Confronting the Future of Somaliland's Democracy: Lessons from a Decade of Multi-partyism and the Way Forward

Somaliland’s unilaterally withdrawal from the union with Somalia in 1991 was followed by a decade-long peace and state-building process led by traditional clan elders. Somaliland resolved internal disputes, merged militias into police and military forces, and built governance institutions and practices based on a system that blended tradition and modernity. These were formally codified with the ratification by popular referendum of a new constitution in 2001. However, Somaliland remains internationally unrecognised. At one level, democracy in Somaliland is an unfolding success story. Five elections in only a decade, all conducted relatively peacefully, present an important milestone. The fundamental principles of democracy have taken root in Somaliland’s political soil in a remarkably short period of time, and there is now a political stage upon which Somalilanders can act collectively, define themselves, and determine their destiny. Today, most adult Somalilanders are familiar with the basic pillars of democracy, including political parties, elections and election campaigns, the rights of youth, women, and minority groups, and the prerogatives of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Somalilanders are also conscious that the acceptance and preservation of democratization are crucial for Somaliland as a viable state and a cohesive, stable society.