Somaliland is an unrecognized state in Northern Somalia. While Somalia is plagued with violence and terrorism, Somaliland has remained peaceful and separated from the war. Somaliland has its own currency, bureaucracy, elected government, military, and police force. If Somalia is ranked 1 in the 2016 Fragile State Index, why don't countries recognize Somaliland as an independent country?

  • 16
    Maybe I'm missing something but why would countries recognize a contested region in the least stable country in the world?
    – JonK
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 15:37
  • 5
    @JonK Because the Somali Civil War has been going since 1986. Maybe a partition of Somalia is the only option and Somaliland has been relatively stable compared to the rest of the country.
    – KevinZ
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 22:08
  • 4
    Do they have oil?
    – liftarn
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 9:02

3 Answers 3


There are many such separatist movements around the world. Whether they win or not is a question of power. Can they win the recognition of the international community? Or do powerful outside interests have reason to prefer the existing national state?

Here is a list of ten examples. Regarding the specific case of Somliland, the author states:

The major argument against recognizing Somaliland for many in the international community has been that recognition of an independent Somaliland would further devastate Somalia’s efforts at organizing a functioning state. This argument has persisted for more than two decades, with Somaliland progressing while Somalia continues to teeter on the brink of anarchy. It is likely a matter of time before the issue becomes moot.

  • 2
    Am I right to assume that "moot" in the quotation is the American version?
    – origimbo
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 17:01
  • 5
    I followed the link, but even in context wasn't sure what exactly the author meant by the "issue becoming moot". Did he mean that if Somalia fully descends into chaos, that there is no longer any remaining argument for not recognizing Solamiland?
    – BradC
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 17:02
  • 3
    @BradC I took it to mean that the two countries would be so far apart in terms of progress that organizing a functioning state out of both parts would be impossible (this is likely already the case IMO). But I agree with you that the author is not clear in this regard. Commented May 15, 2017 at 17:57
  • 6
    @BradC Yes. Somalia hasn't had a unified government for over two decades now. At some point, people are just going to have to accept that there never will be a unified Somalia. When that happens, the issue (Somaliland belonging to a sovereign country) will be moot.
    – kingledion
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 22:25
  • 3
    @Cronax Taiwan has some extra complexity, because there are disagreements within Taiwan over whether it should declare itself to be a separate state. The name "Republic of China" represents its claim to sovereignty over all of China, while the Communist mainland government is the "People's Republic of China". The 20 UN states who recognise it do so by recognising it as "the" China, and thus not recognising the much larger Communist state. The equivalent would be if Somaliland claimed sovereignty over all of Somalia, rather than merely claiming the existence of certain borders.
    – IMSoP
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 19:42

Here's a partial answer:

First, the government of Somalia doesn't recognize Somaliland. Any recognition of Somaliland would come over the objections of Somalia. The global community is more reluctant to legitimize such unilateral separatism. The Somaliland separatists historically had minimal economic/military clout or foreign alliances, so no one has gone to bat for them.

Second, Somaliland does not have well defined borders. De facto Somaliland is primarily territory of the Dir and Isaaq clans, but Somaliland claims all of the former British Somaliland, including territory of the Darod clan. The de facto border between Somalia and Somaliland is not stable. Recognizing Somaliland would raise the stakes of the border dispute, potentially renewing clashes. And how would one know what border to recognize without a bilateral process between Somalia and Somaliland?

The longer Somaliland retains its de facto independence, the stronger its claim to de jure independence will become. If it increases ties with players such as the US, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Ethiopia, that may further strengthen its hand. The UAE in particular is establishing a military base and port concession in exchange for perhaps $1bn in investment.

  • 8
    Additionally, most countries are dealing with separatist movements of their own to some degree. Countries with their own break-away movements tend to be hesitant to recognize any separatist movement for fear of emboldening the independence claims within their own borders.
    – A Bailey
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 15:20
  • 3
    The idea of a "government of Somalia" was a joke for much of the last 31 years. Commented May 17, 2017 at 23:24
  • 2
    All iterations of the internationally recognized "government of Somalia" during that time were opposed to Somaliland separatism, however.
    – Colin
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 9:01

For starters Somaliland is not a separatist country; for over 100 years it was a British Protectorate, under the name British Somaliland which it relinquished for The Republic of Somaliland after being granted independence on the 26th June 1960. Five days later it entered a voluntary union with Somalia, a former Italian colony to its south and following a protracted civil it withdrew from that fateful union on 18th May 1991.

Separatists? No. Because for the five days before uniting with Somalia to form the defunct greater Somalia republic that expiated with Dicatator Siyad Barre, Somaliland was a full member of the UN and recognized by the five permanent members.

As for non recognition, the debate rages, but with wonder since Somaliland which is within the boundaries demarcated by Britain, Ethiopia and Italy during the late 1800s and early 1900s scramble for Africa is not a secessionist but one reverting to its original boundaries. One would not fail to wonder about the UN support to Eritrea separating from Ethiopia or South Sudan from Sudan proper.

In actual factors Somalilanders equate their unratified union with Somalia similarly with the Arab state formed By Egypt and Syria or Senegambia which was a result of union between Senegal and Gambia. While many examples exist, these few involving African countries suffice for the argument of why not Somaliland, since they were scraped off just as with that with Somalia.

For the sake of argument the main issue is the Nile river, for Somaliland can not be termed as contravening AU stipulations pertaining to partitioning of states post independence boundaries. Somaliland occupies its mid 1800s boundaries. So back to the waters of River Nile, which is contested by Ethiopia and Egypt with the pre-1991 republic a major buffer utilized by Egypt to scare off Ethiopia.

Since 1991 when Somaliland withdrew from the union with Somalia, the hand of neighbouring Ethiopia is visible in both Mogadishu and Hargeisa. In Somalia the abbysininans have been involved militarily for decades only recently joining the African Union force - AmISOM. In Somaliland it was the first and remains the only country to maintain a fully fledged diplomatic mission in Hargeisa, not to mention several MOUs on trade and security cooperation. Ethiopia has trained the Somaliland army for years, not to mention its now very large presence as a partner with 19% of the UAE owned DP World 30 year concession worth $422m to manage the port of Berbera.

Since the collapse of the Somalia republic, the beneficiaries of noel waters have changed with the Ethiopians even constructing the millennium dam which will ultimately decrees the volume of water flowing to the Egyptians. This has not gone well as ascertained by the near war between the two countries spearheaded by Al-Sisi immediately after he took over in Cairo.

So Somalia has nothing to do with the Somaliland recognition which is solely the onus of the so called international community that continues to remain deaf and act blind to realities - more so Britain which has left Somaliland orphaned. In the meantime Somalilanders having recognized themselves as independent are prepared to live as per status for ever if it takes that long.

  • Do you claim that Somaliland had a legal right to secede from Somalia under Somalia law? Could your provide a source?
    – Colin
    Commented May 21, 2017 at 8:25
  • I don't believe Somalia law applies here, considering that the 1960 unionbetween two independent countries was never ratified Commented May 24, 2017 at 19:08
  • Before we proceed much kindly refer to recognition.somalilandgov.com/history Commented May 24, 2017 at 19:09
  • Ratified by what authority?
    – Colin
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 1:29
  • 3
    This answer is a good review of the Somaliland case for independance, but it doesn't explain why International Community hasn't recognized it as independant.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 9:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .