Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved


Local Government Law


The main law governing Somaliland local government is the Regions & Districts Law (Law No: 23/2002), which has been added to extensively in 2007, but retained the same title and number.  The amended Law now runs to 105 Articles and a schedule.  For the Somali Text of the amended 2007 Regions & Districts Law, please,  click here.

The 2002 Law confirms that the country is divided into six regions, which contain a number of districts each. Districts, in turn, contain villages.   The Regional Councils are not elected, but include the elected Mayors of the districts in each region.  District councils are, however, elected under the procedures laid down in  the Presidential and Local Elections  Law.  Village councils are nominated by the elders and other prominent persons of the villages  and are appointed by the District Councils. 

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 but the first district advisory councils were established in 1951 when  Town councils responsible for the collection of local revenue were introduced.  These were given powers to  administer local services in 1953, but met with some opposition, apparently because of the unpopularity of local taxes.   There were six principal districts which,  even now, form the six regions of Somaliland.  Other than the capital, Hargeisa, each such district council covered the whole district.   Some of the councillors were elected and others were appointed and the executive responsibility of the council was exercised mainly by an appointed full time executive officer, subject to the policies laid down by the Councils and their committees.  Councils levied property taxes (rates) and land rents and fees.

There was also the Local Authorities Ordinance 1950, but that dealt with the role of Akils or  traditional clan leaders who  opposed the system as they saw it as a diminution of their customary role.  The changes were, however, gradual and initially involved the appointment of salaries Akils.  The Ordinance empowered some of the Akils to assist the administration (i.e the District Commissioner) in maintaining law and order, enforcing, when feasible, orders and regulations and, above all, in bringing to justice persons of the Akils’ clans who committed crimes.  The system of Akils still exists and has even thrived in Somaliland during the last 15 years, but it has no legal role in the local or central governmental structures, except in so far as both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and local authorities work with them closely in keeping the peace between the communities, which they have excelled in Somaliland. The Akils have now their own non-statutory forum known as the Sultans’ Council.  (For more information on the relationship between the Sultans/Akils and the local/central government, see the Law on the Structure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Administration of Regions and Districts 1993).

The division of the country into regions and districts started in 1962 (Law No: 14 of 14/06/1962) and Somaliland ended with two regions (out of the eight in the Somali Republic) - Hargeisa and Burao. Each region was headed by a Governor who was appointed by the Minister of Interior.  In 1963 the 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 the current Somaliland Regions and Districts Law is broadly based on this Law.  The first local council election under this Law took place in November 1963.  The democratic structures of the local government came to an end abruptly with military coup in 1969. 

On re-assertion of its independence in 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 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.

the first direct elections of district councils throughout Somaliland (since the mid 1960s) were held in December 2003.  Although these elections took place everywhere, the lack demarcation of boundaries of the smaller Grade D districts meant that no councils were elected for them in this instance and theri mayors are still appointed directly by the Minister of Interior. The next (postponed) elections are now due to be held in 2009.

For a commentary on the recent (March 2008) Presidential Decrees creating new regions & districts , see: Somaliland Local Government Re-organisation through Presidential Decrees in an Election Year”.

    This 2002 English language translation of the 2002 Law is kept here as there is no translation of the Amendments available yet.  In any case a considerable number of the articles in this law remain unchanged and the amended law, though now running to over 100 articles is still numbered Law No: 23 of 2002 (as amended in 2007).  For the Somali version of the Amended Law, follow the link at the top of this page. 



(Click here for the Somali version)

Translated by Ibrahim Hashi Jama LL.B, LL.M



 Having seen:     Articles 109, 111 and 112[1] of the Constitution of the Republic of Somaliland;

 Having seen:     The Bill forwarded by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Somaliland;

 Having noted:    The great importance of the setting up of local councils elected by the public, which would be beneficial to the progress and protection of the public interests;

 Having considered:    The wide need for finalising the Regions and District Law which is essential for the elections of the local councils.



 Article 1: Definitions

 Region:              means the regions set out in this Law and into which the country of the Republic of Somaliland is divided.

District:             means the districts set out in this Law and into which the regions of the Republic of Somaliland are sub-divided.

Regional Boundaries:       mean the demarcating map lines set out in this Law which show the frontiers the regions of country of the Republic of Somaliland share with each other or with the neighbouring countries.

