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Somaliland

[soh-mah-lee-land, suh-]

Somaliland (Soomaaliland, صومالي لاند) is an autonomous region, which is part of the Somali republic located in the Horn of Africa. The Republic of Somaliland considers itself to be the successor state of the former British Somaliland protectorate. Having declared its own local government in Somalia in 1991, Somaliland remains unrecognized by any country or international organization.

Somaliland is bordered by Ethiopia in the south and west, Djibouti in the northwest, the Gulf of Aden in the north, and two other de facto independent Somali territories in the east, Maakhir and the Northland State, although these two eastern states are historically claimed by Somaliland. This claim draws Somaliland's eastern border against Puntland, another Somali state that also claims this territory.

History

In 1991, after the collapse of the central government in Somalia, the main part of the territory asserted its independence as the Republic of Somaliland on May 18, 1991. It regarded itself as the successor state to the briefly independent State of Somaliland, but did not receive any international diplomatic recognition.

The economic and military infrastructure left behind by Somalia has been largely destroyed by war. The people of Somaliland had rebelled against the Siad Barre dictatorship in Mogadishu, which prompted a massive reaction by the government.

The late Abderahman Ahmed Ali Tuur was the first president of Somaliland. Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal was appointed his successor in 1993 by the Grand Conference of National Reconciliation in Boorama (Borama), which met for four months and led not only to a gradual improvement in security, but solidified the fledgling state. Egal was re-appointed in 1997, and remained in power until his death on May 3, 2002. The vice president, Dahir Riyale Kahin, was sworn in as president shortly afterwards, and in 2003 Kahin became the first Somaliland president to be elected in a free and fair election.

The 2006 War in Somalia between the Islamic Courts Union and the forces of Ethiopia and Somalia's transitional government has not directly affected Somaliland.

Politics and government

Somaliland has formed a hybrid system of governance under the Constitution of Somaliland, combining traditional and western institutions. In a series of inter-clan conferences, culminating in the Boorama Conference in 1993, a qabil (clan or community) system of government was constructed, which consisted of an Executive, with a President, Vice President, and Council of Ministers, a bicameral Legislature, and an independent judiciary. The traditional Somali council of elders (guurti) was incorporated into the governance structure and formed the upper house, responsible for selecting a President as well as managing internal conflicts. Government became in essence a "power-sharing coalition of Somaliland's main clans", with seats in the Upper and Lower houses proportionally allocated to clans according to a predetermined formula,although not all clans are satisfied with this formula of government. In 2002, after several extensions of this interim government, Somaliland finally made the transition to multi-party democracy, with district council elections contested by six parties.

Foreign relations

Somaliland has political contacts with the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Belgium, Ghana, South Africa, Sweden and Djibouti. On January 17, 2007, the European Union sent a delegation for foreign affairs to discuss future cooperation. The African Union has also sent a foreign minister to discuss the future of international acknowledgment, and on January 29 and 30, 2007, the ministers said that they would discuss acknowledgement with other member states In June 2007, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi held a conference with President Kahin during which he was referred to in an official communique by the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry as the President of Somaliland, the first time that Somaliland has been officially acknowledged as a sovereign state by another government. While this is not claimed as a move to official recognition by Ethiopia, it is seen as a possible step towards a unilateral declaration by Ethiopia in the event of the African Union failing to move its recognition of Somaliland forward.

A delegation led by the President of Somaliland was present at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2007 in Kampala, Uganda.

November 27, 2007, Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck of the ELDR, one of three main parties in EU, mailed a letter to Javier Solana (the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Secretary-General of both the Council of the European Union (EU)) and to Dahir Rayale Kahin the president of Somaliland, in which there is required an acknowledgment of Somaliland by EU. In December 2007 the Bush administration discussed whether to back the shaky transitional government in Somalia or to acknowledge and support the less volatile Somaliland Republic.

