Thinking Citizen Blog — What Is Somaliland? Who Cares? Who Should?

Thinking Citizen Blog — Monday is Foreign Policy Day

Today’s Topic: What Is Somaliland? Who Cares? Who Should?

I just learned that Somaliland, technically the northwestern part of Somalia, has been in fact operating as an independent nation for 30 years!!! It has its own government, its own currency, its own military. But no other country and no international organization formally recognizes its existence largely out of fear that this would provide encouragement to breakaway regions elsewhere — eg. the Quebecois in Canada, the Catalonians in Spain, the Tibetans in China. Today, three notes. The first on the Dervish movement during the period of British colonial rule (1884–1960), the second, on the “Hargeisa Genocide,” (1987–9) and the third on some basics — demographic, economic, and political. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. “The Dervish movement temporarily created a mobile Somali “proto-state” in early 20th-century with fluid boundaries and fluctuating population.It was one of the bloodiest and longest militant movements in sub-Saharan Africa during the colonial era, one that overlapped with World War I.”

2. “The battles between various sides over two decades killed nearly a third of Somaliland’s population and ravaged the local economy.”

3. “Scholars variously interpret the emergence and demise of the militant Dervish movement in Somalia. Some consider the “Sufi Islamic” ideology as the driver, others consider economic crisis to the nomadic lifestyle triggered by the occupation and “colonial predation” ideology as the trigger for the Dervish movement, while post-modernists state that both religion and nationalism created the Dervish movement.”

NB: The revolt was “led by the Salihiyya Sufi Muslim poet and militant leader Mohammed Abdullah Hassan…who called for independence from the British and Italian colonies on the Somali peninsula, the defeat of Ethiopian forces, the expulsion of Christianity and the establishment of a state in Somaliland.”


1. The Somali Marxist-Leninist dictator Siad Barre (1910–1995) enraged by Somaliland resistance, ordered the systematic extermination of the Isaaq clan. The capital of Somaliland, Hargeisa, was 90% destroyed — earning it the moniker “the Dresden of Africa.”

2. An estimated 50,000–200,000 were killed.

3. Half a million fled to Ethiopia — resulting in the world’s largest refugee camp.

NB: The Somali troops laid one million land mines — including in civilian homes. US complicity with the Barre regime based on its opposition to Soviet-backed Ethiopia has been denounced. (See final link.)

BASICS — demographic, geographic, economic

1. The population of Somaliland is about 3.5 MM. An estimated 53% is urban and 33% nomadic.

2. GDP per capita is estimated to be $950.

3. Djibouti to the north and west, Ethiopia to the South, the Puntland region of Somalia to the east. The Gulf of Aden to the north.

NB: The two easternmost regions (Sanaag and Sool) are claimed by the neighboring Somali state of Puntland.

What is (the self declared state of) Somaliland?

What Is Somaliland And Should It Be Its Own Country?

Is Somaliland an Independent Nation?

The Hargeisa Holocaust

Here is a link to the last three years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest or most important thing you learned in the last week, month, or year related to foreign policy. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in our life related to foreign policy.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is the key to depth of thought.

The prospect of imminent publication, like hanging and final exams, concentrates the mind. A useful life long habit.