The hidden gem of Africa
Most people are familiar with Somalia, but far fewer have heard of Somaliland. So what is the difference? Honestly, it depends on who you ask! Most Somalis have passionate opinions on this topic, but without getting too political, they are two distinct regions both culturally and ethnically. Geographically, Somalia and Somaliland encompass the horn of East Africa, with Somaliland occupying the north of the horn and Somalia occupying the South. Historically, Somaliland had been a distinct region of Somalia since the 1800s, and was a British protectorate until 1960. At that time, they merged with present-day Somalia, who had been under Italian rule. The merger faced challenges from the beginning, as many Somalilanders did not like the fact that power was centralized in the south of Somalia. Eventually, in the 1980s a group emerged calling themselves the Somali National Movement (SNM), who succeeded in ousting the brutal dictator, Siad Barre, but not before Barre’s forces had killed tens of thousands of Somalilanders and destroyed nearly all of their infrastructure. The SNM declared Somaliland’s independence from Somalia in 1991, and it has remained an independent state ever since, with its own constitution, a democratically elected parliament and president.
Present Day Somaliland
Today, Somaliland is a stable, safe country celebrating over 30 years of independence. They have been relatively free of the violence and terrorist activity that has affected Somalia. Somaliland has a democratically elected parliament, with representatives from different clans, as well as an elected president. In fact, international election observers have declared Somaliland presidential elections both free and fair. However, to this day, Somaliland’s sovereignty has not been officially recognized by the international community. This lack of recognition has hindered economic growth in the country since they cannot receive loans from the World Bank or the IMF as an unrecognized state. This state of limbo puts the country in a precarious position that can’t continue indefinitely. Somaliland has made a strong case for international recognition as a sovereign state, and that fight continues today.
Our Founder Mahdi Ibrahim left Somaliland in 1988 to flee from the Somalia Conflict. We interviewed him to discuss how he feels about his dear home.