Somaliland CyberSpace


Prepared by
Hargeisa, Somaliland
May 31, 2004


1.1 Purpose of the Report

This report combines findings of a desk study and a follow-up fieldwork. Its aim is to review Somaliland history and current status in order to identify causes and contributors to the escalation and de-escalation of conflict.

The desk study was carried out from September – November 2003. Bulhan wrote the desk study when he was the Executive Director of the Academy for Peace and Development – an organization he cofounded in 1999 and led from its inception to January 31, 2004. The contributors to the desk study included the staff of the Academy who in part drew from work they carried out in collaboration with WSP International.

The fieldwork was carried out from March – May 2004 by the staff of the Center for Creative Solutions. It used different methods of data collection including observations, key informant interviews, focus groups, and informal group discussions. The fieldwork was to reassess the desk study findings, the relevant key variables, and conclusions. In addition, the fieldwork was to amplify and deepen understanding of the current problems and future prospects of Somaliland.

1.2 The Center for Creative Solutions

This report is prepared by the Center for Creative Solutions based in Hargeisa Somaliland. The Center was established in 1995 and registered then as Center for Health and Development. The Center changed its original name for two reasons.

Firstly, the priorities of the Center expanded beyond its initial health agenda to wider policy and systemic concerns in post-conflict situations. Secondly, the Center builds on the observation that the mosaic of problems prevalent in post-conflict situation force people to worry about and get stuck with the pressing problems at hand, not on strategies and methods that solve these problems.

In short, the Center encourages its staff and associates to think creatively to contribute to political, economic, social, and technological solutions in post-conflict situation.

1.3 Selection of Focus Issue for Fieldwork

The desk study examined the status and development of Somaliland since 1991 using the CAF.1 The fieldwork was carried in order to:

- Validate or replace desk study information;
- Fill knowledge gaps on specific issues;
- Deepen knowledge (both information and views) on these issues; and
- Gauge views and concerns of informants from different groups;
- Identify solutions and offer recommendations for change.

Initially, twelve focus issues (out of the thirty CAF variables) were selected for further research through fieldwork in Somaliland because:

- They seemed salient problems in the political, social and economic history of Somaliland since 1991, following the collapse of the dictatorial regime;
- They appeared pertinent to the escalation or de-escalation of conflict in Somaliland;
- Some of them intensified or alleviated poverty in Somaliland.

1.4 Change in Focus Issues

In the middle of the fieldwork, we found the need to make changes in how we approach the study and write up the report. Following the CAF categories mechanically seemed counter-productive. Thus, we gave due attention to the particular concerns of field study participants. In the end, we reduced the twelve focus issues we initially selected to seven that seemed to us most critical for the escalation and deescalation of conflict in Somaliland. They are:

1. Clan Cleavages,
2. Inequity in Governance and Political Institutions,
3. Equity of Law and Judicial System,
4. Human Rights (with emphasis on Freedom of Speech and role of Civil society),
5. Economic Structure and Performance,
6. Environment and Natural Resources, and
7. External Factors (with emphasis on Regional Conflicts, and Role of Diaspora).

The chapters are organized along temporal and thematic divisions. Each chapter first presents why we chose the focus issues after which it presents the background and current status of the issue. Background discussion covers relevant information prior to 1991 and current status covers issues from 1991 to the present. Using 1991 as the temporal divide is justified by two critical developments – the collapse of the military regime and the reclamation of Somaliland independence. In addition, each chapter ends with highlight of potential escalators and de-escalators of conflict and with summary of the issues discussed.

The report is written by Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan who is most grateful to – Iise Uragte Hussein, Bashir Barre Buh, and Jama Osman Ashur. These research colleagues helped in gathering information during the fieldwork. We hope the report contributes to better understanding of Somaliland as it experiments with home-made solutions to its problems.

We hope this report is useful to the government and people of Somaliland as well as to international actors helping Somaliland to:

- Further develop its home-bred, low cost methods of peacemaking to solve armed conflicts;
- Ameliorate problems of poverty endemic to its past and still rampant in its post-conflict conditions;
- Promote the struggle toward democratic initiatives as shown by its local elections in 2002 and presidential election in 2003; and
- Ensure that those who seek to derail these achievements on peace and democracy by provoking instability within Somaliland, or by inciting armed conflict on its borders, do not succeed.


Area and Location

Comprising a total land mass of 137,600 km², the territory is bound by the Gulf of Eden to the north, the Republic of Djibouti on the northwest, the Federal Republic on the South and West, and Puntland (generally Somalia) on the East. It lies between latitude 8º and 11º 27’ north and longitude 42º 35’ and 49º east.2

Climate: Situated 78º north of the equator, Somaliland is a semi-arid with an average temperature range from 25º C to 35º C and the sun passes vertically overhead twice a year – on March 22nd and September 23rd.

Humidity: Somaliland’s humidity varies from 63% in the dry season to 82% in the wet season.

Topographic Zones

The country consists of three main zones – the Coastal Plain (Guban), the Coastal Range (Ogo), and the Plateau (Hawd). Mountains located in the center and the east rise to six and seven thousand feet. The Coastal Plain (Guban) has high temperature and low rainfall, with summer temperatures easily averaging over 100º F. People and livestock concentrate in this zone during the winter. The Coastal Range (Ogo), a high plateau to the south of Guban, has elevation ranging between 6,000 feet in the north and 3,000 feet in the south. Rainfall is heavier in this zone than in the Guban but varies significantly. The Plateau (Hawd), lying to the south of the Ogo, is heavily populated during the rainy season and used for grazing livestock.

It is estimated that only about 3% of the total land is cultivated, another 7% has potential for future agricultural development when rainfall, soil fertility and depth, and topography are considered.3


Average rainfall is 14.5 inches in much of the country. Humidity varies from 63% in the dry season to 82% in the rainy season. There are four seasons – Gu’ and Haga in the summer period and Jilal and Deyr in the winter seasons.

The Gu’ season, the first part of the summer and the period of heaviest rainfall in Ogo and Hawd, is generally in late March, April, and May. It is the period of fresh grazing and breeding of livestock. Jilal and Deyr, the dry season of scarcity, begin in October and continues until the end of March or early April. The Ogo and the Hawd in particular are extremely dry during this period, causing much hardship to people and livestock. There is some rainfall (called Hays) in the Guban and occurs January to March, or between December and January.

Population: The population of Somaliland is estimated to be 3 million of which approximately 55% are nomadic and 45% are urban or rural inhabitants.4

Density: The population density is estimated at 22 persons per km².

Vital Statistics

Population growth is 3.1%, calculated from average crude birth rate of 4.46% and crude death rate of 1.32%. Life expectancy at birth is between 45 and 50 years.

Religion: Islam

Language: Somali


By constitution, the state consists of an independent judiciary, a bi-chameral parliament (House of Elders and House of Representatives), and the executive led by the President, Vice President, and the cabinet.

Regions: Somaliland divides into six regions – namely, Awadal, Northwest, Sahil, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool.

Capital: Hargeisa

Main Port: Berbera

Currency: Somaliland Shilling


1991- 2003

26/1/1991 President Mohamed Siyaad Barre and his forces fled Mogadishu and the Somali State totally collapsed.
29/1 - 2/2/1991 The Somali National Movement (SNM)5 captured the Northern Regions of former Somali Democratic Republic
4/2 -6/2/1991 The SNM attacked Borama, aiming to capture government installations but resulting in killing of some civilians in the process.
15/2-27/2/1991 SNM and traditional elders convened in Berbera for the first reconciliation conference called “Shirka Walaalaynta Beelaha Waqooye” (Rebuilding Brotherhood of Northern Clans). This conference paved the way the subsequent Bur’o Conference.
27/4-18/5/1991 The conference known as Shirweynaha Beelaha Woqooyi (The Grand Conference of Northern Clans) was held in parallel with a meeting with the SNM Central Committee.
18/5/1991 The Bur’o Conference concluded with a restoration of independence and sovereignty for the former Somaliland British Protectorate. The conferees announced a transitional administration, led by Abdirahman Ahmed Ali (Tuur), to govern the territory for a two-year period.
11/1/1992 Clashes between Habar-Yonis and Habar-Je’lo broke out in Bur’o. Among the triggers of this conflict was the Tuur Administration’s attempt to disarm clan militia and form a national military force.
October 1992: Fighting broke out in Berbera, after a government-supported militia moved into the city and provoked armed clan opposition. The fighting continued sporadically for over six months. In October 1992, opposition clan militia expelled the pro-government militia.
28/10/1992 The conflict was brought to an end at Sheikh Conference called “Tawfiiq Conference”. This conference also concluded with an agreement to hold another conference in Borama to achieve broader and more durable peace in Somaliland.
24/1/1993 The historic conference called the “Grand conference” began in Boroma.
5/5/1993 Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was selected as President of Somaliland and a National Charter was adopted. A year later, October 1994, a new Somaliland currency was introduced.
17/10/1994 Somaliland forces under the control of President Egal’ administration captured the Hargeisa Airport from clan militia supporting Jama Mohamed Qaalib and other members of the so-called “Federalist” opposition.
15/11/1994 Fighting broke out between the Government and the ‘Iidagale opposition in Hargeysa over control of Hargeisa Airport. In March, fighting also broke out in Bur’o between the Government and the Habar Yonis opposition – the latter supporting the ‘Iidagale.
15/10 -22/1/1997 In Hargeysa, the Guurti Congress which re-elected President Egal for a second term took place. This conference also put an end to hostilities between the Egal administration and its clan opposition.
6/8//2000 Parliament passed Law No. 14 (Xeerka Nidaamka Axsaabta) legalizing the formation of “political organizations”. This law prepared the way for the formation of political parties which subsequently competed in local and presidential elections.
31/5/2001: Referendum for the Constitution was held in Somaliland. Over 97% endorsed the Constitution and the reclamation of independence.
14/11/2001 Parliament approved an Electoral Law establishing the legal basis for appointment a National Election Commission.
18/12/2001 Parliament appointed most of the seven-member National Election Commission.
3/5//2002 President Egal died in South Africa. On the same day, Vice President Daahir Rayaal Kaahine was sworn to succeed as President. Thrree days later, Egal was buried in Berbera.
15/12/2002 Local Government Council Elections took place.
14/4/2003: The first Presidential Elections were held which President Daahir Rayaale Kaahin won.

Clan cleavage was selected as focus issue for study firstly because clan is critical factor in Somali politics and social relations, secondly because the concept of clan cleavage has special relevance to the form of identity Somalis adopt, how Somalis relate and differentiate, they participate in the political process, and even how engage in armed conflict. We will see later that clan cleavage addresses only one aspect of the dual process of clan fission and clan fusion which occur jointly when social and political conflicts take clan form and dynamics.
The population comprises primarily five major clans – the Isaaq, the Gadabursi, the Harti (consisting of Dhubahante and the Warsangeli), the Isse, and the Gabooye, the last consisting of several groups segregated and despised by the others.6 Since no population is fixed, pure, or insular, the composition of Somaliland population has changed overtime and continues to change.7
Still, the population has not shifted drastically. These five major clans constitute the predominant settlers of Somaliland and share in common the following:
1. The same language, culture, and religion; 2. The same British colonial history;
3. A relatively homogenous population;8
4. A predominantly pastoral tradition;9
5. Clans distinguished by lineage have intermarried through the generations; and
6. A government, two-chamber parliament, a flag, and a national anthem giving them shared national identity.

All the predominant five major clans in Somaliland spill over into Ethiopia, Djibouti, or Puntland. Inhabitants also travel back and forth the porous border. During the union from 1960-1991, the subcultural and dialectic differences between Somaliland and Somalia were expressed in jokes and satire about how each group speaks, dresses, and behaves.

The last decade of the military regime created cleavages and conflict between the clans inhabiting Somaliland. However, since the 1993 Borama Conference, these clan cleavages were mostly mended and the clan conflicts reconciled.10

Before illustrating actual clan cleavages and conflicts that emerged in Somaliland, we will briefly discuss below a few key promoters of clan cleavage and escalators of conflict. Depending on issues and parties involved, the same promoters of clan cleavage and escalators of conflict can also serve as what helps bind clans and de-escalates conflict.

3.1.2 Clan as Crucible of Identity

Social anthropologists defined kinship in Somaliland as segmentary because it a system which differentiates people into groups. Not equally emphasized, however, is social integrative role of the clan since it binds people into a group with common identity while at the same time it distinguishes them from others. This system of kinship is based on a chain of paternal ancestors reaching back to a mythical founding ancestor (like Sheikh Isxaaq and Sheikh Isma’iil) whose name all members of the clan assume as their collective identity. It is a system that exclusively favors paternity and male dominance. This kinship system is a remarkable adaptation to the harsh conditions of life associated with the semidesert. Together, this elaborate kinship system and difficult ecology have together shape the social, and economic and political behavior of Somalis traditionally compete over limited resources, particularly water and grazing in their predominantly pastoral way of life.

Traditionally, agnatic relations define social and political relations. Clan is also the crucible of identity, social defense, and social security. The clan bound by lineage is thus the foundation of all social relations. A child born is considered a new addition not only to the nuclear family but also to the subclan and clan. Marriage and divorce take place involving the clan or sub-clan. On the one hand, the clan at once defends the individual from external attack and it extends support to members in time of need. On the other, it provides social control to avoid collective reprisal by or contribution of blood compensation to an aggrieved group.

This is why the first thing the child learns to memorize is his or her lineage – reckoning a chain of ancestors from one’s father to a distant and perhaps mythical founder of the clan who lived as far as the 8th or 9th Century – the time Islam came to Somali shores. Presumably, the chain of ancestors a child memorizes could be much longer today if Islamization did not foster disowning ancestors who held non-Islamic, indigenous beliefs.

The clan system is thus pre-existing, continuing, and pervasive. It is a structure that permeates all social relations. In time of financial and social problems, it is the clan and sub-clan that come to the assistance of the victim. In birth and death, marriage and divorce, employment and joblessness, war and peace, the clan pervades and influences social relations, for better or worse.11

Nothing – including successive governments – has so far shown to be a viable alternative to the clan system. On the contrary, the political system itself has become infused and shaped by the clan system. So long as a viable alternative does not exist, social relations will remain bound to the clan system. The elaborate remittance system of contemporary Somalis is in fact only a modern adaptation to the preexisting system of reciprocal assistance. So too is the warfare and internecine violence which often baffles the outsider. When the person dies, it is mostly the clan and sub-clan who buries him/or her. They arrange the burial, pay the expenses, and carry out the pertinent religious rituals.

3.1.3 Clan Fusion and Clan Fission

By its nature, the clan system is both a binding and distinguishing factor. On the one hand, it fosters cohesion among members sharing lineage. On the other, it distinguishing and separates some members from others reckoning different ancestors. The two concepts of fusion and fission refer respectively to the integration of members sharing lineage reaching to a distant ancestor and the distinction of clans into smaller sub-clans sharing a proximal ancestor or no known ancestor.

Clan fusion and fission occur simultaneously, giving social relations a ceaseless dialectic. Fusion and fission may unite “cousins” sharing a close or distant ancestor. The same two groups locked in conflict may also form union against others with whom they share no close or known ancestry. These twin processes of fusion and fission, deeply rooted in Somali society and psyche, render the Somali mind preoccupied and crowded. They also train the Somali mind to remarkable complexity and agility, particularly in social and political relations, while immersing it in a sea of confusion and contradictions.12

Historically, the causes of interpersonal and inter-clan conflict centered on land, grazing and water. As clans fought with one another, cohesion among their members increased. Old alliances broke and new ones were formed. Hence the process of fusion and fission took place with dizzying frequency until a central government emerged and public attention shifted to competition over power and political representation.

Contemporary power politics – in particular competition over the resources and privileges of the state – replaced disputes over land, grazing, and water since independence in 1960. Traditional group distinctions and myths were superimposed on new realities of urban life and politics. Following the collapse of the state, disputes on land and territory re-emerged in both rural and urban areas. These disputes often involved clans living in contiguous geographic and rural areas or over plots of land in urban centers. Hence, the process of clan fusion and fission remain relevant today, as they were in the past but with greater complexity and dynamic.

3.1.4 Delusion of Clan Superiority

Myth-making is an essential feature in the identity and cohesion of individuals and groups everywhere. Somalis are no different. However, their myth-making centers on the clan and sub-clan. To underscore the problems that such myth-making along clan lines creates, Bulhan has coined the term of delusion of clan superiority whose psychology and social role he details elsewhere.13

No clan, however large or small, accepts any degree of inferiority. Each clan considers itself as the most cultured, generous, and courageous. All clans valorize their warriors in the folktales, poems, and songs. In so doing, they perceive themselves as heroic and they take pride no only in who they imagine themselves to be but also who they convince themselves to be. Because of delusion of clan superiority, each clan or sub-clan believes itself to be right in dispute with others, however wild their claims or wishes may be from the perspective of others. It also expects its members to follow the clan perspective, right or wrong. There is no built-in check or control. Complicating matters, this delusion of clan superiority and myth-making are harbored by every clan. Hence, every conflict, however large or small, tends to be interpreted in terms of clan.

The delusion of clan superiority serves an important function for the clan. It fosters cohesion among members. It also gives unassailable grounds for the identity and pride of member. But the delusion of clan superiority takes on explosive and destructive features when conflict arises among clans who equally are convinced of their superiority and infallibility. Often, it is weak parties to conflict who take this approach. The delusion of clan readily invoked to rally the clan, those who can not feel inadequacy resort to it, confirming Alfred Adler’s thesis that deep in superiority complex lies inferiority complex.

Armed conflict is often preceded by strident expression of old and new myths and re-assertion of clan superiority. In fact, these myths and delusion of clan superiority are articulated not only in oral narratives and conversations but also in poetry. Ironically, long after the conflict is resolved, the poems remain in the consciousness and conversation of people, with the possibility that they will serve as stimuli for future conflict.

Post-independence politics did not change the delusion of clan superiority. It only re-directed it to new political landscape, to new forms of competition and conflict. During the 1980s and 1990s, the delusion of clan superiority took strident forms instigating and contributing to armed conflict involving supporters of the regime.

After the collapse of the regime, it lost the controls and moderating influence which the state, monopolizing power and violence, had imposed on it. Hence, wars broke out even among clans like the Isaaq who fought in solidarity against the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre. Armed conflicts deescalated after the 1993 Borama conference which started inter-clan dialogue and reconciliation.

Following it, a government emerged to moderate the delusion of clan superiority. Since then, dialogue and cooperation gradually replaced the delusion of clan superiority and armed conflicts it fostered.

3.1.4 Clan Cleavage and Clan Conflict

Clan cleavage and clan conflict are critical topics for understanding war and peace in Somaliland. However, a few caveats must be mentioned at the outset.

Firstly, clan cleavages always go hand in hand with clan alliance as integral aspects of clan fission and clan fusion. Thus, where there is clan cleavage, so too is clan alliance somewhere. The elaborate genealogy of Somalis gives rise to many possibilities of clan cleavage and clan alliance wherever clan integration at different levels of the genealogical tree.

Secondly, clan cleavages do not independently or necessarily lead to armed clan conflict. Clan cleavages rarely erupt into clan conflict without antecedent differences or conflict of interest first between individuals which evolve into differences or conflicts between nuclear families, extended families, and then larger clan conflicts. The lineage system offering different levels of group identity and distinction, reinforced by the tradition of mutual defense, canalizes these mundane differences or conflicts at the individual level into complex clan conflicts. However, not all differences or conflicts evolve into clan conflicts. Only those interpersonal conflicts that meet the criteria of social traction evolve into larger group conflicts.14

Thirdly, Somalis tend to exaggerate conflicts among individuals and small groups into clan conflicts involving all members of the clan. The ethical, social, or legal violations of a political leader, a military officer, and even a thief are readily identified with and condemned along with his clan. Although good done by an individual is also generalized to the group, Somalis are more likely to generalize individual misdeeds into clan misdeed. In addition, the condemnation generalized to the clan goes hand in hand with collective punishment.

Finally not all members of a clan participate equally in clan conflicts. In every clan conflict, there are members who stay apart from the conflict or even sympathize with their supposed “enemy clan”. But such individuals are forgotten in time of clan conflict and punishment meted out for them in equal measure to those in their clan who foment or actively participate in the conflict.

In short, then, Somali lineage system gives rise to many possibilities of clan cleavages and alliances which remain latent and inactive until social, political, or personal conditions reactive and give them new life. Conflicts identified with clans are social constructions which evolved from individual conflicts. These social constructions have power to the extent that the majority of society takes them and treats them as reality. So long as the parties to conflict accept these social constructions as reality, they become prisoners to it and possibly shed blood.

3.1.6 Clan Cleavages and Conflict before 1991

The most tragic and ruinous clan cleavages and clan conflict in recent decades is the armed conflict which pitted the supporters of Mohamed Siyaad Barre’s regime and the Isaaq clan, led by the Somali National Movement from 1981-91. This protracted of war between citizens and their supposed government had clearly shown the Isaaq that neither shared Somali identity nor Islamic faith could moderate the scorched earth policy of the regime against them, culminating in the destruction of cities and systematic mass murder.

From 1960, the Isaaq were disillusioned with the voluntary union with Somalia. The attempted coup of Sandhurst-trained officers in 1962 was an early indicator of this disillusionment. Popular songs and poems of the time also underscored disillusionment with the union. That a majority of the Isaaq did not vote for the referendum on the union in 1964 was another signal of disillusionment with the union. But that signal was ignored.

Like most Somalis, the Isaaq welcomed the military coup of 1969 and its promises of revolutionary change. However, by 1972, their elation turned into despair. They found incontestable proof that the system of inequity in sharing of power, development projects, and social services continued as in the past and in some respects intensified after 1972. By the mid-1970s, the regime that supposedly “buried tribalism” turned extremely clannish and nepotistic in its civil services, the armed forces, and almost all public sectors.

The Siyaad Barre regime which came to power in 1969 with promises of revolutionary change and Pan- Somali Unity had in a few years degenerated into a tyrannical regime using clan division and clan conflict to sustain its hold on power. The primary bulwark of the regime came from three Daarood clans – the Mareexaan, the Ogaadeen, and the Dhulbahante, given the acronym of MOD Alliance from abbreviation of their names. The Mareexaan to which the dictator belonged were leaders of the pack. The Ogaadeen provided mostly the military officers and foot-soldiers. The Dhulbahante, like other two clans, participated in different aspects of the regime but they dominated the National Security Services headed by a Dhulbahante who was also a son-in-law of the dictator.

The 1977-78 war with Ethiopia, ostensibly initiated to advance Pan-Somali unity, degenerated into clan competition and conflict even within Somali armed forces who supposedly were to liberate other Somalis . The 1978 coup attempt after the war, the first of coup of its kind since the military regime took power in 1969, was led and dominated by one clan. When it failed, the military regime embraced clanism even more passionately and clearly, persecuting members of other clans it deemed opponents, real or perceived.15

By 1981 the Isaaq, which constitutes the largest clan-family in Somaliland, formed a political movement – the Somali National Movement (SNM) – to fight and topple the military regime. The armed conflict between the SNM (the Isaaq) and the military regime escalated in subsequent years, leading to destruction of cities in the summer of 1988. In particular, Hargeisa was razed to the ground by the heavy bombardment and its surviving residents were strafed all the way to the Ethiopian border by government planes.16 Among the causes encouraging the Isaaq to take up arms against the regime were:

- They found inequity in the parliamentary representation, ministerial appointments, and key posts in the armed forces and the police.
- They found unequal representation in the civil administration and economic development of their territory;
- The flow of their civil servants, professionals, and businessmen to Mogadishu undermined the development of their territory;
- They felt discriminated in employment and job promotion in the civil service and, after 1975, they were systematically demoted or dismissed from the armed forces, the police, and the civil service;
- A disproportionate numbers of Isaaq officers were sent in the most dangerous front of the 1977-78 war with Ethiopia; some of them were taken out of prison a day before they were sent to the front. Many of these officers concluded that they were being selectively eliminated by the regime.

The heavy bombardment of Hargeisa in the summer of 1988 and the strafing of surviving inhabitants all the way to the Ethiopian border remain etched in the mind of the Isaaq. Persecution of Isaaq, torture of their intellectuals, and indiscriminate murders (like the massacres at Maka Durduro and the incident at Gazira Beach) had convinced them that they were target of clan cleansing.

The May 18, 1991 withdrawal from the failed union of July 1960 was thus a product of thirty years disillusionment with the union and dream of pan-Somali unity. Even then, the decision to withdraw from the union found near unanimous support when citizens of Somaliland realized other Somalis neither understood their grievances nor seemed prepared to give them due share in a newly reconstituted state. Thirteen years of relative peace and self-rule demonstrated that Somaliland can do better on its own, without union with Somalia and acrimony with its ruling elite. These thirteen years and their results consolidated the resolve and support for independence.


Somaliland entered the 1990s with the clan as the pre-existing and overarching structure. Following the collapse of the regime in January 1991, Somaliland began the process of clan reconciliation and rebuilding the peace. On May 18, 1991, it declared unilateral reclamation of independence. The processes of clan reconciliation and of rebuilding peace took some years, with occasional hiccups and a flare up of armed conflicts. Yet, despite successive wars, clan settlements remained more or less the same. Although unity and peace prevail in the western regions, inhabitants of Sool and Eastern Sanaag have not fully participated in the new polity, even when the a significant number of their elite partake in its administration.

The desk study underscored the central role and influence of clan in Somali society. It affirmed that six major clans traditionally inhabit Somaliland - the ‘Isa, the Gadabursi, the Isaaq, the Dhulbahante, the Warsangali, and the Gabooye. The Isaaq constitute the dominant clan in Somaliland. The Dhulbanhante and the Warsangeli are branches of Harti - a subclan of the Darood. There are other minority clans - like the Madigaan the Akisho - who inhabit Somaliland. However, these are significant minorities whose number, political influence, and presence is hardly noticed. The Gabooye also suffer similar invisibility and inaudibility but their number is more significant and their participation in the society more extensive, despite the traditional myths and social distance that segregate, despise, and devalue them.

3.2.1 Clan Cleavages and Conflict After 1991

The armed conflict between the Isaaq and the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre which started in 1981 exacerbated clan division in Somaliland and had immense impact on the relations among clans particularly for the six years from 1991-1997. The ten years during which the regime carried out scorched earth policy against the Isaaq had left bad blood not only between the Isaaq and the regime’s key Daarood supporters also between the Isaaq and the other inhabitants of Somaliland.

After ten years of guerrilla warfare, the SNM fighters were battle-tested and hardened. They also inherited large caches of weapons, in some instances tanks and heavy guns, left by the retreating forces of the regime. Thus, after the collapse of the regime, prospects for bloody and intractable inter-clan wars loomed large between the Isaaq and the Gadabursi in the west and between other Isaaq and the Harti in the east. The Isaaq fighters from the battle zones and the civilians from the refugee camps in Ethiopia returned to their traditional areas of settlement with bitter feelings of revenge against the non- Isaaq whom they considered sworn allies of the fallen regime.

One of the leaders of the SNM guerrillas explained the intensity of passion for revenge among his fighters. Intoxicated with victory and delusion of clan superiority, they wanted to unleash maximal violence against their “enemies”. On the other hand, a Gadabursi peace activist who tirelessly worked for the cause of reconciliation described similar sentiments among the Gadabursi, later intensified by feeling of siege and occasional local skirmishes. Both guerrilla leader and the peace activist described in graphic words the mutual feeling of animosity that propelled each group to disaster if cool heads on both sides did not prevail.

The main instigators of clan division and conflict in the 1980s were not only political differences toward the Siyaad Barre regime. There were also other instigators, most notably land disputes. The boundaries of clan settlements were never fixed. They were always fuzzy and dynamic. Population expansion and diminution often determined where the boundary of one clan or sub-clan began and ended. Periodic inter-clan wars brought new occupants and implicit demarcation once the victors grabbed more land and the vanquished move out.

Boundary disputes and grazing rights had always persisted among clans living in contiguous areas. The regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre had exacerbated these land disputes and inter-clan conflicts. In its divide-and-rule program, the regime had imposed new regions. It also demarcated new district boundaries. These politically motivated changes rewarded some clans (those viewed as supporters of the regime) and they angered others deemed hostile or a threat to it. In addition, the hundreds of refugees from Ethiopia came to Somaliland in droves after the debacle of the 1977-78 war. They too had served as foot-soldiers and henchmen of the regime. Their passion for land grab was matched by Isaaq fear of being dispossessed. This consuming apprehension, reinforced by government decrees like Morgan’s “Letter of Death”, sent droves of Isaaq (including students and bankers) to join the SNM in the fight against the Barre regime.17

The SNM was identified as an Isaaq movement. Yet there were many Isaaq who either served the regime to its last days in persecution of the perceived enemies (including the Isaaq) or who simply stood on the fence at home or abroad despite the oppression and even genocide of the regime. On the other hand, there were non-Isaaqs within Somaliland who fought the regime tooth and nail, as did some of the Isaaq.

Exemplar persons among the non-Isaaq opponents of the regime are Colonel ‘Abdiraxmaan Aw ‘Ali and Colonel (of the Gadabursi clan) Si’iid Ali Giir (of the Dhulbahante sub-clan of the Daarood).18 On the other hand, there were many Isaaq henchmen (even hangmen) of the regime who quickly found forgiveness from their clansmen after the collapse of the regime. This fact later produced new ironies which remain unresolved. The sight of these men in society and in the higher echelons of power evokes seething anger among the survivors who sacrificed their lives for freedom from injustice and tyranny.

