Navigating a Broken Transition to Civilian Rule: Somaliland: 1991-2001

After nearly a decade of civil war, Somaliland declared independence in 1991 amid high expectations. Though the war had left the East African country desperately poor and deeply divided, the rebel organization that had won liberation, the Somali National Movement (SNM), had taken steps to ensure that peace and public order would be preserved in the run-up to a transition to civilian government in May 1993. Yet scarcely a year into its administration, the SNM imploded, unleashing a spiral of violence that threatened the country’s future. As the prospect of all-out warfare loomed throughout 1992, the government of SNM Chairman Abdulrahman Ahmed Ali Tuur struggled to navigate the stormy transition from fragmented rebel rule to a legitimate civilian administration. This case study describes these efforts and focuses on the political consensus building that brought Tuur’s successor, President Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, to power. Egal’s early efforts to build coalitions, manage political opponents and disarm clan militias were more successful than Tuur’s, although problems of insecurity and violence persisted. The case offers broader insights into ensuring peace in post-conflict societies and demonstrates how many of the actions needed to build short-term political consensus can come at the expense of long-term efforts to bolster good governance.

Richard Bennet and Michael Woldemariam drafted this policy note on the basis of interviews conducted in Hargeisa, Somaliland, in October 2010. The companion case study, “Nurturing Democracy in the Horn of Africa: Somaliland’s First Elections, 2002-2005,” examines how Somaliland successfully avoided violence and instituted efficient electoral processes.

Associated Interview:  Adan Yusuf Abokor, Mohamed Fadal



Consensus Building
Focus Area(s)
Reducing Divisive Effects of Competition
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Richard Bennet, Michael Woldemariam