General Info

General Info on Somaliland

Somaliland historical development and present political situation


Until 1960 Somaliland was a British protectorate. From 1960 till 1991 it formed a union with South Somalia and Puntland, the independent republic of Somalia

A severe civil war from 1987 till 1990, between Somaliland and the government in Mogadishu (president Siad Barre) destroyed the cities completely and killed soldiers as well as civilians. In may 1991 Somaliland declared independence as the republic of Somaliland. A conference of elders elected the first government. In 1997 a parliament composed of elected from the clans was established. A new constitution, was confirmed by a referendum in 2001, and municipal elections took place in 2003. A presidential election took place in 2004 and finally the constitution was confirmed in 2005. The parliament is composed of the house of representatives elected by public elections whereas the senate is composed by representatives chosen amongst the clan elders. Thus the structure of government is building on the clan traditions and is securing the support and collaboration with, within and between the clans as well as providing a basis for a democracy. There seems to be a functioning administrative system centrally and locally. There is an independent court system. International observers acknowledged the election in 2005. All citizens have voting rights.

There are reports on border confrontations between Puntland and Somaliland. Somaliland has a small army and a navy of app. 350 soldiers. The navy is based in Berbera and with few boats collaborate with international forces to combat pirates. There is a fear that the Islamic extremist of South Somalia will try to destabilise Somaliland through terror attacks like the one in Hargeisa in 2009.

Social situation, economy, infrastructure


Economy is based on livestocks, moneytransfer from diaspora, influx from international organisations, duty on import like Khat from Ethiopia, sugar and trade through the harbour of Berbera. Government funds are spend on military and civil servants. There are no banks but highly efficient money transfer companies like Dahabshiil. There is an efficient telecommunication systems, Telesom and Somtel, said to be the cheapest in Africa. There is a well functioning internet coverage.

A number of the well off population, politicians and intellectuals are citizens of a western country, but has moved back within the last 10-15 years to participate in the development of the country. However, the majority of the population are still living in the rural areas and are still nomads.

The roads between the most important cities are fairly well kept.

Wages are low. (examples: doctor 250$, nurse: 150$ guard 100$. School tuition in secondary school 80 $). With a growing private sector in health services most staff holds at least two jobs, so working hours in as well public as private sector are fairly low. NGOs are important for securing health care, education etc.

Family structure, extended families, clan system and diaspora


There is a traditional and complex clan system in Somalia, with 6 major clans each divided in a number of subclans. All social responsibility and protection rests with the family, as there is no other social support systems. Orphans in ex. are taken care of in families till they are 15. Mentally ill persons and others who are not able to take care of themselves are thus the responsibility of the families. Violence and violation done by a mentally ill person is the responsibility of the family as well. That is part of the explanation of why mentally ill persons often are seen chained in the families. The judiciary system is twofold. One is the public judiciary system. The other is based on the traditional Xeer - a council of elders chosen in equal numbers from their respective clans to negotiate and settle disputes. They were reported to play a very important role in Somaliland. 

Council of elders chosen from the clans carry great responsibilities in local community development. In Burao the TDC – Togdheer Development Committee through their contact with diaspora provides the economic basis for many developments. The Diaspora is at the roots of the country. Money and know- how from diaspora are essential for development. A great number of people from the diaspora of the late 80ies and 90ties are returning to build up the country, however keeping their ties to their new country by retaining citizenship.



Based on our personal experience there are great differences in the role of gender, however with great variability. Nurses profession had male and females. Doctors only males. All females aredressed in the Somalian way with scarf covering hair, and long dresses. The same dress code applied to foreigners. It is not unusual for a religious man to have 2-4 wives.Illiteracy is greater amongst women than men. Not least in the rural areas, where there are  NGO based educational programmes targeting children and women.

FGM (female genital mutilation) is still very common, however it is reported that the mild form, called Sunna is becoming more common.



Islam (sunni) is the official religion in Somaliland and plays a major and reportedly growing role in everyday life. Other religions are not visible.  Christian NGOs are allowed as long as they do not perform any kind of missionary activities.

Somali writer Nuruddin Farah


Nuruddin Farah is a prizewinning author born in Baidoa, Somalia in 1945. He writes in english and has published many short stories, essays and novels, two of which have been translated into Danish: Maps (Kort) and Links (Forbindelser).


His works always relate to Somali issues.


Read more about Farah: Wikipedia and interview in Hiiraan (Jan 15, 2015).

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