Navigating the Crossroads: Somaliland’s Quest for Stability and Inclusion

Somaliland has long been a region of complex clan dynamics and political turbulence. However, recent events have brought simmering tensions to a boiling point, particularly within the Garhajis Clan, who considers themselves the vast majority of Somaliland’s population and resides in five of the six regions in the Somaliland territory.

On August 2023, a significant decision emerged from the clan leaders of the Habar Jelo sub-clan of Isaaq, a pivotal moment in the political landscape of Somaliland. The decision aimed to resolve a contentious political dispute over the election timetable, which had previously sparked violence and unrest. The resolution, welcomed by all parties involved, signified a step towards stability and democratic progress in the region.

Central to the resolution was the decree to hold a presidential election in November 2024, aligning it with the qualification elections of political parties. Additionally, the clan leaders instructed the Garhajis clan militias, stationed in the Ga’an Libaah mountains, to disband. The successful disbandment of these militias marked a crucial move towards de-escalating tensions and fostering a peaceful environment for the upcoming electoral process.

In response to the clan leaders’ decision, the House of Representatives initiated proceedings to amend two key laws pertinent to the elections. These amendments were essential for legally facilitating the proposed electoral arrangements. On 18 January, the House of Representatives forwarded the amended laws to the President, indicating progress towards the mandated electoral reforms.

However, the trajectory of progress faced an unexpected challenge when the Speaker of the Guurti, the upper house of the Parliament, intervened. The Speaker, a longstanding ally of the President, raised allegations of irregularities in the passage of the amended laws by the House of Representatives. Consequently, he requested the President to return the laws to the Guurti for further review.

The Speaker’s actions introduced a new layer of complexity to the already delicate political landscape of Somaliland. The move underscored the underlying tensions and power dynamics within the country’s political institutions, highlighting the need for transparent and accountable governance processes.

The dispute over the passage of the electoral laws reflects broader challenges facing democratic consolidation in Somaliland. While the clan leaders’ intervention initially fostered optimism for a peaceful resolution, the subsequent political maneuvering underscores the fragility of democratic institutions and the prevalence of entrenched interests.

The crux of the issue lies in a perceived betrayal by the Somaliland government, as claimed by members of the Garhajis Clan. At the heart of their grievances is the dissolution of their militia forces. Many Garhajis militiamen argue that disbanding their forces was premature, citing a lack of readiness on the part of the government to honor agreements made with their leadership.

Central to this dispute is a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Somaliland and Ethiopia, which aimed to grant Ethiopia access to the sea via Somaliland territory. While potentially economically beneficial, the agreement has sparked regional and geopolitical crises, further complicating an already delicate situation.

The Garhajis Clan, feeling marginalized and aggrieved, sees itself as the guardian of Somaliland’s interests, particularly in light of the government’s perceived capitulation to external pressures, such as those from Ethiopia. For them, the dissolution of their militias symbolizes a betrayal of their trust and a disregard for their security concerns.

Compounding these internal rifts are delays in the electoral process, which threaten to further destabilize the country. The postponement of elections only serves to prolong the uncertainty and deepen mistrust among various factions within Somaliland society.

Amidst this turmoil, the specter of renewed violence looms large. Some members of the Garhajis Clan have openly threatened to regroup their militias and confront the government if their demands are not met. Such threats only serve to heighten tensions and escalate the risk of conflict, plunging Somaliland into further chaos and uncertainty.

In this volatile climate, dialogue and reconciliation are more critical than ever. The grievances of the Garhajis Clan and other marginalized groups must be addressed through inclusive and transparent processes that uphold the principles of justice and equality. Additionally, the government must demonstrate its commitment to honoring agreements and resolving disputes peacefully, lest the fragile peace of Somaliland be shattered irreparably. The grievances of the Garhajis Clan and other marginalized groups in Somaliland reflect a broader issue of systemic exclusion and lack of transparent processes within the government. Despite strides towards stability and democratic governance, the voices of these communities have often been overlooked in decision-making processes. The absence of inclusive mechanisms that uphold principles of justice and equality exacerbates tensions and undermines the foundation of a cohesive society. Without addressing these grievances through transparent channels, the risk of deepening divisions looms large, potentially destabilizing the fragile peace that Somaliland has painstakingly built.

Moreover, the failure of the government to honor agreements and resolve disputes peacefully adds another layer of distrust and disillusionment among marginalized groups. Sustainable peace relies on mutual respect and adherence to negotiated settlements. When agreements are disregarded or disputes are handled with opacity, it erodes the confidence of citizens and undermines the legitimacy of the government. In a region where historical grievances run deep, such actions risk reigniting simmering tensions and plunging the nation into further turmoil.

Equally concerning is the persistent marginalization of women, youth, minorities, and people with disabilities from positions of power and influence within the government structures. Fair distribution of power is not merely a matter of political correctness but a fundamental aspect of inclusive governance. By sidelining these groups, the government not only perpetuates inequalities but also stifles the potential for diverse perspectives and innovative solutions to societal challenges. The exclusion of these voices from decision-making processes not only diminishes the legitimacy of governance but also deprives the nation of the full spectrum of talent and expertise it sorely needs to thrive. Addressing these multifaceted challenges requires a concerted effort to prioritize inclusivity, transparency, and equitable distribution of power within Somaliland’s governance framework. Meaningful engagement with marginalized communities, commitment to upholding agreements, and proactive measures to ensure representation of diverse voices are indispensable steps towards fostering lasting peace and prosperity. Only through genuine inclusivity and respect for the rights of all citizens can Somaliland realize its full potential as a stable and thriving democracy in the Horn of Africa.

The fate of Somaliland hangs in the balance. The choices made in the coming days and weeks will shape the future of the region and determine whether peace and stability can be achieved or if the cycle of violence and division will persist. The path forward requires courage, compromise, and a genuine commitment to building a society where all voices are heard and all communities are respected. Only then can Somaliland truly fulfill its aspirations for peace, prosperity, and self-determination.

Yousef Timacade.
Yousef Timacade is lawyer, legal analyst and commentator. He has a master’s degrees in law and executive management, and has been working with national and international non governmental organizations for the last ten years in the areas of program management, research, and human rights.

As per usual the opinions expressed in this articale are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of