Published On: Mon, Nov 26th, 2012

You Think You Know Somalia? Meet Somaliland

When people think of Somalia, they think of Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down. They think of South Park’s “Somalian Pirates We” episode. They even think of (sigh) Pirates of the Caribbean. What they don’t usually know is that Somalia has three extremely different regions, and that one of those regions is a fully functional unrecognized state.

The first region, Somalia, is the southern half of the former Italian Somaliland colony. This is the area most people think of, with Mogadishu and Islamic warlords and perpetually failing transitional governments (we’ll see about the new government formed in August 2012 in a few years). The tip of the country, to the north of the old Italian colony, is Puntland. Puntland is autonomous, governing itself with a central government, but it is not seeking independence.

The third section is Somaliland, the former British colony part of Somalia. It is a fully functioning state in all but name. They have an innovative legislature, a successful democratic system, an army and navy, and a presidency that has gone through several peacefully transfers of power. Sure, it is poor, but it conducts itself better than most states at its level of development. Its current development is actually being held up by the lack of recognition, as it cannot gain access to international loans or support for its currency.

Somaliland fits the definition of a state: it is a politically unified group of people that share a territory. Plus, it handles its own national defense – dealing with pirates and disarming militant tribal groups – effectively. It provides for public goods, and enables the private sector to do so when it cannot afford to. It has a strong shared history and common identity; they were a separate colony from the rest of Somalia, they were once before their own independent recognized country for a week in 1960, and they fought together against the dictator Siad Barre through the 1970s and 80s. Finally, it acts like a state on the world stage, with a foreign minister and multiple foreign delegations that have traveled to the U.S., Ethiopia, the UK, and elsewhere seeking recognition.

So why isn’t this nation recognized by any government or intergovernmental organization in the world? Mostly, they are all holding off for the regional IGO, the African Union (AU) to recognize them first. There are two reasons that the AU cites for not recognizing Somaliland: that it goes against the tradition of respecting original borders, and that it will encourage other unrecognized nations to try to attain statehood.

First, not recognizing Somaliland goes against the tradition of respecting original borders. OK, I should explain a bit. No African state wants anyone to reexamine their old colonial borders, even though those borders are often arbitrary and cut through traditional ethnic lines. Why not? Because their colonial borders are overreaching, and if the borders are reexamined, the current states will lose more territory to new countries than they would gain. However, Somaliland and the rest of Somalia were separate colonies. They were even separate countries for a brief time before voluntarily uniting. When the united country concentrated all power in the south, then was taken over by a dictator, Somaliland decided they wanted out of that union. They then had to fight a war to get out, which they won. Now the international community won’t recognize that independence.

As to the other point – that it will encourage other unrecognized nations to try to attain statehood – Somaliland’s situation is a unique one. As explained above, their history and the completeness of their national institutions make their case a hard one to duplicate. Even then, what about when Eritrea and South Sudan gained independence? Besides, this is a classic slippery slope argument; they’re the ones with the power to decide exactly which states are recognized, so even if it is a slippery slope, they’ve got pretty solid climbing spikes to stop the slide.

This is not to say there is no reason we should be cautious in supporting recognition. Vast cash flows will flow through the country as aid and loans pour in after recognition. Many theorize that this will strain the democracy and create incentive for factions to seize power in the government. I believe they can take it, however. They have surprised the West before with their tenacity. The Somaliland people have gone through extremely close elections, reluctant lame ducks, tribal divisions, armed militants, and piracy over the last 20 years without losing touch of their democracy. Let’s not doom them to failure before we give them a chance.

If I can suggest something to you, the American people, it is to pay attention to what is happening in Somalia. It is a complicated and fascinating area, and it deserves attention. Oh, and part of it happens to be a huge Al-Qaeda stronghold (ah, so now you pay attention).

By John Ford | Policymic



Displaying 42 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Abdiwahab says:

    the boundries of somaliland is completely wrong this xaartumo project is crumbling and bintiland will have to jump before getting pushed arrrrggghhh, the borders of somaliland is the same as its colonial status before 1960 and when recognition comes our borders will be fully under our sovereign control no doubt
    viva somaliland down with our enemies who act in shirk activities

  2. Ali says:

    This Rubbish Map is misleading and incorrect! Somaliland is much bigger than what your bloody drawings above shows and there is isn't anything called Khaatumo fyi.

  3. Cumar says:

    Dhulbalaadhsi bay ku jiraan, They think inventing a map and laying claim will give them land that doesn't belong to them. Dream on Puntland and their Faqash kalkaalayaal.

