Somaliland Cyberspace

The Challenges in Somaliland

Source: UN Offics of Somalia
Oct 2000

By Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud "Silanyo",
Somaliland Minister of National Planning and Co-ordination


Following the post-conflict revival of Somaliland, the goal of the Somaliland people has moved from basic survival to securing a better life on a sustainable basis. To rebuild the country, no single endeavour or sector takes precedence over any other. Instead, concurrent work with a holistic approach to assistance is required to address cross-cutting issues such as demining, demobilisation, training, gender and repatriation. Through this approach, the sectoral priorities will be easier to identify. In all sectors several issues will require priority attention: capacity building for good governance; training throughout the social services, particularly for teachers and health workers; giving voice to civil society, especially women, in planning; the appropriate role of the private sector; protection of human rights and the protection of the environment.

- To achieve Somaliland’s goal, the following is needed: Accelerate economic growth to achieve higher per capita income
- Increase employment opportunities and thereby reduce unemployment and under employment
- Improve the availability and accessibility of social services and public utilities
- Ensure an equitable distribution of investment
- Rehabilitate and reintegrate the returnees, IDPs and militias into the socio-economic mainstream
- Train and retrain the labour force to enable them to acquire marketable skills

Assistance is needed to promote economic recovery, to address social sector needs and to build institutional capacity. The international community has a unique opportunity to help the Government resolve some of the most pressing post-conflict challenges presented by the reintegration of ex-combatants and displaced people, and facilitate the transition already undertaken to strengthen peace.

Peace Dividends

To initiate and sustain the aforementioned objectives, maintaining the secure environment presently prevailing in Somaliland is the main priority. The greatest achievement of the Somaliland Administration has been durable peace and stability.

Somaliland was destroyed during the regime of Siad Barre whereas most of Somalia disintegrated after his overthrow. The traditional leaders or "Guurti" and the political elite of Somaliland without much outside intervention resolved the civil conflict in the country after the war with Siad Barre. Today there is clear evidence of a people and their government who are hard at work rebuilding their country and their lives and who intend to move ahead. The scars of the past - physical and psychological - have not yet healed, but the task of reconstruction work is now underway thanks to the enterprising nature of our people and the peaceful and stable environment in which we live.

We have a functioning system of government based on democratic principles with an Executive Branch, a Parliament (legislative body) made up of two chambers (Council of Representatives and a Council of Elders), and an independent judiciary; we also have an economic system based on private initiative and enterprise. Life is coming back to normal; people are rebuilding their houses and other properties; investments in telecommunications, airlines, small scale industries, and in transportation, are being made; trading activity is picking up after the ban on the export of livestock was lifted. Local governments and non-governmental organisations are also showing new confidence and are busy with the work of reconstruction in social and other sectors.

For example, Burao, the capital of Togdheer region was the scene of major confrontations during the recent years of internal conflict, and suffered most as a result in terms of physical destruction and dislocation of population. Today it provides the best example of the new dynamism and spirit of co-operation between government, the local population, and Somaliland communities abroad. Hospitals, schools, community centres, market places and many other facilities are being rehabilitated and equipped entirely through self-help methods. This spirit seems to be catching on elsewhere too. The rehabilitation of the buildings of Hargeisa Radio, which is nearing completion, is being built on a self-help basis.

Today Somaliland has working administration and institutions including the Presidency, Council of Ministers, a Parliament the House of Elders, and an independent judiciary. Their roles and responsibilities all contribute to the maintenance of peace, an active democracy and therefore, the basis for development.

Maintaining peace has cost over 70% of the Government’s limited revenues to fund militias under the national military and police forces. The government also demobilised some ex-combatants by bringing them into the civil service. These solutions are only temporary answers to the huge problem presented by demobilisation. The Somaliland Government has difficulty in moving beyond this situation. Inevitably this situation increases the pressure on peace and stability, a pressure intensified by a flowing number of returnees and IDPs. In turn the Government’s ability to provide basic services for the communities is diminished.