3.2.2 Examples of Clan Cleavage and Conflict

A month after the collapse of the Barre regime on January 26, 1991, the SNM fighters captured most of the territory formerly called the British Protectorate of Somaliland. The Isaaq-Daarood clan cleavage and conflict was replaced by Isaaq-Gadabursi and Isaaq-Harti conflict which had festered during the 1980s but now took the stage.

In early February 1991, the SNM fighters attacked Dila and Borama, aiming to capture government installations.As the political difference over the authority and future of Somaliland were resolved, the boundary disputes of contiguous clans came to the fore. A case in point concerned the fuzzy boundary between Baki and Gabiley districts which created serious dispute between the Reer Nuur of the Gadabursi clan and the Jibriil Abokor of the Isaaq clan. The two sub-clans disputed over control of the agricultural area known as Eel-Barde.

The two sub-clans historically settled in contiguous area. Generations from the two sub-clans intermarried, linking most of them as in-laws and in maternal kinship. However, the politics of the Barre regime had pushed the two sub-clans into different political camps, causing bad blood among the two sub-clans. In addition, the residues of the war against the dictator and its bitter consequences diminished the traditional respect for marital bonds and neighborliness which the two sub-clans shared. By early 1993, the simmering conflict over control of Eel-Barde turned into fierce fighting between these two sub-clans. Elders from the two sub-clans put every effort to stop the armed conflict, but they failed. The clan conflict continued, threatening larger clan conflagrations. Only when the newly elected and fledgling government of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal sent armed forces to the disputed area did the conflict subside and the conflicting sub-clans moderate their dispute.

Gadabursi and Isaaq live contiguously in other districts with ill-defined boundaries. Disputes resulting from the demarcation of boundaries continue to be source of clan cleavage and conflict friction. For instance, the boundary between the newly established district of Dila and Gabiley remains undefined; so too is the boundary of Lughaya district whose predominant (if not exclusive) inhabitants are today Gadabursi. The dispute came to a head in the local elections of 2002 and presidential elections of 2004. The Sa’ad Muse of the Isaaq clan argued that the Gadabursi where extending their boundary to areas should be disposed of their property (including their businesses and imported goods at the seaport) and ultimately of their land.

Like other clans who were locked in conflict with clans settled in contiguous area, the Gadabursi were also entangled with territorial disputes with the ‘Iise. A case in point is the land dispute which in mid- 1991 grew into open conflict between the Gadabusi and the ‘Iise. The immediate cause of the conflict was a dispute over Biyo Kulul Valley located in Dambel District in Region Five of Ethiopia. The conflict spilled over into Somaliland. Again, the traditional clan leaders of the two clans with the help of the Region Five authorities tried to settle the problem. They succeeded to achieve only ceasefire among the warring clans. Subsequently, the conflict continued for years with low-level friction between the Gadabursi and the ‘Iise.19

Another example is the clan cleavage and conflict of 1991-2 in Sanaag. There, the Muse Isma’iil of the Habar Yoonis subclan and the Bi’iido of the Habar Je’lo subclan were poised for armed conflict with the Harti, mainly the Warsengli and to a less extent the Dhulbahante sub-clans. The first group were Isaaq; the second, Daarood. Although belonging to different clan-families tracing to different original and perhaps mythical ancestors, the two groupings shared settlement and intermarried for generations. However, politics of the Barre regime created a widening chasm between them. The Isaaq subclans fought against the Barre regime after it persecuted them and dispossessed their land. The Harti subclans defended (at least sympathized with) the regime.

The conflict came to a head mainly around ‘Erigaabo, the regional capital, after the collapse of the regime. This conflict, like others in the west, was partly a continuation of different political stand the two camps took toward the regime but it was largely a conflict over land and political dominance. The Isaaq held fast to the view that the Harti inhabitants in the area took advantage of the regime’s animosity and persecution of them, partaking in their dispossession of land and property. The Harti insisted that the Isaaq subclans were taking advantage of their new found victory and implementing an expansionist policy.

The conflict would have devastating effect on the region, provoking wider conflagration. However, a group of elders, politicians, and intellectuals from Sanaag rallied to the cause of peace in the region. Dialogue and reconciliation between the conflicting sub-clans of the Isaaq and the Daarood inhabiting the region seemed impossible, given intense acrimony, grievance, and delusion of clan superiority which festered for years. However, the long period of patient and careful negotiation by the elders, politicians, and intellectuals bore fruit in the end. As a result, the armed conflict which would have caused havoc and bloodshed in the region was averted, although a few skirmishes took place in the process. This peaceful intervention and clan agreement demonstrated that the people of Somaliland can settle their dispute without external intervention.

As the Isaaq-Gadabursi and Isaaq-Harti conflicts susided, inter-Isaaq conflicts erupted in 1992. For instance, clashes between Habar-Yonis and Habar-Je’lo broke out in Bur’o in January 11, 1992. Among the ostensible triggers of this conflict was the attempt by the administration of ‘Abdiraxmaan Axmed ‘Ali to disarm clan militia and form a national military force. But the Haber Je’lo interpreted this program differently. They understood the demobilization program was intended to weaken them while empowering their enemies.

The war that erupted between the Habar Je’lo and the government (read Habar Yoonis) on January 11, 1992 had in fact its mundane precipitant and justification. A vehicle owned by a member of the Habar Je’lo was commandeered by some members of the Habar Yoonis. The Habar Je’lo set a deadline by which the Harbar Yoonis were to return the commandeered vehicle. Before the deadline elapsed, the Habar Yoonis requested for an extension. The Habar Je’lo accepted. In the intervening period, the Habar Yoonis prepared for war. When the second deadline elapsed, the Habar Je’lo fired a few rounds to the section of Bur’o where the Habar Yoonis predominate. This gave the Habar Yoonis a pretext for launching the all-out assault for which they prepared. From that point on, this inter-clan war turned disastrous until clan negotiations settled it.

Nine months later, another war broke out in and around Berbera. This war too was presented as a war between the government of Abdirahman Ahmed Ali (Tuur) and a recalcitrant clan who hindered the government’s plan for peace and national development. The central bone of contention was control of Berbera and its port – the primary gateway for imports and exports of Somaliland. The Tuur Administration wanted control of the port and perhaps beyond in order to establish its authority and generate revenues it desperately needed. The ‘Iise Muuse clan for whom Berbera and its environs are their traditional area of settlement saw it differently. Firstly, they suspected other motives when, as they were asked to hand over the port of Berbera, other strategic locations (like the Hargeisa Airport) remain in the hands of clan militia. In short, they interpreted the so-called government move as an invasion of their land and rights by the Habar Yoonis or generally the Garxajis to which he belonged.

The ensuing war which broke up soon lost its lofty justifications of building a national government into a nasty clan war pitting primarily the Habar Yoonis and the ‘Iise Muuse. Fighting broke out in Berbera, after a government-supported militia moved into the city and provoked armed clan opposition. The fighting continued sporadically for over six months. In October 1992, opposition clan militia expelled the pro-government militia. Fortunately, the war did not take long before it was resolved in clan conference, called Tawfiiq Conference, which began on October 28, 1992 in the town of historic of Sheikh. The conference resolved not only the armed conflict but also agreed to plan another conference in Borama in 1993 to achieve broader clan reconciliation and more durable peace in Somaliland.

The eruption of armed conflict among the Isaaq first in Bur’o in 1992, then in Berbera the same year, later in Hargeisa in 1994, then Bur’o in 1995, had shown the failure of the SNM Isaaq to develop a coherent transitional program and an equitable system of government. Worse, after victory, the SNM politicians and fighters acted out their old personal differences and clan rivalries in Ethiopia. As a result, they broke up into competing and warring camps, playing a game of tit-for-tat. Abdirahman Ahmed Ali (Tuur), the last Chairman of the SNM and elected President of the transitional government in May 1991, could not bridge differences among the camps or consolidate power. Some say he even intensified intensified the old rivalries and camps by carrying out decisions he secretly or arbitrarily made. Ineffective authority and lack of consensus on government also gave opportunity for clan militia, armed gangs called dayday (the equivalents of mooryaan in Mogadishu or jirii elsewhere), and unethical businessmen determined to make profit in conditions of desperation. Each of these also aggravated the clan cleavages and conflict. For instance, each armed clan militia encouraged other clan militia to remain vigilant and organized. Crimes committed by individuals brought reprisals and collective punishment of the criminal’s clan. The anarchic and violent behavior of the dayday, sometimes resulting in murder, called forth the traditional blood-payment which, because of their excessive number, bankrupted clans and made their members candidates of reprisal.

Perhaps the only salutary effect of the clan cleavages and clan conflict that erupted among the Isaaq during the early 1990s and subsequently in 1994-6 is that the non-Isaaq population in Somaliland understood that the Isaaq are not a permanently unified clan organized to their assault, oppression, or decimation. Seeing that the Isaaq could viciously fight one another reduced their old myths, insecurities, and fears. Some of them (like the Gadabursi elders and intellectuals) were so moved and motivated by this understanding that they joined the role of peacemakers among Isaaq clans locked in conflict.

The historic Borama Conference of 1993 was the result. Subsequently, the Council of Elders (the Guurti), formed by the SNM during the war against the Barre regime, was enlarged to include other members in its rank. It also found new vigor and role when the SNM which created it had floundered soon after victory. The selection of a new president, Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, had also helped because he was the most seasoned politician of the lot. A leader in the campaign for independence in the late 1950s and a former Prime Minister, Egal knew the fundamental requirements of building a government. An exceptionally articulate man, his appeal for disarmament found ready ears and willing public. He also knew not only the art of when to charm others when this suited his interest but also how to browbeat and even demean his opponents.

Many to this day remember with fond memories the procession of clan militia in the Hargeisa Stadium, marching with the guns (sometimes accompanied by tanks and vehicles) with commitment to demobilize and hand over their weapons to the new government.20 There are three significant aspects to this voluntary demobilization program. Firstly, the armed clan militia did not simply hand over their arms and disappear. They and their arms were integrated into the newly established armed forces. Secondly, the public who watched them march in the stadium were initiated and socialized to legitimacy of the new government. Thirdly, the absence of clan militia (like the ‘Iidagale clan militia) who promised to participate in the demobilization program but did not gave hint of troubles to come. A year later, the reservation of the ‘Iidagale clan militia had developed into an open challenge of the government.

The immediate precipitant of this war concerned control of the Hargeisa Airport. The ‘Iidagale militia did not want to hand over the airport. This denied the government symbolic and real control it desperately needed. In reality, the causes of this conflict are many and controversial. Nonetheless, the armed conflict pitted first between the ‘Iidagale and the government – the latter recruiting difference clans, giving its forces the unflattering name of marya-allool, a mat made of, multicolored rags. The armed conflict mushroomed into a war between the government and the Garxajis when the Habar Yoonis joined the war on the side of ‘Iidagale ancestral kin. Had the war been between the Habar Awal (the President’s clan) and the Garxajis, the clan cleavages would follow primordial path and degenerate into a purely clan war, as in Bur’o in Janurary 1992 and Berbera in spring 1992. The difference here was that Egal mobilize different clans into the war. The government forces included the Gadabursi, the ‘Iise, the Habar Awal, the Arab, the Isxaaq, the Habar Je’lo and others.

This array of forces– had tragic consequences but it also gave rise to new national identity and unity. The armed conflict also gave Egal execuse to extend his term which supposedly was to end in 1995, a few months after the armed conflict with the ‘Iidagale erupted. This fact affirmed the suspicion that, if war is not a royal road to power, it is a convenient justification of a leader to hang on to power and to legitimize his authority. In fact, only after the conflict subsided in 1996 did Mohamed Ibrahim Egal turn his attention to the national constitution and his re-election for another term.

By 1997, his skillful orchestration of his supporters and concession to his opponents won him the reelection. When his term was about to end in 2002, Egal became embroiled in political conflict with the Habar Je’lo whom he would have isolated and forced into submission, as he had done so with the Garxajis. Such orchestrated war might would probably have postponed the schedule presidential elections and automatically extend his term. But fate had a different design. He died in May 2002.

3.2.3 Clan Cleavages Persist

Many politicians, intellectuals, and poets had preached the evil consequences of the clan system. Criticism of clanism (mistakenly called “tribalism”) was in vogue for years after independence. Clan and clanism were publicly denounced, buried in public rituals, and condemned as the greatest barriers to development. Yet the politicians and the intelligentsia who most denounced it had shown to harbor clanism and clan cleavages in society.

Instead of denying its existence or attempting to root out, Somaliland chose to hold the bull by its horns. It embraced clan as a critical factor in war and peace and incorporated it into its political system (see Chapter 5). In accepting clan as a fact of life, perhaps a permanent structure in Somali society, Somaliland was able to solve most armed conflicts which broke out following the collapse of the regime in 1991. However, although the public and the politicians have so far accepts clan and its integration into politics, there are regional imbalances and differential opportunities which once again provoke social cleavages of which evoke clan grievance and resentment.

Take for instance the problems of regional imbalance and differential social opportunity. Clan and settlement are often coterminous. Somaliland is mainly divided into East-West. Easterners tend to be pastoral. Agriculture predominates in the West, although residents there seldom describe themselves as agriculturalists. They too describe themselves as xoollo-dhaqato which literally means pastoralist. This is in part because pastoral values dominate the culture.

Because the capital city, Hargeisa, is located in the western part of the country, clans in the eastern regions often complain about regional imbalance in employment, business, and social services. Those who live in the Western Regions argue that they pay taxes and carry inordinate burden to maintain the needs of government serving all regions share in common. Such divergent views give occasion to regional cleavages, sometime clan cleavages since settlement and clan are coterminous.

But divergent views and clan cleavages do not take the east-west divide. They are endemic throughout Somaliland. Cities are rapidly growing in Somaliland. They have become centers of gravity for all clans, including refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia. Residents of rural areas who previously produced food and human resources for themselves and society are becoming more impoverished due to low investment in their education, health, and economic development. They are moving in droves.

Those clans who live in and around cities, particularly the capital city, have had greater access to government, business, and international organizations. Hargeisa is the capital, serves as the seat of the central government and its bloated bureaucracy. It is also the venue for big hospitals, schools, and businesses. For this reason, most clans settled near and distant, have moved to Hargeisa, with hopes of improved income and quality of life. Frustration with poor housing, crowding, and unemployment is intensifying as are anomie, alienation, and anonymity of people who in the past were rooted in a community, found social support from the clan, and had pride in their identity, even if that pride hoisted on delusion of clan superiority.

The local and presidential elections of 2002 and 2003 respectively have shown the persistent influence of clan on the political parties that were supposed to replace clan politics. The selection of candidates by the political parties and elections results have demonstrated that the politicians and the public alike can not shed their clan calculations and preferences in reaching national political decisions. How political parties and clan can work independently or without causing social confusion are new challenges facing Somaliland. More seriously, emerging concern on equity of government and political institutions are raising questions if Somaliland has indeed solved the problems which brought the military regime and the civilian administrations before it to their demise.


The fieldwork shows the following key escalators of clan conflict in the history of Somaliland after 1991:

- Differences of relationship and loyalty to the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre. After the collapse of the regime, conflict emerged between the Isaaq who fought against the regime and the non-Isaaq who supposedly defended or at least sympathized with it.
- Competing interests and groupings among the SNM leaders who, although they risked their lives for liberty, seemed to understand little of how to nurture and develop Somaliland when conditions for such were ripe;
- State of confusion and anarchy which engender armed gangs like the dayday, lawlessness, and clan reprisals.
- Weak leadership which knows little how to forge alliance from different clans and interests, subduing opponents by force when peaceful political means fail.
- Profusion of arms and failure of demobilization programs because they evoke old clan cleavages and clan conflicts.
- Premature attempts to demobilize clan militia without building clan confidence and trust.
- Greedy and unethical businessmen who seek used clan cleavage to profit from lack of regulation and social despair.
- Elite united by their education, urban or western values, social privilege, and class arrogance but readily rally their clan in time of conflict among them.
- Unemployment and poverty which reduces otherwise decent and peaceful individuals into footsoldiers of others and fodders of clan conflict.
- International community that treats warlords and ineffectual leaders as representative of “clan cleavages” and honors or rewards them in contrived national conferences in plush, comfortable hotels abroad. (Somaliland was spared this corrosive and corruptive act of charity.)


The fieldwork also indicated the following de-escalators of conflict in the history of Somaliland since 1991.

- Public exhaustion from anarchy, war, and crime.
- A tradition of dialogue and reconciliation even as war rages on.
- The practice of forgiving enemies and forgetting old scores, preferring reconciliation opponents over reprisal.
- Use of religion and tradition to bridge clan cleavages and mediate conflict.
- A leader (like Mohamed Ibrahim Egal) who knows the basic requirements of governance, with skills to make friends and influence people.
- Absence or limited interference from the international community, particularly neighboring governments, whose interests derail the process of Somali reconciliation.
- A mixture of skillfully designed voluntary and involuntary demobilization program.
- Building confidence of protagonists by small steps and setting aside old scores.
- Local advocates of peace and midwives of reconciliation
- An external “enemy” that unifies the group or nation with its threats, real or bluff.


Clan cleavages and clan alliances in Somaliland have existed for centuries. Therefore, they can not and will not be eliminated. They can be only canalized toward constructive ends. Clan cleavages, land disputes, and clan conflict pre-dated the Barre regime. However, the regime intensified these cleavages and disputes for it to divide-and-rule tactic.

Somaliland comprises five major clans each of them conditioned to clan socialization and myth-making. Clan is a crucible of identity, social defense, mutual support, and social insurance. Clan cleavages in Somaliland are important contributors to conflict. To understand these cleavages, the concepts of fusion and fission are critical. These refer to the twin processes by which clan differentiates and integrates groups. Both occur simultaneously. Where there is cleavage, so too is alliance somewhere.

Somali culture also conditions members to delusion of superiority where each member valorizes his clan and put down others. Clan identity and delusion of clan superiority, rooted to Somali culture and tradition, have been superimposed on urban life and politics, with deadly consequences. The regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre in particular had pushed clan cleavages and clan conflict to their most destructive extremes. The Isaaq, disillusioned with union, were among those victimized by that regime and those who challenged it with arms.

After the collapse of the state, clan cleavages that arose between supporters and opponents of the regime reared their head. The SNM chose dialogue and reconciliation instead of confrontation and reprisal. The other clans reciprocated. As a result peace was on the mend.

The history of Somaliland and the participants underscore that Somaliland has come a long way to grapple and solve its primordial clan cleavages and forge a semblance of a nation. Clan cleavages exist to this day, and they will do so for years to come because genealogy and identity of the inhabitants depend and foster such cleavages. But these cleavages are dynamic and unpredictable, as the clan alliances which are their twin component, one never occurring without the other. This is Janus-faced character of Somali social relations and of human relations generally.

The question is not therefore to seek the impossible goal of eliminating the cleavages or their concurrent alliances, but to canalize clan cleavages and alliances toward peaceful coexistence of people. Tyranny and injustice bring forth the most violent forms of clan cleavages and clan conflict. A culture of dialogue, leadership with a sense of mission, system of check and balance – these give people the political space to bridge their different views and interests so that clan cleavages do not mushroom into clan conflict.

Today, people show less confusion and hypocrisy than in the past when clan was condemned and ritually buried in public as in the early 1970s, while it continued as a matter of practice. Somalilanders have accepted clan as a fact of life and included it as a criterion of constitutional power-sharing. The experiment has only begun, and it has so far done some good, but more needs to thought through and accomplished.



This topic was selected as focus issue because the desire for equity and justice were the primary motive of the armed struggle against the dictatorial regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre. The pursuit of equity and justice brought greater suffering than anticipated. Targeted detention and torture of gave way to indiscriminate persecution. Summary executions of specific individuals led to mass murders and destruction of cities. The physical wounds and war trauma are still visible among the survivors.

Since 1993, the people of Somaliland had restored peace and formed their own government. We wanted to explore if the quest for equity and justice, in pursuit of which much blood was shed, has been attained in Somaliland during the past ten years. This exploration may show both the successes and failures of the system and path the people of Somaliland had chosen.


In the early 1990s, following the collapse of the regime, concerns focused on whether the people of Somaliland can find peace with one another and establish a government to replace the rampant anarchy and violence rampant in 1991. When peace was restored and central authority was established, the question of whether the existing system of governance and political institutions are equitable and just gained paramount significance for the people of Somaliland. The successes and failures of governance in Somaliland must be evaluated in a historical context.

Before colonial rule, Somalis governed themselves and evolved an egalitarian system. An open meeting of all males over the age 15 held a council (shir) to decide on critical issues including interpersonal and clan conflict. There were also elaborate but unwritten legal system which had its record of precedents to guide decisions, its lawyers and judges (called xeer beegti), its classification of ways to resolve disputes (from gar-maslax, gar-dadban, gar shareeco, garta guurti, and garta xeer beegti). It also had its proper way of presenting cases, its ethics of adjudicating disputes, and its means of enforcing decisions without use of prisons and established law enforcing agency. Among the remarkable things in this system is that neither judges nor lawyers were paid and that, in some instances (like Xeer ‘Iise) the system had twelve levels disputants could appeal a decision.21

In the early decades when colonial, Somalis took the perspective, as one British colonial officer observed in the 1930s, “If you must govern, then govern us justly, and leave us alone.” As it turned out, Somalis were not governed justly nor were left alone.

British colonial started with minimum of investment in the late 19th Century.22 The British ruled Somaliland with minimum of investment until independence in 1960. To reduce costs and it had strategic advantage, the British used indirect rule, using traditional leaders and the local elite. Italians in contrast had imported settlers, stationed large forces, and developed banana plantations in Somalia. The difference of colonial past was not the most critical in creating a wedge but it contributed to the misunderstanding between the peoples of Somaliland and Somalia, at least in the 1960s.

Independence in 1960 was expected to reinstate the right to self-determination and promote development. Unfortunately, it did neither. Nine years after civilian rule, following a period of unprecedented corruption and nepotism, the armed forces took power by force. The military regime also failed, revealing similar corruption and nepotism to the civilian regimes. In fact, its revolutionary promises and rhetoric brought greater mass disillusionment. As pressure on the government increased, it became clan-oriented, using some as bulwark and indiscriminately persecuting others.

By the early 1980s, clan wars emerged under the cover of armed political movements. After the regime’s collapse, the constituting parts of society engaged in clan and sub-clan conflict, aggravated by warlords and armed militia determined to have their way by using the gun. In the 18 May, 1991 Burao Conference, the people of Somaliland decided to secede from Somalia, or as Somalilanders prefer, to reclaim their independence.


Key to understanding developments in Somaliland since 1991 is its home-made solution to armed conflict and anarchy that emerged after the collapse of the military regime. This home-made solution is in stark contrast to the massive resources deployed in restoring peace and governance in Somalia. Since 1991, over 30,000 soldiers were deployed and 14 reconciliation conferences held in foreign capital. Twelve years later, the results have been modest at best. Perhaps some lessons can be learned from the home-made solutions of Somaliland at minimum cost. As a result too, Somaliland may find the acknowledgement and encouragement it deserves for the progress in peace and the march toward democracy it has so far achieved.

4.3.1 Development of Beel System

The Provisional National Charter passed by the participants in the May 1991 conference stipulated a transitional period of two years during which the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Somali National Movement (SNM), the archenemy of the collapsed military regime, would respectively serve as President and Vice President of the new “Republic of Somaliland.” However, this government did not make significant strides in restoring peace or developing government institutions.

Effective restoration of peace and development of government institutions followed the historic 1993 Conference in Borama. That conference, involving hundreds of representatives from various clans, and known as Guul Allah – Allah’s Victory – lasted for nearly five months, set the foundation for a de jure if not de facto State of Somaliland. The majority of the conferees selected a seasoned politician, Mohamed Ibraahim Egal, to be the President of the new government.23

One of the achievements of the Borama Conference is the introduction of a new system of government formed of the Beel System (based on clan representation and consensus) combined with a hybrid of Western political institutions. The foundation of the new hybrid system is a two-chamber Parliament, comprising of the Guurti (the House of Elders) and Wakiillo (House of Representative) each with 82 members distributed by various clans. The latter serves as legislature, the former is composed of traditional leaders and serves as the supreme authority. It focuses its efforts on maintaining peace and mediating disputes among clans and the various branches of government.

The Beel System was from the beginning viewed as a transitional system. Its achievement is not that it was the first to use a hybrid system, as some mistakenly claim. As we have seen before, the hybrid and confused system existed in practice. Whereas in the past the traditional was scoffed at yet used behind the scence, the Beel System openly advocated for an integration of the traditional and western and, more importantly, incorporated it into the existing political institutions.

The December 1996 Conference in Hargeisa supposedly changed from Shir Beelleed (clan conference), like that of the 1993 Borama Conference, into Shir Qaran (National Conference). Until then, the country was ruled using the National Charter passed in the 1993 Borama Conference. In reality, the difference between Shir Beelleed to Shir Qaran was more semantic than substantive. For whatever it was called, the same actors would have played in the political arena, with President Egal being who called the shots. At the time, his opponents called for a new Shir Beelleed to elect the President – a proposal which Egal disliked because the Habar Je’lo at the time were preparing to put up their candidate with the claim that it was turn to take the helm, the same way the Habar Awal took under Egal and the Habar Yoonis under Abdirahman Ahmed ‘Ali. By calling it Shir Beelleed, President Egal was turning over the table on the Habar Je’lo and set up a system of one-person-one vote by which he would still call the shots and win.

Intense debates on a new Constitution started during and after the December 1996 conference. The referendum of 31 May 2001 showed national consensus (about 97% approval) for the new Constitution which provided the legal foundation of Somaliland’s transition from the Beel System to multi-party democracy. Local and presidential elections followed in December 2002 and May 2003 respectively. Parliamentary elections that were to take place soon after have been postponed for two years with the justification that critical and controversial laws (including allocation of seats and demarcation of district boundaries) remain to be passed.

In short, Somaliland’s hybrid political system of governance has maintained peace and stability, although there have been periods in which armed conflicts have erupted or come close to erupting. This hybrid system is an innovation from which has Somaliland reaped significant benefits. Yet it is not a panacea, as shown by its limitations to develop an efficient and merit-based system of government. In particular, questions of clan and gender equity remain persistent, although the key actors endeavour to maintain the peace. Complaints of people being “hostages to peace” have surfaced in recent years because solution to genuine clan, regional, or gender grievances tend to be postponed for the sake of maintaining peace.

4.3.2 Ingredients of the Homemade Solution

In a nutshell, the lessons on how Somaliland restored peace in the Borama Conference in 1993 and in Hargeisa in 1997 can be summarized thus:

- The conference was organized and owned by Somalis. Since no foreign governments were involved, their conflicting interests (territory, power, strategic pursuit, money, or prestige) were not confounding factors as they have been in conferences organized for Somalia by the international community
- The locations were on the home turf. Most participants stayed with relatives, friends, and coattendees. Hence, the cost of the conference was minimal. In particular, there were no plush and expensive hotels, no planes or taxis, no commission on these service, no fees for organizers of conference (as for instance in Kenya).
- The conference was not for warlords or politicians committed to war if they do not get their aims or who used violence to keep their power even if reconciliation was achieved. Through public organization and pressure, Somaliland sidelined these elements.
- Clan elders and religious elders led the conference to use their moral and religious authority for mediation and moderation. Military officer bent on resolving differences through violence and and the Westernized elite whose vanity exceeds their competence were included in the process but not given leading role.
- Food and comfort were minimal. In fact, the more uncomfortable the venue, the quicker reconciliation work is completed; the more comfortable the venue (e.g. the Hilton or the like) the longer time spent on reconciliation with little result.
- The conference used Somali time, not European time. There was no rash or specific agenda to be completed in a specified time. The primary aim was achieving durable solution even if that took months. For instance, the conferences in Borama and Hargiesa took at least five months each.
- The conferences were inclusive. Great care was taken to include every group, hear its concerns, and where possible accommodate its interests and views.
- The modus operandi was consensus, not majority vote. This meant that every effort had to be made to find agreement among all clans, large or small.
- The language was Somali. This freed everyone to speak with oratory and personal style they like. It also freed the participants from the misplace authority of a foreigner who chairs meetings but really has no clue of Somalis and their way of settling disputes .

4.2.3 Strengths and Limitations

Good governance has not been practised in Somalia either before or since independence. It is for this reason that the Somali State born in 1960, lacking equity and justice, had failed. After the state collapse in 1991, Somaliland broke away from the union with Somalia and adopted a new approach to governance. In1993 the Somaliland National Charter was approved in Borama by the participants of the national peace conference, led by representatives of clan leaders. Subsequent to the conference, the role of clan elders and the clan system was institutionalized. Thus, from 1993 onwards, Somaliland practised a hybrid political system of governance that combines the beel (clanbased) system of government with modern western-style of government.

A government comprising a President, Vice President and a legislature was constituted. The legislature consists of two councils, the Guurti (House of Elders) and the Wakiilo (House of Representatives). Almost all clans are represented in the two houses of parliament. Each clan and sub-clan has been allocated a fixed number of seats in the legislature. This system gives wider political clan representation than the political systems that existed in the past, both during the military regime as well as during the civilian-led government preceding it. It also permits wider public participation.