    • Cumar says:

      This is the handy work of Keyse, no doubt. loooooooooooooooooooooooooool. Somalilandpress is really messed up posting opinions that are so outragous hahah, your limited journalistic credential has been compromised.

  4. ABDI says:


  5. Buuxiye says:

    2-STATES formed a voluntary UNION in 1960 each entered this UNION with a fixed internationally recognized border. Somaliland and Somalia each had a distinct border on the 1st Jul 1960 and these two states joined their borders to form the Somali-Republic.

    18 May 1991 that Union was dissolved by Somaliland when it reclaimed it's sovereignty and former borders to establish the Somaliland republic that had 35 States recognize it's sovereignty on the 26th Jun 1960.

    The Union was formed by voluntary action and demand of the Somaliland population via Majority choice.

    For anyone to respect the Dissolved UNION then that person must understand the same Majority within Somaliland that wanted the UNION have withdrawn from that UNION in 1991 ALMOST 21years ago!!!

    If you can't respect the MAJORITY vote for INDEPENDENCE in 1991 then you have no respect for the MAJORITY vote that fought for UNION in 1960.

    You cannot choose to respect the UNION but however disrespect the INDEPENDENCE both were choice of the MAJORITY of Somaliland's population.

    As the for the Map it reflects the unstable nature of the population of Somalia comprising pirates, shabab, warlords and smugglers. The disputed territories within Somaliland are mere day dreams of individuals who destroyed the Somali-Republic and will continue to destroy Somalia however Somaliland entered into the UNION with a specific border which it had prior to 1884 and it has withdrawn from the Somali-Republic through a peaceful referendum where Majority voted for INDEPENDENCE.

    Somaliland has a DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED President.
    Somalia has a Ethnicity SELECTED President.

    Somaliland government controls 90% of its state territory peacefully.
    Somalia government has Amisom control 10% of it's state territory aggressively.

    Somaliland's Majority chose Independence Above 90%.
    Somalia's Politics is based on a government chosen by 271 former warlords and terrorists less the 1%.

    Somaliland government delivers some services to 90% of the State's territory.
    Somalia government delivers no service to 100% of it's state.

    The only viable proposition that is Somalia be placed under a Trusteeship either with Somaliland or Djibouti or Jointly so that a system of governance can be setup for Somalia which functions and prevents the state's existence of the perpetual verge of war and invasions.

    Without Amisom presence Somalia will return to the status of a failed state and Refusal of Somaliland's right to choose an independent trajectory free from piracy, terror and Somalia's perpetual conflicts is far too much of a punishment to endure beyond the past 21years.

    The Young in Somaliland who are aware that the IC has ignored the democratic choice of it's state and as a result they are without jobs will certainly have a soft spot for groups like that of Shabab and worse those who profiteer from piracy or Hostage taking. Unless the 2-STATE dialogue process initiated in London does not conclude with two Mutually respective States along the borders of PreUnion Somaliland and Somalia the last 21years will seems like a walk in the park. 70% of the population is below 30 and will not accept the status quo imposed on them and they will migrate in large numbers. I don't see why Somaliland shouldn't turn a blind eye and allow every Port city to begin profiteering from Ethiopian migration to Yemen. Zaila, Lughaya, Berbera, Maidh, Laas Qoray are all ports that are much nearer for the 90Million Ethiopians who wish to escape Africa and enter the middle east. That is a potential multi Billion Dollar transport industry.

    Prevention is always cheaper then Rehabilitation.

    • Proud Puntish says:

      Don’t you ever get tired of repeating the same BS. Be creative and come up with something maaaaan!

      • Buuxiye says:

        Fact is Somaliland can assert itself within its PreUnion borders.
        Fact is Somaliland has the right to adopt a shoot to kill policy to prevent foreigners that threaten it's borders.

        Puntland is nearing a fragile time in it's history and come 9th Jan 2013 be glad somalilanders love peace and know this that peace loving population is nearing it's retirement!

        Major Fact: Any Border conflict will destroy the lives of Harti ONLY.

        Swallow that!

        • alinuur says:

          yea-yea,fake unknow border.remember everybody has a Gun in somalia,shooting will not be ONE WAY.
          Puntland it's not fragile as you wish but storng state.ANY major war will not only destroy Harti but also isaq as a whole.let the party start.