The Somaliland Government does not need all these people in the military and civil service and wants to change the institutions into efficient, cost-effective and reliable organisations. They actually need a smaller number of well-trained service personnel and skilled staff to guarantee law and order, implement government policy, establish effective social services and maintain macro-economic stability. The personnel removed from the government and armed services need training centres to give them the skills to make a living and resources to help them find useful employment.

The majority of previous and on-going activities using international assistance are based in the west of the country. The eastern regions of Togdheer, Sanaag and Sool have all suffered during the civil wars and have problems with internally displaced people, unemployed demobilised combatants and returnees. The Somaliland Administration regards the imbalance of relief and development activities in the country as a major threat to continued peace and stability. Therefore, it aims to increasingly direct funds towards programmes in the eastern regions

The government realises the responsibilities of Somalilanders to rebuild their country and play a positive role in the Horn of Africa region. Somalilanders have achieved much since the end of the civil war thanks to their spirit of self-help and determination. However, their ability to reconstruct the country now needs assistance to help create positive long-term results. The Government sees the upgrading of the security phase from four to three in Waqooy Galbeed as recognition that the situation in Somaliland offers the prerequisite stability for development. The Government welcomes the security phase adjustment; however, it is keen to see the security level extended to all regions in Somaliland and steadily increased in the near future.

Assistance will enable the government to continue its efforts to fulfil the basic needs for health care, water, education and training. The private sector is the key sector to enable employment, prosperity and development. The main institutions and bilateral aid agencies that deal with financial assistance (mainly the international financial institutions) are not present. They are desperately needed to strengthen the peace and capitalise on the spirit of regeneration and enterprise amongst the Somaliland people.

Relief to Development

During the recent reintegration workshop held in Hargeisa it was apparent that the issues of repatriation and reintegration were strongly linked to development. This does not imply that there is no further need for emergency assistance, but that all assistance must be placed in a strategic framework with sustainable development as its theme, and strengthened peace and stability as its goal. Therefore, international aid that would deal with relief should be made available for emergency prevention so as to encourage the move away from unsustainable relief aid to rehabilitation and development.

For example, during the dry season of 1999 Somaliland had severe droughts in the eastern regions. The immediate emergency was to the supply of drinking water to the locality. It also created great concern for watering livestock, the future production of fodder and other agricultural crops, the people’s ability to feed themselves and therefore threatened the backbone of the local economy. In previous times the social structure of the nomadic society would have reduced the threat of drought. However, the recent conflicts within Somaliland have shattered that community networks with people fleeing to the Diaspora and also creating a large problem with the internally displaced. The fighting did not eliminate the spirit of self-help and enterprise and the Somaliland people are beginning to reassemble the pieces of their shattered society. But it has rolled back what existed and still has some way to go before the region can reach the previous levels of social capital. The threat of the drought illustrates the weakness of the government to prevent a crisis before it happens and has shown the importance of strengthening institutions towards disaster preparedness and food security. This time the rains eventually came. But next time Somaliland might not be so lucky.

Given that long-term development is beyond the mandate and competencies of UNHCR and other relief agencies, there is a need to establish an organic link with development-oriented agencies, such as UNDP, the World Bank and donors. Unfortunately, there is often a gap between short-term relief and reintegration activities and longer-term development projects. The transition from relief to development is not an exact, departmentalised change whereby development agencies can simply pick-up the programmes once the humanitarian agencies have finished their job. On the contrary, reintegration, rehabilitation and development are organic components of a holistic process. It follows that planning for reintegration and rehabilitation has to be carried out with longer-term development in mind. These longer–term objectives must be in conjunction with the relevant needs of the people and the abilities of the Somaliland authorities, the international community, local NGOs and the private sector.

