Somaliland Civil War

Map of Somaililand Region The Republic of Somaliland, formerly British Somaliland Protectorate, became Independent on June 26, 1960. It merged with the former Italian Colony of Somalia when it too became Independent on July 1, 1960.However, this merger was doomed from the start because of the economic, cultural, and administrative differences that were made clear soon after the union of these two Somali Nations. 

Hargeisa Nursing School destroyed by war

Hargeisa Nursing School destroyed by war

As a result, the people of Somaliland took steps to dissociate themselves from Somalia as early as 1961.

Regrettably, it took a long and protracted civil war between the people of Somaliland and the troops of the former Dictator Siyad Barre, in order to finally restore Somaliland’s sovereignty on May 18, 1991. 

During those years of struggle, the cities of Somaliland, including Hargeisa, were bombed and ruthlessly blown to bits.


Over half a million Somalilanders lost their lives, and millions fled the country to seek refuge either in neighbouring countries or elsewhere in the world where they could find shelter.These vicissitudes have been well-documented by the United Nations and other International Human Rights bodies who have witnessed the extent of the destruction the entire country had suffered and also how its schools and health services were razed to the ground.


An added tragedy was the death or disappearance of trained professionals who had served in the health services of the country.

The result is that those health facilities, which recently have been rehabilitated (meagre as they are), suffer from a serious and ongoing deficiency of trained health manpower.

For more information about the history of Somaliland and its standing in the world, please see Edna Adan’s speech below before the International Planned Parenthood Federation on Sept. 28, 2010.

Edna Adan

Somaliland: African Colonial History

Tunis 28/9/2010
In 1883, during the ‘scramble for Africa’, the Horn of Africa was divided between several Colonial powers:

  1. Britain had a treaty of Protection with the “British Somaliland Protectorate”, the Somaliland of today
  2. France had the “Cote Francaise des Somalis,” the Republic of Djibouti of today
  3. Italy had “La Somalia Italiana”, the Somalia of today
  4. A Portion of the Somali inhabited Horn was left with Kenya and is today known as the Northern Frontier District of Kenya, and
  5. A portion was left with Ethiopia which is today known as the 5th Region of Ethiopia or the Somali Region of Ethiopia.

Among these Somali territories, Somaliland was the only one that had never been colonized and which had retained its national identity even during the period it had a treaty of Protection with Great Britain.

In June 1960, Somaliland became the first fully Independent and Sovereign Somali State among the five Somali nations and was immediately recognized by 34 Member States of the United Nations among which were the Five Permanent Members of the Security Council. This gave Somaliland the position of becoming the ‘first born’ or most senior Somali nation.

After Italian Somalia also became independent, the two independent Somali states entered into a voluntary union that was never ratified by the people of the two nations. The union was doomed from the start because the two countries that ‘united’ had language differences, tribal differences, cultural differences, and had administrative and educational differences that each had inherited from their respective former colonial RULERS.

These differences led to frictions and disputes and culminated into a long Civil war that began in 1982 and ended in 1991. This war destroyed 95% of the cities of Somaliland and caused the death of a quarter million people and a further one million to become refugees in neighbouring countries because of the genocide and mass killings that were being perpetrated against the civilian population of Somaliland.

In 1991, Somalilanders freed their country and returned to rebuild it. edna-somaliland-flag

Since 1991 to this day, Somaliland is a land of peace, hope and stability where massive reconstruction is taking place and to which its people are returning home by the plane-loads. Today, we even have refugees neighbouring Somalia coming to us for health and education as well as for protection from the war in Somalia.

During the past 19 years, we have held Local Government, Parliamentary and Presidential Elections that have all been declared free and fair by international observers and have received congratulatory messages from world leaders including President Obama and the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Somaliland is in full support of Human Rights, Democracy and the will of the people to run their own affairs within internationally recognized Colonial boundaries. Neither Egypt and Syria, nor Senegal and Gambia, were punished for entering into a voluntary union with each other nor from withdrawing from that union when they found this to be in the interest of their people.

Somaliland stands neither for the fragmentation of States nor for the secessions of Nations.

All we are appealing for is for our people to have full and fair access to education, health care and to the basic development that we need to help us rise out of poverty and aim for the MGD goals that the rest of the world is striving to attain for its citizens.

When our women have the world’s highest Maternal Mortality rate, to deny them the right to development would be to deny them the right to Life.

Far too few of our women have access to health, education, employment. They cannot find basic sexual and reproductive information or services. Too many of their babies die because they are not assisted by trained and competent midwives. Surgical interventions for complicated pregnancies are available in few facilities throughout the country. For example, my hospital receives patients referred to us from all corners of Somaliland as well as from neighboring Somalia and neighboring 5th Region of Ethiopia.

According to a recent study that we carried at our hospital, we discovered that 99% of girls are subjected to harmful traditional practices that further put their health in peril.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the fate of Four Million people in Somaliland who have every basic Human Right for health and welfare are in your hands: You can either ‘turn your backs’ on them or extend to them the required Humanitarian Hand that would make available to them a fair chance of survival.

Thank you.
Edna Adan Ismail
President, Somaliland Family Planning Association,
Founder and Director or Edna Adan Hospital,
Former Foreign Minister of Somaliland.