Get access

Negotiating Statehood in a Hybrid Political Order: The Case of Somaliland


  • Marleen Renders,

    1. is a post-doctoral research associate at the Human Rights Centre, Ghent University (email: She currently works in Kenya's Coastal Province, investigating women's human rights in contexts of legal pluralism involving customary and Islamic law. She conducted her PhD fieldwork in Somaliland in 2002/2003 and was a research fellow at the Academy for Peace and Development, a local dialogue NGO carrying out participatory action research, in Hargeisa. Her work on Somaliland is shortly to be published by Brill (Leiden).
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Ulf Terlinden

    1. is a research associate at the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) at the University of Duisburg-Essen (email: He has been a resident political analyst in Somaliland since mid-2005 and his main research interest revolves around governance and post-conflict peacebuilding in the Horn of Africa. He has worked as research fellow and capacity builder with the Academy for Peace and Development, a local dialogue NGO carrying out participatory action research, in Hargeisa.
    Search for more papers by this author

  • The authors would like to thank Markus Höhne and Tobias Hagmann, as well as the journal's referees, for their feedback on earlier versions of this article.


This article investigates the negotiation of statehood in Somaliland, a non-recognized de facto state which emerged from Somalia's conflict and state collapse. The negotiation process centres on the continuing transformation of a hybrid political order, involving ‘formal’ as well as ‘informal’ spheres, both in existing institutions (as ‘rules of the game’) and in the bodies or agents enforcing these rules. The negotiation processes considered take place at the national and local level respectively, as well as between the two. These negotiations are heterogeneous, non-linear and ongoing. The article demonstrates how the polity's tolerance for heterogeneous negotiations and different forms of statehood allowed local political actors to establish peace in their own local settings first. Although it did not produce uniform statehood, it provided the basis for communities to explore the scope for common statehood. On the national level, hybrid elements initially allowed for a healthy adaptation of statehood to local needs, and for legitimate, productive instruments of negotiation. This responsiveness was not maintained, and current hybrid elements threaten to undermine the polity's stability.