – and provide stability and democracy in return

HARGEISA — As the humanitarian crisis in southern Somalia threatens millions of lives, Somalia’s little-known northern neighbour, Somaliland, is doing so well that its government recently offered to send aid across the border. That a small and relatively poor country that is also suffering from the ongoing drought would be in a position to help Somalia is itself remarkable; that Somaliland achieved this position without being officially recognised by the international community as a sovereign nation – and thus without being eligible for international assistance – is truly impressive.

Cars clog a main road in Hargeisa, capital of the breakaway region of Somaliland. Photograph: Shashank Bengali/Getty Images

Cars clog a main road in Hargeisa, capital of the breakaway region of Somaliland. Photograph: Shashank Bengali/Getty Images

But have Somaliland’s accomplishments come in spite of its ineligibility for foreign assistance, or because of it? Somaliland’s success – providing peace, stability and democracy in a region where all are scarce – is in large part due to the fact that the government has never received foreign aid. Because Somaliland’s government cannot access funding from the World Bank, IMF, or other major donors, officials were forced to negotiate with citizens and business leaders for financial support. This negotiation created the responsive political institutions that, in turn, have allowed the nation to fare relatively well in recent years and in the current crisis.

Somaliland was part of Somalia until 1991, when it seceded during the country’s civil war. When Somaliland first declared independence, its government was built around a single clan and lacked accountable political institutions. Business leaders eventually agreed to provide funds, but not until the government agreed to develop representative and accountable political institutions (a concession that politicians made only out of necessity, as it weakened their own grasp on power).

In one notable incident, the government was forced to implement democratic reforms in exchange for tax revenues from Somaliland’s main port. These revenues total less than $30m a year – a fraction of the more than $100m the government would have received from aid organisations if Somaliland had been eligible for international assistance. It is difficult to imagine that the owners of the port would have been able to exact the same concessions if the government had other funding options.

As a result of these negotiations over tax revenue, Somaliland has become an exceptional democracy. It has held multiple presidential, parliamentary and district-level elections. It has seen multiple peaceful handovers of power, including to a minority clan. It even survived a presidential election that was decided by an 80-vote margin without resorting to violence.

While the government’s limited finances prevent it from providing an ideal level of public goods, the stability it has ensured has led to an economic revival, massive gains in primary schooling, and significant reductions in infant mortality. It has also been able to facilitate a strong response to the current food shortages, which is evident in this World Food Programme map of the current incidence of famine. To be sure, there is still much work to be done but, in context, Somaliland’s accomplishments are, in the words of Human Rights Watch, “both improbable and deeply impressive”.

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Of course, one might wonder whether Somaliland’s experiences can be generalised. In fact, the idea that government dependency on local tax revenues makes it more accountable has a strong historical pedigree. Political scientists and historians have long argued that the modern, representative state emerged in medieval Europe in large part as the result of negotiations between autocratic governments that needed tax revenues to survive inter-state conflicts and citizens who demanded accountability in return. Only recently, though, have development professionals have begun to recognise the implications of this line of research for modern development policy.

Certainly, not all foreign assistance is bad. Aid has clear benefits against which the potential harms discussed here must be weighed on a case-by-case basis. In a country like Nigeria, where the government has ample access to oil revenues, foreign assistance is unlikely to affect the relationship between citizens and the government. In many countries, though, aid is the largest single source of government revenue; there are 16 sub-Saharan countries in which the ratio of foreign assistance to government expenditure is greater than 50%, and in 10 of those, this ratio is greater than 75%. If these aid levels damage the quality of governance in recipient countries – as Somaliland’s experience suggests they may – then it might be the case that, in the long run, less money may actually do more good.

Source: The Guardian | 26 August 2011

Displaying 29 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Prof Hersi says:

    Money is not a solution but it has to be the means of solving problems or needs. However, all this money poured to Somalia has proven to be used wrongly. good example is that of 90s called restore-hope. The piracy money and other drug related money add fuel to the existing fire in Somalia. I believe that the problem of Somalia can be solved by Somalis but there are no honest Somalis right now and i don't think that foriegn aid will bring peace and tranquility in Somalia. The case of Somaliland is totally different, it came from grassroots and survivors from the genocide. It is those who made the somaliland' genocide who are commiting the same thing in somalia.