District Borders:             mean the frontiers between the districts of the country, which demarcate the areas which come under the administration of each district.

Local Council:             means the persons elected lawfully by the public for to lead the administration and the law making of the district.

Mayor:               means the member of the local council of the district who has been elected by the council to become its chairman and that of that of the district.

Executive Secretary:          means the official responsible for the management of the administration of the local government or of the regional capital, who is appointed by the Minister of Internal Affairs.

Minister:           means the Minister of Internal Affairs.

Ministry:           means the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Grade:                means the rank assigned, as set out in this Law, to each district after an assessment of its production, economy, total population, land area etc.

 Article 2: The (Administrative) Structure of the Country

 The (administrative) structure of the country shall consist of and be divided into regions, districts and villages.

 Article 3: Criteria for Conferring Regional or District Status

 The criteria for conferring regional or district status shall be based on the following prerequisite conditions:

a)          The size of the area.

b)          The size and density of the population residing in the locality.

c)           The level of production and natural resources in the area.

d)          The extent of self-sufficiency and of arrangements for social provision.

 Article 4: Assessment Criteria

 The details of the assessment criteria for conferring regional and district status mentioned in paragraphs a to d of Article 3 of this Law shall be explained in regulations issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

 Article 5: The Regions and Districts of the Republic of Somaliland[4]

 a)    The Republic of Somaliland shall be divided into the following six regions:

    1. Hargeisa region.

    2. Togdher region.

    3. Sanag region.

    4. Awdal region.

    5. Sool region.

    6. Sahil region.

b)          Each region shall be sub-divided into districts graded A, B, C and D.

c)           The Government shall prepare a special law governing the capital city and shall forward it to Parliament for approval.

d)          The capital town of every region shall be graded A, as follows:

Name of Region



1. Hargeisa



2. Togdher



3. Sanag



4. Awdal



5. Sool



6. Sahil



 Article 6: The Grades of the Districts[5] of the Republic of Somaliland

 1.          The Hargeisa Region                

       Name                      Grade

1.    Hargeisa                 A

2.    Gabiley[6]              A

3.    Baligubadle            C

4.    Salahlay                  C

5.    Faraweyne              D

6.    Sabawanag             D

7.    Cadadlay                 D

8.    Daresalam              D

9.    Allaybaday              D

 2.          The Togdher Region                

       Name                      Grade

1.    Burao                      A

2.    Odweyne                 B

3.    Buhodle                  B

4.    Duruqsi                  D

5.    Sh. Hasan Geele     D

6.    Qoryale                   D

3.          The Sanag Region          

       Name                     Grade

1.    Erigabo                   A

2.    El-Afweyn               B

3.    Badan                     C

4.    Lasqoray                 C

5.    Dhahar                    C

6.    Gar-adag                C

7.    Maydh                    D

8.    Dararweyne           D

9.    Fiqi Fuliye               D

10.  Hees                       D

 4.          The Awdal Region          

       Name                     Grade

1.    Borama                   A

2.    Zayla                       B

3.    Baki                        C

4.    Lughaye                  C

5.    Dilla                        D

 5.          The Sool Region             

       Name                     Grade

1.    Lasanod                  A

2.    Ainabo                    C

3.    Taleh                       C

4.    Hudun                    C

5.    Boane                     D

6.    Yagori                     D

 6.          The Sahil Region[7]          

       Name                   Grade

1.    Berbera                   A

2.    Sheikh                    C

3.    Mandhere               D

4.    Bulhar                    D

5.    Hagal                      D

 Article 7: Regional Boundaries and District Borders

 a)          Without prejudice to the provisions in this Article [8],the areas based on the designated districts during the Somaliland Protectorate shall be the regions.

b)          Notwithstanding the district of Baligubadle which was created during the period of the struggle[9] and the district of Salahlay[10], the boundaries of the six regions of the Republic of Somaliland shall be based on those of the six principal districts during the British Protectorate before 26 June 1960 which were Hargeisa, Burao, Erigavo,  Lasanod, Borama and Berbera.  These areas shall now become the regions which the Republic of Somaliland consists of save for the Sahil[11] region which shall have boundaries based on the areas delineated for this region for the voting on the referendum on the Constitution.

