Somaliland is an unrecognised de-facto independent state located in northwest Somalia in the Horn of Africa.
During colonial times, the region was the British Somaliland Protectorate. It did not join a united Somalia until 1960. British Somaliland became independent on 26th June 1960 as the State of Somaliland, and Italian Somaliland's independence came four days later, whereupon the two entities immediately merged on 1st July 1960 as the Somali Republic. Between 1981 and 1991, the Somali National Movement (SNM), a rebel army of mostly northern Somali followers, waged an armed insurrection against the regime of Mohamed Said Barre and his Somali National Army (SNA). This period saw the indiscriminate use of landmines against the civilian population, their homes and farmlands.
In 1991, after the collapse of the central government in Somalia, the people of Somaliland declared an independent Republic of Somaliland that now includes six of the eighteen administrative regions of Somalia.
The majority of the landmine problem in Somaliland comes as a result of over 18 years of warfare. Most of the minefields were laid during 1979 - 1988 war between Somalia and Ethiopia (known as the Ogoden war) and later during Somalia civil war in 1988-1991 that led to Somaliland’s de-facto independence. It’s believed that some additional minefields were laid during the more recent conflict over border disputes between Somaliland and Puntland.
In general, minefields in Somaliland fall into one of the following groups:
- Border defence. Laid in the 1970’s by the Somalia National Army (SNA) consisting of anti-personnel (AP) and anti-tank (AT) mines to prevent mechanized assault by Ethiopia during and immediately after the Ogaden war.
- Border defence. Laid in the 1980’s by the SNA (mostly AP) to prevent incursions by the Somaliland National Movement (SNM) and other rebel groups operating from Ethiopia - and later laid in the disputed areas in Somaliland and Puntland border.
- Base defence. Perimeter minefields laid in the 1980’s by the SNA around military positions on or near the border (AP & AT) to protect against attacks.
- Routes. Laid by the SNM on roads and tracks used by the SNA in order to disrupt logistics.
And to a lesser extent:
- Routes. Laid by the SNA on tracks running towards Ethiopia to prevent refugee exodus.
- Factional/Clan. Sporadic mining based around land or blood-feud disputes.
The most recent use of landmines in Somaliland took place between 1994 and 1995 when militias opposed to the regime of Somaliland President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal and loyalist forces fought fierce battles in Hargeisa (the capital) and areas south and east of Hargeisa.
In 2009 the Somaliland House of Representatives approved legislation banning the use of anti-personnel (AP) mines.