Somaliland declared unilateral independence from Somalia on May 18, 1991. It has been under pressure to hold talks with Somalia which have so far been futile. Described as the most peaceful state in the Horn of Africa region, Somaliland can boast of an army, its own currency and legal system. The territory has been experiencing stability and economic prosperity. It has been influential in the fight against piracy and terrorism in the Horn of Africa.
More than 26 years of diplomatic isolation has made it difficult for Somaliland to have access to loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is regarded as the autonomous region of Somalia and not a sovereign state. Somaliland has held successful presidential elections in 2003 and 2010 including a parliamentary election in 2005. The 2017 election is touted to be the first incident-free polls to be held in the Horn of Africa in many years.
Britain withdrew from British Somaliland in 1960 to allow its protectorate to join with Italian Somaliland and form the new nation of Somalia. In 1969, a coup headed by Mohamed SIAD Barre ushered in an authoritarian socialist rule characterized by the persecution, jailing, and torture of political opponents and dissidents. After the regime's collapse early in 1991, Somalia descended into turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy.
The northern based SNM declared unilateral independence for Somaliland in May 1991, based on the former British Somaliland borders. The northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland that now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence and continues efforts to establish a constitutional democracy, including holding municipal, parliamentary, and presidential elections.
The secessionists disassociated Somaliland from the south, and argued that independence was based on atrocities inflicted by the region by the previous system. Somaliland includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Those 5 regions comprise 18 of the regions of Somalia. The northwest continued to proclaim its independence within the borders of former British Somaliland, which had obtained independence from Britain in 1960 before joining the former Italian-ruled Somalia.
The "Republic of Somaliland" has sought international recognition since 1991. Somaliland's government includes a parliament and functioning civil court system. Only in Somaliland, under "President" Mohammed Egal, was there a functioning legal system, based on the 1962 Penal Code. The current system replaced Islamic law and included a supreme court. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence, aided by the overwhelming dominance of a ruling clan and economic infrastructure left behind by British, Russian, and American military assistance programs.
Although not on the scale of the south, Somaliland also experienced inter-clan killings and destruction as the newly "independent" administration tried to establish itself - first under Abdirahman Tur, and then under former Prime Minister Muhammad Ibrahim Egal, who was elected to office by clan elders in Boroma in 1993, and again in 1997.
The total value of remittances to Somaliland in the year 2000, originating mainly from migrant labour in the Gulf and more recently an exodus of refugees to the West, and greatly facilitated by the growth of telecommunications in Somaliland and of remittance agencies, is estimated at some US$500 million annually -- around four times the value of livestock exports. Contrary to the prevailing view that remittances are mainly used for consumption and unproductive investments such as housing and land, in Somaliland they have contributed to the rapid growth of a vibrant private sector. On the other hand, remittance flows have been associated with a number of negative side-effects such as the loss of the country's most educated and skilled labour, increased income inequality and booming sector effects, and their positive impact is limited by the present lack of credit schemes and facilities for saving.
While the United States does not recognize Somaliland as an independent state, and continues to believe that the question of Somaliland’s independence should be resolved by the African Union, the US Government continues regularly to engage with Somaliland as a regional administration and to support programs that encourage democratization and economic development in the Somaliland region. Reflecting the nature of this engagement, the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto met with Somaliland President Dahir Rayale Kahin and his delegation when they were passing through Addis Ababa in early January 2008; the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger held consultations with Somaliland Foreign Minister Abdillahi Mohamed Dualeh and his team in Nairobi in Fall 2007; and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi E. Frazer also met with Somaliland Foreign Minister Dualeh during the African Union summit held in January 2007.
With much fanfare and excitement on the streets of Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced the result of the presidential elections held peacefully on June 26, 2010. The lead opposition party, Kulmiye (meaning bringing together”) won by receiving almost 50% of over 538,000 votes cast while the ruling party UDUB, (meaning “Pillar”) won approximately 33% and the second opposition party, UCID (the Justice and Welfare party) received approximately 17%.
Kulmiye party leader and veteran politician Ahmed Silanyo was declared the new President of Somaliland with the other two parties gracefully conceding defeat. The current president, Riyale Kahin, issued a statement prior to the NEC announcement, restating that he will respect the outcome of the elections and distancing himself from those raising complaints from within his party. The leaderships of both opposition parties congratulated the president’s brave statement and thanked him for taking this step to preserve the unity and reputation of the Somaliland people. This marked only the third peaceful democratic transition in the greater Horn of Africa (previous instances were Sudan in 1986 and Kenya in 2002).
USAID’s estimated FY2010 contribution to Somaliland is approximately $46.8 million, covering Humanitarian ($20.6 million) and Development ($26.2 million) Assistance. USAID’s Humanitarian Assistance efforts include an array of activities focused on economic recovery, market systems, agriculture, food security, protection, water and sanitation. The program provides food assistance for more than 18,650 countrywide. Development Assistance funds include activities aimed at improving security and strengthening good governance at the grass roots through education, conflict mitigation and other basic social services.
