Photo: Somaliland troops march past during a parade to mark the 22nd anniversary of Somaliland’s self-declared independence from the larger Somalia, in Hargeisa May 18, 2013. REUTERS/Feisal Omar.


Somaliland, the self-declared republic, is desperate for someone to find vast mineral reserves under its soil. But without international recognition – and the probability of legal battles in the future – it’s a big risk for any company to take. Somaliland too should be careful. Having dodged the aid curse, will it fall victim to the resource curse instead? By SIMON ALLISON.

At the recently concluded Mining Indaba in Cape Town, Somaliland’s energy minister Hussein Abdi Dualeh had possibly the hardest sell of all. It was his job to convince the assembled mining bigwigs that his country was a viable, risk-free environment in which to invest millions and millions of dollars – all on the hope that there might be base and precious metals hidden somewhere under its drab scrubland.

He tried hard. “We have also a unique geographical location,” the minister said in his speech at the conference. “If you have a mineral deposit and if you exploit it, it will be very cheap to take to market…it’s definitely much less costly than a really getting fantastic deposit the middle of continent, which will cost you really huge amount of money to export it…even the small deposit is commercially viable considering the logistics involved in taking the minerals to market.”

It was a good effort, but will it be enough? There are, after all, a few other factors which mitigate against Somaliland becoming Africa’s next mining hotspot.

The biggest problem is that Dualeh’s country is not actually a country. Officially, legally, Somaliland is a territory of the Republic of Somalia. A rogue territory at that, one which refuses to answer to the writ of the central government in Mogadishu. It considers itself independent, and operates accordingly, with all the trappings of sovereignty: the flag, the currency, the national anthem. Dualeh himself is part of Somaliland’s government, which is chosen in free and fair elections every five years (some say Somaliland is the most functional democracy in the Horn of Africa, and there’s substance to this description).

This de facto autonomy is no bad thing: while Somalia proper has been mired in civil war and violence for the last two decades, Somaliland has been stable, secure and relatively prosperous; its self-declared independence a conscious attempt to isolate itself from Somalia’s chaos which, by and large, has worked.

But as Somaliland seeks to develop, this independence – not formally recognised by anyone else in the world – is also holding it back. As miners contemplate entering Somaliland, they have to first ask and answer some tough questions about whether the government in Hargeisa has the authority to grant exploration licenses in the first place; and, once granted, if those will be honoured if and when Mogadishu is in a better position to assert rights of its own.

Already, these problems have crippled Somaliland’s oil sector. For years, oil exploration was dormant as companies fought over ‘legacy contracts’ (those granted in the late 1980s by dictator Siad Barre’s Mogadishu-based regime) and new contracts issued by the Somaliland government. Exploration has now started, but getting to this point was a long and complicated process.

Minister Dualeh claims there are no legacy contracts that could influence the mining sector – but that doesn’t mean there won’t be problems in the future between the two competing centres of power.

Somaliland’s lack of formal independence has also cut it off from another lucrative source of income: aid money. Almost all international aid to Somalia is all channeled through Mogadishu. With the exception of a few minor United Nations programmes, Hargeisa gets nothing.

Not that Hargeisa minds. Dualeh argues that the lack of aid has actually worked in Somaliland’s favour. “That is a blessing in disguise. Aid never developed anything,” he told Reuters’ Ed Stoddard on the sidelines of the conference. “Aid is not a panacea, we’d rather not have it… How many African countries do you know that developed because of a lot of aid? It’s a curse. The ones that get the most aid are the ones with the problems.”

Intrigued by this counter-intuitive position, the Daily Maverick contacted Minister Dualeh and asked him to elaborate. “There wasn’t really any aid opened to us because we weren’t recognised,” Dualeh explained in a telephone interview. “We’re not like Kenya that gets 40% [of its budget from] aid money; tangible aid hasn’t been coming our way because of our political status. Aid comes with strings attached but we don’t have any of that. We don’t owe anything to anyone.”

In practice, Dualeh believes that this leaves Somaliland free to make its own decision, unbeholden to any external backer that might not have the territory’s best interests at heart. “We have our own organic solutions to our problems; we have no outside influence; I think a lot of the good things that have happened to us are because we have found our own solutions.”

As an example, Dualeh cites the original decision to break away from the then-Federation of Somalia in 1991. This, he argues, was Somaliland taking its destiny into its own hands. In Somalia proper, on the other hand, decades of foreign meddling has just made the situation worse. “The difference between us and Somalia is that we sat down under the proverbial big tree and we basically stated our independence and tried to find our own solutions through uniting; we found a solution that has resulted in power right now, with no war or conflict.”

Somaliland may have avoided the aid curse, but as Dualeh seeks to drum up investment in the mining sector he would do well to recall the lessons of other African countries, where the curse of vast mineral wealth has proved just as devastating. Dualeh dismisses these concerns. “The resource curse is just a cliché. We’re not taking it lightly, we are trying to avoid it by making sure that we have good governance and good legal regimes to make sure that everything gets sorted ahead.”

