Somalia is best known for civil war, extreme poverty, lack of governance, corruption, piracy and the development of Islamic extremism. Somalia is best known for being a failed State. However, this country has a northern territory, Somaliland, a self-proclaimed independent State, that is all the opposite.


In the beginning of the 20th century, the lands on the Eastern horn of Africa were shared by the Italians, the British and the French. Each of these powers held a certain part of Somalia – which was not known by that name at the time. Upon the period of decolonization, the French Somaliland became the independent Republic of Djibouti in 1977, while the British State of Somaliland and the Italian Trust Territory of Somalia united to form the independent Republic of Somalia in 1960. The current self-proclaimed independent Republic of Somaliland is the former State of Somaliland, which was under British rule until 1960.

Although initially Somalia was able to have a constitutional democracy, in 1969 it suffered a coup d’Etat, which would transform it into a military dictatorship. The regime of Major General Siad Barre allegedly committed several human rights abuses throughout the country, including in Somaliland, which had been (and according to Somalia, still is) an autonomous region. Eventually, several resistance and militia groups were formed in the country, which led to the Somali Civil War, which ousted the dictator Siad Barre.

One of those groups was the Somali National Movement (SNM), which was led by one of Somalia’s main clans, and eventually, in 1991, proclaimed that the northern territory of Somaliland was an independent State.

Since then, Somaliland has proclaimed itself an autonomous State, with its own Constitution and government, although very little countries in the world recognize it as such. Indeed, secessions are rarely recognize in the international order, because that could lead to many other regions in the world to declare themselves as independents. Nevertheless, recognition is still one of the major attributes that a State needs to effectively be a State.

Whatever you consider it, the fact is that Somaliland has thrived in one of the most unstable regions of the world. It has its own currency, political system and a private system that actually works. This does not mean that Somaliland is not attained by poverty and many other problems, but rather that it is capable of standing out and this has allowed it to maintain foreign relations (independent from Somalia) with such powerful States as the United States, the United Kingdom or France. Mostly, it has also allowed it to escape the devastation to which Somalia has been put through in the recent decade.

Somaliland, represented on the left, and Somalia, represented on the right.

As the International Business Times puts it, Somaliland is an “African Story of Success”. Nevertheless, while it has not attained recognition, it is stuck in a limbo, which is quite a shame because this region could be an example for its neighbors. For as long as Somalia refuses to acknowledge this region as independent, it is unlikely that Somaliland will be considered a full State in the international arena.


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