Reducing armed conflict in Somalia (Somaliland)


Thanks to the efforts of local people and organisations, Somaliland has remained at peace for almost thirty years while much of the rest of Somalia was been plagued by conflict and famine.

In January 1991 the President of Somalia fled the country in the face of widespread rebellion. In his absence, rival armed groups competed for dominance and much of southern Somalia, along with the capital, Mogadishu, descended into armed conflict.1 Faced with the prospect of state collapse and increasing levels of violence, leaders from across north-west Somalia gathered in the city of Berbera for to attend a traditional form of inter-clan conference to develop a response. The talks in Berbera culminated with the resolution that all clans should restrain their respective militias and aim to end the cycle of violence that was plaguing the region.2 In May 1991, an even larger event, the Grand Conference of the Northern Peoples, was convened in Burao to consolidate the peace and discuss the future of the region. On 18 May 1991, the gathered leaders announced the withdrawal of Somaliland from Somalia and formed an interim government.3

In the first months of 1993, more than 2,000 people gathered in Borama for the Conference of Elders of the Communities of Somaliland. At the Conference, which culminated in May 1993, a council of elders known as a Guurti developed two key documents, the Somaliland Peace Charter and the Transitional National Charter.4 The former outlined the terms for a comprehensive Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration programme encompassing the militias in Somaliland, while the latter established the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Government of Somaliland.5 Peace talks continued until 1997, when a final peace conference was held in Hargeisa. More militias agreed to disarm at the event and an interim constitution was adopted, a roadmap to multi-party elections was agreed, and a national flag for Somaliland was adopted by the gathered representatives.6 This marked the beginning of a succession of relatively free, fair, and peaceful elections. In 2001, amidst a backdrop of increasing security and growing prosperity, 98 percent of voters approved a new constitution (and with it, formal independence) for Somaliland.7 A key aspect of the success of the peace process in Somaliland was the use of traditional methods and local resources.8 Disputes were settled via an unwritten code known as Xeer, while traditional forms of ‘pastoral democracy’ were employed via the traditional conferences to find consensus among the various clan interests and political agendas.9 Through their efforts, the people of Somaliland were able to end armed conflicts, consolidate peace, and build stability in a region mired in violence.


2 Academy for Peace and Development. Peace in Somaliland: An Indigenous Approach to State-Building. (Interpeace, 2008) p.12

3 Ridout. “Building Peace and the State in Somaliland.” p.143

4 Republic of Somaliland. The National Charter: Preamble. (Republic of Somaliland, 1993) Available at: (Accessed 16/01/2022)

5 Africa Research Institute. “After Borama: Consensus, representation and parliament in Somaliland.” Policy Voice Series. (2013) pp.8-9

6 Ridout. “Building Peace and the State in Somaliland.” p.146

7 Ibid. p.149

8 Ahmed Farah & Ioan Lewis. “Making Peace in Somaliland.” Cahiers d d'Études Africaines, Vol. 146. (1997)

9 Academy for Peace and Development. Peace in Somaliland. p.13

Start Year


End Year



Somaliland, (de jure) Somalia

UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Horizontal (non-state) intrastate conflict, Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict, Risk of a conflict relapse

Type of Initiative

Local action, Mediation of a peace agreement, Peace infrastructure

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

Local people and organisations




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