The mandate of the Guurti includes initiating legislation relating to religion, traditions, and security. The Guurti also reviews and votes on legislation passed by the House of Representatives. Clan leaders that are not in Guurti still continue their role in peace-making and peace-building, managing conflicts, and mediating and handling disputes by using the customary law cases that have had serious social and political importance.

The constitution that replaced the National Charter in 1997 signalled, in theory at least, the transition from the Beel System to a multiparty electoral system of government. However, the transition did not take place until 2002. In December 2002 and May 2003, municipal and presidential elections took place. The election of parliamentarians (firstly the House of Representatives then of the House of Elders) was postponed to March 2005. Thus, the transition from the Beel System is not yet complete and may not be so even after the parliamentary elections in 2005.

The primary strengths of the Beel System are firstly that it gave representation in government to different clans, and secondly that it maintained the peace among different clans. Its primary limitations include its inability to develop or maintain efficient, merit-based, and stable political institutions. The rights of clans were not matched by commitment to merit. The transition to multiparty democracy has not yet brought the anticipated results. It seems to have been channelled the old grievance and debates through political parties – a case of old milk in a new container. Somaliland’s hybrid political system of governance is by many measures a success. Peace and stability has been maintained mainly because of the successful utilisation of the Beel System (institutionalisation of the clan in governance). Somaliland also achieved the planned transition to a multiparty electoral system.

However, the system is inefficient. It does not provide the necessary checks and balances. The members of the Guurti (mostly traditional leaders) are uninformed about the development of effective and efficient government institutions. The members of the Wakiillo (House of Representatives) are a mixed lot, the majority of whom are unaware of their mandate and their responsibilities. The judiciary, which is supposed to be independent and impartial, is woefully short on both accounts. The executive enjoys many of the powers not acceptable in a genuinely democratic system. Its responsibilities in budgetary and fiscal accountability are weak. In fact, it seems the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Herein lies the rub. Weak institutions, inadequate accountability, and low transparency in governance could bring down the nascent government, yet unrecognized by the international community. These factors can also break the fragile peace in Somaliland.

4.3.4 Participants’ Definition of Equity

As soon as we referred to equity, interviewees and focus group discussants asked what we meant by the concept. Left to explain what they understood by the concept, interviewees or focus group discussant came up with the following definitions:

- Equity as fairness in representation in parliament and the executive branch;
- Equity as just share in obtaining public resources, including jobs, land, and salaries;
- Equity as equal treatment before the law, law enforcement, and the judicial system;
- Equity in opportunities of education, employment, and business contracts, etc.

In-depth discussion of the topic brought more abstract definitions of equity. These included obtaining equal share in symbolic and subjective “resources” of the state, such how frequently a member of the clan obtained visible posts, like President, Vice President, or ministerial appointment which in reality did not bring substantial material or actual power to his kinsmen but provided him subjective and illusory gains in his private life or in the eyes of others. Often, such symbolic or subjective illusions turned as important and sometimes more important than the other definitions of equity.

The more obvious and accepted definitions referring, for instance, representation in government or fair share of public resources, invoked three key factors of inequity – gender, minority status, and regional distance from Hargeisa, the capital city.

Informant interviewees and focus group participants accepted the right of representation proportional according to group size in the population. However, there is no census in the country; hence, expectations of equity and declaration of rights tended to be fraught with confusion, controversy, and conflict. The lack of census gave impetus to delusion of clan superiority in Somali psychology and social relations.24 As a result, discussions quickly skidded into murky and tense debates of who is most unduly rewarded or aggrieved.

With these different meanings of equity, the key informant interviewees, the focus group discussants, and the informal group participants presented their views of how inequity persists in the governance and political institutions of Somaliland.

Our study shows that Somalis today have two contradictory attitudes toward government and its institutions. On the one hand, they invest much hope and interest; on the other, they take a jaundice view of government. Distrust, envy, resentment, and fear combine to make government the proverbial object you can not live with, yet you can not live without.

From our interviews we learn that people have invested much hope and interest in government during the last forty three years because they believe that:

- Government would offer sorely needed protection from personal and property attack;
- Government would be the neutral body adjudicating disputes and enforce its decisions;
- Government run by their own leaders would be compassionate and humane;
- Government, the largest employer and the primary “industry”, would provide jobs to citizens;
- Government would provide social services such as heath, education, and public works;
- Government would protect them from external enemies poised to oppress them Yet the history since independence has shown that government led by Somalis could indeed be worse than the colonial rule Somalis condemned, detested, and ejected forty four years ago. As a result, they took a jaundiced view of government. The question of equity evokes essential distrust of politics and political institutions. In some instances, one gets the impression that government inevitably is a veritable burden, a social curse, sometimes a violent monster.

Further exploration of the subject suggests that everyone has complaints of inequity, but none of the participants argued that the current government must be abolished altogether, or that the political system prevailing prior to 1993 should be re-established. In short, even while participants complained about one or another form of inequity, they showed open pride in what Somaliland achieved during the last ten years.

4.3.5 Forms and Patterns of Inequity

There was a near unanimity from the participants in the fieldwork that there is better equity since 1991 in Somaliland than there was in the thirty years since independence. However, most interviews affirmed that inequity in the different senses described above exists in Somali governance and political institutions.

A few of the participants stated that the search for “equity” predisposed the President of Somaliland to form a large and costly coterie of ministers (over twenty), their deputy ministers, and other superfluous ministers without portfolio (e.g. Minister of State). They added that appointment to the cabinet is one of his best ways of rewarding loyal persons and clans. Thus, his desire to win and keep supporters undermines a merit-based system. Such a system requires not only change in the way the President views his chief responsibilities but also in the public demand and expectations imposed on him.

One form of inequity participants in the study stressed is inequity the parliament. There is unanimity of views that the Beel System has proven to be useful and innovative in Somaliland since 1993. The participants affirmed that it secured peace and stability when armed clan conflict threatened to be frequent and disastrous. As hybrid system, combing tradition and modernity, it was no doubt innovative. Its consensus-based procedure to decide critical issues also allowed all groups to be heard and consulted. In recent years, however, the Beel System has been criticized because:

- It excluded women from representation in two houses of the parliament;
- Minority groups (particularly the Gabooye) have only symbolic representation;
- In the absence of census, clan representation has been arbitrary;
- The clan constituencies have system of control or accountability on their representatives;
- Representatives do not know well their role or responsibility, having been selected neither on knowledge nor experience in politics;
- Whether representatives know or do not know their role and responsibility, they tend to be to sell their vote to the executive branch;
- Current members in the House of Representatives do not push for election, conveniently postponed to March 2005, because most them know that they not be elected;
- The Guurti is replete with aged traditionalists whose contribution to peacemaking was critical but whose understanding of contemporary government is limited;
- The system of electing the Guurti remains conveniently ambiguous and their term not clearly defined.

Inequity in the executive branch was also discussed, but facts seemed murky and difficult to establish. In general, the participants in the fieldwork agreed that

- Not all clans found equal representation in the executive branch;
- Most of the ministers and vice ministers appointed were not chosen on merit but on dubious political calculations of the President;
- Loyalty to the President and the status quo, not competence or social commitment, gives one advantage in joining and staying in the cabinet;
- Because ministers from the same clan tended to head certain ministries, the assumption took hold that these ministries are the fiefdoms of certain clans;;
- A few ministers remain as fixtures in the cabinet, partaking in a game of musical chairs for years;
- Women and minorities were appointment to ministerial and vice ministerial posts only in 2003; even then, there are only two women ministers and one vice minister from the Gabooye.

Inequity in public resources brought heated debates among the participants, particularly minorities, war veterans, the disabled, and persons coming from eastern regions like Sanaag and Sool. The debates on equity in public resources took for granted that government is the primary employer and industry in the country, that every citizen had a right to a share of the public largesse, even while the fledgling government was strapped for resources. Ironically, even those who found jobs in government complained of inequity, thereby making the topic of inequity as pervasive as a common flu in cold seasons.

Participants from minority groups described the caste-like system which cordons them off into segregated neighborhoods, jobs, and social stigma. They described how society needs their presence and work, yet reduces them to invisibility and inaudibility. In particular, they complained about the minuscule number of their members who have been given opportunity for education and how the measly few working in government institutions are given low-level jobs or only as token jobs. When asked how many of their members worked in the civil service or the executive, they mentioned several including one Vice Minister of Health – the first ever in the history of Somaliland. A new complaint in the litany of Gabooye grievances is the increasing plunder of their land as pressure of migration into the city intensifies and the failure of local government, law enforcement, and the courts to protect their property.

Women argued that the system was exclusionary, unfair, and demeaning to women who actually bear the greater burden in society than men. They stated that women succor the children, nurse the sick, tend to the disabled, and today earn bread for the families who male partners, parent and son, waste away in unemployment, qat chewing, and tea-shop babble. Having characterized men as “parasites”, they added that women were denied education and employment, that they carried ot family chores while their brothers attended school, but that today they are forced to provide for the children and even husbands.

The war veterans affirmed that, despite their sacrifices to freedom and justice during the ten years of armed struggle, they have been forgotten by society and left to suffer neglect and injustice far greater than they have known in the past. They talked of bitter feelings in their observation of many who defended the dictatorial regime, some of whom allegedly committed capital crimes in its defense, today reaping the rewards of a good job or high office in government while the veterans who sacrifice theirs lives are reduced to systematic unemployment and abject poverty.

Participants from regions distant from the Hargeisa, the seat of the central government, argued that the system rewards whoever is close to them, invoking the provert: “Dheriga ninka u dhowbaa lafta la baxa” - He who is close to the pot obtains from it the choice bone. They stated that, as in the past, their regions have fewer schools, less health services, and lower investment in public works than the capital city and its environs. Those in and around Hargeisa also complained the burden on them brought on mostly by migration not from other Somaliland regions but also refugees from Ethiopia and Somalia. The discussed the high level of unemployment in their ranks, made most glaring by people in other regions holding high jobs and running thriving business. v Those who found government jobs complained that the rewards of which they are accused is actually smoke-and-mirrors which disguises their own embarrassment and frustrations. The explained that they stay in these jobs only because they hate to hang around in tea-shops and rely on hand outs (shaxaad) of friends and relatives. They discussed the lack of satisfaction in their jobs, absence of health insurance, pension, even chances of promotion based on merit. They also complained how the best job go to those who through clan or personal means have political clout.

When other participants discussed the corruption pervading the system, they answered that it is unrealistic to expect underpaid civil service to remain clean and accountable, that it is also naïve to have a bloated bureaucracy, driven not by merit but political aims, to set up efficient management or inspire employees to do a good job.

One form of inequity the participants describe with chagrin is the political (read clan) boundaries which the President and/or the Parliament demarcated to win the loyalty of one group, inadvertently displeasing others. In fact, the old and new district boundaries are products of political maneuvers of one regime or another. The absence of census and fixed settlements makes the problem of district and even regional boundaries intractable and intensely debated. Feelings of inequity arising from this evoke clan cleavages which can contribute to the cycle clan conflict.

4.3.6 Promise of Equity in Democracy

Somaliland has not only distinguished itself in the region by emerging from the ruins of war and mending the peace on its own ingenuity and resources. Somaliland has also taken the first footsteps toward democracy not by the prodding of other countries by its own initiative. These are indeed significant steps in a region where one-man rule has been the rule rather than the exception and where power is often contested with force of arms.

It is always difficult to achieve equity to the degree and the form people expect in Somaliland and elsewhere. Somaliland, like other countries has embraced democracy - a government of the majority, a government in which supreme power is vested in the people directly and/or in their representatives – is the best means of achieving toward equity. But accepting democracy in principle is one thing, putting it in practice another.

The first steps Somaliland put forward toward democracy is the National Charter signed in the Borama Conference of 1993. This charter was not based on one-person-vote principle because elections could not be held when the country was in the brink of anarchy and violence. The inter-clan wars in Bur’o in 1991 and Berbera in 1992 did not did not provide the necessary conditions for elections, nor did the weak and floundering government of Abdirahman Ahmed Ali (Tuur) prepare the people for peaceful transition of power. The Borama Conference was founded on clan dialogue and consensus and the National Charter approved by the representatives stipulated a transition period in which a national constitution would be prepared and elections would be held.

In fact, transitional period of the two years was extended by an inter-clan war which some believe was conveniently instigated by the President and his striding cabinet members. Whatever the reason for extending the transitional period, a national constitution was drafted and debated in the parliament. The opposition at first declared this draft constitution simply a paper ploy, a legal window-dressing, for the President to continue his one-man rule. By May 2001, the national voted on the constitution with remarkable discipline and peace. Over 96% of the registered voters and 97% of the approved voters had voted “yes” for the Constitution.

After a majority of the voters approved the Constitution, the National Election Commission proceeded to conduct local and presidential elections. After some delays and controversy, the local elections were held in December 2002 and in May 2003 respectively. Again, the elections proceeded peacefully and with broad participation in at least five of the six regions of the country. Nine political organizations contested in the local elections of which, as the Constitution stipulates, only the three political organizations with the highest votes could qualify for the designation of national “political parties” and compete in the presidential election.

The three parties that so qualified were UDUB, KULMIYE, and UCID. UDUB won the presidential election, even though its presidential candidate was from the minority Gadabursi clan. Contrary to what strident critics suggest, this shows that the Isaaq majority is not a monolithic clan united against their non-Isaaq compatriots. This development, the first time when a Gadabursi President won with the support of the Isaaq majority, shows that Somaliland has achieved a historic milestone when clan was not the only factor in choosing a candidate or reaching a national decision.

Despite their relative political immaturity and excessive feud, the political parties carried out these elections with remarkable peace and dignity. When KULMIYE lost the hotly contested presidential election by a small number of votes, it heeded to the public demand that it accept the decision of the court and give up its pursuit of power. This commitment to peace auger well for the future stability of Somaliland and for the democratic experimentation it started.

Still, the political parties must learn the difference between loyal opposition and destructive opposition. On the other hand, the government should not take, as it does today, winner-takes-all perspective. It must extend a hand of collaboration and consultation to the political parties who, jointly or separately, have their constituencies and public support. A government that gets stuck with petty personal conflicts is as dangerous as political parties that obsessively ferret for the failures and weakness of their political adversaries in power.

4.3.7 Poverty of Ideology and Clan Perspective

The clan system, particularly people’s internationalization of it as paradigmatic guide to life, constitutes the major impediments to the development of political parties in Somaliland. The Constitution of Somaliland was designed to limit the role of clan and clannism in politics. That is why a distinction was made between political organizations that competed in the local elections of December 2002 and political parties that competed for the presidential elections of May 2003.

Before the local elections, any group could form a political organization if they met basic requirements (e.g. registration, showing a specified list of members, holding a public conference, and electing officials in that conference). It was stipulated that only three political organizations that won the highest number of votes in the local elections in at least four of the six regions (hence demonstrated hence multi-clan and multi-regional membership) could promote to the status of political parties and to compete in the presidential elections.25

Despite ostensible attempts to reduce the influence of clan in the elections, the political parties could not subjectively and objectively escape the power of the clan system in the political process. Firstly, each political organization and later political party was identified with the clan of its Chairman and General Secretary, regardless of their political views. Secondly, the political organizations themselves put forth candidates that satisfy the clan that predominate each district. Thirdly, the voting followed along clan lines as did later the election of mayors and other key posts. The one remarkable difference, heralding a historic advance, is that a candidate from a minority clan was elected President in May 2003.

What thus counts most in the Somali political process is the clan of the individual, not his political outlook and commitment. Somalis assume that they know your views and commitments if they know your clan. In addition, political parties think in clan terms to in political campaigns. Candidates for political office also rally their clan to win political office.

In short, clan is ideology, a creed, a weltanschauung. It is also an organizing schema to life and to the political process. So far, the power of ideas stand little chance in exceeding the power of the clan in shaping identity, thought, and behavior of Somalis. It is a conclusion that disappointments Somalis who prefer ideas over lineage, or who believe merit to clan identification. But this conclusion, however unpopular or distasteful, derives from observations in the field and perspectives of participants in the fieldwork.

4.3.8 Lessons from the Elections

The local and presidential elections were not without their flaws, as Somaliland officials claim. There were irregularities, most of it inevitable in a country under dictatorship for over thirty years and without census or well-developed voter registration. Some of the irregularities were carried out by dishonest and over-zealous officials. Others were products of inexperience combined with poor logistics, communication, and training. Still, the voting proceeded peaceful and as well as can be expected under the circumstance. Foreign observers, mainly from the United States and the Republic of South Africa, gave high approval to the way the voting was conducted and to the counting of results.

There are important lessons that could be learned from the local and presidential elections in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes and to build on the successes. Mistakes repeated in other elections will no doubt undermine in public confidence with elections, intensify suspicion of foul play, and aggravate trust in government.

The following are some of the limitations and problems noted by the local and international observers:

- The registration process failed prior to and during the voting; hence no data exist except the names of those who voted.

- No pre-election voter education combined with high level of voter illiteracy resulting high errors in voting for the intended candidate.
- Ink did not always work well; evidence of double or multiple voting.
- The officials at the polling stations were of unequal in training, capacities, and commitment.
- Polling stations lacked uniform procedures; some of the officials and representatives of political organizations did not know their job and responsibilities well.
- Some polling stations opened later or closed earlier than scheduled; officials in some polling stations were slow and inefficient; long queues forced some to wait for six hours.
- Poor distribution of polling stations in some areas; some polling stations had either too many or too few voters.
- The police did not have adequate training for crowd control; a few were in polling stations with their guns, breaching the election laws.
- In some areas, underage youth were allowed to vote for lack of proper documents.
- There were no standard procedures for using the dye and assisting the illiterate.
- There were no first aid and no facilities to eat, rest, pray, etc.
- Unresolved problems related to boundaries influenced the outcome; in some instance, ballot boxes were found missing.

The following are some of the successful aspects of the election noted by local and international observers:

- The voters enthusiastic; they exercised self-discipline and maturity; they were patient in long queues for many hours.
- The process was remarkably peaceful and orderly; no intimidation or harassment of voters.
- High turnout for voting; large number of women voters, especially in the afternoon.
- Officials in voting stations seemed committed, even while they worked long hours, many without taking breaks.
- The process of counting ballots in many polling stations seemed transparent when representatives of political organizations were present.
- Weak, lame, or illiterate voters found assistance as needed.
- In general, both local and international observers were welcomed in polling stations.

The question of whether these the first footsteps toward democracy ensure equity is in fact arguable. Majority rule or one-person-one-vote is not the royal road to equity. In fact, both can be tantamount to tyranny of the majority or legalized inequity to minority groups. The Borama Conference has shown that value of consensus in which even the smallest minority can be respectively heard and given their due share of representation, sometimes more of it with spirit of brotherhood and commitment to peace. Most participants warned that, while the experiment on one-person-one-vote should be continued and honed, the value of consensus and lessons of the Borama Conference should not be forgotten.

4.3.9 The Inflation of Sultaans

The Beel System encouraged traditional leaders to directly participate in the political process. Because of it, they no longer were treated archaic, illegitimate, or irrelevant while indirectly they were used by politicians when it suited them. The establishment of the Guurti since 1993 represents a clear admission to the importance and role of the traditional elders. However, the Beel System has unleashed new campaigns of traditional leaders to expand their power and role in society.

The most visible illustration of this is the spate of sultaans that in recent years have emerged in Somaliland. Clans that in the past had one sultaan – a traditional chief – are increasingly breaking up into sub-clans with their separate sultaans. The ambition of some individuals is today channeled in joining the surfeit of sultaans who had mushroomed in recent years, setting in motion the process of clan fission and conflict.

For instance, the Habar Je’lo who had one sultaan in the past have now several some of whom are not content with the title but call themselves boqor – king.

The Dhulbahante who also had one garaad – another term for sultaan – had two in mid-1800s, 13 in 1985, and 14 today – the last selected only a few weeks ago. The Arab who had one now have three, the last selected calling himself boqor.

A dispute between the government and some sultaans got out of hand in 2002. President Egal decided to imprison some of them and kept others in siege when they came to Hargeisa. The incident almost provoked an armed conflict that could have turned into clan conflict, particularly between the Habar Je’lo and the supporters of the government. Fortunately, the dispute was settled by civil society mediators including religious leaders, businessmen, and intellectuals.

Because of the inflation of sultaans, two new problems have emerged in Somaliland. Firstly, the sultaans have come up with calls for a new and exclusive house for them in the parliament. Arguments that the Guurti was designated for traditional leaders including the sultaans do not satisfy them. Because their call for such a house found no social traction, they temporarily ceased their campaign but they did not give up.. The sultaans, old and new, are simply bidding their time, waiting for opportune moment (like time of political transition or armed conflict) when they will exert greater influence to achieve their goal.

Secondly, the traditional system founded on egalitarianism is gradually turning into hierarchical, divisive, and discordant social order. In some instances, the government or the opposition encourages the emergence of a sultaan for narrow political interest, only to find out later that they had created a problem for themselves and for society. Because also traditional titles today have currency (monetarily and socially), each new nominee is trying to outdo the others by name - for instance by calling himself boqor (king) instead of traditional titles like sultaan, garaad, or ugaas. Perhaps, Somaliland will soon be entering a new era were leaders compete over who is “king of kings” – recalling a period of Ethiopian history which ended when Emperor Menelik II finally won the competition and the title Emperor.

The new spate of sultaans it is on the whole dangerous. Firstly, it encourages clan fission which could promote clan conflict. Secondly, it is indicative of weak leadership in government and propensity to fill some vacuum in power. Thirdly, it trivializes a serious political process that started in earnest in 1993, giving new and substantive role to traditional leaders. The surfeit of sultaans may in the end reduce the respect, social value, and power individuals with that title held in society. This too will eliminate key contributors to peace and social harmony to the detriment of Somaliland.

Finally, political debates on shir beelleed (conference of clans) or shir qaraan (national conference) set in motion by some politicians for personal power politics confuse the public. So long as all clan attend, the conference is indeed a national conference. And there can be no national conference in the absence of clans comprising Somaliland. This debate is therefore mostly semantic, not substantive. President Egal used this tactic to browbeat his opponents. If the same debate is used again to exploit public opinion and divide society, Somaliland may return to square one where confusion and confabulation once again breed clan conflict.

4.3.10 Legacy of President Egal

The late President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was in some respects a godsend for Somaliland in the early 1990s when it was in the midst of anarchy and inter-clan violence. A seasoned politician, he knew how to establish a government where none existed in 1993 when he became President of Somaliland. His long political experience – from the mid-1950s when he played a leading role in the campaign for independence and later as Prime Minister of the Somali Republic – had given him the political skill and savvy for rebuilding government and political institutions in Somaliland. Also a highly articulate and intelligent man, he knew how to rally public support for his ideas and win friends when he wanted to do so. Thus, much credit goes to him for rebuilding Somaliland from the ruins in the ten years of his reign (1993-2002).

On the other hand, President Egal was a man intensely obsessed with personal power and with eliminating his opponents, real or imagined, mostly by political means. Although a civilian leader who encouraged the private sector and independent media, he was also a man with little scruple on amassing money from any source or by any means. However, Egal did not use money for building personal wealth but for buying friends and supporters to secure his way to power and to remain installed in power.

In his early years in politics, he had used his inheritance for campaigns for political office and few would accuse him as a man who had acquired money for the mere accumulation of it. However, his habit of using public funds without hesitation and compunction, as if were his own, had encouraged corruption in his cabinet and in government. He also often looked the other way if his cronies misused public funds so long as they remained loyal to him.

Egal was tolerant of the media so long as they did not attack him. When they did, he had no compunction in turning into a village tyrant. When the media exceeded his threshold of tolerance, he treated its agents in the same shabby way he treated all his opponents. To the anguish of journalist and others, he readily believed, without checking, a rumor he heard from a person close to him or whom he considered loyal, even though the messenger might have invented the rumor to advance a personal interest or relayed it to hurt a foe. In addition, though a usually brilliant tactician, with capacity to forgive and forget, he could be impulsive, vain, and uncompromising, particularly to persons he considered opponents.

Equally significant, the late President manipulated clan politics and developed cronies in ways that made merit and social commitment irrelevant during his reign. Most of his cabinet and major appointments had to show loyalty and compliance to him above competence or knowledge. In addition, Egal made ministries as separate clan fiefdoms. Thus, when he expelled a minister or a director general, he appointed to the same post another equally incapable man from the clan of the one expelled. A succession of such appointments had therefore given the impression that certain ministries or posts are the fiefdoms for some clans.

Lastly, he maintained tight control on the drafting of the Constitution and on the working of the parliament. As a result, certain articles of the Constitution whose wording or ambiguity served his political interest are today severe impediments to the development of democracy. Not a promoter of competence and social commitment in his cabinet, he also encouraged incompetence and social irresponsibility within the parliament. To this day, some of the appointments he made in his cabinet and the parliament remain chronic problems continuing to cause distress even after his death. In short, Egal’s legacy is both a blessing and a curse. He was no doubt the kind of leaders Somaliland needed in its difficult years. However, the clan cleavages, the clan conflicts, and the corruption resulting from his policies, practices, and appointments constitute challenges for years to come.

4.3.11 Rise of Religious Fundamentalism

Since the mid-1970s, Somalis have been experiencing increasing disillusionment with authority, loss of faith in government, and erosion of the moral order giving them existential anchor and social guidance. Islam and prayers became both a shelter and a form of rebellion against the military regime which persecuted citizens in the name of socialism and set out to subdue conscience, religious or otherwise.

The succession of wars since 1977 and continuing to the 1990s had also intensified misery and victimization, pushing people to seek for salvation from faith instead of political leaders or movements continually betraying their promises. In addition, the increasing polarization of Islam countries and the West had brought a new group of religious fundamentalists who scoff at the separation of state and religion and who seek power by any means possible.

On the whole, Somaliland has been spared the kind of religious wars and terrorism flaring up in other parts of the world. Because government has kept anarchy and despair at bay, most religious fundamentalists have focused their efforts in controlling the financial sector, changing school curricula and cultivating young minds, taking over mosques and religious debates, controlling dress and social behavior, particularly of women. Although some of groups who proselytize their brand of Islam (like Wahabism) with external financial support, their role in society had not so far led into a confrontation with the government.

An alarming development which erodes confidence in government both locally and internationally is the systematic murder of foreign expatriates who have come to help Somalilanders in health, education, and demobilization. The murder of a Swiss businessman in Hargiesa two years ago, followed by the murder an Italian lady treating the sick in Borama seven months ago, followed by the killing of two Britons running the rehabilitated secondary couples in Shiekh in November 2003, and in March 2004 the murder of a Kenyan and wounding of a German, both employees of GTZ, had brought rude awareness to the people of Somaliland. The incidents drove home that Somaliland is indeed vulnerable and that its peace is fragile.

Only when five men were captured in the village of Doqoshey by the inhabitants, following the murder of a Kenyan consultant to GTZ, was a solution found for the puzzle which almost unraveled the fragile peace of Somaliland. After the capture of the five men, it became clear that a conspiracy led by religious fundamentalists has been at work and that Somaliland could no longer rest assured that its hard-won peace would sustain without the government beefing up its security measures. At the same time, government is historically known to use such incidents as license to set up excessive security systems and measures which in the end re-instate the cycle of oppression, armed opposition, and disaster Somaliland has come through in the past decades.

In short, the incidents of terrorism occurring in Somaliland in recent months give cause for alarm. So too are the emerging committees and practices of the government which, in the name of ensuring security, violate basic rights of citizens for due process, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement. In particular, as we discuss in the next chapter, worries now center on the Guddiga Nabad- Gelyadda (the Committee on Security) set up unconstitutionally and Public Order No. 21/63 which gives authorities free hand to imprison suspects without due process. Either way, Somaliland seems to be in trouble. When two elephants fight or make love, the grass dies.


- Inequity in clan and gender representatioon in parliament.
- Inequity in employment opportunities for clans and regions.
- Unequal access to the government, the capital city, and public resources.
- Rampant corruption and misappropriation of public funds.
- Incompetence in the Executive Branch.
- Inequity in government employment.
- Discrimination felt by veterans (both SNM combatants and ex-soldiers).
- Inequity in delineation of district (read clan) boundaries.
- The Proliferation of Sultaans and so-called kings vying for power.
- The emergence of religious radicals using Islam in pursuit of power.


- People jealously guard the hard-won peace, when their frustration is intense.
- The government takes special care in assaulting the property and person of citizens.
- People have come to believe that government is essentially a burden, a nuisance, not solver of life problems; therefore, they do expect least from it so long as it does not directly bother them.
- Since trust and expectation of government is low, its failings are accepted as given.
- Complaints of inequity are a common and acceptable way of letting off steam.
- Since the tyranny and discrimination of the past are the accepted benchmark of misery, present inequities are felt with less passion.
- The anarchy or statelessness of Somalia predisposes Somalilanders to use these as standards on which to evaluate their blessing; but this negative comparison is short-sighted.
- Gradual progress (including the local elections of 2002 and presidential election of 2003) buoying public hope for better things to come in the future. Many Somalilanders identify themselves as “rajo ku-nool” - those who live on hope.”


After the collapse of the regime, the Isaaq returned to their destroyed homes, cities, and land with sizzling anger and wish for revenge. Fortunately, the feared conflicts pitting the Isaaq against the non- Isaaq did not take place. Where they did, their scope was limited and their consequences not as disastrous as feared.

When the Isaaq turned on themselves, due to the frustration of years and lethal arms inherited from the war, the SNM leaders had no effective equitable program of governance. During this period, the non- Isaaq (particularly the Gadabursi) found new role in mediating among the Isaaq, in the process becoming key actors and key midwives of a new Somaliland.

The political leaders know well that if clan balance and dialogue cease, the society will regress to conflict and chaos. That is why, for instance, the President makes sure that his cabinet includes as many clans as possible. The downside of this is that the cabinet becomes too large and unwieldy, creating other problems of inefficiency and financial burden. It is a difficult choice – one that requires further thought and experience.

In general, the people of Somaliland are proud of what they have been able to achieve during the past ten years with little international assistance. They restored peace and formed a government that by African standards is exemplar. Lessons can be learned from the Somaliland experience by those who seek to find problems to Somalia.

The Beel system, a hybrid of tradition and modernity, is a major step forward in experimentation and inventiveness that have been undermined by local elite that, soon after independence, wanted to develop a replica of Western Europe but could not. The military regime, aping socialist countries, adopted the rhetoric of revolution but had shown its poverty in substance and practice.

Following its collapse, society had to either save itself or to perish. On the precipice of disaster, it chose to fall back on its local resources and creativity. The result was the Beel system which saved it from impending disaster.

However, the Beel system is not a panacea. It has its limitations. For instance, it is cumbersome and inefficient. It values inclusiveness over merit and competence. In addition, the traditional leaders who have come to the limelight of politics know little about the demands of a contemporary state. They are as much valuable to society as they are a burden to it.

The Beel system was supposed to be a transitional structure. The emergence of political parties was supposed to reduce the criterion of clan and to build a government based on diversity, peaceful competition, and merit. Yet the political parties have shown that they too are unable to free themselves from the clutches and crutches of clan.

Lastly, the problems of inequity and injustice that pushed society to war have not been adequately resolved. Complaints are rife in different sectors. Those who live outside Hargeisa feel neglected and discriminated against. So do former ex-combatants, rural communities, women, and minorities. In short, though Somaliland has come a long way from the tyranny of the military regime and the anarchy following its collapse, it still has a long way to go to build an enduring system of government, credible to its people and the international community. Governance and political institutions of Somaliland are a mixture of the good and the bad because its leaders particularly and the society generally present both in high quotient.

The bad aspects can not be eliminated, any more than the good alone cultivated. Peace and development have come from a careful balance of the two tendencies. In a nascent and fragile society like Somaliland, increment of one over the other could either push society forward toward democracy and development, or thrust it to yet another disaster. The quality of leaders is thus as critical as patience of the public.



We selected this issue because firstly the perception and reality of inequity in society has been a primary cause for armed conflict. Secondly, the majority of people in Somaliland took up arms against the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre because equity of law and the judicial system had been severely violated and peaceful methods of redress to their grievance had failed. We wanted to see how far law enforcement and justice systems have come since 1991 when Somaliland reclaimed its independence.


After the collapse of the military regime in 1991, different regions of Somalia reverted to varying traditions of law enforcement and legal systems. In Somaliland, the police and the judiciary had to be recreated from scratch. Since 1993 there has been steady progress in re-establishing the foundation of law enforcement and the judicial system including the development of legal codes, courts, and jails. The history of how law enforcement and the judicial system were re-established in Somaliland sets a context for understanding the problems of inequity in the law and the judicial system.

5.2.1 The Police Before 1991

When the occupation of Somaliland coast by Britain started in earnest in 1884, shortly after the Egyptians had evacuated Berbera, Langton P. Walsh had established a police force comprising of 100 men whom he trained in drills and marksmanship. This miniscule force operated effectively because firstly the population took seriously agreements of “protection” their elders had signed with the British and secondly because the British used effectively the policy of divide-and-rule.26

The war of the Dervishes led by Mohamed Abdulle Hassan intensified the decision of Britain to hold on to the Protectorate and increase its forces. Following pacification, Britain invested little in Somaliland and continued indirect rule using elders and minimum external force. When in1959 the Somaliland Police Force established, it comprised 24 gazetted officers of whom only 10 were Somalilanders. Soon after, the police training school at Mandhera was constructed to train new recruits.

In 1960, the police in Somaliland and Somalia were integrated. The police traditions and procedures each force inherited from its colonial rulers – one British, the other Italian – did not conform and hence confusion followed until the National Police Force found technical assistance from the former West Germany. From 1960-169, the civilian administrations politicized the police and infected it with its clan competition and cleavages. When the police interfered in elections marred by rigged ballots, the respect and confidence it enjoyed had diminished.

After the military coup of 1969, the National Police Force found technical and financial assistance from the former East Germany. The politicization of the police intensified as it became the bulwark of the regime using arbitrary detention and torture against persons considered “anti-revolutionary” and hence opponent of the regime. Growing into a formidable force, the police did its part in holding the lid on citizens until the regime fell on January 26, 1991.

5.2.2 The Judicial System Before 1992

In pre-colonial Somaliland, customary law (xeer) was used alongside Islamic Shari’a (of the Shafi’i school). Clan elders and experts in Shari’a law (the qaadis and sheikhs) applied the laws in an informal manner. In matters concening marriage, divorce and inheritance rights, Shari’a was usually disregarded in favour of xeer.27

The British colonial administration introduced an additional body of codified law and a judicial system based on British Common and Statute Law and the Indian Penal Code. In addition, the British established traditional (Akil’s) courts and, subsequently, the Qaadi’s courts to apply customary law, while Shari’a law continued to be applied in domestic matters.

At independence in 1960, when British Somaliland and Italian Somalia were united, four distinct legal traditions – British Common Law, Italian (Continental) law, Islamic Shari’a, and Somali customary law – were in simultaneous operation. These four legal systems were partially integrated by the passage of a “Law on the Organization of the Judiciary” by the National Assembly of Somalia in 1962. According to this legislation, the civil and penal codes and commercial law were to be based on Italian law, whereas the criminal procedure code was to be based on Anglo-Indian law. In Somaliland, however, the lower courts continued to practice British law until 1977 because judges were most conversant with this system. At the same time, Islamic Shari’a continued to apply in family and civil matters, while customary law (sanctioned by civil courts) was retained for optional application in such matters as land tenure, water and grazing rights, and the payment of diya. In parts of the country, particularly rural areas, where state law did not reach, customary law was predominant.

The military regime that seized power in 1969 suspended the Constitution of 1961, assigning all legislative, executive, and judicial powers to the Supreme Revolutionary Council. In 1973, the regime introduced a unified civil code. Its provisions pertaining to inheritance, personal contracts and water grazing rights sharply curtailed both the Shari’a and Somali customary law.

In particular, the new civil code altered the customary system diya payment as compensation for death or injury, in which responsibility was collectively borne by the clan. The offence was made punishable by death and compensation payable only to close relatives. The Socialist regime’s determination to limit the role of Shari’a in domestic matters was further reflected in the Family Act of 1975, which gave equal inheritance rights to women.

The military government did not change the basic structure of the court system, but it limited the powers of the courts. At the outset the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court were abolished and the authorities of the Court of Appeals and District Courts were reduced. Although the Supreme Court was later restored, the regime introduced a major new institution, the National Security Courts (NSCs), which operated outside the ordinary legal system and under the direct control of the executive. These Courts, which were situated in Mugadisho and the regional capitals, had jurisdiction over offences that the regime deemed a threat to state security.

5.2.3 Prisons before 1991

There were three main prisons before the military coup and all three were built during colonial rule. The Central Prison in Mogadishu was designed for a maximum of 5,000 prisoners. The other major prisons were in the former British Protectorate. The Hargeisa Central Prison was built in the 1940s to accommodate only a maximum of 120 prisoners. The Mandheera Prison, located between Hargeisa and Berbera, was built in the 1950s, also able to accommodate about 250 prisoners.

After the military coup, hundreds of prisons had mushroomed throughout the country. Most infamous of these were the Laanta Buur Prison, the Buurweyn Prison, and Labaatan Jirow Prison. Laanta Buur Prison was located in an area 40 km away from Mogadishu. It was designed to occupy prisoners in agricultural production but the prison only became a place of incarceration. The Buurweyn Prison was located in an area 20 km south of a small town called Buulaburde. In distance and by design, it was intended for prisoners whose whereabouts and conditions the regime wanted to conceal. The Labaatan Jirow Prison was located in an area 20 km north-east of Baydhabo that in 1990s came to be internationally known as the place of death.28

Labaatan Jirow was developed with the financial and technical assistance of East Germany. It had especially designed underground cells. It prisoners were political detainees held in solitary confinement and incommunicado for undetermined length of time. Only Maxamed Siyaad Barre.had the power to decide the detention as well as release of prisoners at Labaatan Jirow Prison. If a prisoner was released from this prison, it occurred late at night without warning. The prisoner was snatched out of his cell and taken by heavily armed soldiers. The practice was so designed to make the prisoner conclude that the moment of his execution had arrived. To his relief, he was taken to the President’s Palace in Mogadishu. There, he heard offer of clemency from the President. He also heard lame excuses for why he was detained in the first place, or why he was forgotten in prison. The unexpected way the ordeal ended, just after one had prepared for execution, left the unjustly imprisoned most delighted, even grateful to the President.

The old and new prisons were filled to maximum capacity by the 1980s. Overcrowding and poor hygiene were common. Torture was also frequent. In fact, getting into prison was easy, but get out was quite difficult. Many were forgotten in prison because those agents who left them there had left no record of charges against them and never came back to release them. Other agents would never dare to release them for fear of being held responsible. As a result, such prisoners languished in prison for years with an open-ended commitment and the anxiety of not knowing if or when they will be released.

Tyranny is therefore not an insufferable burden to the victims but also to the perpetrators. It creates situations of ambiguity, vulnerability, and apprehension for everyone. For the perpetrator today could easily become the victim, and vice versa. Under these circumstances, the safest course is to take a minimalist action on behalf of victims and, when in doubt, to err in favor of the status quo of oppression. The number of prisons and prisoners increased rapidly; Somalia itself became a prison.


The history of the police and the courts before 1991 had immense influence on Somaliland law and judicial system in subsequent years. The politicization of the police and the courts had compromised its professional ethics and behavior. They began as alien institutions imposed by an occupying force. After independence, their politicization continued and intensified under the military regime. It collapse had brought the need to re-establish law and order, with equity and justice as its foundation, but institutions and habits of the past persisted.

5.3.1 The Police After 1991

Law enforcement and the rule of law were among the paramount tasks facing Somaliland after the fall of the military regime. Following the 1991 Burao Conference, a newly elected transitional government gave priority to the management of security matters. The transitional government drew list of recruits from the SNM fighters. It entrusted the task of rebuilding the Somaliland Police to a committee composed from the SNM Veterans’ Association (SOOYAAL), the Hargeysa Mayor’s office, and a selected number of ex-police officers. 29

The process of planning for the new police force and selecting personnel took almost six months. In principle, the team agreed to establish the first police unit comprising 200 men, of whom 120 were SNM veterans and 80 were members of the ex-police force. This combination fit well with the ongoing process of reconciliation and peacemaking among the warring factions. The combination was also in harmony with the demobilization and re-integration program that was drawn up to facilitate the re-engagement of the veterans to ordinary civil life.

Of the 120 recruited from the SNM ranks, 80 were allocated to those who jointed the SNM before 1988 while 40 were those who joined SNM after 1988.30 In collaboration with officers from the Ministry of Education, the new recruits were required to sit for a written examination in Somali. Ironically, the recruits came for the examination with their guns, misunderstanding the examination to be on marksmanship.

By December 1992, the newly formed police unit started its activities at the Hargeysa Central Police Station. Subsequently, units were distributed to the district police stations in Hargeysa. In 1993 a presidential decree formally established the Somaliland Police Force. The demobilization of clan militia later facilitated the establishment of the police force throughout the country. Former SNM combatants, ex-police servicemen, and members of the clan militia were integrated into the police force. In addition, many police stations were either rehabilitated or built all over the country.

Today, police units are functioning throughout the regions and districts of Somaliland, communicating with their central command in Hargeysa through long-range radios. In fact, a great deal more needs to be done in raising the effectiveness, efficiency, and professionalism of the police fore. The main obstacles include the lack of facilities like vehicles to transport the police. Police officers are often illiterate and lack proper training in criminal procedures. Office equipment and logistics are insufficient.

Public and informed sources identify limited budgetary resources and low salaries to be the main cause of corruption, dishonesty and inefficiency in the ranks of the police force. As in the military and custodial corps, there is no ranking system in the police force. None of the officers wear a uniform that shows his rank. Low salaries and the absence of a ranking system underscore that the system is not based on merit and professionalism. The lack of promotion and demotion breeds a sense of irresponsibility and inefficiency among the ranks of the police force.

In addition, interventions from various circles disrupt the smooth running of police activities. Higher ranking government officials, members of the parliament, traditional elders, businessmen and the general the public interfere with the work of the police, and often seek to influence disputes through political pressure and monetary rewards. For this reason, the police force is either reluctant to enforce the law or it inappropriately interferes with the due process of law.

5.3.2 The Judicial System After 1991

The judiciary also continues to face similar problems as the police. The key problems hampering the effective performance of the judicial system are due to too few qualified people and no refresher courses or training; a lack of basic equipment and facilities; the absence of legal libraries, texts, journals, and other legal resources; a poor working relationship between the actors within the system; and the lack of legislative controls, professional associations or regulatory judges and lawyers.

When the judiciary was re-established in Somaliland the court system began with the initiative of the people. Judges and others in the court worked on a voluntary basis – without salaries, appropriate offices, and a coherent legal system. The judicial system also started from ground zero. As government institutions grew, the judges were given nominal stipends, making them dependent upon money they received from the disputants. To this day, the salaries of judges remain quite low and they continue to depend on monetary gifts of disputants out of necessity and out of habit. Inevitably, then, their ruling is influenced by whoever pays them the most. In addition to low salaries, corruption, and lack of professionalism, the courts suffer from inappropriate interference from the executive or legislative. Unlike the police force, which by law comes under the Ministry of Interior, hence under the executive branch of the government, the judiciary is by constitution supposed to be independent and impartial. But it is not so in practice. The Executive controls and influences. In addition, the judiciary is overstaffed with under-qualified judges and unqualified support staff.

Even if a fair verdict is reached by the judges, itself a rare event, there is no guarantee that the verdict will actually be enforced by the police. A majority of the problems the court deals with involves land dispute provoked by land speculations and land grab. Family disputes involving marital problems ranks second. In most of these cases, the court is at the best of those who can pay. Often, judges bilk both disputants until they almost kill the goose that lay the golden eggs. Both land and marital disputes can escalate clan conflict once they attain social traction. Incidents of armed conflict involving land is occasional heard or reported in the papers. A party of the dispute takes up arms out of frustration or feeling betrayed by the court. A few relatives join him. Either the opposing camp comes to the scene. If the police arrived earlier or after, a clash often follows with potential of others joining the fray.

Aside from the obvious problems of limited salaries, training and professionalism in police, courts, and custodial corps, the legal system guiding the behaviour of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary is contradictory and confusing. After the collapse of the central government in 1991, public sentiment favoured the implementation of Shari’a law as a means for re-establishing order and justice, but this hope proved unrealistic as most of the available jurists were returnees from the South and educated in an Italian language and legal system. Inevitably, they became the foundation of Somaliland’s judicial system. Thus, in practice, judges continued to apply the civil code and procedures enacted in the mid-seventies.

The constitution adopted in 1997 in the Hargeysa Conference and ratified by public referendum in May 2001 stipulated that the applicable laws in Somaliland are only those that do not contradict the Islamic Shari’a. For instance, Article 5.2 of the constitution stipulates that the laws of the nation shall be based on the Islamic Shari’a and they shall not be valid if they contradict it. It also states that the pre-1991 laws are valid if they do not conflict with Islamic Shari’a. Yet, judges are unfamiliar with interpretation and application of the Shari’a legal code. Because the Shari’a outlines primarily basic principles of justice it lacks a detailed procedural or administrative system to adjudicate cases.

Therefore, law enforcement agencies and the courts resort to the laws adopted from Italy and Britain – two countries whose legal history and practice are quite different.

Complicating matters, customary law founded on Somali tradition is also pervasive. In fact, the public rely on traditional customary laws in rural areas as well as in cases involving homicide and injury. Often, customary laws are applied outside of the court system. Often settlements reached through customary law release the offender from jail when in fact other laws assume the offender should be kept in jail because he broke a law not only against a clan but against the state. These three legal systems cause much confusion and aggravate, symbolize, and daily reaffirm the lack of equity, efficiency, and justice in Somaliland.

5.3.4 Inequity in the judiciary

Complaints about injustice and bureaucratic red tape of the courts have been common since 1993 but today they have reached dangerous proportion, as demonstrated by the murder of a traffic policeman in broad daylight, in a busy street, in full view of pedestrians. The murder in cold blood was carried by a man who, according to reports, felt unjustly treated by the police and the courts after his vehicle collided with another. The murder had nearly brought into a cycle of revenge killing and clan conflagration.

Every day, there are throngs of citizens milling in and out of court, most of them stuck for months, even years, to settle a dispute involving land, marriage, business partnership, rape, physical altercation, or murder. The courts are overwhelmed because the lack the number and quality of personnel as well as judges to efficiently adjudicate the disputes. In addition, most of the judges are believed to be corrupt, unqualified by training or experience, and simply callous. Those best informed about the problems of courts (for instance, lawyers, judges, and legislators) explain that there are:

- Too few qualified people appointed by the executive;
- No adequate salaries for judges and support staff of the courts, hence the corruption;
- No basic equipment and facilities to properly carry out the duties of courts;
- No refresher courses or training;
- No legal libraries, texts, journals, and other legal resources;
- No proper working relationship between the courts and the executive which undermines their constitutionally stated independence;
- No legislative oversight and controls;
- No professional associations to regulate the behavior of judges and lawyers.
- The combination of different legal systems (Common Laws, Roman/Germanic Laws, and Shari’a) has made the courts bedlam of legal confusion and raw injustice.

People fought against the injustice of Mohamed Siyaad Barre’s regime. Following victory, they expected not only better life in society but equity and justice before the law. Soon after the collapse of the regime, they held realistic view of what to expect from the courts whose judges and clerks were given nominal stipends, making them dependent upon money they received from the disputants.

In recent years, the anger against the inefficiency and injustice of the courts have come under public scrutiny and criticism because complainants write in the media about their encounter with the horrors in the court and more people have experienced their raw injustice or protracted delays to adjudicated even the simplest of cases.

Illustrative of the complaints we heard about the courts is the experience of a young lady, in her midtwenties, who had been embroiled in a protracted and convoluted dispute with her husband. The lady whom we shall give the fictional name, Asha, has never been in court before 2002. Illiterate, she always avoided when she could any institution or relationship which requires documents and exposes her inability to read or write.

Until her dispute with her husband took her to the courts, Asha avoided all government institutions. She married a cousin at age seventeen. Soon after, she started her business, selling food in a stall at the market place. After two years of hard work, Asha managed to help her unemployed husband to purchase a truck. After he mistreated her in different ways, she demanded divorce. Relatives and traditional elders of their clan could not help solve the problems between her and her husband, or end the marriage properly.

Frustrated, she went to the court. What she found shocked her. Two years later, she learned much that about how system of injustice works and how the poor are their primary victims. Her story offers a remarkable testimony for the need of fundamental change in thought and practice, even if the institutions of the former dictator have been ostensibly demolished, after much bloodshed and destruction.

She concluded her story thus: “I learned that the courts are not for the poor. Justice is bought and sold. Only those who have money get justice; those who don’t have money get only raw injustice. I had no lawyer because I could not afford one. I found that none would listen to an aggrieved poor girl.” The failure of law enforcement and the justice system is often compensated for by the intervention of traditional elders and religious leaders in disputes. It is then that one realizes the existence of two systems of government – one formal and based on European models, the other informal and based on tradition. The latter kicks in where the former fails. The traditional elders and religious leaders use existing traditions of payment of blood compensation for injury and death. They also rally the clans of disputants to assist in moderating animosities and payment for compensation. In fact, religious leaders are known to have settled disputes involving, for instance, owners of telecommunications companies like Aerolite in which one owner was locked in an intractable dispute with his father-in-law. The courts would have only botched up this case, as they have done others like it.

5.3.5 Inequity in the penal system

The penal system in Somaliland presents inequity in most intense and crude forms. For instance, the law requires that the detained could not be held without court order for more than seven days, that even the guilty have rights for basic amenities and care. However, many accused are detained for months, even years, on flimsy pretext. They are kept in crowed cells and prisons. They are held in crowded cells with inmates suffering from all sort of communicable diseases like TB and HIV/AIDS. Since also there is no age or criminal distinction of prisoners, the young and old live in the same cells as do the innocent and the hardened criminals.

Illustrative of the disturbing conditions of prisons is the Hargeisa Central Prison, right in the center of capital city and only less than a mile from the Presidential palace. A legislative Committee has recently lamented its horrible state, as did officials we interviewed. This prison was built by the colonial administration in 1940. It was designed to house a maximum of 120 inmates. Today, it is crowded with over 600 prisoners living with in dilapidated buildings, filth, and in crowded cells. The latrines are full and fill the prison with foul smell. The prisoners do not get adequate food or healthcare.

In general, conditions in the prisons of Somaliland are most distressing for women and children. Although a study conducted by one member of our team in situation of women inmates shows that incidents of sexual or physical abuse is low in prisons, women and children bear the brunt of a penal system in disarray, in dilapidated buildings, and extremely overcrowded.

In short, the conclusion one derives is that the law enforcement, the judicial system, and the penal system have a long way to go in protecting and promoting justice and human dignity. People do not want their hard-won peace undermined either by them or outsiders. They have shown remarkable patience toward incompetence and corruption of those who were supposed to enforce the law and adjudicate disputes. However, their patience can not be taken for granted. If problems in the system are not corrected, things can quickly unravel in a population that is armed to teeth and had been hardened by years of rebellion.


- Disputes on land and divorce predominate the conflicts dealt by law enforcement and the judicial system
- Poor training of police officers and judges distort the law and abort justice;
- Limited understanding of the law, due process of the law, and human rights erode trust in government and judicial process;
- Lack of training in proper investigation techniques and tools (such as finger print techniques and lie detectors) lead to failure to apprehend criminals or condemn the innocent;
- Lack of requisite equipment and tools (such as vehicles, communication equipment Lack of training of conflict management escalate conflict;
- Law salaries encourage corruption and undermine the law and the judicial system;
- Law salaries engender low pride, low morale, and therefore low self-discipline and least investment in carrying out one’s job properly;
- Lack of coherent organization in law enforcement and the judicial system result inefficiency, legal muddle, escalation of conflict, and delayed or failed enforcement of decisions by the police and the court.


- Traditional elders intervene in disputes involving marital discord, land dispute, and other interpersonal conflicts;
- Blood compensation (dia-payment) for physical injury and murder reduces incidents of clan revenge;
- Religious leaders have informal courts when parties in conflict agree on mediation and accept their moral authority;
- Using threat of legal action, including imprisonment, the police, the courts, and the penal system have deterrent value on less hardened criminals who otherwise would provoke disputes escalating to clan or sub-clan conflict;
- The system of government, even if often flawed and unjust, reduces the dangers of power vacuum and therefore of anarchy;
- History of citizens’ self-restraint and desire for peace which, despite a society awash with arms, bears injustice with remarkable endurance and undiminished (some say unrealistic) hope that things will somehow work well. They call themselves rajo-ku-nool – survivors on hope.


The institutions for law enforcement and courts actually exist in Somaliland. However, they are woefully inadequate, indeed dysfunctional. Political institutions rebuilt from the ruins will naturally take time. People in Somaliland have waited for more than ten years for equity and justice to be restored, at least improved. But the institutions of rule of law enforcement and justice are too slow and frustrating for the public. Human rights organizations advocating reform also exist but they too are nascent, undeveloped, under-funded, and ineffective. The political parties also tend to complain about real problems of inequity and injustice, but they too have little to propose by way of solution. There is unanimity of public opinion (indeed conviction) that the judicial is the weakest of the three Somaliland government branches. It does not function properly; corruption is high; public confidence in court decisions lack; legal reform is yet to take place. Diverse and contradictory legal systems render interpretation and application of the law ad hoc, non-uniform, and highly subjective. Such disputes or conflicts often concern land issues in the urban centers and farm communities. These too do not find efficient and just ruling or enforcement.

In short, peoples’ perception of injustice and corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary is quite high. It is little wonder that law enforcement and the judiciary are the most unpopular institutions and the weakest links in the nascent system of government in Somaliland.

Post-conflict countries experience formidable challenges. They include rebuilding the peace, homes, businesses, the infrastructure, the political system, trust in government, etc. Of these, highest priority is given to building political structures, homes, businesses, and roads. Often neglected are less tangible but no less important concerns. They include freedom of expression, human rights, trust in government, constant sense of peril among civilians even in time of peace, and the trauma of war. Dictatorship and war leave lasting damages on these aspects of life. Because they are neglected, habits learned under tyranny and systems of control continue to undermine the foundations of peace, democracy, and freedom. As a result, tyranny lurks around the corner. Vigilance against the return of tyranny by the back door is essential.



We selected these two focus issues because human rights (including freedom of expression) are fundamental to freedom and their violation had been the primary causes for why people in Somaliland had taken up arms against the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre. We wanted to explore to what extent post-reconstruction Somaliland has reinstated and practiced these fundamental freedoms and what actual threats to them exist today, presenting potential for conflict escalation. In particular, we will review the status of free expression and association in Somaliland.

Moreover, we wanted to explore further the role of civil society in Somaliland and in particular its role in the rebuilding of peace. Although one finds passing comment on the contributions of traditional elders to peacemaking, the literature on Somaliland neglects the contribution of civil society in diverse areas. We thought it may be useful to bring to the foreground the contributions of civil society which indirectly have been broached in the previous chapters on clan cleavage, governance, law enforcement, the judicial system, and the media.


The crudest forms of violation on human rights had ended with the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre whose indiscriminate persecution, torture, and massacres have been unprecedented in Somali history. Today, Somaliland is in a state of peace. It has a constitution which built-in check and balance of power. Freedom of movement, expression, and association are unhampered constitutionally and in practice. However, past tyranny and fear of unchecked state power, both deeply rooted in the public psyche and habits of officials, presenting covert but constant threats to human rights with potential for escalation of conflict.

6.2.1 Human Rights Before 1991

The history of human rights in Somaliland is grim. Colonial rule was designed to advance human rights. That much is understood for certain. However, independence was supposed to advance human rights of which protecting the bodily and psychological integrity of people from state abuse, freedom of expression, and freedom of association are fundamental principles.

Soon after the 1969 coup, the military regime passed a series of draconian laws curtailing basic freedoms.31 For instance, on 10th January 1970, it issued a decree giving full authority to the ruling Supreme Revolutionary Council and its agents to imprison, without due process, anyone suspected of subversive acts. The law was so sweeping and ambiguous that anyone could be detained without evidence and limitation in time.

On 26th January 1970, the SRC also issued Law No. 8 which amended the Code of Criminal Procedures and gave authorities free hand in getting evidence or confession by any means on crimes related to national security. As a result of this law, torture became a chief and common method of interrogation. On 2nd February 1970, the National Security Services (NSS) was established to gather intelligence on internal and external threats against the regime. The job of the NSS soon became to vigorously monitor the actions and words of suspected “anti-revolutionaries.”

On 10th February 1970, a special court called the National Security Court was established to punish by death or long-term imprisonment those accused of being a threat to the regime. Judges for this court were appointed by Maxamed Siyaad Barre who was closely involved in all major trials from the time the NSC was established to the collapse of the regime. Making the court and its punishment pervasive throughout the country, it had sections in every district and region. These lower courts were also controlled and managed by members of the armed forces.

On 15 February 1970, the SRC issued Law No. 14 that gave authorities – particularly the NSS – the power to search the person, property, or home of anyone suspected of being “anti-revolutionary”. It also gave authorities the power to confiscate his belonging and property if found guilty. Soon, simply a charge of endangering “national security” or of being “anti-revolutionary” became grounds for longterm imprisonment and even death by a firing squad.

On 26th of February 1970, the constitution that had governed the nation since independence was abolished. Four days later, on 2nd March, all political parties were abolished and new political parties were prohibited.

In January 1971, the SRC issued a decree prohibiting writers and journalists as well as composers of poetry and songs from disseminating their work without screening by the Censorship Board (Guddiga Faaf Reebka).

On 4th March 1971, the SRC issued a law enabling the National Security Court to sentence to death by firing squad anyone who pillages, destroys, misuses, or misappropriates public property. On 4th March 1971, a special decree gave full authority to the National Security Court to condemn to death by a firing squad anyone who destroys, plunders, or misappropriates government property or who accepts bribes from the public or otherwise mismanagement public funds. The decree metes similar fate to anyone engaged in propaganda or works with foreigners, thereby compromising the integrity of the government. On 6th March 1971, the regime entered into a comprehensive political, economic, and military agreement with the former Soviet Union.

By January 1972, the campaign to proliferate socialism was undertaken and the number of NSS agents was increased. In April 1972, the SRC issued Law No. 38 which placed Maxamed Siyaad Barre as the sole supreme authority who could revise judgement of the National Security Court, who could listen to appeals, and who could give clemency if he so desired.

