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Somaliland, officially the Republic of Somaliland, is an unrecognised sovereign state in the Horn of Africa, internationally considered to be part of Somalia. Somaliland lies in the Horn of Africa, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden. It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Ethiopia to the south and west, and Somalia to the east. Its claimed territory has an area of 176,120 square kilometers (68,000 sq mi), with approximately 5.7 million residents as of 2021. The capital and largest city is Hargeisa. The government of Somaliland regards itself as the successor state to British Somaliland, which, as the briefly independent State of Somaliland, united in 1960 with the Trust Territory of Somaliland (the former Italian Somaliland) to form the Somali Republic.

Somaliland was first inhabited around 10,000 years ago during the Neolithic age. The ancient shepherds raised cows and other livestock and it has the most vibrant rock art paintings in Africa. Throughout the Middle Ages, Arab immigrants arrived in Somaliland, a historical experience which would later lead to the legendary stories about Muslim sheikhs such as Daarood and Ishaaq bin Ahmed (the purported ancestors of the Darod and Isaaq clans, respectively) travelling from Arabia to Somalia and marrying into the local Dir clan. Also during the Middle Ages, Somali empires dominated the regional trade, including the Sultanate of Ifat and the Adal Sultanate.

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Somaliland on the Globe

In the 18th century, the Isaaq Sultanate, a Somali successor state to the Adal Sultanate was established by Sultan Guled Abdi at Toon. The sultanate spanned parts of the Horn of Africa and covered most of modern-day Somaliland, as well as being its pre-colonial predecessor. The sultanate had a robust economy and trade was significant at its main port of Berbera and the smaller port town of Bulhar as well as eastwards at the frankincense-exporting port towns of HeisKarin, and El-Darad.

In the late 19th century, the United Kingdom signed agreements with the Isaaq Sultanate and the Habr Yunis Sultanate as well as with clans like the Warsangeli and Gadabuursi. The British colonists merged the territories of the two sultanates as well as other tribal territories to form the British Somaliland Protectorate.

The Dervishes led by Muhammad Abdullah Hassan were against the protection agreements signed with Britain with the Somali sultans. Dervishes waged successive wars against the British colonists between 1900. The Dervishes were finally defeated in the 1920 Somaliland Campaign. On 26 June 1960, the protectorate gained independence as the State of Somaliland, before five days later uniting with the Trust Territory of Somaliland, following its separate independence, to form the Somali Republic.

In 1961, Southerners (Somalia) took control of state institutions. It was rejected in the former State of Somaliland and the Somaliland residents did not vote on the Somali constitution. In December 1961, the revolution in the north was started by soldiers of the former State of Somaliland who took control of large cities in the north. A group of officers took control of the radio station in Hargeisa, declaring the end of the unity between Somalia and Somaliland.

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Residential Hargeisa

In April 1981 the Somali National Movement (shortened SNM) was founded, which led to the Somaliland War of Independence. In 1988, at the height of the war, the Siad Barre government began a crackdown against the Hargeisa-based SNM and other militant groups, which were among the events that led to the Somali Civil War. The conflict left Somalia’s economic and military infrastructure severely damaged. Following the collapse of Barre’s government in early 1991, local authorities, led by the SNM, unilaterally declared independence from Somalia on 18 May of the same year and reinstated the borders of the former short-lived independent State of Somaliland.

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