  2. Anisa says:

    I agree with this article – Maybe we are stronger as a nation because of the lack of aid! and may Allah help us get stronger, they say 'God works in mysterious ways' so maybe the fact that we have yet to be recognised has been a blessing in disguise. I hope if/when we do get recognition we don't sell our souls and expect foreign aid to run our country.

  3. Saleebaan Xaaji says:

    An excellent article. Onwards and upwards.

  4. Sabriye says:

    Mayd gubow, khamri yacab yohow caloosha dheer leg iyo dhiladaad futada waynba nolosha ayaan idinku gubi sidaad u gubteen Lixle oo kale.

  5. Amal says:

    27 Years ago he assassinated M.Haashi Lixle and burn his corpses. Today he is leading us and we are demanding justice or we will start another civil war.

  6. mohamed says:

    Labadii xaqdaro Ku heshiiya xaqay Ku dagaalamaan.

  7. cawo says:

    kan ay kaga dhegtay Lixle ILAAHAY naxriitii jano ha ka waraabiyo lixle magaciisaad ma qashee noo daa magaca waar yaa kudaafad yohow. lixle magaciisaad ka garataa wuxuu u taagnaa qiimaha 600 oo nin markaa ninkan ilaa ayamahan oo dhan qoraya magac lixle waxaan ku odhan lahaa adigoo kale ma soo hadal qaadi karo rabadaanta barakaysan baanu kaaga xishoonaynaa kudaafad yohow reer pirateland nooga bax webka

  8. M.H.Buraleh says:

    Days of SNM lies are numbered,clan line parties,corruption and hates of others will go no where, Awdal & SSC States are on the rise,goodby SNM and cronies

    • Guleed says:


      Awdal & SSC are part and parcel of Somaliland. Only sick and begrudged morons like you who are consumed by hatred and inferiority complex entertain your corrupt thinking.

  9. cawo says:

    kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk fadhi ku dirir xornimada computer lagama xoreeyo wadan waaloo dhintaa taasna diyaar uma tihidin pirateland

  10. Xussen says:

    Mash'Allah, everything you see in Somaliland is for Somaliland by Somalilanders….I use to be anti-Somaliland …dreaming of a United Somalia …but it only makes sense for Somaliland to progress and move forward with or without foreign aid.

  11. abdi says:

    praise and thanks to god,,, Allah made us victorious.

  12. Wali says:

    We recall conflicts between the current president and Mohamed H. Diuriye "Lixle" but who can say SNM assassinated him. It Ramadan and people do not like to recall the past errors of our struggle and losses of our beloved ones. Although, today we have chronic corruption and mismanagement in the core of Simaliland government it is our responsibility as citizens to stop it.

  13. jama says:

    The reality is we been thru many problems but we missed to reconcile our differences. There was a war between Isaq sub clans and it added fuel to situation. The current government must minimize the corruption and mis management.

  14. said says:

    tighter had differences but we mishandled in the past because we couldn't figured out. There was assassinations and we could not figure out how to reconciled. But now let us do it. We not need to show weakness. And let us talk to other tribes like Dhulbahante to associate with us. We never gave the visible share why we blame them if they reject us. If we suppress each other it will cause our doom.

  15. Kaydali says:


    The article is misleading and void of all truths about the real situation of the so-called Somaliland, a clannish enclave that wants not only to secede illegally from Somalia but also wants to compel other unionist clans of the region to follow its suite. All that the author has presented in the article is a rehash of the usual propoganda, often spread to the media by foreign proponents of this secessionist clan. It is common knowledge that these foreign proponents are normally entertained in Hargeisa and then they present a “rosey” picture with dulcifying propogandistic stories of which this article typifies.

    It is clear that the author was only confined to Hargeisa and dare not say the least from the other parts of what used to be Birtish Somaliland. These parts include SSC and Awdal where thei people fiercely oppose the secession and moreso, the author deliberately aviods to mention the war that is currently going on in the SSC regions. The war is clearly between the secessionist clan, namely the Isaaq and the Harti clan which is from the larger clan of Darood.

    The author also wants us to believe that Somaliland did not and does not receive foreign aid – what a rubbish. Nothing is further from the truth, the UK government alone has only this year disproportionately doubled its aid to the enclave and likewise all other governments of the EU and US have been aiding the enclave.

    Lastly if the author thinks that this clannish entity has sent some aid to their famine-stricken brothers and sisters in the South and therefore deserves international recognition, the people of Puntland, Galmudug, Awdal and in fact from all other parts of Somalia have too sent aid to their brothers and sisters in the South. The question that begs for question is – Don�t Puntland and Galmudug too deserve an outright international recognition?