Capacity Building of Government

In the evolving process of the country, there is a lot of work required to modernise, strengthen and improve the accountability and transparency of Somaliland’s fledgling administration. As mentioned in section two, there are too many unskilled and unmotivated personnel being paid by the government. The Somaliland Administration requires technical and planning support to develop its policies and skilled employees to ensure that these policies are followed and rules and regulations are implemented. Furthermore it needs to reduce its staff to release government revenue to other programmes.

Co-ordination of Relief and Development Activities

The government also needs to develop the necessary administrative and management capacity and set-up mechanisms to prioritise and co-ordinate domestic efforts and international assistance in Somaliland. By strengthening the government’s capacity it will be better able to prevent duplication and overlapping, co-ordinate the efficient utilisation of resources, ensure equitable distribution of resources and highlight cross-cutting regional and sectoral issues.

The sectoral groups set-up to gather information for the reintegration workshop, and based on the SACB sectoral groups have continued. A proposed planning committee, based on the structure of the Hargeisa Emergency Appeals Committee (HEAC) and the Workshop Steering Committee, making decisions on issues presented by the sectoral working groups could provide the framework for the co-ordination of rehabilitation and development assistance that is urgently needed.

Central Government

Ministries need strengthening to provide an effective service to Somalilanders and prevent the situation where one problem can create a chain reaction of others. Policy development, the establishment of standards and guidelines for good practise are all ministerial functions that cannot satisfactorily be fulfilled because of lack of technical expertise, planning knowledge and hardware.

Areas where the central government needs assistance to help improve its capacity include: Development of taxation and budgeting systems and the simplification of customs procedures and the rationalisation of tariffs Design, formulation, appraisal, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development projects, including rehabilitation and reintegration Development, planning and management of human resource Improvements in the judiciary and legal system, for example drafting, editing and simplification of procedures, rules, regulations and laws Training to parliamentary committees

The government also requires assistance to modernise its judicial system and law enforcement. Judges need training or retraining and improved access to modern legal literature. A national police training school and a basic training curriculum has been developed in Mandera, Sahil region to maintain peace.

Local Government

The government believes in expansion and strengthening of local government structures throughout the regions of Somaliland. Some of the municipalities operate an effective administration considering the resources available. However, there is a lack of technical knowledge to improve services and raise local revenue. The accountability of the municipalities to the central government is a link that needs strengthening through improving the capacity of central government.

The Economy

The economy of Somaliland primarily depends upon the productive sectors, mainly livestock, agriculture, fishing and trade and commerce. The rearing of livestock, particularly goats and sheep, for export to the Gulf States also provides the government with its main source of revenue. Berbera port is important for both the exports of livestock and Ethiopian trade. In several regions, particularly to the west of the country, there is a significant concentration of rain-fed agriculture that is prone to stress from chronic droughts. Remittances from relatives abroad are an important economic factor; moreover, the gradual return of the Somali Diaspora themselves is gradually making a difference to the economy.


The production of livestock is central to the Somaliland economy. It is the main source of food and income for the rural pastoral population. Sixty percent of the labour force in Somaliland are involved in livestock related activities which accounts for the livelihood of 70% of the population.

The pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihood depends on three main factors: Risk reduction and the mitigation of risks through strategies that ensure diversity, flexibility, self-sufficiency, wealth and links to support networks.

Productivity by maximising returns per unit of scarce resources (livestock, labour, fodder and water) with well-developed traditional regulations and adaptive management strategies. Conservation and resource management

Despite Somaliland being a major exporter of live animals to Gulf countries, there are no established cost-effective and well managed marketing facilities. The livestock ban forced the authorities to improve the health procedures of animals for export. However, holding grounds for livestock trade only exist at the main port of Berbera. There, the facilities are poorly maintained with inadequate forage and water supply. The temporary veterinary holding and or marshalling facility was never enough to accommodate trade herds resulting in traders grazing their export herd unquarantined on the open range. A holistic approach to planning considers production goals, system variables and contingency strategies. Input from livestock owners in the policy and strategy development process is essential. Conventional veterinary support through vaccination campaigns needs to be complemented by decentralised animal health services using the indigenous knowledge of herders themselves.