c)           The districts which were formed during the Government of Somalia[12] out of the territories covered by the six (principal] districts set out in Clause (d] of Article 5 of this Law shall retain their previous[13] district borders provided that in the case of the districts confirmed by the Third Conference of the Somaliland Communities[14], their borders shall be based on those used for their relevant polling stations for the Referendum on the Constitution.

d)          The new districts graded D[15] shall not have district councils elected at the local government elections as their borders have not yet been delineated.

e)          With the exception of the residents of Hagal who shall vote in the District of Berbera of the Sahil Region,  all the residents of the new (Grade D) districts shall cast their votes in the first local elections for the local councils of the districts from which the new districts have been gouged out of[16].

f)            The Government shall finalise the details of the borders and other conditions of the new districts and shall forward them to the Houses of Parliament for approval.  

g)          The borders of any new district shall be confined to the area of the region and the borders of the district from which it has been gouged out of as set out in Clauses (a) to (c) of this Article. 



 Article 8: The Assessment and the Changes in the Grading of Districts

 Districts may deserve changes in their grading, which may result in either an upgrading or a downgrading or loss of district status, after an assessment based on Article 112(1) of the Constitution[17] and Articles 3 and 4 of this Law.

 Article 9: Delimitation of Regional Areas and District Borders

 The Ministry of Internal Affairs shall be responsible for the delimitation of regional areas and district borders and shall consult the other Ministries and national public agencies which may be involved in an expert or technical capacity.



 Article 10: Changes in the Structure of the Country

 The Council of Government[18] shall make reasoned proposals for any changes in the number and borders of the Regions and the Districts, which shall be approved by the House of Representatives and the House of Elders as set out in Part 2, Article 109(3) (of the Constitution[19]].

 Article 11: (No title)

 The ability to reach self-sufficiency shall be considered at the regional level[20], as set out in Article 112 of the Constitution.

 Article 12: Regional Councils

 Each region shall have an Executive Committee and a Development Council, which shall consist of the following:

a)          The Executive:

1.    The Chairman[21] of the Region                                Chairman

2.    Deputy Chairman of the Region                                  Member

3.    Executive Secretary of the Region                             Secretary

The Executive Committee of the Region shall be appointed by the central government in accordance with Article 111(5) of the Constitution[22].

The Chairman of the Region and the Deputy shall be appointed[23] by a Presidential Decree and the Executive Secretary shall be appointed by a Ministerial Decree.

b)          The Regional Council[24]:

1.    The Chairman of the Region                                          Chairman

2.    Deputy Chairman of the Region                                    Member

3.    Executive Secretary of the Region                                Secretary

4.    The Mayors of the Districts in the Region                    Members

5.          The heads of government departments

in the Region, who shall act in an advisory capacity

in their areas of expertise, but shall have no vote                                                                                              Members

 Article 13: Functions of the Regional Councils[25]

 1.          To reach decisions about the political, economic, administrative, security and development matters which concern the region.

2.          To review the budgets of the Districts in the region.

3.          To strengthen the peace and protect security.

4.          To review[26] the administrative and political resolutions of the Districts in the region.

5.          To mediate[27] in any disputes between the Districts or between the communities of the Region.

6.          To form sub-committees which the Council can delegate specific duties.

 Article 14:  The Responsibilities and Duties of the Regional Chairman

 The Chairman of the Region acts as the link between the Central Government and the Districts of the region and comes under the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  His responsibilities and duties are as follows:

1.          To promote and transmit to the Region and its Districts the policies of the central government which relate to the economy, society, security and administration.

2.          To lead the departments representing the region and the central government agencies and to oversee their work plans and performance.

3.          To implement and enforce the laws of the nation.

4.          To act as an intermediary between the districts and to appoint a Mediation Committee at the regional level.

5.          To co-ordinate and prepare the regional reports.

6.          To link the central government and administration of the region and the districts.

7.          To propose the appointment and dismissal of those responsible for the government departments at the regional and district level.

8.           To report on the (performance of the) heads of the (Government) Ministries and national public agencies at regional and district level.

9.          To chair the meetings of the Regional Council(s).

10.     (To oversee) the security of the region (and to undertake) inspections of the region.

 Article 15:  The Functions of the Deputy Chairman

 Each region shall have a Deputy Chairman appointed by the Government.  The Deputy Chairman shall undertake the functions of the Chairman, in the latter’s absence, and shall fulfil any other duties assigned to him by the Chairman.