Border disputes

The Republic of Somaliland continues to claim the entire area of the former British Somaliland. Somaliland is currently in control of the western half of the former British Somaliland, with northeastern Maakhir having declared a separate, unrecognized autonomous state within Somalia on July 1, 2007, and with the disputed southeastern Sool state under the control of neighboring Puntland since 2003. A separatist movement exists also in the westernmost Awdal province.

Tensions escalated into a violent clash between Puntland and Somaliland in October 2007, when Somaliland forces captured Las Anod, the capital of the disputed region of Sool.

Inhabitants of the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions have formed the Northern Somali Unionist Movement (NSUM). NSUM claims to promote pan-Somali peace and unity. Dulbahante Traditional clan chiefs have issued a statement that Dulbahante clan does not regard itself part of Somaliland.

The Somaliland Defence Forces took control of the town of Las Qorey in eastern Sanaag on 10 July 2008, along with positions five kilometres east of the town. The Somaliland Defence Forces completed their operations on 9 July 2008 after the Maakhir and Puntland militia in the area left their positions.

Military

The Somaliland Armed Forces are the main military system in the unrecognised Republic of Somaliland along with the Somaliland Police Force, all of whom are part of the internal security forces and are subordinate to the military. Currently around 30,000 personnel are active in Somaliland. The Somaliland Armed Forces takes the biggest share of the government's budget with the police and security forces. The current head of Somaliland's Armed Forces is the Minister of Defense Mudane Adan Mire Mohammed MP.

Some military facilities were bought during Egal's administration to assist the military's usual duties and the necessary movements.

Administrative divisions

Regions of Somaliland under control of the Republic of Somaliland:

Regions of Somaliland under partial control of the Republic of Somaliland:

The main cities and towns in the Republic of Somaliland are:

On March 22, 2008 the Somaliland President Dahir Riyale Kahin with a presidential press statement (read it) has announced the creation of six new Regions and 16 new Districts.

6 New Regions:

Region Capital Annexed Region
Gabiley Gabiley Hargeysa
Badhan Badhan Sanag
Buhoodle Buhoodle Togdheer
Salal Zeila Awdal
Sarar Ainabo Sool
Odweyne Odweyne Togdheer

Furthermore, President Riyale has announced also the creation of 16 new Districts:

District Region of new Districts Annexed Region
Haji Salax Odweyne Togdheer
Kalabaydh Sool region -
Wajale Gabile Hargeysa
Widh-widh Buhoodle Sool
Qorulugad Buhoodle Togdheer
Go’Da Weyne Sahil -
Harasheekh Odweyne Togdheer
Raydab Khatumo Odweyne Togdheer
Garba Dardar Salal Awdal
Boon Sala Awdal
Harirad Salal Awdal
Las Idle Sahil -
War Idad Sarar Sanag
Elal Sarar Togdheer
War Imran Togdheer -
Magalo Ad Awdal -
On May 15, 2008 the Somaliland President Dahir Riyale Kahin with a presidential press statement () has announced the creation of new Region.

Region Capital Annexed Region
Hawd Baligubadle Hargeysa

Arroley // Sool//-

These 2 Regions are claimed by Somaliland and Puntland.

Geography

Somaliland is situated on the eastern horn of Africa and lies between the 08°00' - 11°30' parallel north of the equator and between 42°30' - 49°00' meridian east of Greenwich. It shares borders with the Republic of Djibouti to the west, the Federal Republic of Ethiopia to the south, the Puntland region to the northeast and Somalia to the southeast. Somaliland has of coast with the majority along the Red Sea. Somaliland is slightly larger than England with an area of 137 600 km² (53 100 sq miles).

Somaliland's climate is a mixture of wet and dry. The northern part of the country is hilly and in many places the altitude ranges between 900 and 2,100 metres (3,000-7,000 ft) above sea level. The Awdal, Saaxil and Maroodi Jeex regions are fertile and mountainous, while the Togdheer is rather semi-desert with a few fertile greenery around. The Awdal region is known for its offshore islands, coral reefs and mangroves.