By the end of 1972, the legal justification and machinery for repression was fully in place. The subsequent years carried out the full measure of these laws. It took Somalis more than a decade to organize themselves to regain the basic freedoms they lost. We have intimated earlier the brutal and indiscriminate measures the regime took to suppress opposition in Somaliland. The indiscriminate persecution and massacres of the Mohamed Siyaad Barre’s regime are today remembered with intense anger and hatred by the majority of Somalilanders.

A study on psychological trauma in Hargeisa has shown that even children who did not live in the city when the military regime raised it to the ground in the summer of 1988, and their families were strafed all the way to the Ethiopian border, had suffered terror nightmares and disturbed behavior a decade later. Presumably, psychological trauma is transmitted to young generations through the accounts, anxiety, and actions of surviving generations, in the same way that family violence is transmitted transgenerationally.

Many who are unfamiliar with that history political violence can not understand the bitter memories of survivors and the actions of the state they considered their own. More incomprehensible to the survivors of that brutal era are Somalis who for clan hatred or political reasons minimize the abuses of that brutal era or wish bury the past for their own comfort. Neither can therefore understand the depth of resolve for independence among the majority of Somalilanders.

Staying apart from Somalia is in part self-protective, a refuge from abuses of the past. The decision to go it alone, even in the absence of international recognition, is also comes from a commitment to fashion a society of equity and justice which the union failed to present.

The question today is this: Did Somaliland achieve improved standard of human rights during the past twelve years since its reclamation of independence?


The fieldwork focused on the status of human rights in Somaliland in recent years. Despite painful memories of the past, participants often avoided in-depth discussion of state abuse in the past in order to advance the spirit of reconciliation which brought peace to different clans, some fighting the military regime, others supporting it. The desire for mutual accommodation and respect to the different clans comprising Somaliland has gradually made unpopular the old obsession with old injuries and wars. Moreover, people seem inclined to leave the past buried, at least unspoken about, and to focus on pressing issues of today.

6.3.1 Basic Human Rights After 1991

Firstly, participants have indicated that no longer are citizens subjected to the kind of abuses they have known under the military dictatorship. Citizens are not persecuted or killed as in the past. Nor are their freedom of association and movement controlled as in the past. However, they suggested that certain habits of the past can not be readily dislodged.

For instance, the Constitution of the Republic of Somaliland affirms in Article 25, Item 3 that “It is not permitted to apprehend a person to search or detention unless he/she is engaged, at the time, in commitment of a crime, or unless a warrant for arrest or for search has been issued by a court.” Key informants and focus group discussants affirm that this law is violated either by illegal search or detention without a warrant of arrest. Such a breach may be carried out by any law enforcement and prison wardens.

In some cases, an officer may call a superior or the Governor by phone and arrest someone without warrant for arrest. However, complaints center around an extra-legal Security Committee (Guddiga Nabadda) consisting of the Interior Minister, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Defense, the Commander of the Police, the Commander of the Armed Forces, the Governor, and the Mayor. This committee, with its regional replication, can and does arrest citizens without order of court and by breaching the constitutional rights of citizens. In fact, both in name and function, this committee is a residue of the dictatorial era.33

For instance, the Committee arrested over 150 youth on May 18, 2004 after President had spoken in public in Hargeisa to commemorate the day Somaliland broke away the union and reclaimed its independence. The youth complained about festering problems of corruption, administrative incompetence, and water crisis. Those who witnessed the response of the police affirmed that the police over-reacted and used heavy handed measures. The Committee soon after apprehended the youth apparently in random in the streets during the day and in their homes at night. Breaching the constitution and rule of law, it sentenced them to at least six months of imprisonment in Mandheera Prison, located between Hargeisa and Berbera. The Committee felt no need for due process, no court hearing, and no right of the accused to be defended by a lawyer. Such incidents are reminders of the infamous past and could bring society back to square one.

Secondly, participants complained about another violation of the constitution by law enforcement, the courts, and prison officials. Article 27, Item 2 states: “A person deprived of his freedom because of an accusation of a crime he may have committed has the right to appear before a court within 48 (fortyeight) hours from the time of his arrest.” In fact, this constitutional right is often violated. Many prisoners are arrested for weeks, sometimes for years, without due process and exceeding the hours of arrest stipulated by the Constitution. Healthy and sick prisoners are kept in crowded cells.

Thirdly, participants underscored the increasing rate of crimes like gangs and rape in urban centers which in some cases have provoke a cycle of violence if the state did not intervene or the perpetrator’s clan failed to pay the expected compensation. One of the most shocking stories we heard include that of a 16-years old female epileptic who got lost in Hargeisa to which she was a stranger. Someone found her and took her to the Radio Station which in turn broadcast the plight of this girl in the hope that relatives may fetch her. When the relatives did not come by the evening, a policeman took her from the Radio Station and raped her. We were told that the policeman was not apprehended and given full measure of the law. This illustrates the “culture of impunity” bred by an era of dictatorship and lackadaisical officialdom.

6.3.2 Freedom of Expression

It is generally agreed that Somali Somaliland today enjoys freedom of expression to a degree that stands in market contrast to its past and to all three of its neighbors – Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Puntland. However, the struggle to restore freedom of expression in Somaliland did not come easy. Nor is its maintaining without challenges. Our fieldwork expanded the desk study and illuminated new aspects. Discussion on defining freedom of expression brought heated controversy on the rights expression of opinion and the rights for personal privacy and integrity of character. The participants endorsed both rights but disputed where one right ended and the other began.

One journalist stated that freedom of expression is about citizens finding political space for their opinion. Another defined freedom of expression with a metaphor. He said it is your right to stretch your arms in space as far as you wish so long as you do not hit (hurt) someone else.

On the whole, our interviewees acknowledges that individuals (including politicians) must be protected against unfair charges, that ethics (even laws) must control excesses of the media. However, they affirmed that freedom of expression is fundamental to freedom and any undue curbing of it is tantamount to tyranny. They added that risk be taken to promoting freedom of expression instead of risking the dictatorial gag and self-censorship of the past.

Discussing the difference between formal and informal media had shown that formal media (as in newspapers, radio, and TV) is of limited scope in influence and clientele. Firstly, the formal media is concentrated in urban centers. Secondly, the majority of the population is illiterate. Newspapers are not their source of information and opinion. Thirdly, given the high unemployment in the country, a minority of the literate or urbanized can afford the daily cost of newspapers and the monthly fees for TV service. Radio which is least costly of all is not yet privatized (unlike the other media). It is controlled by the government – a throwback to the dictatorial era when operating radio station was the exclusive right of the government.

In contrast, informal media which all-pervasive in Somaliland is deeply ingrained in the culture and it costs nothing. For this reason, it is available to rich and poor, young and old, powerful and powerless. In fact, the informal media always operates in the marketplace, buses, teashops, and mefreshes (venues for chewing qat). The Somali penchant for news and quick transmission had been commented by outsiders and affirmed by participants in the fieldwork. For this reason, government has difficulty controlling freedom of expression or hiding secrets.

Three problems of the informal media in Somali society were in particular mentioned. Firstly, the actual author of the pervasive informal news is often anonymous or lost in the process of retelling. Secondly, it operates without written record and without institutional memory. Thirdly, it tends to sensational and based on rumor. Although the participants in the fieldwork affirmed that informal media plays a critical role in information exchange, entertainment, and social relations, they gave priority in advancing the formal media.

6.3.3 Challenges of Independent Media

The Editor of Jamhuuriya, Hassan Sa’iid, best summarized the history and challenges of the formal media. The formal media started in 1991, following the collapse of the formal media. It began with the publication of Codka Hargeisa, followed Xuriya and Jamhuuriya. Soon, the number of newspapers rose, reaching a total of eight. All of them were rudimentary newsletters, using stencils. The editors and writers were also beginners, although there were a few of among the pioneers who were professional journalists.

The pioneering journalists of that era faced a number of problems besides deficiency in equipment and experience. Among them was the volatile state of affairs in 1991 when everyone was armed and government was nascent, thus weak. A journalist run the risk of being shot by someone who did not like what he reported. Hassan gave examples of politicians he interviewed on tape only to be hounded by his supporters who did not like what they read in the newspaper. Instead of discussing the matter with the politician, the reporter became their scapegoat.34

The internecine war of 1994-96 interrupted the development of newspapers. It was a highly difficult period for all, including journalists. Reporting news of the armed conflict was also dangerous because the veracity of news was contested and people were extremely emotional. Small newspapers continued to report, but the major ones temporarily ceased work. They resumed work after 1997, following the cessation of hostilities and re-election of President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal.

The newspapers found new impetus when Mohamoud Abdi Shidde, the owner of Jamhuuriya, brought the first offset printing machine to Hargiesa. The government later brought offset machines, as did other private companies. These new printing machines did not only improve the quality of the papers on which news reported but also they helped improved the quality of the reporters as well as the standard they measured quality. The knowledge, interest, and expectation of the public also rose. No longer were they content with shoddy work or rudimentary journalism.

34 In one instance, Hassan had to escape through the window of his house when some supporters of a politician came to shoot him with a pistol because he wrote what their leader said on tape. In another, the head of the newly formed armed forces ordered in 1992 the imprisonment of all the active journalists in town (eleven of them), the invasion of their offices, and the confiscation of their equipment.

But the right of free expression continued to be under attack by government officials. President was in fact liberal toward the media. He believed in the importance and role of free press. In 1993, after his election, Egal invited journalists and made clear his view on the role media in society. He described the history of the media in other countries and when he was a Prime Minister. To make known his passion for free expression, he stated that the media has to report on his behavior even when he entered the bathroom. He added that he would leave what journalists report to their ethics and conscience.

However, Egal’s liberal views on freedom of expression were often compromised by his ministers and other representatives who remain stuck in the anti-press hysteria of the dictatorial era. They often came to him with alarm on reports they read in a newspaper, exaggerating their content or attributing malicious content to them. In many instance, they imprisoned journalists without informing him in advance. In other instances, they won him over to their anti-media impulse.

The reaction of these officials frequently reached absurd levels. For instance, they expected journalist to seek approval on the sectors for which their ministry was supposed responsible. They assumed that these sectors (e.g. agriculture, foreign affairs, or commerce) were their domain, their fiefdoms, and any report on them without prior approval was illegal. As a result, journalists were imprisoned capriciously and without due process of law. Hassan Sa’iid has the highest and unenviable record of being so imprisoned for fourteen times since 1992. This means that he was on the average imprisoned at least once a year since 1992. Only two of these arrests brought charges in court. Neither court trials found him guilty.

Egal’s views on the media and freedom of expression took a drastic turn for the worse in 1998 when Egal and his erstwhile ally, Mohamoud Abdi Shidde, the owner of Jamhuuriya, had a fall out. The latter used the media for his personal war; Egal turned bitter and suspicious against the media. In one instance, Mohamoud, a short and frail man, but with iron-will and exceptional stamina, was physically assaulted in front of the court by several men allegedly sent by Egal. The rumor that Egal was behind the assault was given credence when the police quickly and without charge released the attackers.

The physical assault on Mohamoud was preceded by other economic and political reprisals. For instance, Mohamoud’s printing company used a space owned by the government. Using the Minister of Public Works, Egal evicted Shidde’s company. No prior notice was given to him. The Chairman of the Supreme Court, Hashi Sheikh Muse, intervened. He asked Egal that Mohamoud be given sufficient time (say three months) to take apart his equipment and find an alternate space. Egal refused and allegedly insulted the Chairman of the Supreme Court. Hashi immediately resigned and left Somaliland for Britain soon after.35

The war between the two men continued until the untimely death of Mohamoud. Still, Egal continued his antagonism or at least suspicion of the media. His cronies exploited his antagonism to the limit. For instance, Hassan was imprisoned when his paper reported on Rift Valley Disease which afflicted livestock in the region and eventually led to the export ban of Somali livestock. Hassan was accused of fabricated the news, although the BBC and others reported on this diseases days earlier.

Following the death of President Egal, the official suspicion of the media continues. It is as if the era of dictatorial antagonism toward freedom of expression remain a fixture in the subconscious mind of officials, even though they consciously seek (or claim) to promote freedom of expression. Most remarkable of all, a civilian views toward free expression changes drastically and turns antagonistic. Fired from government job, the same man becomes a champion of free speech. It seems that some thing in government and power in general, at least in the Somali case, lures officials toward a society when citizens are gagged or without voice. But the Somali cultural penchant for free speech and the human quest for freedom stand on the way to that wish.

6.3.4 Civil Society and Government

There are different definitions of civil society. The definition presented by the late Dr. Ahmed Farah will suffice for our purpose. He defined civil society as “volitional, organized, and collective participation in the public space between individuals and the state.”36 We agree with the authors of Mapping Somali Civil Society that civil society in the Somali context must defined broadly to include:

- Community-based organizations of which traditional elders, religious leaders, and other community groups organized for a social purpose are examples;
- Local non-governmental organizations which in Somaliland are registered to achieve stated nonprofit- oriented service for the community;
- Professional association comprising journalists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and the like. In Somaliland, these organizations operate under different legal requirements and registration. Local NGO’s are registered and monitored by the Ministry of Planning and Coordination. The Professional associations are registered and monitored by the Office of the Attorney General. Some CBOs are registered with the Ministry of Planning and Coordination if they are in urban centers, particularly Hargeisa, but most are not registered at all.

The relationship between the citizen and the state has been a fundamental topic discussed in the literature and different countries. The Somali case presents in sharp relief the contradictory and converging interest of the citizen and the state. This is because the state was in the very beginning colonial, succeeded by an independent, fledgling government that started with failed democratic experiment, replaced by a military regime affirming its socialist and revolutionary credentials only to turn tyrannical and regressive. Each of these stages in Somali history had viewed and treated the citizens differently.

The colonial rule was above all motivated by pursuit of material gain and geo-political dominance. The Somali, a defeated subject of an occupying superior power, had no status of citizen. In addition, the colonial structured centralized power, replacing the egalitarian politics of pre-colonial society. Consent and consultation of the Somali were superfluous.

After 1960, the Somali emerged as a citizen whose rights and privileges were written in the constitution but these rights and privileges barely existed in practice. The military regime took power by force, as did the colonial power, and it raised notches up in the rhetoric of revolution and progress. By 1978, the state became the most formidable and cruel adversary the Somali ever faced.

After 1991, civil society emerged in Somaliland to fill the vacuum left by the state it helped bring down by providing the wiil (figher) and wan (food) to the Somali National Movement which took arms against it. Without the young fighter and food civil society provided, with significant contribution from rural communities and the Diaspora, the SNM would not have gone far in its armed rebellion. Civil society also cared for the wounded, the sick, the homeless, and generally the needy in society. After the collapse of the regime, it played a critical role in mending the peace and serve as midwife to the birth of a new government.

Several basic misconceptions need to be clear here. The name civil society may be new and this notion, in the form discussed in the literature, may have western roots. In reality, civil society in Somaliland did not begin after 1991, following the collapse of the state, nor did it have western roots. The organization and function of civil society predated colonialism. In fact, civil society operated best in traditional society in the absence of a state usurping and centralizing power. Through colonial rule and independence, civil society operated to provide social, religious, and health services to the community. Its contributions diminished as the state usurped and centralized these services.

When the state collapsed, civil society once again resumed its essential work for the community. It also brought into existence a new government where none existed. The story of how the first government was formed in Bur’o in 1991 and again re-invented in Borama in 1993 is in fact the story of civil society doing its traditional work, although not registered in a Ministry of Planning, Office of Attorney General, or international agencies – all of which did not exist or operate in Somalialnd.

6.3.5 Contribution of the Guurti to Peace and Security

The best example of civil society at work prior to and after 1991 is the Guurti (traditional elders). It also shows the contradictions emerging when civil society is inducted into membership of the government it created. The Guurti started in the pitch of SNM war against the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre. Its primary role was to recruit fighters and material assistance for the war effort. It was in fact a creation of the SNM and its supporters. After 1991, when the new Government of Abdirahman Ahmed Ali (Tuur) became embroiled in clan wars, the Guurti expanded its membership to include non- Isaaq members and played a critical role in mediating the conflicts which emerged in succession.

In 1993, it persuaded Abdirahman Tuur to reluctantly accept the holding of Borama Conference at the end of his term. He did not want such a conference to be held because he knew that he could lose his presidency and power as a result. The Guurti’s ostensible mission was clan reconciliation, but its coded and underlying aim was aya-ka-talin (self-determination) which meant restructuring of leadership and the state. Tuur heard the ostensible goal, but not the second. Thus, he left the conference angry to when Egal was selected as the new President.

The Guurti were not the western-educated elite who had learned theories from books. They were mostly traditional elders carrying out their traditional duties of mediating conflict and in the 1980s organizing people for war and peace. The SNM’s failure to exploit their victory for the betterment of society had placed the Guurti in the limelight. Instead of the Guurti being used by the SNM and politicians as in the past, they used these groups to their mission of aya-ka-talin. As a result, even the critics of the Guurti acknowledge it helped Somaliland to come through the difficult period, from 1991-93, when anarchy and violence threatened to sweep away Somaliland.

The Guurti also demonstrates how civil society, once co-opted into the government it created, becomes its junior partner, its agent, even its appendage. This is not unique to the Guurti. Every decent and socially committed member of the civil society or politician becomes compromised or otherwise derailed from the commitment to equity and service once he enters government. We have seen too often a person doing stellar work as a civil society actor only to abandon the original commitment to equity and justice once he assumes power as an agent of the state. The meeting of journalists with Mohamed Ibrahim Egal in his first days as President, affirming his commitment to freedom of expression, inviting them to report even on his behavior in the bathroom, stands in stark contrast to his later days of guarded approach to journalist and even outright abuse.

The participants stressed that government officials have incurable suspicion, in some instance of visceral hatred, of civil society. They forget that government is to serve the people, not the reverse. Given power or role in government, the person who not long ago spoke about equity and justice, extended hand to the poor and powerless, suddenly takes on airs, looks down on civilians, and defends all policies and practices of the state. The participants in the fieldwork gave numerous instances of politicians and civil society members who, known for their vocal criticism of government policies and practice, turn into the most irrational defenders of the same policies and practices once they become government officials. Ironically, the same person taken on remarkable modesty and social concern once ejected from government and returns to the fold of civil society.

Is it because government, as Somalis know it, has shady past and role in society, that therefore it inevitably deforms conscience and erodes decency, or because power by its nature is corrupting? This question remains to be answered by Somalis before they can fashion solutions suitable to their society. Participants in the fieldwork discussed in depth the history and role of civil society but they did not provide a convincing answer to that question.

On its part, civil society knows that governments can come and go but civil society will remain even in time of state collapse and anarchy. This knowledge predisposes it to some arrogance and holier-thanthou attitude. Secondly, civil society is envious of the power, influence, and resources of the government they had brought into existence. They act like a parent whose child has outdone in securing the limelight and honored place in society. Thirdly, civil society is often harsh on government and government officials. It judges government and its officials on high standards of ethics, integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness which civil society itself is unable to meet.

A great deal would indeed be achieved if both government and civil society come down from the high pedestal and work as partners. Contradictions and tension will no doubt exist in their relationship, but these need not be antagonistic or negative. Government can not exist without civil society. Civil society too, dispersed and uncoordinated, can not achieve the level of organization, power, and influence inherent in government. The more they work together collaborative, listening and correcting one another, the more society benefits.

6.3.6 Emergence of Local NGOs

Local non-governmental organizations, in the form and organization we find them today, in Somaliland are of recent origin. They have proliferated after 1991, mostly as one-person organization with folded files under the arm and a mobile office in his/her person. It is not only the major demand of services that attracted NGOs, at least by name, to proliferate. Lack of employment in government and private sector had also prompted many to make a living from work as NGO.

In recent years, the members and work of local NGO’s elaborated in organization sophistication, skill, and product. There are today surfeit of local NGO throughout Somalialnd. There are also several umbrella organizations subsuming them. There is, for instance, NAGAAD which serves as an umbrella for over 26 organizations, mostly female-governed and run. There is also COSONG, another umbrella organization; HAVOYOKO, a nation-wide youth organization; Candlelight, an enterprising pioneer in several enterprises; CCS which assists the poor through micro-lending; and the Somaliland Civic Forum for Peace, another umbrella organization bringing together local NGOs and professional associations like the Journalist Association and the Lawyers Association.

It is not only civil society organizations that grew in number and sophistication. The government too has found and honed leverages of control on NGOs. It continues its suspicion of them, yet realizes that it can not wish them away. The official resentment to NGOs has three chief sources. Firstly, government officials maintain the same suspicion and antipathy they show to all branches of civil society. Secondly, officials and ministries think that NGO’s invade their turf. They fear that NGOs may make their role superfluous and force them back to the civil society from which they rose to heights of power and influence. Thirdly, competition for funds from external sources and the desperate of resources pits officials against NGOs.

One problem of NGO’s is their divided loyalty to their local clients or nation and to their external funding source. Another is that the power of purse often overcomes the power of social commitment. Complicating matters is that the immediate founding sources, often with a regional office in Nairobi, is caught in a maze of organizational and financial arrangement creating a large chasm between their declared mission and their practice. Many otherwise decent individuals, with known commitment to do good, transform in due course to colonial officers and shift from humanitarian to self-serving tactics and projects.

As a result, the local NGO’s are confused by their double loyalty and complicated financial bind to external funding source. The tragedy is that these local NGOs work in society that can not fund their work and the NGOs have yet to find creative ways of sustaining their work independently of external funding. The double loyalty at times brings the local NGOs in conflict with the government because, for instance, the government finds offense with an external funding source or its agent. The local NGO takes the matter personally because a source of it livelihood is endangered or its work is interrupted. It is then that the NGO acts like the opposition political party and takes on the government. Such criticism and confrontation could enlarge to wider conflict in society.

On the other hand, government officials are unduly touchy and suspicious of local NGOs. Firstly, they think that the NGOs have usurped their right as interlocutor between society and the international community. Secondly, they believe that they serve as agents of the international community, providing information deemed secret. Thirdly, they are uncomfortable to find locals who can earn more salary than ministers. Fourthly, they readily consider the local NGOs as an extension of the opposition, their logic being: ‘If you are not with me, you’re against me.”37

6.3.7 Civil Society and Political Parties

Strictly speaking, political parties are not considered part of civil society because their exclusive focus is attaining and keeping power. They are either an ally or opponent of the government. If ally, they serve as an extension of the government. If opponent, they want to replace it. Often, the latter intensify the differences between them and the incumbent officials whom they identify as their adversaries. In some instance, they provoke conflict, even armed conflict, to inherit the seat and power of their adversaries. Civil society works of peace, mediation, and forsakes pursuit of power, at least directly and in self-serving ways.

On the hand, civil society and political parties are not unrelated. Both state their mission their mission of making difference for the public. Often, the two work jointly for change when the incumbent government becomes tyrannical, corrupt, or insuperable. One also finds that a member of civil society today becomes a party activist in time of elections, or the latter reverts to civil society to pursue his/her social commitment. This link between civil society and political parties tends to intensify the suspicion of government toward both. Hence, it wishes both civil society and political parties to cease or at least to be silenced – a wish that will remain frustrated.

6.3.8 Small Arms and Security

The largest small arms survey conducted in Somaliland involved a sample of 710 males in four of the six regions.38 The study showed that small arms are pervasive in Somaliland, that ex-combatants as well as civilians own them, and that the small arms market is active. In addition, the study had shown that business own the largest number of small arms, that regions vary on the age they think should carry arms, and that the reason for owning arms range from self-protection, protecting property, and “just in case” society returns to the anarchy and violence of the past.

In reality, a person who can afford less than $100 can obtain small arms. Nonetheless, demobilization has been quite effective in Somaliland, although disarmament of civilians has yet to take place. Most of those interviewed explained that they would disarm if the government can guarantee security. A smaller percent were willing to turn in their guns in return for cash.

One of the key conclusions of the study is that firstly a population so armed yet so peaceful is remarkable, secondly that peace could unravel quickly if the government fails to meet minimum expectation of equity and justice, or if the economic distress and despair are not alleviated.


Concerning human rights and the media:

- Limited training and equipment of journalist;
- Limited income of journalists and tendency to sell news and loyalty to those who can pay;
- Unreliability and rumors of informal media;
- Denying or diminishing freedom of expression causes pent anger and conflict;
- Denying or diminishing freedom of expression encourages rumor and misinformation;
- Denying or diminishing freedom of expression goes against the cultural grain of Somalis; such action invites revolt;
- Denying or diminishing freedom of expression and human rights perpetuates the terrible past of dictatorship and armed conflict;
- Pervasive small arms and active arms market.
- Denying or diminishing freedom of expression and human rights alienates the government from the people;
- Denying or diminishing freedom of expression and human rights fosters authority without accountability and transparency.

Concerning civil society

- Civil society is by its nature activist even if its declared mission is not advocacy. This often creates tension between it and government, contributing to flare up conflict.
- Work of civil society, even the pursuit of peace, brings it in conflict with government which by its nature is suspicious and monopolistic.
- Government officials think that power confers on them a right to treat civil society and citizens in general as servants of the government, not the reverse.
- Civil society takes a holier-than-thou attitude with respect to ethics, integrity, efficiency, or effectiveness of government; the government resists and resents this, sometimes showing off authority and force, contributing to building up of anger.
- Competition for scarce resources and for external funding creates tension and conflict between government and civil society.
- Local NGOs are rendered suspect by their close association with external funding sources and by the relatively high salaries they draw; this suspicion can degenerate into a conflict.


Concerning human rights and the media

- Somalis by culture and tradition tolerate freedom of expression;
- The individuals is part of a community, a clan, a collective which affords him protection;
- Except with archaic traditions like FGM, one still finds residues of Somali culture’s respect for some basic human rights.
- Establishment of journalist association have developed rules and ethics for their members which will reduce conflict with officials;
- Development of local human rights organizations (so far totally 63 in different parts of the country will make human rights violations known and curbed. Concerning civil society
- Civil society in general is committed to peace and mediation of conflict, as best illustrated by the role of the Guurti.
- Civil society in its best form abjures political power and profit, realizing that it is neither a political party nor a private business enterprise.
- Government can not do without the role and contributions of civil society; all goes well when it accommodates and consults civil society.


Human rights have been violated since colonial rule. Independence brought some advance but soon the military regime dashed hopes. In a series of decrees it place strict controls of basic freedoms which continued until its collapse.

Somaliland has made significant progress in human rights and freedom of expression but much remain to be done on this score. The tension between civil society and the government are inevitable but it requires wise leaders on both sides to manage (use) the tension constructively.

Official resistance to freedom of expression and human rights will be challenged more in coming years for two reasons. Firstly, women are becoming vocal in removing the cultural and political fetters that limited their full participation in society with rights equal to those of men. Secondly, the emerging political parties will increasingly challenge officialdom and exercise their right of free speech and association. These challenges by women and political parties may either break the peace by provoking conflict or consolidate it by advancing human rights and democracy. The pervasiveness of small arms should give reason for caution on all sides concerned.

The role of civil society is less noticeable when government is strong and effective. Its contributions come in sharp relief when government collapses, leaving a vacuum of power and central authority, as in 1991 Somaliland, or when government is weak and ineffective, resulting in diminution of social services. The government must create alliance with civil service because it can not provide all the services the public expect. On the hand, civil society must endeavor to nurture collaborative relationship with government because it cannot do with the centralized and organized authority inherent in government. Only with collaboration and mutual accommodation can both best serve their people.

The most worrisome is the behavior of Guddiga Nabad-gelyada (Security Committee) involving the Minister of Interior, the Minister of Justice, the Commander of the Armed Forces, the Commander of the Police, the Commander of the Prisons, the Governor of Northwest, and the Mayor of Hargeisa. Its exercise of power exceeds the constitution. It has power of detention and, as became clear on May 18, 2004, power of sentencing to citizens to prison without due process of law. At least about 150 youth who demonstrated on that day were beaten and sentence to imprisonment at Mandheera Prison for six months or one year.

This action of the so-called Security Committee had sent shock waves throughout Somaliland. Many remembered the arbitrary arrests, the beatings, and stiff sentences imposed without due process of law. One former SNM combatant and a former military colonel said he was among many parents who almost took up arms against a government that seems to become tyrannical as the fallen regime. Such committees provoke armed conflict instead of preventing them.

Many of our participants argued that a lean and clean government is the solution. But how that could come about is not fully spelled out. In fact, the complaint of inequity is often what one wishes to gain personally or for his group than a genuine commitment to change the system. In addition, they would not mind a bloated and corrupt system so long as they are among its beneficiaries. The ruling politicians on their part remain addicted to extending favors in cash or kind to stay in power. Thus, neither the rulers nor the ruled have found a way of getting out of the vicious cycle of inequity, corruption, and despair. Neither demands of the other what would bring about fundamental change in the system.

Lastly, despite these complaints of inequity, the participants in the study were steadfast in their commitment to Somaliland’s reclamation of independence. None stated a desire to return to the failed union with Somalia because, they affirmed, the inequities prior to 1991 were far worse than those of today. At least today, the state assaults neither their property nor their person



We selected this focus issue because economic conditions determines much of life in Somaliland and changes in this domain set in motion changes in other domains of life. We therefore wanted to highlight the economic history of Somaliland and current economic challenges of Somaliland.


During the union from 1960-91, Somaliland’s economy was linked directly to that of Somalia. Since the coup of 1969, the military regime rigidly controlled the economy to match its socialist rhetoric. Between 1970 and 1972, the SRC issued a series of decrees nationalizing burgeoning industries, wholesale companies, banks, and insurance companies. Farmers could not sell their produce in the market. They sold it to a government agency at arbitrary prices. Hence, agricultural produce declined and the country became ever more dependent on food imports and food aid.