          • Buuxiye says:


            Siuad barre and his 30,000 troops had more weapons then you and had the lastest weapons from USA and USSR and it took 3000Somaliland civilians to make them get on their Knees…

            :) 22 years later Somalia is still spinning around headless, next time we will go for full occupation of your Desert: Bari, Nugaal and Mudug will be turned into 3-separate colonies of Somaliland.

          • alinuur says:

            ahaaa,in reality you didn't defeat barre/afweyne his regime but TIME defeated.before you come to PUNTLAND first settle Khaatumo specailly hardcore fighters in Buhoodle than we can go final round DO or DIE.let the party start.

    • Irir Samaale says:

      You saying "Somaliland's Majority chose Independence Above 90%" is like saying Somalia had a free
      and fair referendum in august 1979's for a new one party only state constitution under Siad Barre and were overwhelmingly 99% in favor come of it pro.

      • Buuxiye says:


        Somaliland was short changed from day-1 of the 1960 Union. Somaliland was given the status of a Province and our people stayed calm so as to protect the NEW Union and desire to bring the remaining 3-regions.

        It was a struggle every since the Union began and we made every sacrifice possible and Somalia's Mafia continued to abuse our kindness. From 1961 Somaliland opposed the political corruption however chose to solve matter with dialogue. When our people were targeted from Air and land for extermination we both know how we reacted.

        Somalilanders will always choose dialogue when that option is available, the day that dialogue no longer exists we will chase you and your fake government into the indian ocean.

  6. Gaade says:

    Lol this is Somaliareport produced map!!! That says a lot.

  7. kader ahmed yacin says:

    I wonder,whether this site is a mouthpiece of Somalia.If not so please try to edit your articles before publishing.
    Look at the map.This is a disgrace to your site

  8. I Jama says:

    Dealing with facts is something lost on some. Don't you think? if not? You may still be lost in the wood. Lol

  9. UK :) says:

    Dear Writer,
    Firstly, the al-qaeda stronghold isn't in Somaliland. It is occupied by the Puntland administration. Do some research.
    Secondly, all the piracy activity doesn't happen in somaliland coast. It happens in Somalia.
    Thirdly, after British Somaliland had their 1 weak independece they have agreed to join the itallian somaliland and sign papers. All the evidence is in the Capital of Somalia, Mogadishu.
    Most importantly, Sudan and South Sudan split apart because they had different religion and they are different people. Same with East Timor and Indonesia – different religion and different people. Honk Kong and China didn't split apart because they know they are the same people and perhaps the same religon. The same case with Somalia and Somaliland – Same people, Same religion, One nation. If Somaliland wants independant then other states within Somalia wants independant. And in the end there will be about 20 Somali countries that the International Communities need to help.

    One more think

    I am not Somali, however, some people say that Somaliland (Isaaq) are One clan and are occupying other Clans properties Such us the Dhulbahante Clan and the Warsengali Clan for the Harti Clan due to land.

    • I Jama says:

      No one including this author said Somaliland was associated with Alqaieda. Pay attention. He said Somalia is fascinating and he used Alqeida to as an attention grabber for the more skeptical of Somalia not Somaliland. Please learn the difference because this author has made this difference very clear. Somalia may equal Alqeida whilst Somaliland is supported as not part of it. Kaaapiish

    • S/land says:

      How can it lead to 20 + somali countries when Somaliland uniquely has colonial borders that makes it different from the others?

    • Hoodo says:


      Hahahaha. You made me laugh dude. Are you Mongolian? Hahaha I wish all Mongolians knew the clan structures of somalilanders that well.I smell big time fagash imposter here.

    • A. Jamal says:

      Here we do not talk about religion and people . Please do not mislead people with your cheap ideas come to realty that there were two country that came into a bogus unity that did not bring any development to the mankind. what is all this gibberish of clans trying to impose racial hatred among the people who are living in a good harmony. the people or the majority have decided and if you're trying to deny their decision then you're not a normal person either your sick or a jealous.

    • Raage says:

      Funny that you said you are not Somali, but you not only know the clan structure of Somaliland, but you can spell the different clan names in Somali script more than you can the English language.

  10. HawiyeDuck says:

    Puntland is inploding, it needs to accept democracy, abandon tribalism and land claims and learn to best deal with its own citizens. Don't chew more than you can handle

  11. mohamed cheers says:

    The Article's arbitrarily intriguing enough? Let's see what happens?