Somaliland is predominantly a nomadic pastoral community that traditionally depends on livestock. Agriculture ranks second to livestock, with the main agricultural areas offering the biggest potential yields being in the Districts of Hargeisa, Gabiley, Boroma and Baki. Other districts with promising, largely untapped potential are Sheikh, Odweine and Erigavo. With the return of farmers to their land, the agricultural sector has begun to show signs of recovery; but due to technical and logistical obstacles and ineffectiveness of Government institutions, progress in the agricultural sector remains slow. International assistance to establish emergency and rehabilitation programmes for agriculture in various regions of the country and to contribute to food security, stability and settlement would be invaluable. UN and international agencies have undertaken rehabilitation of some irrigated farms; and production appears to be recovering, as has the resumption of exports to Djibouti.

Community driven development is the key strategy for projects to be implemented in the agricultural sector during the next few years. The Ministry of Agriculture wants government services to support the current needs of farmers particularly through agricultural extension workers and farm-training workshops. The guidance will be based on research and trial work on existing practices before the introduction of new varieties and technologies.


Somaliland has 850 km of coastal line and 65,000 km2 of area of potential exploitation. Although this is potentially one of the country’s most promising resources, traditionally, the population’s diet is based on meat and milk from livestock. Fish stocks have mostly been left alone except for the catches of small fishing communities along the Somaliland coast and a small section of the urban elite. The Somaliland Government has issued fishing licenses to international fishing companies although the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Development lacks the capacity and resources to effectively monitor their activities.

The police training college at Mandera in Sahil region is developing a training curriculum to protect coastal areas and fishing grounds, but has no resources to enforce rules and regulations.

The government is establishing fishing co-operatives in order to improve the network of fishing communities, provide sustainable livelihoods and also to strengthen the economy by increasing the export of fish products. The various facets required for export, from transportation and cold storage to processing and canning, are either in poor condition or do not exist. To prepare for an increasingly market orientated fishing sector, support for basic equipment, spare parts and facilities is required.

Trade and Commerce

For the private sector to take the leading role in economic growth a market friendly environment must exist. Opportunities are available in Somaliland to add-value to an abundance of available natural resources to produce products that can be made and sold easily on local, regional and export markets. To assist the development of the private sector in Somaliland, the following points need consideration:

- Support to establish and expand service industries
- The cross-sectoral challenge of job-creation/income generation in Somaliland
- Supporting interventions must be demand driven and market-led

The potential capacity of the port at Berbera, and its strategic location in the Gulf of Aden provides opportunities for increased economic activity. First, is the increase in export of livestock and other commodities, second is for transit of goods to and from Ethiopia and other regions of Somalia. Therefore, support for all sizes of business from the international community and government includes financial and technical facilities, certification, marketing information and infrastructure. Moreover, neither the administration nor the private sector has the resources to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed during the civil war and the floods in October 1999. In particular, the main artery roads from Berbera, through Burao to Somalia and through Hargeisa to Jigjiga in Ethiopia have huge regional importance and require international assistance.

Social Services


Much has been accomplished since the complete disintegration of the formal health system during the previous Somali regime. However, the overall life expectancy remains at 47 years, one of the lowest in the world. Major diseases in both adults /children include acute respiratory infection (ARI), diarrhoea, TB, malaria, and measles. It must be noted here that for local health care delivery to be effective, good management of the entire health system must be in place. Thus, it is important to note that a strong linkage between local health initiatives and the overall "national" strategic plan exists. Rehabilitation or construction of nationwide health posts or health centres cannot be done in isolation but rather must link into the management chain that stretches from communities to central authorities. There is also a need for co-operation between the public and private sector, particularly in the urban areas.

