SOMALILAND LOCAL GOVERNMENT LAWS
Updated March 2020
The Current New Principal Local Government Law
The previous 2003 law governing the Somaliland local government, the Regions & Districts (Self Management) Law (Law No: 23/2002-2007) which has been amended extensively in 2007, was, in Somali, Xeerka Ismaamulka Gobolada iyo Degmooyinka (Xeerka Lr. 23/2002-2007, as signed by the President (Decree No. 283/2007). The 2003/7 Law has been replaced with effect from 4 January 2020 (date of Gazetting, as set in Art. 109 of the Law) by the new the Regions & Districts Self Management (Amendments and Additions) Law (Law No: 23/2019) which consists of 109 articles grouped into 11 Parts
Despite the various governments’ announcements of new regions and new districts, Art. 9 of the Law confirms that the country still consists of six (6) regions, set out (in Somali) below together with the number of districts in each region:
a) Gobolka Maroodijeex (19 Districts graded A 2, C 2 and D 15).
b) Gobolka Togdheer (22 Districts graded A 1, C 2 and D 19).
c) Gobolka Sanaag (19 Districts graded A 1, B 2, and D 16).
d) Gobolka Awdal (12 Districts graded A 1, B 1, C 2 and D 8).
e) Gobolka Sool (21 Districts graded A 1, C 3 and D 17).
f) Gobolka Saaxil (8 Districts graded A 1, C 1 and D 6).
The six regions reflect the previous six (6) Principal Districts of the independent State of Somaliland, but the number of districts (graded A to D) within each region has since the early 1960s increased considerably. This Law now confirms the number of districts in each region (including the regional capital districts numbering 6) as totalling 102 districts (see above). [For our past comments on the numerous regions created under executive decrees in the past, see this 2008 commentary on the previous Presidential Decrees - “Somaliland Local Government Re-organisation through Presidential Decrees in an Election Year”. Since then other regions & regions and districts have been created in similar manner, but the is 2019 listed only those that have been approved by Parliament).
The Constitution of the Republic addresses the local government in Chapter 5, Part 2, in the following articles:
Article 109: The Structure of the Country
Article 110: The Administration of the Regions and the Districts
Article 111: The Regional and District Councils
Article 112: The De-centralisation of Administrative Powers
The Regional Councils are currently not elected, but Article 111(2) does, however, envisage the election of their members other than their Chairman who, according to Article 111(5), be appointed by the Central Government . Article 16 of the 2019 Law states that until the Regional Council members are elected, each Council shall have a 3 member Executive Committee (EC) appointed by the Government, and a larger Development Committee which includes EC members, the Chairmen of the District Councils District Councils and the heads of the regionally based Government Departments (who shall act as advisers with no votes).
In contrast, District Council members (in districts graded A to C under this Law) are elected under the procedures laid down in the Presidential and Local Elections Law. District Councils graded D and awaiting assessment and confirmation by Parliament have nominated councils. Village councils’ members (not exceeding 7) are nominated by the Chairmen of the Districts, on the advice of the elders and other prominent persons of the villages and are appointed by the District Councils (Article 39 of the 2019 Law).
Overview of previous Somaliland Local Government Laws
During the years of the Protectorate and the short independent State of Somaliland, the main law governing local government was the Local Government Ordinance 1953 (Ordinance No. 1 of 1953) but the first district advisory councils were established in 1951 when Town councils responsible for the collection of local revenue were introduced. There were six principal districts (which, even now, form the main six regions of Somaliland) each headed by a District Commissioner. Each district council was set up under a Warrant under section 3 of the 1953 Ordinance, with Hargeisa and Berbera being the first councils, followed by the other districts from 1957 onwards - see for example the 1957 Warrant relating to Burao Council: General Notice No. 68 of August 1957. Some of the councillors were elected and others were appointed. Incidentally, The councils should not be confused with the earlier Local Authorities Ordinance 1950 (Ordinance No. 8 of 1950) which dealt with the role of Akils or traditional clan leaders and empowered some of the Akils to assist the administration (i.e the District Commissioner) in maintaining law and order.
After the the union with Somalia on 1 July 1960, the Somaliland territory consisted of two regions (referred to the Northern Regions) and Somalia consisted of six regions (the Southern Regions) - Law No: 14 of 14/06/1962. Each region was headed by a Governor who was appointed by the Minister of Interior. The 1963 Local Administration and Local Council Elections Law (Law No: 19 of 14/08/1963) set out the functions and structures of the local district councils and their election law. The first local council election under this Law took place in November 1963. This was followed by the 1965 Regulations for the Implementaion of the 1963 Law (Decree of the Minister No. 277 of 31 October 1965) and later the 1967 Organisation of the Regions and Districts Law (Law No. 8 of 8 February 1967).
The democratic structures of the local government came to an abrupt end with military dictatorship coup on 21 October 1969. The first Military Decree Law on local government, Local Government Reform Law No. 52 of 8 June 1972 put all local authorities under government control and headed by appointed chairmen at both regional and district levels. This was followed by the 1977 Regions and Districts Law, No. 21 of 3 February 1977 which cemented the rule of the ‘fig leaf’ military ‘socialist’ single party of the government over all aspects of local government management with local security committees exercising draconian detention powers until the fall the military dictatorship in 1990-1.
On re-assertion of its independence in May 1991, Somaliland started to rebuild its local democracy. Article 22 of the Somaliland National Charter 1993 emphasised the importance of the need to build democratic local councils in all the districts and the regions and this was echoed in the 1997 Interim Constitution - the provisions relating to local government are now set out in Article 109 to 112 of the final Somaliland Constitution. Prior to the 2002 Regions and Districts Law, the main Law which governed local authorities in Somaliland was the the Law on the Structure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Administration of the Regions and Districts 1993.
Other main Local Government Laws