The formation of the Republic of Somaliland, May 1991

The Act of Union which had united former Italian and British territories in 1960 into the Republic of Somalia was broken in May 1991 when the people of the north west regions of Somalia announced the secession of the Republic of Somaliland, a territory demarcated by the former colonial boundaries separating British and Italian rule. This act was the decision of a clan conference in Burao at which the Isaq and non-Isaq clans (Darod and Dir) living in Somaliland reconciled after a long period of animosity and civil war. It was a decision taken in response to the pre-emptive formation in February 1991 of an interim government in Mogadishu by the USC. The people of the north west, particularly the Isaq, feared that further rule from Mogadishu would lead to a repeat of the persecution they had suffered under Siad Barre, when more than 50,000 people in the north west had been killed and more than 600,000 forcibly displaced. Secession was also a pragmatic move to distance the north from the factional fighting in the south; it signalled that northerners had no territorial claims on the south. The decision to declare independence from the rest of Somalia was made without consulting Somalia’s numerous other political factions. Somaliland, although functioning since secession as a separate state, remains unrecognised by the international community.