 Article 16: The Functions and Duties of the Executive Secretary

 1.          To look after the management and finances, and to oversee and inspect the work of the employees of the regional headquarters and that of the regional public agencies (be they independent or not[28]).

2.          To undertake and manage any work assigned to him by the Chairman.

3.          To prepare the regional reports.

4.          To undertake follow-up work relating to the regional reports.

 Article 17:  The Functions and Duties of the Mayor

 1.          To chair the meetings of the local district council.

2.          To execute and implement the work plans of the district.

3.          To implement the resolutions of the district council.

4.          To co-ordinate the various activities in the locality.

5.          To prepare and to forward the reports relating to the district.

6.          To enforce and implement the national, regional and district legislation.

7.          To propose the budget of the district.

8.          To propose the bylaws and submit them to the council.

9.          To sign the agreements to which the local government is a party.

10.     To approve and sign payments of expenditure (cheques[29]).

Article 18:  Functions of the Deputy Chairman[30] of the District

 Every district shall have a Deputy Chairman who shall undertake the functions of the Mayor, in the latter’s absence, and shall fulfil any other duties assigned to him by the Mayor.

 Article 19:  Functions and Duties of the Executive Secretary of the District

 1.          To co-ordinate the work of the various departments and to pass on the governmental directives.

2.           To ensure that the resolutions of the Council and the orders of the Mayor of the District are implemented.

3.          To keep abreast of and to check on the work of the departments, and to ensure delivery of service.

4.          To gather and authenticate the reports of the departments of the district.

5.          To check on and encourage (the fulfilment of) the work plans of the departments.

6.          To encourage joint decision making amongst the heads of the departments.

7.          To lead the departments of the local government of the District.

8.          To report on the employees, their promotion and proposals relating to their dismissal.

9.          To prepare and implement the budget.

10.     To follow the laws and regulations relating to financial management.

11.     To prepare the final (annual) accounts and the financial report.

12.     To confirm and inspect the sites where taxes and revenues are collected.

13.     To check, secure and safeguard the assets of the local government.

14.     To confirm and sign vouchers and cheques for payment of expenditure and to enter signatures in the invoices for payment of ordinary expenditure relating to the activities of the administration.

 Article 20:  Duties of the Local District Council

 1.          Care of the general welfare, specially the cleansing of towns and the prevention of infectious diseases.

2.          Setting up markets for the sale of goods and livestock.

3.          Inspection of new buildings, and those that are being renovated or require demolition.

4.          Combating the problems posed by famine, storms, serious fires and any other matters which cause harm to the public.

5.          Evacuation of the public in the event of a disaster.

6.          Preparation and execution of programmes and projects aimed at advancing the public’s health, economy or social affairs.

7.          Raising the level of work and production; the creation of (new) sources of economic activity, and the care of the public assets.

8.          Construction and management of primary schools, including Koranic schools.

9.          Construction and management of centres for the care of the mother and the child. 

10.     Construction and management of schools for the care of children and for promotion of the family.

11.     Construction and Building and improving the lighting of the towns in the district.

12.     Promotion of the arts, sport and culture.

13.     Construction of water reservoirs in towns and villages.

14.     Establishment and maintenance of roads within the towns of the district.

15.     Improvement of the town and villages and dealing with planning permission in the settlements of the district.

16.     Registration of the population of the district and maintenance of the registers for births, deaths, marriages etc.

17.     Registration of the immovable property of the public residing in the district.

18.     Improvement and care of roads inside the towns of the district.

19.     Establishment and improvement of commercial and manufacturing centres for use by the public.

20.     Management and oversight of rural development measures.

21.     Management of self help projects.

22.     Improvement of burial activities.

23.     Protection of the environment.

24.     Encouragement of Islamic, national and international affairs[31]

 Article 21: Structure of the Management of the District Council

 1.          District Executive Committee.

2.          District Council.

3.          Sub-committees and village councils which come under the District Council.

 Article 22: Activities of the District Council

 1.          To reach decisions which show its performance of the duties and responsibilities imposed upon it in respect of all the activities for which the District Council was set up.

2.          To implement within the region the activities imposed upon it under this Law.

3.           To take steps in raising and developing the economy of the district.

4.          To follow the directions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the general national policies.

5.          To work fully with the central government agencies at both regional and district level.

6.          To implement the laws, regulations and resolutions issued by the national Councils[32].

 Article 23: District Council Regulations

 The District Council shall, at its first meeting, make its own special regulations relating to its sessions, conduct and behaviour, the functions of the sub-committees and its various other responsibilities.

