Nation profile


General information
5,700,000 h. (2020 Somaliland government estimate)
176,120 km2
Republic of Somaliland (de facto independent state)
Major cities
Hargeisa (capital), Berbera, Burao, Borama
State administration
Federal Republic of Somalia (de jure), Republic of Somaliland (de facto)
Territorial languages
Official languages
Somali (official), Arabic (second language)
Major religion
Sunni Islam
National day
18 May (Independence Day)


Somaliland is, since 1990, a de facto independent republic, located in the northern part of the Horn of Africa. Its lies on the southern shore of the Gulf of Aden, in northwest Indian Ocean. It is a relatively stable republic, comparable to other consolidated African states, although with notable weaknesses too. Its eastern region is claimed, and partially controlled, by Puntland, a member state of Somalia.

The independence of Somaliland has not been officially recognized by any other state in the world or by the African Union, who continue to regard it a part of the Federal Republic of Somalia. However, neighbouring states such as Ethiopia and Djibouti, as well as the UA, the UK, and Taiwan, have established diplomatic ties with it.


The present-day territory of Somaliland was organized under various sultanates between the 14th and late 19th centuries, some of which maintained relations with the Ottoman Empire. From 1827 onwards, the British established increasingly close ties with the local clans, which culminated with the establishment of the protectorate of Somaliland in 1884. It was at that time that Somaliland’s current borders were defined.

The British suffocated (1899-1920), in the southern and eastern regions of Somaliland, the Dervish Rebellion, which sought to end British and Ethiopian influence, and proclaim a Somali Muslim state. The United Kingdom maintained control of Somaliland until 1960, except for the period 1940-1941, when the territory was occupied by Italy during World War II.

The country gained independence from the UK on 26 June 1960. Five days later, it merged with the former colony of Italian Somaliland to create the new sovereign state of Somalia.

The dictatorship of Siad Barre (1969-1991) was a tumultuous period for Somalia, which led to a process of internal disintegration and clan confrontation. Members of the Isaaq clan, which makes up the majority of Somalilander population, created the Somali National Movement (MNS) in 1981. This armed movement, with Ethiopian support, controlled several areas of Somaliland. Between 1988 and 1991 Barre’s regime killed 50,000 to 200,000 Isaaqs, in what Somaliland considers to be a genocide. Barre was overthrown in 1991. The MNS gained control of most of Somaliland and declared an independent state that has stood away of the subsequent Somali civil war.

Politics and administration

Politics in Somaliland take place in the framework of a parliamentary democratic system with local adaptations, which has been described a clanocracy and a hybrid system. The Government is the executive branch, and is made up by the Council of Ministers, the Vice-President, and the President, who is elected by universal suffrage. The Parliament is vested with legislative power. It consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives, elected by the population, and the House of the Elders, a kind of Senate made up of former elected officers or traditional leaders representing the main clans and sub-clans.

Elections have been held intermittently. The last twp parliamentary elections took place in 2005 and 2021. Municipal elections were held in 2002, 2012 and 2021. Presidential elections have been the most regular, with one held every seven years (2003, 2010, and 2017). Political parties disagree whether a new presidential election should have been held in 2022.

The Constitution specifies that three political parties can exist at most. These are the Party of Peace, Unity and Development (Kulmiye), the Justice and Development Party (UCID) and Waddani. Although the Constitution says that parties can not be based on clans, each of them has ties with specific clans and sub-clans. The combinations of clans and sub-clans linked to one party or another can vary over time.
Within this system, women are marginalized in institutions. Some women’s movements are demanding that a minimum quota of seats reserved for women be set in the next parliamentary election.

President: Muse Bihi Abdi, Kulmiye (since 2017)
Distribution of seats in the House of Representatives (May 2021 election). 82 members:
Waddani (economic left, Islamism, nationalism) - 31
Kulmiye (social liberalism) - 30
UCID (social democracy) - 21

Electoral system: proportional system in 6 electoral constituencies.


The territory of Somaliland is divided between three main clans: the Dir in the western region, the Isaaq in the central region and the Darood in the eastern region. The Isaaq clan is the largest and holds most political power.

Each of the clans is divided into several sub-clans. The main ones are: the Issa and the Gadabursi within the Dir; the Habar Awal, Habar Jeclo, Garhaji (sub-divided into Eidagalla and Habar Yunis), Habar Habusho and Arap within the Isaaq; and finally the Warsangeli and the Dulbahante within the Darood.

(Last updated November 2022.)