The 2012 Business Confidence Survey, released in December 2012, showed that investment in medium-sized enterprises more than doubled between 2011 and 2012. The Somaliland Ministry of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture conducted the survey with USAID support. “This year’s survey shows that businesses and investors are becoming more confident in the economy,” said Somaliland Minister of Commerce Honorable Abdirizak Ahmed Khalif. “We expect that their confidence will continue to grow and that investment will continue to increase.”
The survey found that investment in medium sized-enterprises of $100,000 -$500,000 had more than doubled in Hargeisa between 2011 and 2012 (from 7.5 percent of respondents to 17 percent). Nearly 300 local businesses from all regions of Somaliland responded to the annual survey including women entrepreneurs and youth-owned businesses as well as investors from the Somali diaspora. The survey queried respondents about the ease of starting a business, perceived availability of skilled labor, the quality of infrastructure, security, and laws and regulations for businesses and investors.
Previous surveys had shown that businesspeople and potential investors were particularly concerned about weak legislation. In response, in 2012 USAID also provided assistance to the Ministry of Commerce to review and amend laws governing commerce and investment. Support for these activities comes from USAID’s Partnership for Economic Growth program, a $13 million initiative that supports stabilization by investing in the local economy and strengthening the livestock, farming, and energy sectors.
On April 25, 2013 US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman met with Somaliland administration President Ahmed Silanyo. Under Secretary Sherman and President Silanyo discussed issues of mutual concern, including stability, democracy and governance, and the need to combat al-Shabaab. The United States expressed support for continued dialogue between the Government of Somalia and Somaliland authorities, as took place in Turkey on April 13. The United States reiterated its strong support for a peaceful and united Somalia.
In Somaliland, as preparations continued to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in 2015, political tension between the government and the opposition intensified over delays in approving the National Electoral Commission of Somaliland and passing the voter/civic registration act. On 15 November, parliamentarians from the ruling Kulmiye Party of Somaliland tabled an impeachment motion against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdillahi “Irro”, who is from the Wadani opposition party. This action resulted in security incidents, including the temporary detention of several parliamentarians and violent protests in other towns in Somaliland. The immediate crisis subsided, and on 29 November parliament endorsed the National Electoral Commission, following which the Commissioners took the oath of office on 7 December.
Opposition parties formed an alliance on 4 March to oppose the bid by President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud “Silanyo” to extend his term of office beyond June 2015. Tension with the government heightened after the National Electoral Commission announced on 9 March the indefinite postponement of presidential and parliamentary elections. The ruling Kulmiye party expressed its readiness to consult the opposition on the way forward, and urged Parliament to approve important legislation on the political participation of women and minorities. The Commission subsequently further announced that the elections should be possible in June 2016.
In June 2015 the two major Somaliland opposition parties (UCID and Wadani parties) accused the ruling party “Kulmiye” government of violating thedeal of holding election on 27 July 2015 and unilaterally trying to postpone Somaliland elections, without a joint consultations with people and other concern parties.
In Somaliland, the upper legislative chamber, the House of Elders (Guurti) announced on 11 May 2015 a 22-month term extension of the term of office of President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud “Silanyo”, thereby delaying the elections that had been scheduled to be held in June 2016 until March 2017. Following protests and consultations, the authorities and the opposition parties agreed on 27 May to reschedule the elections for mid-December 2016. However, tensions remained high, as the Guurti failed to revise its decision in line with the agreement. On 18 August, in response to a request from the “Somaliland” authorities for a legal decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Guurti’s decision, and set the election timeline for March 2017.
Somaliland swore in its fifth president, Muse Bihi Abdi, on 13 December 2017. There was excitement and optimism on social media as citizens relished the peaceful transition of power and wished their new president a fruitful five year term. Abdi, a retired pilot was declared winner of the tightly contested 13 November 2017 polls, having polled 55.% of the votes cast.
In March 2018 Dubai-based DP World struck a deal giving Ethiopia a 19-percent stake in Somaliland’s Berbera port. The company already managed Bossaso port in semi-autonomous Puntland, as well as Berbera. The company planned to invest $442 million developing Berbera on the Gulf of Aden shipping route, and has retained a majority 51-percent share in the port. The remaining 30 percent is owned by Somaliland’s government. Somaliland’s Foreign Minister Sacad Ali Shire defended both the initial deal with DP World, signed in 2016, and the recent buy-in by Ethiopia, which hopes the Berbera corridor will offer it another route to the sea for imports and exports.
The move angered Somalia, which does not recognize Somaliland’s long-standing claim of independence and has a history of animosity with Ethiopia. On 14 March 2018 Somalia’s Parliament declared “null and void” the port deal signed by breakaway Somaliland that had raised tensions between Mogadishu and Hargeisa. Declaring the deal unconstitutional and therefore “null and void” Mogadishu’s Parliament asserted in a resolution: “It is only the Federal Government of Somalia that can engage in international deals.” After 168 out of 170 MPs voted the deal down, it said. “All ports, and airports in the country are national property and ... no one can privately claim ownership... The DP World company intentionally violated the sovereignty of Somalia, so this company is banned completely from operating in Somalia”. The resolution went on to ban DP World from operating anywhere in Somalia.
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