Somalia/Somaliland: The Differences and Issues Explained

Somalia/Somaliland: The Differences and Issues Explained (News Central TV)

Somaliland is a self-governing region in northern Somalia that declared independence from Somalia in 1991.

Somaliland’s sovereignty is not recognized by any foreign power, but it is self-governing, with an independent government, democratic elections, and a distinct history.

Somaliland statistics: at a glance

Capital: Hargeisa (independence not recognised internationally)

Population: 3.5 million

Major languages: Somali, Arabic, English

Major religion: Islam

Currency: Somaliland shilling1

History of Somaliland?

Since the late 1800s, it has existed as a separate entity from Somalia. Until 1960, it was a British protectorate (meaning a dependent territory, over which the British government exercised limited jurisdiction).

It then became self-sufficient for only five days.

At this point, it merged with modern-day Somalia, which was then ruled by Italy, kicking off a long and often violent struggle.

In the 1980s, the Somali National Movement (SNM) rebel group emerged in Somaliland. Following the overthrow of military dictator Siad Barre, whose forces had killed tens of thousands of people during a civil war along ethnic and clan lines, they declared Somaliland’s independence in 1991.

The SNM declared Hargeisa the capital of Somaliland, despite the fact that it is still internationally unrecognized.

Over the next ten years, the SNM drafted a new Somaliland constitution, which was approved in a public referendum in 2001.

Somaliland map: Why isn’t Somaliland a separate country?

Those who support its independence argue that the regions have distinct cultural and ethnic identities.

Somaliland has its own currency, military, passports, and elections, which have been observed and praised by international partners such as the EU.

It is also more stable than Somalia, with little terrorism since 2008.

However, there are concerns, particularly among African Union members, that formal recognition of it will encourage other African secessionist movements to seek independence as well. 

And, while it is a relatively stable region by global standards, it is extremely poor – the World Bank estimated its GDP per capita at just $348 (£267), making it the world’s fourth poorest country if it were independent.

Climate change and the challenges facing Somaliland today

Today, Somaliland is suffering from extreme vulnerability to climate change-related issues. Years of severe drought, famine, and other natural disasters have pushed people to the brink of disaster.

Communities still struggling to recover from a two-year drought that ended in 2017 are now facing one of the driest rainy seasons in three decades, with the UN claiming that 2.2 million people in Somalia/Somaliland are at risk of starvation, and life in it can be particularly difficult for women and girls.

Female genital mutilation is estimated to have been performed on 98 percent of women (FGM). Tens of thousands of women and girls living in internally displaced person camps face a constant threat of violence.

That is why ActionAid is working in Somaliland’s displacement camps to assist women and girls in surviving and putting an end to gender-based violence.

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