The 1977-978 War aggravate the economy. In addition to droughts in 1979-80, the war brought over 500,000 Ethiopian refugees into Somaliland. The large flow of refugees was a burden not only on the economy but also in the carrying capacity of the land and their civilian hosts. The original settlers found that the regime provided aid in food and health services from the government and international agencies. Many of them sought food and medical aid refugee camps and clinics as food became scarce and conditions in hospital degenerated. But resentment grew to anger and hostility when the original settlers of the land learned that the refugees were given arms to serve as foot-soldiers of the regime and to persecute the Isaaq.

In addition, the franco valuta system on which Isaaq businessmen thrived was abolished, then partially restored in 1984. The import and sale of qat was banned, although qat smuggling continued. These two decisions further alienated the Isaaq and intensified the resentment provoked by the burden of Ethiopian refugees and their service as foot-soldiers of the regime.

During the 1980s, the regime received a steady flow of foreign aid from the West, after it broke relations with the former USSR in 1978.40 Yet this level of assistance could not keep afloat the regime racked by war with insurgents, corruption, and mismanagement. The GDP increasing fell, external debt soared, and, by May 1988 when the heavy bombardment of Hargiesa began, the aid on which the regime depended tapered off.

The war against the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre from 1981-90 had caused immense destruction of the economy and social life. The basic economic structure and social services of Somaliland were destroyed. The collapse of the state entailed also the collapse of centrally planned and control economy. In consequence, new opportunities arose for the emergence of deregulated, free market economy.

President Egal’s laissez faire policy had also encouraged businesses to thrive, sometimes by illegal means. The collapse of the regime brought was followed by two years (1991-93) of anarchy which had adverse impact on livestock export, trade, and agriculture in Somaliland. After peace was restored from 1993 onward, three problems in particular slowed the rebuilding of the economy. Firstly, the majority of Somalilanders who fled to Ethiopia from the persecution of the regime returned without capital to rebuild their businesses, homes, and lives. Secondly, the country’s infrastructure was severely destroyed.

Thirdly, many who had proven entrepreneurial or management skills had fled abroad. Lastly, though peace was on the mend after 1993, the conditions for security did not take root in a society at war for more than ten years.


The collapse of the military regime in January 1991 open the way for return from refugee camps in Ethiopia to cities, small towns, and villages the Isaaq most of whom had fled persecution and indiscriminate killing. This population returned to their ruined homes and communities with the barest of possessions or empty-handed. The Gadabursi, ‘Iise, Dhulbahante, Warsangeli, Gabooye, and others have also suffered before and after collapse of the regime. Many were internally displaced or they fled to refugee camps. Thus, one way or another, each clan and community faced daunting challenge in rebuilding from the ruins.

The Isaaq had a history of entrepreneurial skill and initiative. The military regime and its centrally planned economy had frustrated this skill and initiative. Further, with emergence of the SNM, the regime targeted the Isaaq for discrimination in business and government jobs. In addition, it sought to dispossess them of their property and land, as illustrated by the secret “Letter of Death” written by the son-in-law of Mohamed Siyaad Barre who, as the ruling military general of Somaliland, targeted the Isaaq for focused persecution and confiscation of their property.

The SNM fighters and Isaaq refugees returning from Ethiopia had come in rags but with determination to rebuild their homes, cities, and lives with the entrepreneurial skills and initiative for which they were historically known. But the process of rebuilding the economy could not find a miracle or a power foreign power offering assistance like the Marshall plan. It had to start from ground zero with human resources and initiative of the people. Their non-Isaaq compatriots followed suit (except in parts of Sool which, as we shall discuss in the next chapter, continued to riven by internal feud and indecision.) In addition, they made historic contributions in mending the peace and promoting reconciliation in Somaliland.

The story of how Somalilanders mended the peace and rebuilt their country illustrates people’s will to survive against the odds. Here, we shall only sketch what we learned from our participants in the fieldwork and available documents. We will also highlight the problems and challenges Somalilanders currently face with regard to the economy and natural resources.

To obtain information on this focus issue, the team interviewed key informants in business, government, and local representatives of international agencies assisting Somaliland. Focus group discussions also generated some useful information. In addition, the team examined relevant documents on household surveys and strategic recovery plans presented by the Ministry of Planning and Coordination. Where possible, we also interviewed petty traders (like charcoal dealers) and the unemployed. Report on what we learned from the fieldwork and materials available on the economy and the environment would take us far beyond the intent of this exercise. Therefore, we will sketch below a few key points on the economy and the environment.

7.3.1 Rebuilding the Economy

Rebuilding the peace went hand in hand with rebuilding the economy. As mentioned above, the majority of Somalilanders, most of them refugees or displaced persons during the war, had little capital to work with. The refugees returned empty handed; the pastoralist lost much of their livestock in the war; few of the agro-pastoralists could till their land.

There were some missed opportunities arising from the lack of SNM program to rebuild the peace and the economy after the collapse of the military regime. For instance, the cement factory in the outskirt of Hargiesa was intact and functional when the SNM took control of the territory. However, the factory was looted, components taken by pieces, and sold abroad. Twelve years later, Somaliland continues to import huge quantities of cement from the gulf countries to supply the booming construction industry. Similarly, government offices were looted and valuable documents (including liens, school records, and historic documents) were destroyed (some used in restaurants as napkin). At least, disputes on land which today inundate the judiciary system and contribute to conflict in society could have been averted if government institutions and the official documents were preserved.

After the Borama Conference of 1993, security improved in most parts of the country. People gradually gained confidence that they could rebuild their homes, lives, and businesses without the looting and pillage they knew in the past. Subsequently, the cities grew in population and physical size. Large villas and five-story buildings never seen before in the history of Somaliland are emerging in cities like Hargeisa and Bur’o. The country now boasts of at least four private telecommunication companies providing mobile and landline services at a highly competitive price. Car imports increase in phenomenal rate, causing congestion and accidents never observed before.

The primary source of capital with which Somalilanders rebuilt businesses and the economy was remittance sent by relatives living abroad. Food aid from international relief agencies had helped in the war years and in the transitional period from 1991-6. In this section, we highlight the key contributors to rebuilding of Somaliland economy and the problems that today undermine the growth of the economy.

7.3.2 Trade and the Private Sector

The overthrow of the Barre regime has led to the ending of two decades of state controlled economy and to the beginning of deregulated one. The return of peace in Somaliland and dissolution of state monopolies and repressive economic control allowed normal patterns of trade and other economic activity to resume. The resumption of livestock export to Saudi Arabia together with the private sector expansion, has considerably contributed to the growth of Somaliland’s economy in aftermath the war.

Much of Somaliland’s post-war economic growth has been attributed, directly or indirectly, to livestock export. Livestock production has been the main source of income for nomadic households, and government revenue and employment for urban dwellers. Between 1991 and 1997, livestock export on the hoof grew considerably, exceeding pre-war level when Somaliland export about three million heads of livestock in 1997, mostly to Saudi Arabia (UNDP, 1998). The value of livestock exports in 1997 was estimated to be US$ 176.6 million (Ministry of Planning 1998-99), yielding as much as 80% of the total hard currency income for Somaliland (UNDP, 1998).

Between 1993 and 1998, the volume of trade in Somaliland increased dramatically, surpassing prewar levels. This increase has been based on the growth in livestock exports and the opening of Ethiopia-Somaliland border, which has created a vast new market for Somaliland. Through the years of 1996-1999 some 65% of the trade through Berbera port was reportedly destined for Ethiopia (Bradbury 1997; UNDP & UNHCR, 1999)41. In the absence of formal economic institutions and regulations, traders respond flexibly to local demand, importing a range of basic goods, including food (sugar, rice, flour, pasta), building materials, bagaash (bundles of consumer goods such as sandals, cigarettes, clothes), spare parts, fuel, tyres, and electronic items and vehicles (UNDP, 1998). Somaliland’s service sector has experienced rapid growth in the post-war period. The construction sector has been swelled by the massive need for rebuilding and repair of dwellings.

Telecommunication, airlines business and financial transfer companies have emerged to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the former government. And small enterprises like bakeries, laundries, office supplies, and convenience stores are also emerging again. The expansion of these services has created a new labour market42 requiring skilled professionals, as well as semi-skilled and unskilled workers.

All these activities are taking place in an adverse economic environment. The little infrastructure Somaliland possesses is in a state of disrepair and is deteriorating year after year. The growth of the private sector has been constrained by the absence of commercial banks, insurances and credit institutions. The organisations that normally support this sector (World Bank, International Monetary Fund) are not present in Somaliland and will not provide financial services in the absence of a recognized government.

7.3.3 The Livestock Trade

The collapse of the Somali government ended state monopoly on resources and employment opportunities. Thus, from 1991 onwards, the private sector flourished, although corruption in government continued. Before the ban imposed by Saudi Arabia on livestock imports, livestock exports constituted the primary stimulus and backbone of Somaliland economy. The booming business in construction, the emergence of telecommunication companies, the vigorous trade on imports mainly from Dubai – these and other aspects of the Somaliland economy rested chiefly on the livestock trade and remittances from abroad.

Livestock trade contributes 60-65% of the economy.43 Also about 60% of Somaliland population depends for daily sustenance mainly on the products and by-products of livestock. Until the Saudi Ban, livestock export has been the primary source of income for both urban and rural communities on exports. In discussion with key informants in the livestock trade, we found a string of at least 30 beneficiaries stretching from the rural areas (in Somaliland and across the border) to the port of Berbera. In addition, the government benefited from the livestock export in three ways – firstly, it obtained taxes and gifts for each animal exported; secondly, the major livestock exporters feed a standing army, mostly demobilized clan militia; thirdly, the government generated tax revenues from other businesses stimulated by the livestock trade.

In February 1998, Saudi Arabia imposed a ban on the import of livestock from Somaliland because of alleged outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) disease. This ban lasted until May 1999. Many traders circumvented this ban by exporting livestock to Yemen where traders there re-exported the livestock to Saudi Arabia. Hence, the impact of this ban was limited, although Somali traders found their income reduced or in some instance lost because of unfair dealings with Yemeni traders who maximally exploited their desperation.

The ban on imports was imposed again in September 2000. This time, the ban was not confined to Saudi Arabia. It included 8 other countries in the Arabian Peninsula. Hence, the effect was most devastating for Somaliland and other areas across the border. It forced many livestock exporters to bankruptcy. Pastoralists turned destitute. Severe drought in much of the country during the past four years, have also destroyed their livestock. Fleeing to the cities, they now add to the ranks of the unemployed and homeless. Even the major traders who readily fed the armed forces, the police, and prison workers have ceased the food they supplied in return for tax exemption or as loans to the government, putting in additional financial strain.

The following changes have taken place since the livestock ban of 1998:44

- Shirnkage of the Hargeisa livestock market, particularly for shoats;
- Shortened marketing chain of shoats, thus reducing the number of middlemen and their incomes;
- Displacement of the previously prominent large export dealers by dozens of junior sheep and goat export dealers capable of dispatching shipments of 2,000 – 2,500 head each during the peack export periods;
- Monopoly of camel export sub-sectors by one or two Egyptian/Sudanese nationals;
- Drastic fall of the number of middle level brokers: approximately 4 out of every 100 have deserted the marketplace;
- The number of brokers and assistant brokers has remained more or less the same but they have seen a reduction in their income levels;
- Finally, the number of people dependent on the live animals market in Hargeis remains only about 50-60% of the estimated figure during 1998 (approximately 2,255 versus an estimated 2-5,000 in 1998).

What is true for Hargeisa is more so for Bur’o, the most important livestock market in Somaliland and Somalia. In short, the livestock ban has slowed economic growth. The ban affected all sectors of society, both urban and rural, and all economic activities. Herders, service providers, petty traders, and the local and central government all lost income. The availability of hard currency and food imports declined. There was a drop in employment opportunities for poor urban and rural groups and a devaluation of the Somaliland Shilling against the US dollar.

The public believe that economic growth is crucial for maintaining the prevailing peace in the country. The current economic trends will continue unless the ban is lifted and help if offered from outside. To them, remittances and Somali Landers’ kinship system are largely averting an economic disaster.

7.3.4 Agriculture

The backbone of the Somaliland economy has been livestock. However, there are agro-pastoral communities that contribute significantly, although estimates are that about 3% of the total area of Somaliland is under cultivation and only about 7% has potential for future agricultural development.45

Farmers in Somaliland use rain-fed farming and irrigation. Most farms are situated along the bank of rivers (tog) or other water sources close to the riverbanks. Equipment and know-how is rudimentary but these farms cereals, sorghum, maize, cowpeas, millet, groundnuts, beans, barley, vegetable, and fruits.

The succession of wars had destroyed the farms and other assets of agricultural communities. Many had fled to refugee camps during the war and returned destitute. In some instance, their farms were burned down or trees uprooted by the armed forces of the regime as reprisal or while they retreated after the collapse of the regime. The droughts of recent years have also reduced the yield of farmers and increased the lure for the city, already overcrowded and zones of distress.

7.3.5 Fishing

The Somaliland coastline covers 850 kms, extending from Loya-addo in the west to Elayo in the east. It is characterized by sandy beaches interspersed by rocky cliffs. The continental shelf is relatively narrow, mostly 15 km, except near the Djibouti border where it averages 100 kms.

Using rudimentary tools and small boats, fisherman catch and sell a variety of fish including tuna, snappers, groupers, grunts, trevally, emperors, barracudas, goat fish, parrot fish, Spanish mackerels, horse mackerels, sea breams, and mullets. However, catching sharks is favored by fisherman because export of shark fins brings more income. 46

A number of studies have suggested that fisheries in Somaliland are an untapped source of food and income. For instance, FAO estimated over 200,000 tones in the national waters and that 40,000 tons a year could be harvested without endangering the stocks. However, the ranged of fish production at the present is only from 1,000 to 1,500 a year.

Only one fish cannery exists in Somaliland. Located at Laskhoreh in Sanag, this cannery, built with Soviet assistance in 1968, has been rehabilitated in 2002 by a group of local businessmen in addition to installing new canning machines. It started production at a capacity of 1 to 2.5 tones per day used for local consumption and export.

In about 10 fishing communities scattered along the coast of Somaliland, local artisan carry out fishing activity with small boats and rudimentary tools. Because Somaliland lacks the capacity to monitor its coast, foreign fishing boats and ships fish at will without legal license or without regard to conservation.

7.3.6 Unemployment and Poverty

No reliable data exist on percent of unemployment in Somaliland. However, estimates range from 60-70% unemployment among persons of working age. In addition to post-conflict conditions, drought, the Saudi ban on livestock export, and flood of refugees aggravate unemployment in the cities particularly and in Somaliland generally.

Pastoralists have lost their livestock during the recent droughts flocked to the cities, adding to the large number that had stayed in urban centers after the collapse of the regime. The decline in the value of livestock following the ban on exports also made life in rural areas less sustainable or bearable. The lure of the city for young men and women has also added to the migration from rural areas. In addition, the fold of refugees from Ethiopia and Somalia has intensified unemployment, poverty, and despair.

A household economic assessment carried out in Hargeis in 2003 by several collaborating agencies has show that the capital city, whose population it estimates to 375,000, is indeed a center of poverty and distress at the same time as its economy is vibrant, with construction and businesses booming. 47 Actually, population estimates of Hargeisa vary widely, one giving an estimate of 700,000.48 The household economic assessment divided the population into four income categories. Those whom it identified as ‘very poor’ earn less than SlSh 15,000 (roughly $2.25) per day. This group includes the destitute relying on begging and those depending on combination low paying jobs and gifts. The “poor” have access to a maximum of SlSh 25,000 ($3.75) per day while the “middle” constituting about 40-60% of households earn SlSh 25-80,000 ($3.75-$12) per day. The ‘better off’ group, representing 10-15% of households, earn more than SlSh 80,000 ($12) per day.

The household economic assessment has also indicated that very poor and poor households spend much of their income on food at a higher rate than the middle or well off households because they buy in retail. In addition, they send their children to beg or work in the city. Not sent to school, they are condemned to life of poverty in the future.

Not sufficiently studied by this household economic assessment or others is the number of men who in the past had a good job in the civil service, in the armed forces, in law enforcement, or in the private sector but today remain unemployed. Included in this group are ex-combatants who demobilized but have no job to keep them occupied. Many of these rely on remittance sent by a relative abroad or by shaxaad (gift) given by a relative, a friend, or an acquaintance.

Not discussed in the literature is the degeneration of work ethic by war, refugee life of the past, and unemployment. Many who used to work in the past with vigor and commitment have been reduced to life of ennui and aimlessness, to relying on the support of others through remittance or shaxaad, or simply to babbling in teashops while their wives brave the elements in the marketplace to feed them and their children.

7.3.7 Remittances

The only source of income comparable with livestock earnings is remittances. The economic importance of remittances has been increasing since the oil boom in the Gulf States in 1970s and became more significant in the post war period as the main source of income and foreign exchange earnings, when thousands of refugees migrated to Europe and North America.

The actual size of remittance is not known for sure because the remittance companies keep the information a secret. We heard estimates of remittance sent to Hargeisa residents alone to be about $50 million per year. One study reports that Hargeisa inhabitants alone receive about $5 million monthly which would $60 million annually.49

Estimates of total remittance received by Somalilanders from relatives abroad range from $250-500 million annually. Obtained accurate figures is made difficulst by the secrecy maintained by remittance companies and the surfeit of them involved in the business of transferring remittances. Those involved in the business of remittances (xawaaladaha) in Somaliland report an increase in the volume of remittances received during the livestock ban, although there is no reliable estimate of the size of that increment. The growth in the service sector continues.

A significant portion of portion of the remittance goes to feed families, to start or maintain business, to invest in the booming construction sector, or to purchase of qat, otherwise known as chat.

7.3.8 The Scourge of Qat

Inhabitants of East Africa and Southern Arabia customarily chew fresh leaves of qat (catha edulis Forssk) in order to attain a state of euphoria and stimulation. Because frequent qat produces mild to moderate psychic dependence, the World Health Organization has classified qat as a substance of abuse. In some countries, its import and use have been prohibited. Researchers attribute the pharmacological effects of chewing khat leaves to mainly its cathinone content whose chemical structure and biological action are similar to those of amphetamine.50

Qat used in Somaliland is imported from Ethiopia, mostly from the environs of Harar, particularly in Hawaday and Dadar areas. Accurate figures for qat imports to Somaliland are unavailable because firstly no comprehensive study has yet been carried out and secondly the companies involved in the business keep tight lip on the size of their imports and their business. Officials report that the Somaliland Government obtains at least $10,000 daily from taxing imports of qat. This figure does not include many qat dealers who evade taxes.

One preliminary investigation, inquiring custom officials at Kalabaydh, reported that 21,000 kg was registered daily in the summer of 2003 bringing to government coffers estimated tax revenues of $9,375-10,938. 51 It is most likely that the above figures for tax revenue and income are underestimates in a business not known for strict adherence to the law, that enters Somaliland from different point in the porous border, and lenience of underpaid custom officials is easily bought. Analyzing the above researchers raw data, we found that Hargeisa alone spends on qat $161,703 daily and Bur’o $131,695 daily. Together, the two cities spend $275,398 daily, $8,261,953 monthly, and staggering $99,143,438 annually. Judging from these figures, who would think that such money is wasted on qat in the cash-strapped population of Somaliland? These figures do not include the amount spent on qat by other cities like Borama, Berbera, Erigabo, Las Anood, and others. Even these low estimates show that a huge flow of hard currency only for the purchase of qat takes place, with Somaliland as the loser and Ethiopia its beneficiary. Little wonder farmers in Ethiopia, having found qat most lucrative, are abandoning coffee and fruits which in the past they grew in abundance. Added to the financial drain on the Somaliland economy is the health and social effects of qat use on the population, particularly men. Studies on the effects of qat have shown its adverse health effects including digestive, dental, sexual, and psychiatric disorders. Not so well studied is the person-years lost in preparing for, engaging in, and recovering from qat use daily by at least 60 percent of young and middle-aged males in the urban centers and increasingly in rural areas. That more women are taking up the habit only intensifies the alarm.

A study on 425 randomly selected ex-combatants in four of the six regions in Somaliland has shown about 70% males chew qat of whom 45% chew qat at least three times a week.52 About 43% of those who chew qat report to feel sad when they chew qat, 35% experience sleeping difficulties, 36% report loss of appetite, 27% complain about loss of sexual drive. Because of these experiences added to the daily cost of qat, most of qat users (58%) ruminate about or decide in vain to quit altogether (42%) or reduce (16%) chewing at the end of chewing sessions. Only a 6% of the qat users remain determined to continue chewing after each qat session. In addition, Bulhan sees in his clinical practice many men, particularly in the ages of 18-25, who suffer from psychiatric disorders precipitated or aggravated by qat use.

Typically, males who are the preponderant users of qat spend on the average about six hours daily in purchasing, preparing for, and chewing qat. Often, they are away from their families, coming home late when their children and wives are sleep. Difficulties the user experience in sleeping directly or indirectly causes distress or at minimum disturbance to the family. Reduction of sexual drive aggravates marital relationship which could be already on the rocks because of pervasive

unemployment which reduces the financial wherewithal of men to support their family, often leaving mothers to fend for their children. If their children attend school, they leave while their father is sleep. When they come from school, he is chewing qat most likely outside the home and thus has no time for the children. Thus, while pervasive unemployment diminished the role of men as breadwinners, qat use also erodes the role and contribution of men as positive models and partners in the household.

In short, qat use in Somaliland is a major financial drain on the economy. Sorely needed resources for economic development and social services are wasted in satisfying a habit which has adverse effects on health, therefore contributes to morbidity and mortality, and wastes both time and energy of working-age males needed for economic and social development.

7.3.9 Corruption in Government

Since independence in 1960, corruption and misuse of public funds have been endemic in government. The military regime came to power with promises to end corruption, as it promised to root out the clan system. In the first two years, it had taken draconian measures to eliminate corruption including imprisonment and execution of some individuals accused of corruption.

Such measures and the propaganda associated with them did little to reduce corruption in part because corruption became pervasive in high levels of government. When later the immediate relatives of the dictator became leading actors in misuse of public funds, stashing away huge sums of money in foreign banks, corruption seeped into every level of government and people accepted it as an inevitable feature of government and the political process generally.

Because corruption has been accepted as the givens of government, the political system set up after 1991 in Somaliland had never given reduction of corruption high priority or concern. The first President, Abdirahman Ahmed Ali (Tuur) did not set up even the rudiments of government. His transitional government from 1991-1993 was in disarray and caught in a succession of armed conflicts. President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal who succeeded him in 1993 was, despite giving lip-service to clean government, a man who never differentiated his private funds from public funds. For him, the two were synonymous.

President Egal even kept wads of cash at his office readily dispensing them to win friends, assist cronies, and mollify traditional elders. Businessmen showered him with gifts and “loans” to gain a favor, such as obtain tax exemption, acquire a government contract, or carry out a business deal with a foreign business concern. Revenues from the port came directly to him as did tax revenues from Hargeisa, the capital and largest city of Somaliland. Until the election of local counselors, the President appointed mayors of cities and towns as he did the head of the Berbera port, the Chairman of the Somaliland National Bank, and the Chamber of Commerce. Each of these men somehow advanced the self-interest of the President in monetary and/or political terms.

Following the death of President Egal, the system of corruption and misuse of public funds continued. President Dahir Rayaale Kahin introduced no reforms. Even past promises of eliminating or reducing corruption ceased altogether. Indeed, talk of corruption and misused of public funds inspire little public interest because these have been taken for granted, regardless of who leads or misuses funds. Only recently has the topic been widely publicized in the media when the former Minister of Commerce, Mohamed Hashi Elmi, had a fallout with the Minister of Finance and then with the President, following disagreements on the 2004 budget to presented to the parliament five months later.

The conflict came to a head in a cabinet meeting on May 2, 2004 when the Minister of Finance was scheduled to discuss with his colleagues a draft national budget before it was presented to the parliament for oversight and approval. There are conflicting versions of what happened in the cabinet meeting. Some accuse Mohamed Hashi Elmi to have acted quite inappropriately prior to and during the cabinet meeting chaired by the President.53 Mohamed on his part explained that he had tried to change the corrupt system from inside as a minister, having been in the opposition for years, but that the Minister of Finance, the President, and the Vice President had ignored his gnawing worries about corruption and misuse of public funds in a society too poor and too desperate for funds.54

Whatever had happened behind the scene during the cabinet meeting of April 2, 2004, the President had fired Mohamed Hashi Elmi soon after its conclusion and the ugly charges of corruption came to public attention. In a press release, the former Minister of Commerce presented a series of charges of which the most relevant here is his claim that more than $17 million was lost to corruption and misuse of public funds during the two years in which Dahir Rayaale Kahin serves as President.55

This allegation of corruption and the amount claimed to have lost should have alarmed the public and prompted the parliament to investigate the charges, but it did neither because:

- Corruption and misuse of public funds have accepted as the givens of government since independence, regardless of who led the government.
- The parliament among whose duties include oversight, monitoring, and approval of budget the executive presents has consistently failed (as it does today) in fulfilling its responsibilities;
- All opponents of the government make frivolous charges of corruption or misuse of public funds, thereby inoculating the public to actual corruption like the boy who cried wolf.
- Low pay in all sectors of the government breeds corruption and misuse of public funds.
- Officers occupying high posts in government are often the main offenders, regardless of the government in power.

Unless the problem of corruption and misuse of public funds are taken to be serious problems and curbed, Somaliland will:

- Not achieve economic growth;
- Drive away investment from local and international sources;
- Discourage international assistance;
- Obtain lower revenue to finance roads, schools, hospitals, and sorely needed services;
- Discourage development of efficient utilization of public resources;
- Encourage cronyism and illegal practices in both public and private sectors.
- Intensify clan cleavages and armed conflict.


- Ex-combatants not integrated into society;
- Unemployment and public frustration;
- Loss of livestock and farms in the rural areas;
- Increase in population of cities and build up frustration;
- The Saudi livestock ban continuing to impoverish families and society;
- Disputes over land and enclosures motivated by get-quick-rich schemes
- Economic recession and inflation;
- Low paid soldiers, policemen, and civil servants
- Corruption and misuse of public funds.
- Continual influx of refugees and internally displaced persons 7.5 POTENTIAL DE-ESCALATORS OF CONFLICT
- Remittances from abroad;
- The construction boom;
- International assistance for humanitarian and social services
- Clan and traditional support system;
- The tradition of shaxaad (gifts) which keeps daily frustration at bay;


After 1991, the people of Somaliland started economic life from scratch. They returned to ruined cities and homes. Those who did not flee to refugee camps were also under the strains of war. Successive drought and the livestock ban had major shocks to the economy and life of Somaliland. The lack of economic growth means less government revenue. The military and police forces, drawn mainly from demobilized ex-combatants, take minimal salaries, which could lead to destabilization of Somaliland in the future.

Economic recession decreases job opportunities or may increase inflation, which means a reduction of household purchasing power. People have changed their consumption patterns by switching to cheaper cereals, reducing the amount they eat or may not eat.

The dependence on single market (KSA) and single primary product (livestock) renders the Somaliland economy extremely vulnerable to external forces and influences. The closing of the Ethiopian border has curtailed transit goods movement to Ethiopia.

Additionally, the lack of formal international recognition has its cost. Without it Somaliland does not qualify for bilateral aid or the assistance of international financial institutions for reconstruction. It has discouraged foreign investment and constricts trading practices.



We selected this issue because the environment and natural resources are among the most neglected yet most important sectors in Somaliland. The socio-economic well being of the Somaliland is intrinsically linked to the status and wise use of is natural resources. We wanted to briefly explore this issue in order at least to bring it to the forefront of discussion and debate.


The Somali Government, with substantial assistance form the international community, had in the past managed the natural resources of the country. Work on the environment included externally funded projects on, water, soil and desertification. However, the break down in government structures in 1991 and the lack of effective alternatives has contributed to the inability of developing policies, regulations and approaches to environmental conservation use of natural resources.

Consequently, natural resource management fell into the hands of the people in the past ten years. This worsened the already debilitating situation of resource management, including marine resources. Compared to other African nations, Somaliland has relatively few natural resources. This is all the more reason that it must conserve and utilize well the little it has.


Historically, many regulations for governing the use and protection of natural resources have not been enforced effectively. Some groups are overusing resources out of economic necessity while others exploit for profit and gain. There has not been a comprehensive study of significant environmental changes over the past decade. However, first hand observations by community leaders and concerned professionals point to the problem of rangeland degradation, deforestation, and depletion of marine resources from excessive fishing as primary concerns throughout the country.

Factors that have contributed to rangeland degradation and deforestation include cyclical drought, increased water points, human settlement, and transport, charcoal production, illegal private enclosures and an increase in livestock and population. These developments, particularly illegal private enclosures, have curtailed nomadic movements and denied access to areas rich in pasture. These changes have placed tremendous pressure on traditional grazing patterns, coping mechanisms and has weakened the social structure. It has also promoted out-migration from rural areas specially the young nomads (male and female) to the urban centers seeking employment opportunities. In the process, men often leave behind women and children to attend the animals.