Ten kilometres to the north of Ceerigaabo are the remains of a juniper forest, running along the edge of the escarpment which looks down to the Gulf of Aden. The escarpment is about metres above sea level, where the road from Ceerigaabo drops down to the coast. Two kilometres (1 to the west it rises to the highest point in Somaliland and Somalia alike; At high, it is known variously as (Somali Shimbiris or Shimbir Beris) meaning in English the abode of the birds.

Due to the fertility and greenery of some of the regions of Somaliland, wild animals (e.g. zebras) come to the area either to breed or to graze on the grassland savanna. There are many animals which are native to Somaliland. Prominent animals are the Kudu, wild boar, Somali Wild Ass, warthog, antelope, the Somali sheep, wild goat and camel. Moreover, many birds and different types of fish are also found in and around Somaliland.

Extreme recorded temperatures range from at Ceerigabo to at Berbera. The combination of a yearly average temperature of and the high level of humidity makes Berbera the hottest city in the world.

Economy

Somaliland's economy is in its developing stages, as is the country itself.

The Somaliland shilling, while stable, is not an internationally recognized currency and currently has no official exchange rate. It is regulated by the Bank of Somaliland, the central bank, which was established constitutionally in 1994.

The bulk of Somaliland's exports are livestock, which has been estimated at 24 million. In 1996, 3 million heads of livestock were exported to the Middle East. In February 1998, this export was negatively impacted by a Saudi Arabian ban on imports of beef. The ban was eventually lifted in December of 2006, allowing the industry to recover. Other exports include hides, skins, myrrh, and frankincense.

Agriculture is generally considered to be a potentially successful industry, especially in the production of cereals and horticulture. Mining also has potential, though simple quarrying represents the extent of current operations despite the presence of hugely diverse quantities of mineral deposits.

A recent research around Somaliland shows that the country has large offshore and onshore oil and natural gas reserves. There are several wells that have been excavated during the last few years but due to the country's unrecognised status, foreign oil companies cannot benefit from it.

Since the Eritrean-Ethiopian War, Somaliland has grown as a major export port for Ethiopia. The two countries signed an agreement that the port city of Berbera will export and import goods for Ethiopia, while the latter will pay for it.

Tourism

When Somaliland broke away from Somalia, the tourism industry began to re-build itself. Somaliland is home to what is often considered to be one of the most interesting attractions in the Horn of Africa, the Laas Gaal cave paintings. It is believed that a small number of tourists travel to the country to see this sight. The paintings are situated near Hargeisa and were discovered by a French archaeological team in 2002. The government and locals keep the cave paintings safe and only a restricted number of tourists are allowed. Other notable sights include the Freedom Arch in Hargeisa and the war memorial in the city center. Natural attractions are very common around the country. The Naasa Hablood hills are twin hills located on the outskirts of Hargeisa that Somalilanders consider to be a majestic natural landmark.

The Ministry of Tourism has also encouraged travellers to visit historic towns and cities in Somaliland. The historic town of Sheikh is near Berbera and it is home to old British colonial buildings that have been untouched for over forty years. Berbera also houses historic and impressive Ottoman architectural buildings. Another equally famous historic city is Zeila. Zeila was once part of the Ottoman Empire, a dependency of Yemen and Egypt and a major trade city during the 19th century. The city has been visited for its old colonial landmarks, offshore mangroves and coral reefs and its towering cliffs and beach. The nomadic culture of Somaliland has also attracted tourists. Most nomads live in the countryside.

Demographics

Languages

Most people in Somaliland speak the country's two official languages: the Somali language and the Arabic language, with Article 6 of the Constitution of 2001 designating the official language of Somaliland to be Somali. It is mandatory that Arabic be taught to school students and in mosques around the country. English is spoken and taught in schools.

