Local Solutions: Creating an Enabling Environment for Decentralisation in Somaliland

In December 2002, the people of Somaliland went to the polls for the first time in more than three decades, electing 332 councillors to manage the affairs of their towns and 23 electoral districts. These ‘local elections’ marked the first chapter in a comprehensive democratic transition from a clan-based system of governance to multiparty politics – and the first real chance of decentralised government authority since the country’s Independence in 1960. After decades of centralised authoritarian rule, civil war and state collapse in Somalia, decentralisation had become a central issue for the armed struggle against the dictatorial regime of Siad Barre, in which Somaliland’s Somali National Movement (SNM) played a key role. On May 18th 1991, after the overthrow of the Barre government, SNM and traditional leaders meeting in Burao declared Somaliland’s independence from the rest of Somalia. The declaration by the former British Protectorate ended a union of almost 30 years with the former Italian colony. The first post-conflict government was duly established, with a two-year interim administration headed by SNM chairman Abdulraxman Axmed Cali ‘Tuure’. The overall purpose of the APD’s intervention was to assist the central government, the new local councils, the political parties, and other national and local actors in consolidating Somaliland’s decentralisation process after the councils’ election, in order to ensure a democratic and effective local government.