 Article 24: Powers of the District Council

 To fulfil the aims and activities set out in Article 17 of this Law, the District Council shall have the power to:

1.          Pay any necessary expenditure arising out of the activities relating to the administration of the district.

2.          Issue resolutions, which are compatible with this Law and the other laws of the land, in relation to the maintenance of the peace and the advancement of the district.

3.          Ensure the collection of taxes and duties and any other lawful matters, which this Law or other laws give the power to do so to the district administration.

4.          Propose, in accordance with the law, the appropriation of privately owned vacant land for public interest reasons.

5.          Undertake inspections and audits into the performance of the activities of the administration of the district.

6.          Enter, as a party[33], into agreements relating to the activities of the local government.

 Article 25: District Councils

The total number of members of the district councils of the local government shall be based on their grading as follows[34]:

1.    The Capital City, Hargeisa                                      25 members

2.    Grade A Districts                                                    21 members

3.    Grade B Districts                                                    17 members

4.    Grade C Districts                                                    13 members

5.    Grade D Districts                                                      9 members

 Article 26: Conditions for Candidacy for Membership of District Councils[35]

 1.          He must be a patrial citizen ofSomaliland.

2.          He must be actually resident in the district where he is standing for election.

3.          He must be a muslim and must behave in accordance with Islamic religion.

4.          He must not be aged less than 35 years during the year the election is taking place.

5.          He must be suitable for this office on the basis of his standing within the community.

6.          He must be educated to secondary school level if he standing for elections in districts graded A or B[36], or, at a minimum, to intermediate school level or equivalent if he is standing for election in districts graded C or D.

7.          He must not have been subject of a final sentence for a criminal offence proven in a court within the preceding ten years[37].

8.          He must be a local district taxpayer or have participated in a voluntary capacity in activities which are of public interest in the district.

 Article 27:  Election of District Councils

 1.          Members of the District Councils shall be elected from amongst nationals who fulfil the conditions set out in Article 26 of this Law.

2.          District Councils shall be formed through competitive elections contested by multiple parties.

 Article 28: Term of office of the District Councils

 The term of office of the local district councils shall be five (5) years beginning from the date the outcome of the elections have been publicly announced[38].

 Article 29: The Sessions of the Local District Councils

 The sessions of the local district councils shall be conducted in an orderly fashion and shall be as follows:

1.          The meetings of the district councils shall be held once every month.

2.           The sub-committees of the district councils shall meet once every week.

3.          Extra-ordinary meetings may be called by the Mayor of the District Council who is the chairman of the Council, or by, at least, one third of the members of the Council.

4.          Meetings of the Council shall be quorate when more than half of the members are present.  Resolutions can be carried on a simple majority vote (of those present).

5.          Voting at the Councils may be conducted by show of hands or by secret ballot.

6.          When the Council is not in session, and it is not possible to call a meeting, the Executive Committee of the District may make provisional decisions to deal with circumstances that require urgent action. Such decisions shall be submitted to the first subsequent meeting of the Council for ratification.

7.          The records and resolutions of the Council shall be kept by the Executive Secretary of the District.

 Article 30: The Minutes of Meetings and Registration of Decisions

 1.          All the meetings of the Councils shall be minuted and resolutions  signed.

2.          Resolutions shall be registered and kept in a secure place.

3.          The minutes of the meetings shall be recorded by the Secretary of the Council, who is the Executive Secretary of the District. The Secretary has the right to express his opinions at the meetings of the Council, but has no right to vote.

 Article 31: Expenses for District Council Meetings

 1.          The service of the members of the district council is voluntary and no salaries are payable for it.

2.          Whilst the activities of the Council are in progress, members of the Council shall be eligible for an allowance which shall be set out in regulations issued by the District Council.  The Council shall, however, take note of the economy and resources of the District.

3.          The allowance mentioned in Clause 2 of this article shall be paid from the budget of the District.

4.          The Mayor of the District and his Deputy shall be paid a responsibility allowance which shall be set by the Council.