8.3.1 Land Ownership

Since colonial rule in the late 19th Century, land theoretically belonged to the government. After independence, the same assumption that government owns the land continued, although in practice use and ownership of land followed tradition. But this assumption or declaration by fiat had created problems for citizens because the government intervened in land when it wished, often aggravating conflicts and applying favoritism induced by bribe. In addition, government became an absentee landlord without minimum of responsibility to care or protect the land against misuse and degradation. Traditionally, all land (except that part of it on which one lived or worked) belonged to the clan and subclan. Each clan had well respected boundary with its neighboring clans. In turn, each sub-clan had its own territory within the boundary of its clan. Thus land of pastoralists, traditionally constituting the bulk of the population, belonged to the clan and sub-clan. Even then, other clans had rights to migrated to that land in time of drought when they could not find pasture and water in their territory. Reciprocal accommodation existed between neighboring and even distant clans particularly in times of drought.

Land for agro-pastoralists had different meaning and use. In agro-pastoral communities, land was communally protected but that part of it tilled or used for fodder belonged to households. The boundaries of the privately owned was demarcated and passed on to successive generations of males. Generally, females were traditionally excluded from land inheritance for fear that land owned by one clan could be transferred to another clan by marriage. In addition, a male owner could only sell land to his close clan to ensure that land does not pass on to other clans or sub-clans, although one was free to temporarily lease or offer use gratis (with at leas two witnesses present) to anyone, regardless of his clan.

8.3.2 Environmental Degradation

Environmental degradation refers to reduction or destruction mostly in the capacity and resources of the land, although such degradation can take place in the air we breathe and the water we drink. In degraded environment, soil is impoverished and productive land loses par or all of its potential resources or capacity for production. For instance, water may diminish in quantity due or become undrinkable by humans and animals because misuse or lack of conservation.

The environment in Somaliland is increasingly placed under severe strain by the interaction of several factors. Population growth is intensifying pressure on the environment and causing environmental degradation. For instance, people are moving from rural to urban areas at an alarming rate. UN HABITAT reports that Somaliland has, in comparison to other African countries, the highest rate of migration from rural to urban areas.56 It calculated that eight persons migrated to Hargiesa per day. Not only are the poor and the unemployed increasing in cities but also garbage and risk of communicable disease like TB and HIV/AIDS are increasing.

Dumping sites for garbage are filling up quickly and disputes on the next site create conflict. In addition, there are not enough public latrines available. Lack of drainage is public health, as plastic bags replete in the environment are a soar to the eye and a threat to health of animals and plants.

In the rural areas, excessive grazing is degrading the land. Although livestock is the backbone of the economy of Somaliland, overgrazing and trample of animals which compacts the soil deteriorate the rangeland. These two problems have been degrading the rangeland for decades as the growth of livestock and demand for their export increased. In heavily trampled areas, erosion and drought are often the result because the soil is less able to retain water.

Overgrazing also destroys native palatable grass, replacing them with less palatable or poison weeds with deeper roots. Due to the livestock ban, it is believed that overstocking livestock in the rangeland is increasing with further deterioration of the environment. In addition, pastoralist who raise livestock continuously migrate in search for good pastures and water cut bushes for fencing their huts and pens for their livestock.

Further, agro-pastoralists inhabiting mostly in Northwest and Awdal regions depend on a combination of crop production and livestock. They develop integrated strategies to improve their food security to ensure that if one production system fails the other survives. Agro-pastoralists have also detrimental effect on the environment. In appropriate farming practices, inappropriate clearing of bushes and uncontrolled burning destroy the native vegetation and reduce suitable habitat for native animals. In fact, there is an urgent need to help agro-pastoralists to develop sustainable system which conserves natural resources of their environment.

Land speculation has also reached pitch fever in urban and rural areas. Enclosures that have no reason or rhyme except that in some distant future they bring profit are denying free movement of livestock and use of pasture. Further, as the population grows and tillable land reduces, agro-pastoralists are expanding the size of their land holding, thereby appropriating valuable grazing areas and water points. A conflict is a result intensifying between on the one hand pastoralists on the other land speculators and agro-pastoralists fencing off enclosures and valuable lands. This conflict on occasion erupts in armed conflagrations which contribute to social alienation and political instability.

Deforestation is also increasing because of the demand for charcoal and construction materials. More economically desperate communities are clearing forests and causing irreparable damage to the environment. Lack of government intervention, encouraging other ways of earning livelihood, and developing alternative sources of energy are aggravating the problem.

8.3.3 Drought and Water Crisis

Today, the glaring failure of government is its inability to provide adequate, reliable, and safe water for the Hargeisa particularly and other cities generally This problem has become most alarming and frustrating because, even in more difficult times, people have learned to expect as a “right” sufficient supply of water every day. The relative peace of Somaliland, its economic revival, and its unobtrusive (some say lackadaisical) government encouraged refugees from Ethiopia and Somalia to come in droves. In addition, according to UN Habitat, Somaliland’s rate of migration from rural communities is said to be the highest in Africa. Add to this steady flow of citizens returning from the diaspora, contributing to the building boom quickly changing the landscape and life of cities, particularly Hargeisa.

The water crisis is a potential threat to peace and stability in Somaliland. The drought that devastated much of Somaliland, particularly the eastern regions, had left immense poverty and suffering that will take years to overcome. This places inordinate burden on the government, the economy, and the population. Still, the public understands drought to have natural causes, even when the government has responsibility for its mitigation, development of warning systems, and prevention of effects on livestock and people. But water crisis in the cities is different. The responsibility and blame for it falls squarely on the shoulder of the government.

Thus far, the government has not alleviated the water crisis in the cities, nor has it demonstrated vigorous effort in solving it. Part of the problem is the rapid migration to cities by rural communities and refugees, putting impossible burden on their public utilities, housing, and public health. For instance, the city of Hargiesa has grown at least three fold during the past decade but development public utilities have not kept pace. The government, strapped for resources, can not rehabilitate wells or pipelines, or purchase the machinery needed. In addition, it does not have the technical capacity to plan or manage these services. Nor does it have access for the foreign assistance or loans (like the Chinese help which rebuilt and expanded the water system for Hargeisa two decades ago.)

Whatever the causes or contributors, the water crisis in the cities (particularly Hargeisa) may be the last straw for a population that remarkably borne with remarkable patience many perceived or real inequities. Most families today spend inordinate amount of their time and income on water, either purchasing donkey-driven sales, or lugging containers of water by hand. Making the problem most frustrating and dangerous, the poor spend more money on water for each barrel of water than the wellto- do. They therefore feel the pinch and the class inequity more than the pains and inequity in other aspects of life.

8.3.2 Charcoal Trade

Traditionally, the Somaliland urban society has been depending for cooking and heating on biomass as their main source of energy in the form of charcoal and firewood. Almost all urban households use charcoal while bakeries use firewood. The two main sources of bio-fuels are the private enclosures and communally owned land. The proportion of the fuel obtained in the communally owned land is the largest because this land belongs to no particular household. The government which would have protected it is not engaged in land conservation. These rural communities and urban intermediaries depend on the two sources of fuel as income generating, having discovered that their livestock has either perished or lost value in the marketplace due to the Saudi livestock ban on export.

Destruction of forest trees canopy reduce the soil cover and hence increases the opportunity of the top fertile soil to be easily eroded by winds and water. Sheet erosion caused by the run-off develops into rile erosion and then into gullies. Continuous heat of the sun on bare ground also destroys the soil nutrient and its structure. This process of forest and woodland destruction for the purpose of charcoal and fuel wood has severely reduced the biodiversity and rangeland productivity. If not checked, desertification which is irreversible will soon be the next stage.

A study on charcoal in rural environs of Hargeisa has shown that the city alone used 516,990 sacks of charcoal for the last six months of 2003. To produce this quantity of charcoal, about 323,118 trees had to be cut, of which 161,559 were live trees.57 This means that destruction of forest and woodland in the semi-desert of Somaliland proceeds at a pace far greater than it can regenerate itself. In addition, the study reports estimates that 65% of the charcoal used in Hargeisa and Berbera is prepared from live trees compared to 25% in Bur’o.

Further, the study found that most charcoal producers that 95% of the rural charcoal producers are aged 17-30 years and that these producers engage in charcoal production principally to obtain money of which between 50-80 percent go to purchase of qat and less than 30% spent on their household needs. In short, the environment and natural resources of Somaliland are fast depleted by men who spend most the income they earn from charcoal production on qat, thereby compromise their health and social wellbeing. Charcoal production is thus a double disaster which is irreversible.


- Land speculation and pursuit of material gain, regardless
- Disputes over land ownership
- Enclosures denying livestock access to grazing and therefore creating conflict
- Lack of water in both urban and rural communities, thereby starting old conflicts
- Refugee flow from Ethiopia and Somalia


- Remittance
- Livestock export when possible
- Traditional means of resolving land dispute
- Traditional mutual assistance


The Somaliland government and people do not give the environment and natural resources the attention they deserve. To protect the environment and the coast, the government owns no boats to guard the coast. Consequently, there has been illegal fishing going on along Somaliland coasts, particularly in the years 1992 and 1998.

Pastoralist communities in Somaliland are in critical situation. In addition, there is broad public concern for the dire consequences of the proliferation of private enclosures, settlements, and water points on rich pastoral areas. In rural areas where enclosures are practiced intensively, there is a continuous source of conflict and insecurity, and land disputes remain one of the most contentious issues in both rural and urban areas.

In short, the future of the environment in Somaliland and its neighbors looks gloomy. Urgent attention must be given to the environment by the government and international community.



We selected this topic because Somaliland is in a region embroiled in different conflict and these conflicts profound affect the peace and stability of Somaliland. For this reasons, we explore the relationship of Somaliland with its three neighbors, giving priority to the relationship of Somaliland and Puntland whose forces were poised in armed conflict in recent months over Sool.


The pursuit of pan-Somali unity began after World War II had brought all Somalis, including those in Somaliland, on a path collision and conflict with Ethiopia. Thus, from 1960 to 1991, the Somali Republic (representing the union of Somalia and Somaliland) and later the military regime had troubled relations with Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti (when it was a French colony).58

In particular, the relationship with Ethiopia was most antagonistic and tumultuous, culminating in the 1977-78 war. The military regime which wrested power in 1969 dropped the détente Mohamed Ibrahim Egal had signed and revived the call for Somali unity. The pursuit of pan- Somali unity culminated in a full-scale war with Ethiopia in 1977-78.

The war ended in a bitter defeat of Somali armed forces. With massive assistance from Cuba and the former Soviet Union, Ethiopians regained the Somali territory which Menilik and Haile Selassie secured first through negotiations with European colonial powers and later in practice. This defeat of Somali forces struck a death blow to the Pan-Somali Nationalism which, since at least 1960, passionately united Somalis but later lost steam by years in the years of military tyranny at home. The defeat had also sown the seeds of internal conflict among Somalis. The formation of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) in 1980 and the Somali National Movement (SNM) in 1981 started an era of armed opposition against the military regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre. By 1989, much of the territories of the Somali Democratic Republic, ablaze with fire and fury, had become a battleground for supporters of the regime and its opponents.

9.3 Current Situation

The people-to-people relationship changed significantly when the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) and later the Somali National Movement set up bases in Ethiopia to fight the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre. The Somali armed opponents against the regime and the flood of refugees fleeing to Ethiopia during the 1980s had come to know more of Ethiopia and its people, gradually casting away old myths and animosity they held against Ethiopians.

After the collapse of the military regime in January 1991, Somaliland declared UDI and formed its first transitional government in May 18, 1991. Since then, Somaliland’s relation with Ethiopia improved steadily. Ethiopia which has been embroiled with periodic armed conflict and mostly diplomatic row with leaders of the TNG formed in ‘Arta in 2002 and with some warlords in south-central Somalia.

9.3.1 Somaliland and Ethiopia

Somaliland’s relation with Ethiopia has improved steadily since the 1991 when the SNM took control of Somaliland and particularly after 1993 when President Mohamed Ibraahim Egal was selected as President in the Borama Conference. In addition, the report stated that since 2002 the relationship between Somaliland and Ethiopia has been the best in living memory, that, as a result, Ethiopia, for the first time in history, allows its airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, to fly four times a week from Addis Ababa to Hargeisa, linking passengers to other destinations in Europe and North America. In addition, Ethiopia also opened a liaison office in Hargeisa, allowing the Republic of Somaliland in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia is most concerned about the emergence of Pan-Somali Nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism on its eastern flank. Pan-Somali Nationalism would rally Somalis under its control under the banner of pan-Somali unity, turning human and material resources it desperately needs to war with Somalis, as has been the cases from 1960 to 1978. It also fears that the growth of Islamic fundamentalism on Somali soil may rally its substantial Muslim population and create conditions for religious wars in midst, loosening the grip Christina Highlanders had on the huge empire Menelik crafted and Haile Selassie consolidated.

Good relations with Somaliland prevents the later from become a staging ground for either Somali irredentism or Islamic fundamentalism. Somaliland on its part is committed for peace on its borders and with its powerful neighbor. It is also desperate for good relations with a government like Ethiopia that has significant influence in the politics of the Horn Africa and beyond. Hence good relations between Somaliland and Ethiopia offers mutual benefit for both countries, although some Somalilanders think that the relationship is tilted heavily to the advantage of Ethiopia. They argue that Somaliland has made concessions but gets too little from Ethiopia. According to them, Ethiopia has not been a good advocate for Somaliland, as Djibouti has been for the TNG in Mogadishu 59.

Nonetheless, good relations and informal alliance between the Somaliland and the Ethiopian governments continue to grow. However, Ethiopia has not come forward to recognize Somaliland, although Somali officials say that it promised to be the second country to recognize Somaliland if another country to break the taboo first. Somaliland officials seem content with this promise, sympathizing with the explanation that Ethiopia does not want to appear as spoiler of Somali unity. However, some critics consider the promise a clever diplomatic maneuver that kills two birds with one stone. On the one hand, the promise, if true, satisfies naïve Somaliland officials; on the other, it keeps Ethiopia in line with the proscription the international community imposed on recognition of Somaliland.

The good relations between the two countries continue not only in the diplomatic domain or making their borders secure from armed conflict. In addition, land-locked needs access to the sea if Djibouti port either becomes too congested or, as happened with Eritrea, its good relations with Ethiopia changes. In fact, Ethiopia has periodically used the port of Berbera for unloading and transshipment of food aid extended by the EC as assistance to its droughtstricken population in the eastern regions. In addition, trade between the Ethiopian and Somaliland proceeds at a significant pace, although restrictions Ethiopia imposed on border trade in October 2002, supposed to control smuggling, had raised doubts on the intentions of Ethiopian officials.

In fact, Somalis on both sides of the border had managed to circumvent the trade restrictions rendering them less devastating that initially feared by officials and the public of Somaliland. The problem that today raises concern is the conflict brewing between the Somaliland Government and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (OLNF), clan-based armed opposition against Ethiopian control and rule of the territory today known as Somali Region of Ethiopia.

On April 25, 2004, two trucks carrying goods from Somaliland to the Somali Region of Ethiopia were stopped by OLNF forces near Dhagax Madow set ablaze the two trucks and their goods. The incident provoked acts reprisal against Ogaden traders in Hargeisa and Bur’o which could have gone out of control if the Somaliland Police did not intervene. The OLNF presumably took this drastic action against citizens of Somaliland out of anger against the imprisonment of their members whom Somaliland had captured back in December 2003, allegedly for smuggling arms from Eritrea through Djibouti. In a BBC interview, the leader of the ONLF, Mohamed Omar Osman, denied that his forces burned the trucks but accused the Somaliland for mistreating the Ogaden prisoners.

Such incidents and counter-accusations are likely to escalate in coming months because Somaliland does not want to become a staging ground or transit route for armed opponents of its important and powerful ally on its western, porous border in the west. If the conflict between the ONLF and Somaliland intensifies, dangerous war clouds hang on the western flank of Somaliland.

9.3.2 Somaliland and Djibouti

Somaliland’s relationship with Republic of Djibouti, its neighbor on the north, had waxed and waned since the reclamation of independence in 1991, that Somaliland was not pleased with Djibouti’s persistent effort to reconstitute the defunct unity with Somalia and the old Somali state. In particular, the desk study stressed that Djibouti’s sponsorship of the ‘Arta Conference in 2001 and subsequently its support to the Transitional National Government based in Mogadishu had strained relations between the two countries.

Before securing independence for Djibouti in 1977, a substantial portion of the Somali population in the Republic of Djibouti was committed to Pan-Somali Nationalism, as were Somalis elsewhere. In addition, ‘Iise and Isaaq activists for independence had found sympathy and support from Somalis across the border. The story of Mohamoud Harbi and other advocates for Djibouti independence are still remembered as some of pantheons of Pan-Somali Nationalism. Fighters from Djibouti have also been given training, arms, and haven by Somalis across the border.

After independence, good relations between Djibouti and Somalis across the border continued. However, the Djibouti leaders were concerned about the migration of ‘Iise population from Ethiopia and Somaliland. Each traditional settlement they left was occupied by neighboring groups. Their fear was in fact justified, as shown by depletion of ‘Iise from Dire Dawa (Ethiopia) and its environs which today hardly looks like the predominantly Somali city it had been in the 1960s and before. Similarly, the ‘Iise who traditionally inhabited Somaliland migrated in droves to Djibouti in search of work, life, and largesse in the newly republic. The vacuum they left was filled by the Gadabursi who historically had been their traditional kin and adversary. The armed conflict between the SNM and the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre had brought two contradictory responses from Djibouti leaders. On the one hand, the war and Mohamed Siyaad Barre’s need for ally (which Djibouti offered) prompted thoughts of returning ‘Iise population to their traditional area of settlement.

On the other hand, some Djibouti officials (notably Ismaa’iil Omar Ghelle, the current President) who at the time served as the security chief of Djibouti was considered a key ally and supporter of the SNM and generally of the Isaaq. His assistance and position were critical to the SNM and to the Isaaq who had a substantial business interests in Djibouti and used Djibouti as a transit point in their destinations abroad.

After the fall of the Barre regime, the clan cleavage and dispute over territory which reached pitch fever had brought the ‘Iise and Gadabursi, later the ‘Iise and the SNM, into armed conflict. The fall of the regime and the chaos in Somaliland encouraged ‘Iise return to their traditional areas of settlement or, as some bluntly put, Djibouti authorities’ policy of expansion into Somaliland. In 1994, ‘Iise fighters under the banner of United Somali Front (USF), no doubt backed by the Djibouti Government, launched attacks and capture Zeila. They also advanced and occupied ‘Abdulqaadir, Jidhi, and Geerisa hamlets.

These attacks took the Gadabursi and the Isaaq by surprise. The Gadabursi had their hands full with conflicts within Somaliland and with the peace initiatives they spearheaded. Nonetheless, the Gadabursi rallied support and organized their clan militia. When the first reprisals started at Geerisa, the Government of Somaliland reinforced the Gadabursi militia with 300 soldiers. The joint forces pushed the ‘Iise invaders. Again in 1995, the Iise fighters attacked again. Later that year, a reconciliation meeting called Mubaarik was organized between the Gadabursi and ‘Iise at Geerisa. The meeting took three months but failed to resolve the conflict. Nonetheless, the conflict subsided and an easy truce continued.

Not surprisingly, the Isaaq and the Gadabursi who possessed documents for Djibouti citizenship rallied to the support of Ismaa’iil Omar Ghelle, the presidential candidate whom they consider an ally of the Isaaq and the Gadabursi. The Gadabursi and Isaaq in Djibouti gave material and moral backing to Ghelle while their counter parts in Somaliland who had had legal documents traveled to Djibouti in droves to vote Ghelle.

When Ghelle became the president, hope soared in Somaliland. Many thought that a new era of alliance and collaboration would start. But these hopes were dashed when the two presidents, Egal and Ghelle, had a fall out over the nature, organization, and outcome of the ‘Arte Conference. The conflict between the two men not only concerned difference of political interest and tactics but also aggravated by clash of egos and one-upmanship which neither moderated for the common good.

After the conclusion of ‘Arta Conference and Djibouti support of the TNG, led by Abdiqaasim Salad Hassan, an ineffective leader and a vociferous opponent of Somaliland independence, the relations between Djibouti and Somaliland reached its lowest point in the media and public perception. But armed conflict did not follow. Djibouti elders, politicians, and intellectuals who had come to Hargeisa for reconciliation were rebuffed at the airport and forced to fly back to Djibouti. Egal was adamant and strident as was Ghelle.

The death of Egal and the failure of the TNG to realize minimal expectations thawed the diplomatic ice between Djibouti and Somaliland. When Dahir Rayaal Kahin became the President of Somaliland, the chasm existing between the two countries narrowed. This was in part because, although President Kahin is Gadabursi, the traditional adversaries of the ‘Iise, the latter are his maternal kin.

More importantly, President Kahin does not possess the inflated ego which brought Egal and Ghelle at logger heads. As a result, relations between Djibouti and Somaliland is at its best today, although critics of President Kahin allege that behind-the-scene dealings of the two presidents have placed Somaliland at a disadvantage.

9.3.3 Somaliland and Puntland

If the relation between Ethiopia and Djibouti is generally congenial, that between Somaliland and Puntland had aggravated in recent months. Since January 2004, armed forces of the two governments have been poised for war over dispute on Sool. Relations between the two governments were never good since 1998 when Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf took power in Puntland.

A lynchpin of the colonel’s politics in Puntland has been to shore up and consolidate Harti alliance firstly to outmaneuver and beat his Mejerteen opponents, which he did with flare and force, secondly to enhance his prestige as a Daarood leader and to secure for himself political concessions in a newly reconstituted Somalia.

The Harti subclan of the Daarood consists primarily of the Mejerteen, the Dhulbante, and the Warsangeli. The latter two were under British colonial rule. By history and tradition, they are considered part of Somaliland. However, in the clan cleavages and conflict that became the rule rather than exception in Somali society since the collapse of the regime in 1991, Harti alliance had found the emotional and political grounds for conflict between Somaliland and Puntland. Key to this conflict is the history and conditions of the Dhulbahante, the second most powerful subclan of the Harti after the Mejerteen. Understanding the history and dilemma of the Dhulbahante sheds much light on the sources of the political conflict and its potential danger if armed clashes erupt.

The relationship between Somaliland and Puntland has never been good since Colonel Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed became the President of Puntland and that a territorial dispute on Harti-settled areas of Somaliland (specifically Sool and Eastern Sanaag) has become the obvious bone of contention. From the perspective of Somaliland, the colonel:

- Uses outdated clan irredentism to expand the territory under his control in order promote his prestige as a Darood leader, thereby for instance gain greater leverage in the reconciliation conference in Kenya ;
- Employees Dhulbahante officers and soldiers to hold on to power in Puntland and to oppress his own clan, the Majeerteen;
- Attempts to undermine the democracy emerging in Somaliland which presents a contrast to his one-man-rule and indirectly undermines his style of dictatorial rule.

9.3.4 The Conflict on Sool

The conflict which threatens wider conflagrations between Somaliland and Puntland has indeed long past, rooted in conflict between two leading families since the 19th Century complicated by the vagaries of Somali politics, particularly since the military coup of 1969 and the rise to power of Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf in 1998.

Since time immemorial, the Dhulbante had only one garaad (called elsewhere sultaan, ugaas, even boqor). The subclan entrusted to hold this position of leadership for the Dhulbante was historically the Ba Hararsame. This changed in 1835 after Garaad Mohamoud (nicknamed Korre Baas Sitte) abused his power, allegedly with the ill-counsel of a man among his inner circle who sought to undermine his power.

The conflict that started in 1835 over right of separation and dominance waxed and waned with changed political conditions. The conflict took on covert form under the Dervish and subsequently under British rule. It took political form in urban centers after independence. Thus, for instance, the Dhulbahante had five representatives in the second parliament of Somaliland in 1960 of which two (‘Ali Garaad and Osman Garaad) represented the traditional adversaries – the Mohamoud Garaad and the Faarax Garaad respectively.60

In the election of 1964, Osman Garaad did not return to the parliament whereas ‘Ali Garaad did. In his term as a parliamentarian, ‘Ali Garaad flexed his muscle on his traditional clan adversaries. In 1969 he also bulldozed his election, using used arms and arm-twisting to regain his seat in the parliament.

The military coup of 1969 changed the fate of the two traditional adversaries. On the other hand, the Faarax Garaad were amply represented in the Supreme Revolutionary Council while the Mohamoud Garaad had no representation in the SRC. Key in Dhulbhante representatives in the SRC were Ahmed Saleeban ‘Abdalle (Dafle) and Mohamed ‘Ali Shire – both members of the Faarax Garaad. In addition, Ahmed Saleeban was a son-law of Mohamed Siyaad Barre and head of the powerful National Security Services. In addition, the first cabinet formed included Mohamed Buraale Ismaa’iil, also from the Faarax Garaad. This imbalance of representation would have been less important in the history of Somali politics if Ahmed Saleeban Abdalle did not go out of his way to flex his muscle against the Mohamoud Garaad whose resentment intensified as a result. Aggravating matters, the military regime imprisoned ‘Ali Garaad. His camp was convinced that Ahmed Saleeban was behind it. Their resentment grew to outrage. When ‘Ali Garaad died, they selected ‘Abdi Qani, his brother, to take his place. The Ba Harsame in fact selected ‘Abdi Qani because they knew he was a sworn enemy of Ahmed Saleeban.

Garaad ‘Abdi Qani returned to Mogadishu after his accession in Laas ‘Aanood. Ahmed Saleeban made sure that none officially or personally welcomed the new Garaad – a treatment which only inflamed the old animosity. Not longer after, Garaad Saleeban emerged, having been chosen as leader in the environs of Sarmaanyo. When he arrived in Mogadishu, Ahmed Saleeban gave him grand reception to Garaad Saleeban and cajoled other Dhulbahante to do the same. They did.

The alienation of Garaad ‘Abdi Qani eventually led him to form alliance with the SNM, which he met in Baligubadle in 1990, and agreed that the regime should be destroyed through armed struggle. After the collapse of the regime, the SNM continued its alliance with Garaad ‘Abdi Qani and his supporters. It rejected and alienated Garaad Saleeban in the same way the regime earlier rejected and alienated Garaad ‘Abdi Qani. In particular, the SNM refused Garaad Saleeban to attend the Bur’o Conference of 1991. After some deliberation, they allowed his attendance as an observer.

This mistreatment of Garaad Saleeban left bitter feelings, energizing his unswerving commitment to Puntland and anger against Somaliland which to this day continues. Hence, we see the tit-for-tat of the two traditional adversaries and thoughtless officials supporting one garaad, but alienating the other, had profound influence in creating division into camps among the Dhulbahante and fostering divided loyalties among them. Most important, the conflict between two garaads and their supporters had set in motion a process of clan fission. By 1985, the Dhulhante had three garaads. By 1991, they had four. Today, they have 13 garaads, the 14th is being selected in ‘Eerigaabo in a conference of subclan as we write this story.

The SNM leadership and Egal did little to help the Dhulbahante resolve their divided loyalties and bury the hatchet. They also did understand the dilemma of the Dhulbhante generally and, if they did, neither acted on that understanding. If they have looked carefully, they would have understood that the Dhulbahante saw the emergence of Somaliland as only the political emergence of the Isaaq. This perception of the Dhulbahante prompted understandable reservation and doubt in a clan that had been a primary bulwark of the military regime which the Isaaq fought and defeated.

The death of Egal in 2002 brought new hopes that his successor, President Daahir Rayaale Kaahin, would open a new era of reconciliation with the Dhulbahante. This was not simply a pipe dream. The new President was himself a non-Isaaq. It was thought that perhaps a non- Isaaq leader build confidence among the Dhulbahante toward Somaliland which until then they saw as Isaaq fiefdom. Further, the new President had worked in Sool for several years. It was hoped that his knowledge of the territory, the clan, and its key personality would ease the way toward reconciliation.

On the contrary, relations between Somaliland and the Dhulbahante reached their lowest and most dangerous point since Daahir Rayaale Kaahin became President. The first and only visit he made to Sool in 2003 had turned a total failure and embarrassment. It was also under his watch that Laas ‘Anood had been invaded and captured by Puntland force in January 2004. Instead of speedy response, military or diplomatic, the President had shown himself to be indecisive and ineffectual.

That a majority of the Dhulbahante would emotionally lean toward their genealogical kin, the Mejerteen, over the Isaaq is not surprising in a period of Somali history when clan conflict was rife, when clan cleavages and alliance informed political calculations, when moreover the support the Dhulbahant threw with abandon behind the military regime prompted understandable fear of reprisal. What is in fact surprising is that some intellectuals, politicians, and traditional elders still choose Somaliland over Puntland. The size of that support is disputed as is the political conflict over Sool.

What is most important in any case is that the Dhulbahante be extended the right of self-determination. They should have the right to choose either Somaliland or Puntland without use force as did the Colonel and his cronies in Las ‘Anood. Further, the President of Somaliland should use traditional elders and civil society generally to resolve the conflict peacefully with the Dhulbahante themselves. Dialogue with a man who knows and uses only violence is of little use.

9.3.5 Somaliland Diaspora

The pastoral Somali tradition of trekking to distant lands in search for pasture and water had long ago had motivated Somalis to venture into other countries and continents. The adventures of Somaliland “seamen” abroad have become part of the folklore. They hid in ships, traveled into unknown destinations, and landed illegally in countries whose language they did not know, with no relatives or friends to host them. Decades later, they came back to their old villages, bought camels, and re-adapted to their pastoral life, appearing as they never left.