    The international community knows the real situation of this entity and is mature enough not to head a prpoganda like this one, given in the article and hence the internartional community can not give a recognition to ONLY ONE of the five clans that are home to what used to be a British Somaliland.


    • Ali says:

      @ Kaydali,

      I am used to listen to unsubstantiated arguments from Faqash groups, but this is the most idiotic comment ever from the orphans of the dictator ,Siyaad Barre. for argument sack let me agree with your false argument and say that Isaaq is one of five clans in Somaliland (which is not true), but do you deny that Isaaq make up 80% of Somalilanders, well, unless you are immoral to accept this fact you will agree with the rest of the world that the majority of Isaaq, Dhulbahante and Gedabursi are all for Somaliland and this will be 99% of Somaliland.

      Tell me who is left to be against Somaliland, your pirate and warlord infested Somalia? who on earth will listen to pirate and warlord like you? unless you come to your senses and accept the reality I guarentee that you will be crying for long time to come, just safe some tears for the coming fifty years or so.

  16. Ayaan badan says:

    Recognize it already!
    Forget timid AU and do it, Britain owes this to the people of British Somaliland!
    and all its citizens that fought under the Kings Rifles…

    by ayan

  17. Ayaan badan says:

    “Aid has clear benefits…” You don’t state these.

    Your article clearly shows that dependency on development aid is harmful to poorer countries. There is little evidence that this kind of bilateral or unilateral aid is beneficial at all; from what I’ve read over the years, the disadvantages to the poor far outweigh any temporary relief. It’s time to halt the flow and look to alternatives such as private-sector investment. Read a book like Dead Aid for a coherent argument.

  18. Saleebaan Xaaji says:

    Burraleh and Kaydali,

    Cry me a river!! Somaliland marches on,and you are your ilk are lost in its wake. Find something better than shed bitter tears on Somaliland websites.

  19. warya says:

    My fellow Somalilanders,

    I have personally stopped responding to these losers who come on this site to simply insult, belittle and undermine Somaliland and its people's accomplishments. These people are extremely low, they openly lie, use fake names and spread mischief. Their only goal is to turn this wonderful news site into another of their PALTALK dumping grounds. So let us not indulge this nonsense!

    I suggest we all READ the article and stick to the topic being discussed. This way, we will benefit each other and possibly come up with some new ways to tackle Somaliland's various challenges. We never know, perhaps some of the government bodies visit this site to gain a better understanding of how the diaspora feels and thinks.

    Just think, how much greater Somaliland can become in ANOTHER 20 years inshallah! So let us smile, be proud, and work hard towards that.

  20. Hargeisawi-In-London says:


    Yep! Could not agree more!

  21. ali says:


    could not agree more,,, i believe the administration of this website failed to keep this place hate and insult free environment.

  22. Gobaad says:

    Ali and warya, I definitely agree with you. These despicable individuals are consumed by hate, xin u xoogwyenaan, xaasidnimo iyo muraara dicaa by our patience dspite provoking Somaliland time and again to pick a fight, by our progress, achievements, and unity. It is just laughable, how piracyland try to speak on behalf of others such as our citizens dhulbahante, warsangeli, and even for Adalites. What a joke! What should I say, except that desperate people do desperate things!

    • amal says:

      That's so true. These hateful people wish they could do something to destroy Somaliland but they can't do anything so they breakdown in the most lowest form. And our unity just kills them even more

  23. qalinle says:

    Dhulo ma xishooto.

  24. yousef says:

    جمهورية الصومال أو دولة أرض الصومال كلها تمللك ثروات هائلة حقيقة تفوق تلك الموجودة في الدول المجاورةالمستقرة ولكن ألاعلام له دور كبير في طمس تلك
    الحقيقة وجعل منهما الجدار الخفي للعمليات ألامريكية والغربية أضافة لليهودية القذرة . أكيد هناك من يخالفني الرأى ولكن هي الحقيقة !!!!!!وكما يقولو العرب لا يوجد
    كراسي دائما كذالك الحال لذا أهيب بصناع القرار خصوصا في أرض الصومال لابد من ألاعتماد على ألايدي العاملة مثل ما فعلت تايون من أكبر الدول المصنعة مع
    أنها دون أعتراف.شكرا

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