Somali belongs to a set of languages called lowland East Cushitic languages spoken by peoples living in Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, and Kenya. Eastern Cushitic is one branch of the Cushitic languages, which in turn is part of the great Afro-Asiatic stock. Arabic is the most widely spoken language of the Afro-Asiatic language branches.

The main Somali dialect which is the most widely used is Common Somali, a term applied to several subdialects, the speakers of which can understand each other easily. Common Somali is spoken in most of Somaliland and Somalia and in adjacent territories (Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti), and is used by broadcasting stations in Somaliland.

Facility with language is highly valued in Somali society; the capability of a suitor, a warrior, or a political or religious leader is judged in part by his verbal adroitness. In such a society, oral poetry becomes an art, and one's ability to compose verse in one or more of its several forms enhances one's status. Speakers in political or religious assemblies and litigants in courts traditionally were expected to use poetry or poetic proverbs. Even everyday talk tended to have a terse, vivid, poetic style, characterized by carefully chosen words, condensed meaning, and alliteration.

In the prerevolutionary era, English became dominant in the school system and in government. However, the overarching issue was the development of a socioeconomic stratum based on mastery of a foreign language. The relatively small proportion of Somalis (less than 10 percent) with a grasp of such a language--preferably English--had access to government positions and the few managerial or technical jobs in modern private enterprises. Such persons became increasingly isolated from their nonliterate Somali-speaking brethren, but because the secondary schools and most government posts were in urban areas the socioeconomic and linguistic distinction was in large part a rural-urban one.

Even before the 1969 revolution, Somalis had become aware of social stratification and the growing distance, based on language and literacy differences, between ordinary Somalis and those in government. The 1972 decision to designate an official Somali Latin script and require its use in government demolished the language barrier and an important obstacle to rapid literacy growth.

In the years following the institution of the Somali Latin script, Somali officials were required to learn the orthography and attempts were made to inculcate mass literacy--in 1973 among urban and rural sedentary Somalis, and in 1974-75 among nomads. Although a few texts existed in the new script before 1973, in most cases new books were prepared presenting the government's perspective on Somali history and development. Somali scholars also succeeded in developing a vocabulary to deal with a range of subjects from mathematics and physics to administration and ideology.

Religion

Almost all Somalis are Sunni Muslims; Islam is the principal faith and state religion. Though traces of pre-Islamic traditional religion exist in Somaliland, Islam is extremely important to the Somali sense of national identity. Many of the Somali social norms come from their religion. For example, men shake hands only with men, and women shake hands only with women. Many Somali women wear a hijab when they are in public. In addition, Somalis abstain from pork, gambling, and alcohol, and receiving or paying any form of interest. Muslims generally congregate on Friday afternoons for a sermon and group prayer. Compliance with these prohibitions depends on each individual's level of orthodoxy.

Nevertheless there has been Catholic missionary activity. In colonial days, British Somaliland was under the care of the Roman Catholic Vicariate Apostolic of Arabia, like the Vicariate Apostolic of the Gallas (including French Somaliland (Djibouti) as well as its Ethiopian main territory) confided to the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.

Culture

Clan system

There are about 3.5 million people in Somaliland. Somali society is organized into clan families, which range from 5,000 to over 50,000 in size. The major clan family in Somaliland is the Isaaq. The second clan family and also the clan family of the president is the Gadabuursi. Other clan families include Issa, Gabooye family and the Somaliland Harti such as the Warsangali and Dhulbahante (a sub-group of the Darod clan). The Warsangali and Dhulbahante mostly reside in the Sool, Sanaag, and a small part of the Togdheer regions of Somaliland, while the Isaaqs live in the regions of Maroodi Jeex, Togdheer, Saaxil, western Sanaag and western Sool. The Gadabursi clan family lives in the west of the country, in the Awdal region and parts of Gabiley District.

The clan families are divided into lineage units, typically ranging from 2,500 to 10,000 members. It is possible for Somalis to know how they are related simply by giving their name and clan membership. Clan discrimination in Somaliland is highly forbidden and all clans are considered equal by the Government of Somaliland.