The desire for personal advancement through education and employment had in recent decades sent abroad a steady stream of Somalilanders, particularly after the military regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre had intensified its tyranny. The succession of wars to topple the regime after 1981 and its subsequent collapse in 1991 had sent a swarm of Somaliland refugees to almost all countries, far and near. However, Somalilanders in the diaspora remain linked to their people and land. The remittance they send, roughly estimated to about 250-500 million annually, provides the primary inflow of cash to the country. The various associations among the Somaliland living in the diaspora (like the Somaliland Forum) also provide political support not only financially but also to the quest for international recognition.

The contribution of Somalilanders who live in the Diaspora has been immense during the armed resistance against the dictatorial regime and subsequently. Today, they continue their contributions in ideas and remittance. This will continue for a few years but will change as their children become integrated in the host countries.


- The guerilla war waged by the Ogaden Natiional Liberation Front (ONLF) against Ethiopia may spill over into Somaliland and instigate conflict between the ONLF and Somaliland.
- The chronic competition and conflict between the ‘Iise and the Gadabursi over territory may intensify in the coming years if reconciliation and equitable solution is not found.
- The conflict over Sool can escalate into a wide and disaster armed conflict if solution involving the Dhulbahante is not found.
- Invasion like that carried out by Puntland on Sool harden feelings and close down avenues for peaceful resolution of problems.


- Except with Puntland, Somaliland has open official communication and dialogue.
- Economic interdependence allows cool heads in the neighboring counties to prevail on the cause of peace.
- Collaboration on trade contributes to peace between Somaliland and its neighbors.
- Civil society plays a moderating and mediating role when conflicts emerge.
- The people over whom Somaliland and Puntland dispute want to be left alone because armed conflict could have the most destructive consequences for them.


Except with Puntland, Somaliland has good relation with its two other neighbors – Ethiopia and Djibouti. Even then, there are problems which could threaten the peace in the region. These include the conflict between the ONLF and Ethiopia – a conflict that could spill over into Somaliland. Another is the territorial dispute between the ‘Iise and the Gadabursi which long past and clan acrimony. The good news is that the governments of the Somaliland and Djibouti have open communication and dialogue to solve problems that may emerge.

The conflict between Somaliland and Puntland is more worrisome because Abdullahi Yusuf, the President of Puntland, is known to solve problems only by force. The invasion of Sool a few months ago demonstrate his propensity for armed conflict. Fortunately, the Somaliland government did not respond in kind. This dispute is best solved through dialogue and with active participation of civil society from all sides.

The Somalilanders in the Diaspora are critical contributors to the economy and politics. Their absence from the scene reduces the impact of their contributions, although more of them come to visit the homeland in recent years. Without the remittance they send, Somaliland would be poorer and in dire straits. Hopefully, they will direct their contributions toward the development of small industry and income-generating businesses instead of temporarily feeding their relatives.


Rebuilding from the ruins of war is always an awesome challenge. Not only should the broken peace be mended but also political institutions must be re-established, the destroyed infrastructure rehabilitated, business re-started, often from scratch, homes and family relations reconstructed, the past with its crushing tragedies and pains placed in its proper place.

The ruins of civil war are even more daunting. In addition to rebuilding material resources and social institutions, post-conflict reconstruction after a civil war requires restoring most fundamental aspects less obvious or tangible than material resources and social institutions. The enemy in this case being one’s government and compatriots, the ruins and injuries of war go deeper and their memories last longer.

To overcome the effects of civil war, healing must take place simultaneously within and without because the enemy has invaded the self, the identity, the home, appearing perhaps in the person of an in-law, a childhood friend, a classmate, a colleague at work. Only then can rebuilding from material ruin have meaning and genuine renewal of society become possible. The people of Somaliland have gone through a succession of civil wars, leaving not only material ruin but also profound ruptures in identity and social relations. The healing within and without has yet to complete, though it started in earnest eleven years ago at the 1993 historic Borama Conference. Since then, the healing and reconstruction progressed with periodic hiccups and spurts.

The civil war began in reaction to a military regime which trampled on basic human rights and, when people resisted, carried out scorch-earth policy and systematically brutalized people who until then identified with the nation and flag entrusted to the military regime. The war with the regime was fought alone for nearly ten years while other Somalis stood on the sidelines or partook in the clan cleansing or at least in looting the homes and property of the victims. The belief in common identity and destiny died as a result.

Thus, the declaration of independence twelve years go must be seen not only in light of the ruin and injuries experienced in a bitter civil war but also as quest for a secure, firm, and safe ground for healing, for rebuilding confidence in the self and others, and for experimenting with new models of government and new political relationships when others they knew repeatedly failed them.

But the decision on unilateral declaration of independence did not bring the quick fix sought in desperation. The political institutions, homes and lives had to be built from ground up. But the first step toward that goal – restoring peace - proved difficult among a people traumatized by war, armed to the teeth, little prepared by the political leadership that organized them for war. Yet peace could not be restored unless clan cleavages which intensified during the war and exploited by the military regime were mended through dialogue and commitment to forgive on all side.

Somaliland indeed restored the peace broken and mended the clan cleavages with little assistance from the international community. It built a government on its own steam, using its limited resources. It experimented with a model of government incorporating the clan system and contemporary ideas like parliament, executive, and judiciary. Further, it took the first steps toward democracy by electing local and national political leaders peacefully and by means of one-person-one vote. In so doing, it also took a critical step toward ameliorating gender inequity since subsequent elections will no doubt force candidate to woo the substantial votes of women and hence address their grievances in a society that for too long denied them rights and participation equal to those of men.

These are not minor achievements. Those who poured substantial funds in 14 reconciliation conferences for Somalia or who sent over 30,000 soldiers to restore peace there but failed should know better. Somalilanders are proud of these achievements but they also worry about the difficult road ahead if they can continue to tolerate the misery around.

There are today three main impediments toward further progress in healing from past injuries and in rebuilding from the ruins in Somaliland. The first impediment resides in the government and people of Somaliland, the second in the international community, the third in Somalis who are determined to push Somaliland back to the ideas, systems, and practices that failed them.

The impediment in the government and people of Somaliland is the most difficult yet the most urgent to overcome. Somaliland has been saved by the will for peace and by homemade solutions discovered in the midst of disaster. The credit goes to the generation that has come to understand that no society or civilization can exist without peace and that peace can not sustain without dialogue with others, most of all with those considered enemy. But the movement forward, no doubt uncertain and clumsy all along, has slackened in recent years Old demons of the past – in particular the systems, practices, and habits of tyranny - are rearing there heads once again. Corruption and misuse of public funds, the bane of leadership without accountability or transparency, are eating away the gains and sacrifices made. Disillusionment and despair are therefore setting in at a frightening pace. The signs and symptoms of trouble ahead can be detected in the cacophony of teashop debates and qat-chewing sessions as they can be sensed in the inchoate actions of the youth and quiet musing of the aged. Perhaps the recommendations we offer later may postpone or hopefully prevent armed conflict and disaster in the making.

The impediment coming from the international community has a long past. It was firmly in place when the military regime ran roughshod on innocent citizens, later escalating its tyranny to massacres and destruction of cities, while generous assistance and loans to it continued flowing to the end of its collapse, despite repeated calls to no longer arm and embolden the regime. After the state collapse came the international stampede to assist the starving in Somalia. Because the stampede was founded on little or no understanding of Somalis, it ended as quickly as it started because force and money are not substitute to understanding.

Somaliland was saved from the hasty campaign of compassion and charity. However, it suffered neglect, indifference, or trivializing its achievements. Its demand for international recognition is not evaluated on legal or historical grounds but on preconceived and biased judgments of what is best for Somalis as if Somalis and in particular Somalilanders do not know what is best for them.

Following the failure of active intervention by military means, the rage has been reconciliation conferences that interminably consume resources and exhaust goodwill. Such efforts should continue if they are producing results or even if they constitute new and subtle versions of Operation Restore Hope.

But the neglect of Somaliland means neglect of models that can work and ignoring of an example that can be emulated. The time has come for Somaliland to but not at the cost of neglecting Somaliland and its noble struggles toward peace and democracy. Hope can be initiated and sustained by what works, what people achieve by their own, not by what addicts to conferences in plush hotels promise or conjure up.

Political recognition opens for Somaliland access to international relations and assistance it desperately needs. It communicates appreciation of achievement made and approval for the path toward democracy taken in a region where tyranny has been the rule. Political recognition also reward encouraging the successful sojourner to proceed and prompting others to catch up. If for some reason or other political recognition is hard to come by, the international community can help Somaliland in other ways, as stated in the recommendations below.

The third impediment toward healing and progress in Somaliland comes from others Somalis who misunderstand the path Somaliland has taken and why. They suffer from fixation with lofty ideas (like unity and brotherhood) without delving into the true meaning of these ideas. Unity and brotherhood under conditions of inequality and oppression had existed in the past and they failed. There is no point in returning to the same.

Neither unity nor brotherhood comes as result of threats or harangues of self-anointed prophet for Somalis. Both also find condition for realization when the parties have solved their own problems and gain confidence in the sincerity of the other. The crimes of the past must be put in their proper legal and social place so that at least such will not be condoned again. Unity and brotherhood come not in sharing hollow names, corrupt government, or a piece of cloth flattering in the air. It comes from mutual trust, respect, and understanding which are never forced but earned.

Recommendations for the Government and People of Somaliland

- International recognition is good but it is not a panacea. Work toward achieving it, but do not minimize the importance of self-recognition which is more fundamental than recognition by others.
- If you get what you pray for – in this case international recognition – you better know in advance problems inherent in it from lessons of the past – for instance living on charity, accumulating debts, strings attached on aid, flow of lethal arms, and conflicting dictates of more powerful governments.
- Meanwhile, exploit to the maximum the advantages of staying unrecognized – for instance experimenting with your own models of government, negotiating with companies (e.g. oil companies) unencumbered by agreements signed by the previous regime, etc.
- The clan system must be understood for what is and for its distortion in urban politics. It can be both a blessing and a curse – the former if understood and guided, the latter if approached with the hypocrisy of the past or left to politicians and the elite.
- Avoid (if they exist disband) all institutions, programs, and practice (like Guddiga Nabadgelyadda – Security Committee) that mimic the military regime and remind people of their injuries. Aside from their being a violation of the Constitution, people have a short fuse to these and the explosion could take place suddenly.
- Engage in dialogue any group of Somalis, even they want “unity” which for reasons we know too well has been made a dirty word when in fact it need not be so if understood correctly and conditions for it obtain. Confidence to engage your adversaries in dialogue is strength, not a weakness.
- Take protection of human rights more seriously in word and action. Otherwise, all the sacrifices and pain will be in vain.
- Insist on lean and clean government. A large cabinet and a bloated bureaucracy foster inefficiency, corruption, and misuse of public funds.
- Ensure that the parliamentary elections schedule for March 2005 takes place on schedule and with lessons learned from the previous elections.
- Encourage the private sector which is the engine of the economy. Government is best when it is a fair referee and a creator of enabling environment.
- Turn attention to the environment for there is no chance of survival, leave development, if we continue in the current pace of its degradation and abuse.
- We indeed have the capacity to finance our social services and development needs if only we can turn to constructive ends the staggering resources used for the purchase of qat daily, monthly, and annually. For the International Community:
- Extent political recognition to Somaliland because it deserves it on legal grounds and by its demonstration of success over a decade.
- While deliberation and discussion on international recognition is proceeding, extend to Somaliland other means by which it can participate in international conferences, enter into negotiations with governments, and attain technical and financial assistance.
- Help Somaliland with its crushing unemployment by providing financial and technical assistance to develop small industries and to exploit its natural resources.
- Provide assistance to its developing private sector and higher institutions of learning.
- Provide assistance that advance Somaliland’s experiment with democracy and with elections.

For other Somalis:

- A successful Somaliland is good for Somalis; its failure will only add to Somali despair and regional conflicts.
- Somalis need many examples of success; Somaliland may be such an example in some respects. Use what you learn from it and extend goodwill and lessons you think can be useful.
- A peaceful, stable, and democratic Somaliland is indeed a gain for Somalis everywhere and for the region, not a threat or burden, as some advocates with narrow political fixations.
- If you are not part of the solution, do not be part of the problem. Heal thyself. In reality, peace is indivisible.

Somaliland can not sustain its hard-won peace while its neighbors are caught in armed conflict or they are poised to instigate war with it. Democracy too can not grow and mature in the presence of citizens whose fundamentalist religious diktat in time desperation, or of leaders of neighboring countries, using force and dictatorship, hold the lid on their people. We must build on past successes of Somaliland, whatever our ideology on union or our jaundiced outlook on Somaliland independence.

Appendix A. Omitted

Appendix B



The team carrying out the fieldwork consisted of the four persons – Hussein A. Bulhan, Iise Mohamed Hussein (Uragte), Bashir Barre, and Jama O. Ashur. Each member brought to the fieldwork special knowledge, skills, and experience. The four team members came from by different clans and from four regions of Somaliland – namely, Awdal, Northwest, Togdheer, and Sool. A brief description of their background suggests their diverse experience.

Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan is a graduate of Wesleyan University, Boston University, and Harvard University. After he resigned from his Boston University post as tenured Associate Professor, Dr. Bulhan co-founded two successful organizations in the United States. The Center for Health and Development for which he was the founding Executive Director is this day a major mental health service provider in Massachusetts. He was also President of BHM International, a private consulting firm headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Bulhan decided to get involved in Somaliland as a mediator of an armed conflict in 1995. Since then, he remained involved in Somaliland, starting the first mobile telephone in Hargeisa and a trauma treatment center. In 1999, he co-founded the Academy for Peace and Development which he directed until January 31, 2004. Currently, Bulhan is the founder and Executive Director for the Center for Creative Solutions and the chief clinician for Maan-Dhaye, providing treatment for trauma and other problems in living.

Essa Mohamed Hussein (Uragte) was trained in Russia as a military engineer and obtained Masters Degree from the Military Academy at Amour. Upon his return to the Somali armed forces, Hussein worked in various capacities including Director of Technologies for the Somali Armed Forces and Director for the Technical Department of Fanole Hyro-Electric and Irrigation Project. In 1982, Hussein left the Somali Armed Forces and joined the Somali National Movement, an armed opposition to the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre. As an SNM combatant, Hussein learned much about the land, its topography and strategic possibilities. More importantly, he gained intimate familiarity with the life and behavior of Somalis in urban and rural areas, particularly in time of conflict and distress.

Bashir Barre (Buh) was trained at the Somali National University in Mogadishu and at University of Aberdeen in Scotland. As a specialist in agriculture and animal production, Barre has traveled extensively in the Horn of Africa and worked. In Somalia, Barre worked as an expert for a major multi-donor rangeland development project and as Field Director of a wildlife Project.
In the Somali Region of Ethiopia, Bashir served, for instance, as Field Director of a rangeland project, senior agronomist and expert range ecologist, and coordinator of several refugee camps. In Somaliland, Barre served as researcher and community developer for the Academy for Peace and Development. In short, Barre has extensive knowledge of the problems Somalis face in different regions, both in agricultural and pastoral communities.

Jama Osman Ashur studied chemistry at the College of Education at Lafole. He served as teacher of secondary school for years. Subsequently, he worked in the Somali Region of Ethiopia as an education officer in the refugee camps. In addition, he has been engaged in conflict mediation on the border areas. In the last few years, he served as a researcher and officer of adult education in the refugee camps in Rabaso, Daroor, Kaam Abookor, Harta-sheick, Qabri Bayax, and Aysha.


After the team reviewed the methods most pertinent to the fieldwork, the team decided to use the following key informant interviews of persons with specialized expertise, focus groups to explore attitudes and opinions, and observation and team discussion. Using one or more of these methods, the team separately or jointly interviewed clan elders, parliamentarians, intellectuals, and ordinary persons. The formal and informal interviews continued throughout the period of the fieldwork. The researchers interviewed individuals in offices during morning working-hours, qat-chewing sessions in the afternoons, tea-shops both in the morning and evenings, even in the streets when possible.

We found that most of the focus issues were quite sensitive and that the structured interviews hampered free-flow of information and exchange. The structured questionnaires tended to make the interviewees suspicious and guarded. Tape recorders, which at the beginning of the fieldwork the researchers carried with them, intensified the suspicion and discomfort. We therefore abandoned the attempt to tape individual interviews, although a few individuals who trusted the researcher had taped their views after assurance of confidentiality. When not resisted and logistically possible, the research team tape recorded focus group discussions which, unlike individual interviews, gave a certain degree of anonymity to participants.

Outside of Hargeisa, the team found participants particularly guarded and suspicious. One team member holding an informal focus group discussion was reported later reported to the Governor who warned him to cease his seemingly subversive work. Another was nearly physically attacked by people who thought that his inquiries were too intrusive and suspicious. The team concluded that the more one moved from the city, the more people seemed guarded. Apparently, people outside the capital city has yet to attain the open atmosphere of Hargeisa where political parties vigorously debate issues and individuals freely air their opinion.


The process of selecting key informants began with a comprehensive list developed by the team firstly individually and then the list was winnowed down collectively into the most known and credible. The key informant interviews were subsequently conducted in private, often at the office or home of the interviewee.

The focus groups involved 15-20 persons strategically selected using clan, regional, and gender criteria as required by the topic. Key informant interviews and focus group discussions were conducted in Borama, Dila, Hargeisa, Abaarso, Berbera, Sheikh, Bur’o, and Buhoodle. In total, 184 individuals participated in the fieldwork.


Key guiding questions were sent with the letter of invitation to give participants advance notice of the issues to be discussed and time for them to prepare for the focus group discussions. This allowed the focus group discussion to proceed effectively and efficiently. Since also none of the participants knew the list of invitees in advance, the combination and chemistry of the group often produced lively and informative discussions.

The guiding questions sent in advance to the participants were followed up with more detailed questions once the researcher(s) met key informant and focus group participants. Since these questions were open ended, the researchers improvised in how they phrased the questions or pursued more lines of inquiry that seemed most pertinent in the exchange.

The team worked collaboratively in gathering information for the fieldwork. In focus group discussions, one member served as the facilitating chair, assisted by another member. One member wrote notes of the issues discussed. The fourth team member assisted in tape recording the session or or in other tasks, as needed. The team regularly reviewed its observations of the key informant interviews and focus group discussion. The observations and team discussions complemented other procedures and methods.

In short, then, the fieldwork proceeded as planned and the researchers were pleased with information they obtained. The following pages discuss why we selected the focus issues, the relevant background to the issues, and the factors that escalate or de-escalate conflict. Although we will provide case illustrations when possible and selectively quote participants, we will mostly describe the gist of information participants provided us and interpret their meaning.

The guiding questions for each focus issue are listed below.


Are there conflicts between or within your clan or other you know well?
Who were the key actors and interests in this/these clan conflict(s)?
How did these conflicts initiate and develop? What social, cultural, historical, or other factors caused or contributed to these conflicts?
How did these conflicts escalate and what factors contributed to their escalation? What social, cultural, historical, or other factors enabled or contributed to their resolution?
What are the political, social, economic, and human consequences of these conflicts? What de-escalated the conflicts? How were these conflict resolved? Discuss key actors in the conflict and its resolution. Also discuss the strategies and tactics used.
What warning signals can be identified in retrospect which could have prevented the conflict if understood then?
What lessons can we learn from these conflicts and how they were resolved?


In your opinion, is there equity of governance and in benefiting from political institutions in Somaliland? Please explain.
If there is inequity, who or which group benefits from the inequity of governance?
Who or which group suffers this inequity of governance?
Who or what systemic arrangement maintains this inequity?
In you opinion, how can the inequity of governance be changed or reformed?


In your opinion, is there inequity of law and judicial system in Somaliland? ? If yes or no, please explain.
If there is no equity, what are the causes of the inequity in the system?
Who or which group benefits from this inequity of law and judicial system?
Who or which group suffers from this inequity?
What systemic arrangement maintains this inequity of law and judicial system in Somaliland?
In your opinion, how can the inequity of law and judicial system be changed?


How do you define freedom of speech and human rights?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of formal and informal media?
In your opinion, is there freedom of speech and human rights in Somaliland?
What promotes or impedes freedom of speach and human rights in Somaliland?
Can you give specific examples of violations on freedom of speech or human rights?
What recommendations can you make for promoting freedom of speech and human rights in Somaliland?


1 Conflict Analysis Framework (CAF) is a method and process of analyzing factors affecting conflict in order to understand their causes, ameliorate their ravages, and prevent their onset. CAF is composed of six categories of variables relevant to conflict. In total, there are thirty variables found pertinent to analysis of conflict.
2 Somaliland in Figures, document issued by the Somaliland Ministry of Planning and Coordination, 2004.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 The Somali National Movement (SNM) was the armed political movement of the Isaaq that fought against the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre.
6 The Gobooye is a general term referring the Tuumaal, the Madhibaan, the Muuse Dheriyo, the Yibir, etc. Recently politicised, these oppressed groups prefer this name to encourage cohesion among the different clans comprising it. There are other minority clans who traditionally inhabit Somaliland but do not suffer the segregation and despise reserved for the Gabooye. They include the Akisho and the Madigaan. In addition, there have been for decades some individuals and families had settled in Somaliland and integrated themselves into the population through marriage and social adaptation.
7. In particular, the migration from Ethiopia and Somalia has brought other clans who sought refuge from wars in neighboring territories or who have moved to Somaliland in search for work and opportunity.
8 Inhabitants of this territory do not have the ethnic mixture of Somalia with components of so-called Bantu, Arab, or other extracts
9 In contrast, the pastoral and agricultural ways of living co-exist in almost equal proportion in Somalia.
10 For an overview of political and social developments in Somaliland since 1991, see Self-Portrait of Somaliland - Rebuilding from the Ruins - an extensive report by the Academy for Peace & Development, 2001, Hargeisa, Somaliland.
11 A classic work on Somali clan system and colonial history, see I.M. Lewis, A Pastoral Democracy, London,, Oxford. For an overview on colonial and post-independence history, see also by the same author, A Modern History of Somaliland: From Nation to State, London, Weindenfeld and Nicolson, 1965
12 For detail on how the twin process of fusion and fission shapes the Somali mind and character, see Bulhan’s forthcoming book on Kinship and Conflict - the Ecology of the Somali Mind.
13 See Kinship and Conflict - the Ecology of the Somali Mind.
14 For an interpersonal conflict to have social traction - that is to escalate to clan conflict - there are a number of conditions including history of clan conflict, failure of the clan to pay customary blood compensation in case of homicide, the extent the interpersonal conflict has clear implications or symbolic meaning to clan interests, and the how the elite rally clans in times of political campaign or conflict. For details on these conditions, see Kinship and Conflict - the Ecology of the Somali Mind.
15 For a detailed review on the political history of Somalis since the imposition of colonial rule to the collapse of the military regime in 1991, see by the same author. Politics of Cain - the Malfeasance and Misrule of an African elite.
16 For a detailed report on persecution of the Isaaq, see A Government at War with Its Own People, an Africa Watch Report, January 1991.
17 The letter known as “The Letter of Death” was a secret government document written by General Mohamed Si’iid Hersi, nicknamed Morgan, who was son-in-law of Mohamed Siyaad Barre and the man who led the regime’s armed forces in Somaliland and administered the territory during the 1980s.
18 Such men had shown that clan is not the most critical or even reasonable grounds for adopting a political stance toward an unjust regime. Without their contributions, Somaliland would probably sink to the mayhem and anarchy of Somalia. By joining the SNM, they stood firm for their commitment to justice even when most members of their clan took the opposite and despised them.
19 Another conflict emerged between the Gadabursi and ‘Iise in 1994. This time, the conflict concerned who owned the Zeila district and its environs. This conflict enlarged into a potentially more dangerous conflagration when the government of Djibouti and the SNM joined the fray. For discussion of this conflict and its fallout for the relationship of Djibouti and Somaliland, see Section 10.4.
20 The Arab militia must to be noted especially because they were the first clan militia to respond to the President’s appeal. The Jibriil Abokor, the Xusseen Abokor, the Iise Muuse, and the Isxaaq followed on different days, each with great pomp and obvious pride. In fact, the demobilization ceremony had both symbolic and substantive import in the building of a new government. It also had many moments of humor, as for instance when the ‘Iise Muuse armed militia, the President’s clan, marched into the stadium with a monkey hoisted on one of their tanks, thereby turning to good amusing effect their traditional clan characterization as monkeys.
21 See Kinship and Conflict - the Ecology of the Somali Mind.
22 See L. P. Walsh, Under the Flag and I.M. Lewis, Blood and Bones.
23 Mohamed Ibraahim Egal was one of the leaders of pro-independence political movements in the late 1950s. He was also the Prime Minister of the last civilian government that the military toppled in 1969.
24 see Kinship and Conflict, the Ecology of the Somali Mind.
25 It was further thought that this process would: 1) reduce the number of parties to manageable size only three in contrast of the over sixty so-called political parties that competed for office in 1969) and 2) ensure that no political party would comprise of one clan exclusive (as in political parties of the past and armed political movements in recent years.
26 Illustrating this policy is how Walsh, a pioneer of British occupation of the Somali Coast disarmed Somalis who came to Berbera with spears, shields, and daggers. If two were found fighting, they were arrested. An armed escort took the two men outside town. They were made to dig a grave after their spears were returned and ordered to fight, with the understanding that the victor would bury the corpse of his adversary. Invariably, the two men saw the absurdity of the arrangement and chose to hand their arms. But the ridicule continued when the town crier announced the reason why the two men chose confiscation of their arms.
27 This section builds on a study which Bulhan supervised for a project funded by the Swiss Embassy in Nairobi and carried out with the assistance of the staff at the Academy for Peace and Development, Hargeisa, Somaliland.
28 For details, see Politics of Cain which is the source of the information presented in this section.
29 This section builds on the study Bulhan supervised at the Academy for Peace and Development and funded by UNDP.
30 1988 is considered a historical landmark because it was in the summer of that year that the regime of Mohamed Siyaad Barre razed the city of Hargeisa to the ground by using heavy artillery and planes.
31 for details, January 1991 report of Africa Watch, a Country At War With Itself, and Bulhan’s forthcoming book on Politics of Cain.
32 See H.A. Bulhan’s forthcoming book on Injuries of A Generation:
35 A year earlier, Hassan Ahmed Adan, one of the most honest and capable Attorney Generals Somaliland heading this key office, left the Egal Administration because of disputes over his unwillingness to suppress the media
36 Quoted in “Mapping Somali Civil Society”, a document published by n(o)vib
37 This outlook was recently expressed when a civil society umbrella, the Somaliland Civic Forum for Peace, tried to legally register. The officials concerned evaded with flimsy excuses this organization’s right to register. In the end, it became clear that the underlying reason was unfounded suspicion which only served to alienat the organization and its national membership.
38 The study was designed, supervised, and analyzed by H.A. Bulhan.
39 See “Survey on Small Arms in Somaliland” - a report Bulhan for UNDP on March 15, 2004
40 Between 1979 and 1991, for instance, the United States provide more $800 million in economic and material aid, amounting to 16.8 percent of the total aid the regime received in the same period. See Humanitarian Aid in Somalia, report of the Refugee Policy Group, Washington, D.C., 1994, pp. 6-7.
41 Berbera port statistics cannot yet differentiate what is in transit and what is for Somaliland.
42 Though non-of these is labour intensive, theses companies particularly Dahab Shiil money transfer have branches at village level employing one or two people.
43 Somaliland in Figures, a document issues by the Somaliland Ministry of Planning and Coordination, 2004
45 Somaliland in Figures, Ministry of Planning and Coordination, 2004.
46 Ibid, p. 14
47 Hargeisa Urban Household Economy Assessment carried by FEWS Net and collaborating agencies in February - March 2003
48 The UN estimates it as 300,000; the Ministry of Planning as 350,00; the Water development Agency as 600,000- 700,000; and the Electoral Commission as 700,000.
49 Hargeisa Urban Household Economy Assessment carried by FEWS Net and collaborating agencies in February - March 2003
50 For review on the literature and psycho-social effects of qat use, see Bulhan’s unpublished report on a study carried out in Somaliland in 2003.
51 Boobe Yusuf Du’aale, personal communication.
52 The study was designed and supervised by H.A. Bulhan and Jane Mosselin.. Bulhan coded and analyzed the data.
53 In a personal communication with the author, the Minister of Finance explained, for instance, that Mohamed prepared his own national budget which was not the responsibility of his ministry, that he made his views unnecessarily accusatory and confrontational, that he distributed his own budget before giving Minister of Finance chance to present the national budget he had prepared.
55 Ibid.
54 Mohamed Hashi Elmi explained his views and allegations in Haatuf, a daily newspaper, Issue 590, Volume 3, May 26, 2004.
56 Personal communication by the representative of UN-Habitat in Hargeisa.
57 Case Study - Impact of Charcoal Production on Environment and On the Social Economic of the Pastoral Communities of Somaliland , a documented presented by the Somaliland Ministry of Pastoral Development and Environment.
58 The conflict continued except for a short period when Prime Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Egal signed a in 1967 and thereby removed war clouds in the region.
59 For instance, they argue that Ethiopia has not been as vigorous advocate of Somaliland in international venues as Djibouti has been for the TNG. Further, they point out that Ethiopia has extended least in assistance of trade to Somaliland, even if its unwillingness to recognize Somaliland could be ignored.
60 Osman Garaad is today in Hargeisa.