In order to ensure good quality health care the following in basic services and systems are required:

- In-service and pre-service training of health professionals Local financing and control initiatives must be explored; particularly cost-recovery projects currently piloted by MHL, UNICEF, WHO, COOPI and other agencies
- A health Management Information System (MIS) needs to be developed The "national" health policy and strategic plan of action must be finalised
- A rational drug use scheme is needed and training in drug use accomplished
- Priority and skills development in public health education
- Capacity building of central and regional authorities will ensure good quality health care at all levels


At present, the situation with respect to water supply in Somaliland has undergone substantial recovery since the civil war. Many water sources were rehabilitated with external assistance between 1992 and the present, as verified by two surveys conducted three years ago (Multi Indicator Cluster Survey [MICS] by UNICEF and Ministry of Mineral and Water Resources 1996) supplemented by data gathered since then. However, year-round access to water for both people and livestock remains a critical priority. These needs must be balanced against the natural recharge rates of the aquifers, and against adequate pasture for livestock. The priority therefore is to approach the needs for water with an environmentally sound plan.

The present needs of water supply are as follows:

- Development of a regulatory framework for water consumption management
- Priority action for the increase of water supply in Hargeisa, Boroma and Las Anod
- Medium-term priority for water rehabilitation programmes in Mandera (Sahil), Sanaag (rural), Sool (rural) and Zeila (Awdal)
- Data collection on consumption patterns in Sool and Sanaag
- Rehabilitation/reconstruction of existing water and drainage systems
- Development of drought early warning systems
- Development of environmental sanitation programmes


Civil war and neglect have seriously affected the availability of educational opportunities for Somaliland’s youth. Young men were drafted into the army or militias while the educational structures fell in disrepair or were destroyed. It is recognised that without youth education the culture of peace and stability cannot be sustained in the long run.

The quality of basic education is the main problem. There are indications that many parents are willing to pay for quality education. However, the scarcity of relevant teaching and learning materials contributes to low quality of education and high dropout rates. In most public and private schools parents have to pay most or all of the costs as well as bearing the opportunity costs of not having their children at home working. This militates against poorer children going to school. While teachers rely on standard guideline textbooks provided by the Ministry, students usually lack textbooks of their own and other reference materials. Classrooms in the rural areas are the most affected by lack of basic educational materials.

Four priority areas have been identified for basic education. They are as follows:

- Formal primary education for children aged between 6 to 14 years old
- Non-formal and vocational education for out-of-school youth
- Secondary education
- Peace and civic education through formal and non-formal education channels

The Plan of Action Workshop Report and the IGAD Cross-border Initiative

Somaliland, within the Horn of Africa context, is part of a larger region where extensive relief, reintegration and development efforts are required. The Horn of Africa is made up of several countries at various stages of reconstruction; each has both unique and common challenges. In particular, with repatriation and trade, there are many cross-border issues.

The IGAD is made-up by member states of the Horn of Africa, several of which have great economic and political importance for Somaliland. The IGAD initiative covers all countries in the Horn of Africa region and has selected Ethiopia-Somaliland repatriation as a pilot project for cross-border assistance. Its aim is to support repatriation on the Somaliland side of the border and local integration in the Somali National Regional State (SNRS) in Ethiopia. It identifies three inter-linked strategic objectives, namely: The repatriation and reintegration of refugees and IDPs, Sustainable economic growth and employment, Sustaining the peace with cross-border reintegration and development programmes

The Somaliland Government’s Plan of Action Workshop Report specifically explains the needs of the country to prepare for repatriation and reintegration. Volume One is a sectoral report identifying the current situation and providing recommendations; volume two is a snapshot of ideas and proposals available at the time of the report and reflects some of the priorities and requests of both government and agencies working in the field. Volume two is not an exhaustive list of government priorities but is merely indicative and suggestive. It does not purport to provide prioritised or project-designed programmes. However, the overall challenges facing Somaliland are not primarily focused on repatriation nor totally confined by boundaries with neighbouring countries. Therefore, although the Workshop Report is focused on repatriation and reintegration within Somaliland, it unavoidably touches on greater regional issues initially covered by IGAD’s regional perspective.