 Article 32:  Sub-committees

 1.          The local District Council shall have the following sub-committees:

    a)          Economic and Financial Sub-committee responsible for economic development, implementation of projects, co-ordination and encouragement of self-help schemes, production, care and development of livestock, and oversight of the financial management and budget of the District.

    b)          Peace and Conciliation Sub-committee responsible for the resolution of disputes arising within the District and for the maintenance of the public order.

    c)           Social Affairs Sub-committee responsible for health, water, cleansing, education, sport, arts and literature.

    d)          Land Sub-committee responsible for the use of land for all purposes.

2.          The total Membership of each sub-committee shall not be less than three, nor shall it exceed five members.

3.          The chairmen of the sub-committees shall be elected by the Council from amongst the members of the sub-committees.

 Article 33: Village Council

 1.          Village Councils shall be appointed by the local District Council and their membership shall not exceed seven in each village.

2.          The members of the Village Councils shall be nominated by the elders and other prominent persons of the village and their appointment shall be approved by the District Council.  The criteria for their selection shall be set out in regulations[39]

 Article 34: Privileges of the Members of the Local Councils

 The privileges of the members of the local government district councils shall be the same as those accorded to the members of the Houses of Parliament as set out in Article 49[40] of the Constitution.

 Article 35: Prohibition Relating to Council Members

 A member of the District Council shall not hold any other public office whilst serving in the capacity he was elected for.  He shall not also use his public office for his gain, or for his private interest.

 Article 36: Loss of Membership of the Local Council

 Membership may lost in the same way as that relating to the Houses of Parliament in accordance with Article 50[41] of the Constitution.

 Article 37:  The Filling of Vacancies in the Local Councils

 1.          If a vacancy in a District Council arises, it shall be filled in the same way that the departing incumbent has been chosen[42] for membership of the District Council.

2.          Any vacancy in the District Council shall be filled by the party to which the departing incumbent belonged, and the top candidate on the relevant party list[43] shall fill the vacancy.

 Article 38: The Dissolution of the District Council[44]

 1.          When the District Council fails, without reason, to meet during two consecutive ordinary sessions and this has not been brought about by circumstances beyond its control

2.          When one third of the members of the Council propose its dissolution and two thirds of its total membership approve the resolution.

3.          The Regional Court shall issue a ruling about the circumstances mentioned in Clauses 1 and 2 of this Article and the ruling shall be forwarded to the Chairman of the Region, who shall, in turn, forward it to Ministry of Internal Affairs.

4.          On receiving and confirming the ruling of the Regional Court from the Ministry of Internal affairs, the President shall declare the date when the elections can be held[45].

5.          The President shall then formally declare the dissolution of District or Regional Council[46].

6.          The period for holding the election of the local council shall be based that set out in the Elections Law[47].

 Article 39: Dismissal of the Regional Chairman

 The President of the Republic of Somaliland may dismiss the Chairman of the Regional Council when he sees, and it becomes clear, that the responsibilities for which the Chairman was appointed are not been carried out, and, at the same time, evidence of lack of competence can be seen. 

 Article 40: Dismissal of Chairman (Mayor) of District

 The Chairman (Mayor) of the local council may be dismissed by the local council when it is proposed by one third of the members of the Council and is approved by more than half of the total membership of the Council (absolute majority).  A special date shall be set for the proposal for dismissal of the Chairman and proposers shall be checked carefully.

 Article 41: District Councils Oath of Office and Election of the Mayor and his Deputy

 1.          The first meeting of the Council shall take place within a period of 30 days beginning from the date the results of the election are formally announced[48].   The meeting shall be convened by the Chairman of the (relevant) Region.

2.          If the Chairman of the Region does fails to convene the meeting, the Council shall meet, on its own accord, on the 45th day following the date of the formal announcement of the results of the election.

3.          The first meeting of the Council shall be opened by the Chairman of the Region, and the Constitutional oath of office[49] shall be administered to each member by the Chairman of the Regional Court.

4.          After the oath of office of the District Council is administered, the oldest member of the Council shall act as a temporary chairman so that a Chairman (Mayor) and a Deputy Chairman can be elected by show of hand or by secret ballot.  The election of the Chairman of the District shall be carried by an absolute majority[50] (more than half of the members of the Council).


 Article 42: The Structure of the Local Government

 1.          Local Government shall have a structure consisting of departments, and each department shall have sections and branches. The structure shall be based on the grading (A, B, C & D) of each District and the level of its finances.