Marriage

Most Somalilanders choose to marry whomever they desire as long as they are Muslims. In the case of arranged marriages, brides are usually much younger than the grooms. Marriage to a cousin from the mother's side of the family (of a different lineage) is traditionally favored to strengthen family alliances, but this practice is not as common as before. Virginity is valued in women prior to marriage. In addition, divorce is legal in Somaliland. Romantic marriages are becoming more common and are now the majority of marriages in Somaliland. But even these choices are influenced by the partners' clans.

Cuisine

It is considered polite for one to leave a little bit of food on a plate after finishing a meal at another's home. This tells the host that one has been given enough food. If one were to clean his or her plate that would indicate that he or she is still hungry. Most Somalis don't take this rule so seriously, but it is certainly not impolite to leave a few bits of food on one's plate. Traditionally, the main meal of the day is eaten at lunchtime and Somali people usually begin their day with a flat bread called laxoox or La'hooh, liver, toast, cereal or porridge made of millet or cornmeal. Lunch can be a mix of rice or noodles with meat and sauce. When the Italians ruled the Horn of Africa they brought some of their cuisine to Somaliland for example Pasta Al Forno (in Somali Paasto Forno) and they also planted bananas in the south of the region. Also during lunch their diet may consist of a traditional soup called maraq (it is also part of Yemeni cuisine) made of vegetables, meat and beans and usually eaten with flatbread or pita bread. Later in the day a lighter meal is served which includes beans, ful medames, muffo (patties made of oats or corn), hummus or a salad with more laxoox/injera. A minority of Somalis drink Turkish coffee which they brought from Arab countries to their homeland. Turkish tea is also drunk in Somaliland; it has been adapted to become one of the famous drinks in the region - the traditional and cultural Shaax Xawaash. Consumed by the majority of Somalis, it is made of cardamom (Somali Xawaash} and cinnamon barks (Somali Qoronfil).

Arts

Islam and poetry have been described as the twin pillars of Somali culture. Most Somalis are Sunni Muslims and Islam is vitally important to the Somali sense of national identity. Most Somalis don't belong to a specific mosque or sect and can pray in any mosque they find.

Celebrations come in the form of religious festivities, two of the most important being Eid ul-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr which marks the end of the fasting month. Families get dressed up to visit one another. Money is donated to the poor. Other holidays include June 26 and May 18, which celebrates Somaliland's independence from Britain and Somalia; however it is unrecognised by the international community.

In a nomadic culture, where one's possessions are frequently moved, there is little reason for the plastic arts to be highly developed. Somalis embellish and decorate their woven and wooden milk jugs (Somali Haano, the most decorative jugs are made in Ceerigaabo) and their wooden headrests, and traditional dance is important, though mainly as a form of courtship among young people. The traditional dance known as the Ceeyar Somaali in the Somali language is Somaliland's favourite dance.

Also, an important form of art in Somaliland is henna painting (Mehndi) (Somali: Xenna). The Henna plant is widely grown across the region and it was Arab merchants and settlers that first brought the art of henna painting in early Somaliland. During special occasions, a Somali women's hands and feet are expected to be covered in decorative mendhi. Girls and women usually apply or decorate their hands and feet in henna on joyous celebrations like Eid, weddings etc. The henna designs can be very simple to highly intricate. Unlike Pakistani, Indian or Bangladeshi henna designs, the Somali and Arab designs are more modern and simple compared with the latter. Traditionally, only women apply this body art, as it is considered a feminine procedure.

Henna is not only applied on the hands and feet but at the same time it is used as a dye. Somali men and women alike use henna as a dye to change their hair color. Mostly, elderly men with grey hair apply this procedure because black hair dye is, allegedly, forbidden in Islam. Women are free to apply henna on their hair as most of the time they are wearing a hijab.

Notes

Sources and references

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