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Skip Navigation LinksPOGAR > Countries > Country Theme: Local Government: Somalia
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Local Government History

Somalia has lacked a central government since 1991. In the last decade, local institutions have emerged, particularly in the northern regions, to compensate for the lack of a central government. Reports by the Somali Aid Co-ordination Body have stated that local administrative units in the country tend to be responsive and responsible in trying to meet the public’s needs. Still, political institutions in Somalia remain very weak due to the on-going violence, lack of resources, and lack of institutional capacity. The Transitional People’s Assembly (TPA) that was created in the fall of 2000 during peace talks in Arta, Djibouti, stated a commitment to a decentralized government. The Transitional Federal Charter signed by various government officials and faction leaders in September 2003 stipulates in articles 18 and 19 that the government of Somalia will be based on the principle of federalism. The autonomous region of Puntland, previously hostile to the TPA, is a signatory to the federal charter, though its president, Abdullahi Yusuf, has expressed disatisfaction with the method of selection of parliamentary ministers. Further, the regional administration in Somaliland maintains its independence and refuses to recognize the authority of any agreements to the contrary.

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Administrative Divisions

The most developed local governments in Somalia are in the northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland. Somaliland seceded from Somalia in 1991 and declared itself a sovereign nation, but no other nations have recognized it as such.

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Municipal and Local Government Budgets

Over the last decade, the municipal governments in Somaliland have steadily increased their attempts to provide governance to the region. In the last five years, these governments have begun to collect revenues, providing them with fiscal autonomy. Puntland declared itself an autonomous region in 1998 in support of creating a decentralized federal state in Somalia. As this northern region has largely avoided the fighting, local institutions have been able to rebuild and expand over the last decade. Municipalities are administered by an executive mayor and an assistant mayor who reports to an advisory city council. In both Somaliland and Puntland, these institutions have been hampered by a lack of institutional capacity to plan and effectively rebuild the public infrastructure. Stability in these two regions was undermined somewhat in late 2003 when Puntland claimed dominion over the Sanaag and Sool regions of Somaliland, taking the city of Las Anod by force. To further complicate matters, both Sanaag and Sool experienced a serious drought.

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Reform: Fiscal Decentralization

Beginning in 1995, the UN Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS) and the European Union (EU) have financed several local development projects in Somaliland and Puntland to provide technical and institutional assistance on fiscal and urban management.

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Local Elections

The top three parties in the municipal elections of 2002 won this right; they were Egal’s United People’s Democratic Party (UDUB), Kulmiye (Solidarity) and the Justice and Welfare Party (UCID). Three other parties also contested the 2002 municipal elections, held on December 22, 2002. UDUB won 41 percent of the vote; Kulmiye and UCID won 19 and 11 percent respectively. Somaliland has declined to participate in international conferences about Somalia and has signified its intent to ignore any attempts at unification with other parts of Somalia.

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