A breakaway, semi-desert territory on the coast of the Gulf of Aden, Somaliland declared independence after the overthrow of Somali military dictator Siad Barre in 1991.
The move followed a secessionist struggle during which Siad Barre’s forces pursued rebel guerrillas in the territory. Tens of thousands of people were killed and towns were flattened.
Though not internationally recognised, Somaliland has a working political system, government institutions, a police force and its own currency. The territory has lobbied hard to win support for its claim to be a sovereign state.
Livestock rearing is a key economic activity
The former British protectorate has also escaped much of the chaos and violence that plague Somalia, although attacks on Western aid workers in 2003 raised fears that Islamic militants in the territory were targeting foreigners.
Although there is a thriving private business sector, poverty and unemployment are widespread. The economy is highly dependent on money sent home by members of the diaspora. Duties from Berbera, a port used by landlocked Ethiopia, and livestock exports are important sources of revenue.
The latter have been hit by embargoes on exports, imposed by some Gulf countries to inhibit the spread of Rift Valley Fever.
Somaliland is in dispute with the neighbouring autonomous Somali region of Puntland over the Sanaag and Sool areas, some of whose inhabitants owe their allegiance to Puntland.
A monument commemorates those who fought for secession
Somaliland’s leaders have distanced themselves from Somalia’s central transitional government, set up in 2004 following long-running talks in Kenya, which they see as a threat to Somaliland’s autonomy.
Somaliland was independent for a few days in 1960, between the end of British colonial rule and its union with the former Italian colony of Somalia. More than 40 years later voters in the territory overwhelmingly backed its self-declared independence in a 2001 referendum.
- Territory: Somaliland
- Status: Self-declared republic. Not recognised internationally.
- Population: 3.5 million (Somaliland government estimate)
- Capital: Hargeisa
- Major languages: Somali, Arabic, English
- Major religion: Islam
- Life expectancy: n/a
- Monetary unit: Somaliland shilling
- Main exports: Livestock
- GNI per capita: n/a
- Internet domain: n/a
- International dialling code: +252
President: Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo
Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo came to power in July 2010 following elections considered largely free and fair by international observers.
President Silanyo fought for secession
He defeated the sitting president, Dahir Riyale Kahin, who had been appointed by a council of elders in 2002 and won the territory’s first multi-part elections in 2003.
Mr Silanyo, who has a degree from the London School of Economics, is Somaliland’s fourth president since the territory unilaterally proclaimed its independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991.
Reportedly born in the mid-1930s, Mr Silanyo headed the Somali government ministries of planning and commerce in the 1970s, before joining the rebel Somali National Movement (SNM) which led the secession of Somaliland.
He served as Somaliland’s finance minister between 1997 and 1999, before being appointed planning minister. In 2001 he moved to the United Kingdom, returning in 2002 to form the Kulmiye party.
He lost to Mr Kahin in the 2003 polls.
He has said gaining international recognition was one of his priorities.
Since 1991, Radio Hargeisa has been the Somaliland government’s official mouthpiece. The government also owns Somaliland National Television (SLNTV).
The authorities maintain a tight hold on broadcasting. Radio is the most accessible form of media, although Radio Hargeisa is the only permitted domestic outlet. The BBC is available in Hargeisa on 89 FM.
A private TV station, Somaliland Television (SLTV), is permitted to operate. A cable TV service is run by Hargeysa Cable.
The press can carry criticism of the government but the market for printed publications is small.
- Somaliland Times – Hargeisa, English-language weekly published by Haatuf Media Network
- Haatuf – Hargeisa, private daily
- Jamhuuriya – Hargeisa, private
- Mandeeq – Hargeisa, state-owned
- Somaliland National TV (SLNTV) – government-controlled, Hargeisa area
- Somaliland Television (SLTV) – private
- Radio Hargeisa – government-controlled