2.          The formulation and approval of the structure of the administration of the local government of the Republic of Somaliland shall be the responsibility of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which shall set them out in regulations.

 Article 43: Appointment of Executive Secretaries of the Regions and the Districts

 1.          The Executive Secretaries[51] of the Regions and the Districts and the staff at the headquarters of the regions are all employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the central government.   The responsibility for their recruitment, transfer, promotion and dismissal lies with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and shall be undertaken in accordance with the Civil Service Law.

2.          The salaries of the Ministry’s employees relating to the Executive Secretary and the staff of the Region shall be included in the budget of the headquarters of the Regions, and those relating to the Executive Secretary of the District shall be included in the budget of the relevant District.

 Article 44: Balancing the levels of Work and Staffing

 1.          The task of balancing the levels of required work and the planning and allocation of staffing for the departments of the local government shall be the responsibility of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which shall give due regard to the level of finances and the grading of each District. 

2.          The balancing of the levels of work and allocation of staffing shall be based on an examination consisting of written, skills and language tests, which shall be taken by all the local government.

3.          The examination to be taken by local government staff shall be similar to that taken by central government staff, and shall be divided into the following grades:

  •        Grade A- for holders of university degrees or higher diplomas, whose examination shall consist of an interview.
  •        Grade B- for holders of Secondary School certificates or equivalent, whose examination shall be in writing.
  •        Grade C – for holders of IntermediateSchool certificates or equivalent, whose examination shall be in writing.

       Grade D – for junior staff who shall be assessed, without an examination, on the basis of their patriotism, experience, health, age etc.

 Article 45: Distinction Between Local and Central Government Taxes

 1.          The distinction between local government and central government taxes is set out on Law No:12 of 2 April 2000[52].

2.          Local government is free to and has the right to collect directly, set tariffs or lower its special taxes which shall be set out in bylaws issued by the local councils, provided that the bylaws do not conflict with the laws and regulations of the nation.  The special taxes of the local government are as follows:

  •        Commercial licences tax.
  •        Livestock sales tax.
  •        Signs tax.
  •        Entertainment tax.
  •        Agricultural tax.
  •        Buildings value tax.
  •        Land value tax.
  •        Temporary structures tax.
  •        Street markets tax.
  •        Transfer tax.
  •        Abattoir and butchers tax.
  •        Water reservoirs tax.
  •        Registration tax.
  •        People registration tax.
  •        Goods and Qat tax (10%).
  •        Production tax.
  •        Electricity use tax.

 Article 46: The Approval of Local Government Bylaws

 The bylaws of local government councils of whatever nature shall be forwarded to the Chairman of the Region, who shall, in turn, pass them on the Minister of Internal Affairs and the latter shall issue them as Ministerial Decree. 

 Article 47: The Budget

 1.          The planned budget of the administration of the District is the cornerstone of its finances, and the District (Council) is free to set its budget. 

2.          The local legislative[53] councils have the power to prepare and approve the budget for the forthcoming year, which shall be done in the budget format form set by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

 Article 48: Local Government Accounts

 1.          The accounting procedures of the local government relating to revenues and expenditure shall conform to the national financial rules and laws.

2.          The accounts of the local government be they monthly, quarterly or annually, shall be forwarded to the Ministry of Internal Affairs whose responsibility is to check and ensure that the budgetary and accounting rules have been followed. A copy of the accounts shall also be forwarded to the Auditor-General[54] of the nation.

 Article 49: Accounting Responsibilities

 Save for the expenditure approved by law, any other expenditure incurred by or payments ordered by or made by an officeholder or a Council, which do not accord with the law, shall be re-paid and shall remain the responsibility of the authorising person/council in accordance with the rules relating to the safeguarding of the public assets. 

 Article 50:  Inspections and Audits

 The Ministry of Internal Affairs has the power to inspect the activities of the local councils and, in the same way, the Auditor-General shall be responsible for the audit of their management and finances.



 Article 51: Signature of Agreements

The agreements to which the Region or the District is a party shall be signed by the Chairman of the Region or the Mayor of the District in the presence of the respective Executive Secretary who is responsible for the care and registration of the agreement in accordance with the laws of the nation.

 Article 52: Tenders

 Tenders relating to the financing of projects, purchase of transport, office and household equipment, new buildings and any other tenders relating to goods shall be submitted through the district, regional and national Tender Board.