In particular, both documents include interventions in:

- Rehabilitation of social infrastructure - Income-generation activities and micro-finance
- Capacity building of local authorities in relation to reintegration and trade issues
- Support in finalisation of cross-border agreements
- Rehabilitation of trade infrastructure
- Mine action

As mentioned in the workshop several times and in the foreword to the final document, the Plan of Action Workshop Report is part of an ongoing process, not an end result. It represents what is happening in the country at the moment and illustrates the situation in which Somaliland finds itself, where there are areas of relief but there is a definite shift away from that area towards reintegration, rehabilitation and onto sustainable development. While the IGAD Programme is a more broad-based strategy covering both sides of the border, the Plan of Action Workshop Report brings into sharper focus the Somaliland side. The two documents should therefore be seen as complementary, not in competition with each other or contradictory.

In the near future the synergies from the Plan of Action and the IGAD initiative will be developed as part of a comprehensive regional framework. Furthermore, plans to develop a programme to address cross-border repatriation issues within a development framework are beginning with studies of the experiences of the PRODERE programme in Central America. In the meantime, the Government of Somaliland’s next task, following in the success of the workshop is to maintain the momentum generated and prepare its institutions for the next stage of this on-going process.


The Somaliland people recognise that peace and reconciliation through national consensus is and was the only way to provide a solid base for the development of their country. Strengthening of the judiciary and institutionalising human rights practices will help maintain the momentum of peace in the region. The country is trying to move away from the dependency established through emergency relief; and through their own efforts, move beyond the post-conflict transitional stage onto sustainable development.

The current situation of peace has resulted in a severe constraint on government resources. To go beyond this stage, a boost from the international community in the form of technical and financial assistance will result in fruitful long-term dividends and contribute to growing peace and stability not only in Somaliland but hopefully throughout the region. Somaliland needs international support to maintain what is already working, and further support to tackle huge challenges created by lack of skilled labour and employment opportunities, repatriation, demobilisation, weak institutions and limited social services.

Development of the private sector is recognised by the Somaliland Government as the method to economic progress with trade and commerce relatively free from government restrictions. This sector needs strengthening through legislation, partnerships with non-governmental organisations to target the poor and improved access to technical support and credit to give everyone the opportunity to become self-sufficient.

Given the limited availability of funds, the roles and responsibilities of international agencies, central and regional governmental institutions, international and local NGOs must be clearly defined and co-ordinated. The Somaliland Government is ready to be partners with the international community and to build on the good work already carried out through the organisations under the auspices of the SACB, including UN agencies, donors and international NGOs. The Government looks forward to continuing its working relationship with the international community, to gain consensus on the priorities for Somaliland and to adopt a systematic approach to the identification of programmes.

In conclusion, an appeal by the Secretary General of the UN, in his report to the Security Council on 19th August, 1999 highlights the situation of Somaliland and the process forward.

Paragraph 72 of the report reads:

‘‘Other possibilities may exist in the area of developmental assistance. Although some development funds are reaching local administration in Somalia, many international and national financial and donor institutions are required by their statues to co-operate only with established state institutions, such as ministries of finance or central banks. It would be a challenge to the ingenuity of the international community to establish mechanisms which would allow financial assistance to flow into Somalia even before a formal central government and other institutions were re-established. I urge international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the European Development Fund, in administering the Lome` IV Convention, to exercise flexibility in this regard, re-examining as necessary their legal and financial arrangements to take this unique case into account’’.

By establishing co-operation through partnership, Somaliland can fulfil its goal to improve the livelihoods of its people and to relearn how to strengthen its society in a free and equitable way. Once it has build up its capacity to do so, it will be ready to play a more active role in the development of the region.