  12. Allemagan says:


    This one sided propoganda piece. To write a complete story about the situation in northern Somalia or what you call here Somaliland (sic.), you must visit all parts of the region to reveal the truth. Mr. Ford, did you visit Sool or eastern Sanag to see if all the people in what used to be the former British Protectorate of Somaliland are part of this misguided one tribe secession project? If not, we'll only see your article as shilling or a paid advertisment for separatists.

    • Allemagan says:

      This is one sided propoganda piece … that is

    • John says:

      I wasn't paid anything for this. It is an opinion piece, and its original purpose in the original (American) site that I published it on ( was just to let American audiences know they should pay attention to and research the issue.

    • Allemagan says:


      Before you paint a glowing picture of the politics of a region you are not familiar with and before you encourage any audience to pay attention to a particular issue, you should first research the issue first. The Sool and eastern Sanag regions of northern Somalia which constitute half the land mass of what used to be former British Protectorate of Somaliland is not part of the separatist movement in the region. As I write this note, there are no elections taking place in those areas.

      To keep yourself more informed about the current situation in the region, you do not need to go far. Read this link on SomalilandPress for an update of the latest events in the region.

      • John says:

        I understand that there is a territorial dispute with Puntland and that the situation is more complicated than a page and half blog post could communicate effectively. I would like to say that most countries have territory disputes, and that many are armed, and that shouldn't be an argument against recognition (

        I also understand that, compared to the local people that my article has gained the attention of, I have gotten a bit over my head. My article was intended for Americans. My experience is purely based on academic and second-hand sources, so any additional perspectives and information you can introduce me to would be appreciated. That was actually my closing point in the article in the last paragraph, that we (Americans) should try to learn more about the region, since it is more complicated than most Americans think.

        Thank you for that link, it was very interesting.

  13. Hoodo says:

    Fagash dameeradiina ka baxsan wayeen hahaha faroole xansiiga ayu uduweey all donkeys in qardho bukhland because he thinks all the donkeys are against his so called administration. Hahahahh fagash will do anything for kursi hahahaha.

  14. Khaatumo Citizen says:

    loool your girl friend wrote it for you? what a joker, perhaps you should consider pursuing a career in Stand up Comedy. my last relationship I had with a non-Somali, I told him my dad owns a whole region in Somalia and guess what he believed me.
    we Somalis won't allow some illegal invaders so called fake borders to divide our nation and No matter what, unity is always a key, United we stand, divided we fall besides we Somalis share more than what divides us.

  15. Khaatumo Citizen says:

    Lesson learned. Wiqooyi tried to get recognition for years. Koonfur tried war for many years and both didn't work. Let's come together as one People. like Somalis say Buda qabe iyo biyo qabe waa isku baahan yihiin, (we all need each other).

    my advice to Separatist who came into existence in May 18th 1992 is to quit yapping and define themselves as what their forefathers once called themselves, You Embarrassing Us All real Northern Somalis.

    besides, how's everyone? lool

  16. HELLO says:

    This site is FAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The original article is on:

    Wrong Picture


    • John says:

      This was a copied article, and I was not made aware that it was being re-posted by SomalilandPress. It is not propaganda though, since I do not work for, or have any association with whatsoever, the Somaliland government.

  17. Kayse says:

    You think you know United States? Meet Texas. Like parts of north Somalia, few minorities also believe in their heads there is such thing as Republic of Texas.

    • Buuxiye says:

      How about we meet Bantustan???

      :) Muahahaha

      Your SELECTED President has his hand held by a Ugandan to go toilet, While our ELECTED President walks among his people in the city center of Hargiesa.

      You people are disgusting!

  18. Jamal says:

    I ask why did Somaliland join the chaotic Southern Italian colony in the first place? Secondly, I wish to remind a contributor by the name UK that states don't seek independence or come together only on the basis of sharing religion or physical/demographic characteristics. The examples UK has cited like Indonesia/Eat Timor, Sudan/South Sudan are just but coincidences. What will he say of the former West Germany/East Germany? Essentially a nation state is defined by people of shared interest and aspirations. This could be shared values, culture, long term experiences etc. In fact both in the old and well as new philosophies regarding nation-state, religion is NOT one of the factors. It is public knowledge that Somaliland people are more glued together with the long years of state sanctioned isolation, marginalization and finally, systematic genocide from the Siad Barre regime. This experience is more important as rallying call for their nationhood and independence than what other quarters mention like shared religion. Lastly, self determination is a decision of the people, not leaders or politicians; and from what I have learnt, the sovereign people of Somaliland voted overwhelmingly in a referendum declaring the North's separation from the South.

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