In the Horn of Africa – a part of the world not famed for good governance or tight legal regimes – this might just be the one thing that Somaliland has going for it.  DM

Read more:

  • Somaliland blessed by dodging aid ‘curse’ on Reuters



  1. What a pity this Person l do not know to what extent is hating The Republic of Somaliland. This Person has an open hatred of Somaliland and he hates watching Somaliland developing and also he criminalised Somaliland just because they reclaimed back their beloved Country. and also this author does not approve that the stability the good governess and the law and order that The Republic of Somaliland has, l am glad that the whole World is reading this article and are analysing the function in The Republic of Somaliland and what this fellow has written in article. and he knows that the majority of the people have decided and they have voted for their own Government. thank you l have no more comment l let people read this article and imagine what type of person is this man.

  2. This is proper fighters surviving in that kind of terrain if u get some one bulked up by been hooked on protein shakes wouldn't last long, All of sudden you will see him start crying give me my bottle I run out of my milk I'm getting hungry get me out of here.

    • I was expecting old videos from the military regime that some worship but the table has turned been trained by the novice of yesterday.

  3. Yes bc a stick figure of a man weighing in at 150 lbs can best a man at 180-190 lbs of lean muscle built for endurance as well as power. Sarcasm intended. Look I want nothing but the best for Somaliland just like you, but there is no way guys like that are going to beat special forces in hand to hand combat thats just wishful thinking.

    Also, soldiers carry MREs on their person and are taught how to live off the land in any area they are being dropped in. So they wont be crying for anything.

    I dont think you have been around US special forces, I have had the pleasure of growing up with some of them and they would eat many Somalis alive, you have guys weighing nearly 200 lbs of solid muscle that can run miles without stopping. This notion of light is best is wrong soldiers need to both be powerful and have endurance and by the looks of it we only have one out of the two.

    I could be wrong though its only one picture. Maybe there is a whole squad of Somaliland Hulks in a secure location that I dont know about and perhaps they're not allowed to see day light lol

    • lol you are a one hell of a funny Somalian Nlander, by the way have you forgotten you don't need bulked up hulk type solders when push comes to shove trust me all that cosmetic supplements and survival training is going out of the window and its all about experience and adapting to the environment so the local always have the upper hand after a while you will here "crying get me out of hear, bloody skinnies they start eating us up, don't leave no man behind".

  4. Its ok for Dualleh to go around and ask companies to go to Somaliland, but he needs to know that Mogadishu has the final say on this matter, as Somaliland is autonomous region not an independent country, Mogadishu has no power at this moment to dictate what takes place but it will go to courts to have some say in any big development project. Say if oil were to be discovered in Somaliland then I am sure th Mooriyaans would want piece of it.

    • Mogadishu used to have a say Moron, not anymore. The days of Barre and dictatorship are over, and what makes you think that you punks in Mogadishu can determine anything for us any more. Suck your mother and chill.

      • No Need to be angry Kiaser, its my opinion brother, did not mean to offend but its a shameful to insult mothers, by the way you know it that there is no country called Somaliland, It's never gonna happen, I don't hate the brothers in the North but they need to face the facts that Somali will not allow it part of its land to secede from the the union. Mogadishu is powerless now but it will not be in the future. Let me put it this way. It will take lots more than just words for any region to secede, people lost blood and sweat for the freedom of this country, entire country and it will take hell lots of blood be spilled for any part of Somalia to sucede.

    • 1. The Failed 1960-Union is NULL & VOID. If you haven't heard there is only the "Internationally sponsored dialogue process Between TWO-EQUAL-STATES who are in the process of determining their future relationship. Whether the dialogue process bares fruit or not, fails or succeeds the TWO country's UNION is dissolved as such neither has any power over the other.

      2. So long as you have 22,000 known invaders masquerading as your saviors there is no chance on earth of you ever finding a functional government that resurrects your long lost sovereignty as Somalia-Italia. Assumption of reviving a long dead Union will never get you back your country nor will negativity towards neighboring states that care less about your existence.

      We pity you and the poor people who are clueless on how to recreate their country POST Kacaanism. You can reminisce on the Kacaan days or when you had the most powerful army in Africa and you can continue to ignore that Somalia-Italia is the butt of all jokes in 2014. Somalia-Italia is and will remain synonymous with FAILURE.

  5. Some folks are so scared of the Somaliland army, that they have missed the core of the article. Development, business, aid, economical matters, etc. We are very flattered, but our forces are for defence not for invasions, so you can all relax, unless you want to start something. As for this guy so enamoured with the Big American special forces, size is not everything, it is how you fight and how determined you are. With all due respect, the mighty US army does not strike a fear into anyone, anymore, not after Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Last US victory, Greneda!!!

    • comparing Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan is bs.All the Islamist militants rely on is ambush and car side bombs thats not head on battle thats b y t ch made moves that men do when they know they're soldiers dont stack up either in hand to hand combat or weapon systems.

      Veitnam was different bc the jungle gave them better cover not to mention the Soviet Union and China provided weapons and they have better spy systems, and tunnels. You cant compare the two.

      Muslims have such low self esteem them have to compare their useless militant car bombs and ambushes with Veitnam! You want to know how America stacks up against muslims talk to me about all the arab armies that attacked Israel and how their airforce absolutely sh at on them to the point that their tactics are still being taught in military academies the world over. Talk to be about the tank divisions in the arab israeli and iraq wars neither of which ended well for the Arabs shameful stuff. Laughable!

      Oh their scared of America alright, its the same reason why bin laden denied the attacks at first but only accepted responsibility when he knew the Americans were already coming for him. Did you forget that little bit?