Nation profile


General information
3,508,180 h. (2015 UN 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 a de facto sovereign 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 has been independent from Somalia since 1990. It is a relatively stable republic, comparable to other consolidated African states. Its eastern region is claimed 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. However, neighbouring states such as Ethiopia and Djibouti, as well as the UAE and the UK, maintain diplomatic ties with it.


Somaliland’s present borders were defined at the early stages of the country’s occupation as a protectorate by the British, at the end of 19th century. The British suffocated (1900-1920) the proclamation of the so-called Dervish State in the southern and eastern regions of Somaliland. 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. The government is appointed by a president 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 traditional leaders representing the main clans and sub-clans.

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.

President: Muse Bihi Abdi, Kulmiye (since 2017)
Distribution of seats in the House of Representatives (2005 *). 82 members:
UDUB * - 33
Kulmiye - 28
UCID - 21
* Legislative elections have not taken place since 2005. UDUB dissolved itself in 2011.
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 2017.)