Piracy suppression in Somaliland

The economic and administrative apparatus of Somaliland was far more advanced than in Puntland. At its inception in 1991, Somaliland claimed sovereignty over the geographic boundaries of the old British Somaliland protectorate, including its Gulf of Aden coastline.


Somaliland’s Isaaq clan ran a lucrative livestock trade. Despite the absence of the international recognition it desired, Somaliland’s leaders attracted investment from Ethiopia, Djibouti, Turkey, the UAE, Egypt and China in its livestock and potential fishing industries.

Somaliland suffered from the incursions of illegal fishers but its state-like apparatus proved sufficient to contain any piratical leanings of its inhabitants. However, the piracy from Puntland threatened Somaliland’s capacity to attract investment. 


Somaliland women march for independence in 2012

Somaliland prosecutes pirates


Somaliland’s leaders viewed piracy prosecution as not only a domestic solution to the threat to its cash flow but also an opportunity to legitimise their fight for international state recognition.


The UN reported that by January 2012, Somaliland courts had undertaken 16 piracy trials involving 97 suspects using Somalia’s old penal code. A year later, Somaliland passed the Somaliland Piracy Law.

In recognition of Somaliland’s efforts, the UN provided a US$1 million refurbishment grant for its prison. By 2012, the prison was hosting prisoners transferred from Seychelles. Of its 313 prisoners, at least two-thirds were not pirates. 

Somaliland Coast Guard


Somaliland’s initiative to assist the international community’s piracy suppression effort paid off in increased financial assistance for its maritime security capacity. In 2013, Somaliland’s Coast Guard (SCG) received assistance from the European Union’s maritime capacity building project in Somalia, EUCAP NESTOR and a Somali diaspora-led development organisation called Transparency Solutions. By 2017, this support had extended beyond piracy prevention towards activities that directly benefited Somaliland’s economic interests and recognised it as a viable entity. The SCG received UN-backed training and funding to interdict at least 51 illegal fishing vessels, one illegal weapons shipment and a number of human traffickers.


However, to date, Somaliland’s proven capacity to participate in the international community through piracy suppression has not translated into the international sovereign recognition it desires.


Members of Somaliland's Coast Guard meet with European Union anti-piracy personnel in 2015