 Article 53: The Powers of the Central Government

 The powers of the Central Government of the Region:

     1.          Leading the general policy of the Region.

    2.          Securing the general peace of the Regions of the Republic of Somaliland.

    3.          Inspecting and being aware of the conditions existing n the Regions.

    4.          Delimiting the borders of the Regions and the Districts and securing them.

    5.          Census of the population, livestock, etc.

    6.          Preventing and relief, as far as practicable, of droughts, disasters etc.

    7.          Finalising the planning and implementation of development projects, which are funded by the central government or by foreign agencies.

    8.          Connecting the districts of the Region.

 Article 54: Regulations

 The Ministry of Internal Affairs shall issue regulations detailing the implementation of this Law.

 Article 55:  Implementation

 This Law shall come into force on its signature[55] by the President of the Republic of Somaliland and its publication in the national official journal.



 Mohamad Hussain Osman


   Ahmed Mohamad Adan


[1]  The relevant Constitutional provisions are in Chapter Five, Part Two of the Constitution which are as follows:

    Article 109: The Structure of the Country

    1.   The territory of the Republic of Somaliland shall consist of regions, and each region shall be divided into districts.

    2.   The structure of the regions and the districts, their boundaries and hierarchy shall be determined by law.

    3.   Changes in the number of regions and districts and their boundaries and the reasons for the changes shall be proposed by the Council of Government (Cabinet) and approved by the House of Representatives and the House of Elders.

    Article 110: The Administration of the Regions and the Districts

    1.   The administration of the regions and the districts is part of the administration of the Government of the Republic of Somaliland.

    2.   The relationship of the central government and the regions and districts shall be set out in a special law.

    Article 111: The Regional and District Councils

    1.   The regions and the districts of the country shall have legislative councils, whose powers are limited to passing by-laws which do not conflict with the laws of the country, and executive councils.

    2.   The total membership of each regional or district council, the conditions of membership and their election procedures shall be determined by law.

    3.   The Chairman of the district, shall, in consultation with the prominent members of village communities, propose village administration committees whose appointments shall be subject to the approval of the legislative council of the district.

    4.   The regional and district councilsshall have power to plan their economic and social affairs.

    5.   The Chairman of the region shall be appointed by the Government and shall act as the representative of the central government in the region and the districts that come under it.

    6.   The Chairman of the region is the link between the central government and the districts of the region and shall come under the Ministry of Interior.

    7.   The term of office of the regional and district councils shall be 5 (five ) years.

    8.  a)  A regional or district council may be dissolved before the end of its term of          office.

    b)  The conditions which could lead to such dissolution and the procedures for dissolution shall be determined by law.

    9.   The secretary of the region or the district and the heads of the branches or sections of the Ministries shall continue to fulfil the council’s responsibilities in line with the existing laws (and by-laws) until the election of a new council.

    10. The regional and district councils shall have their own proper regulations, and shall be assisted in this task by the Ministry of Interior.

    Article 112:  The De-centralisation of Administrative Powers

    1.   The administration of community services, such health, education up to elementary/intermediate school level, livestock husbandry, internal security, water, electricity, communication etc. shall be the responsibility of the regions and districts in so far as they are able to do so.

    2.   The demarcation of the administrative and tax levying powers between the central government and the regions/districts shall be determined by the law setting out the relationship between the central government and the regions/districts.

    The demarcation referred to in Clause 2 of this Article must be such as to make it possible for the regions and districts to become self-sufficient in their provision of community services.”

[2]  The main Law in this area so far was the Law on the Structure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Administration of the Regions and Districts 1993, which, I shall refer to, in these footnotes, as the 1993 Law.

[3]  The words “Part One” do not appear in the Law, but in the light of the partition of this Law into Parts (Part Two commencing from Article 8), it is logical to assume that the first 7 Articles constitute Part One. 

[4]  To make it easier for non-Somali speakers, I have slightly “anglicised” the names of some of the regions and districts by substituting those Somali letters (such as C, double vowels etc) which have no corresponding English letters with their nearest comparable English letters.

[5]  This Article confirms that other than the original 6 Somaliland principal districts, there will now be 35 other districts, making a total of 41 districts.  Under Article 6 of the 1993 Law on the Structure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Administration of the Regions and Districts, other the 6 “principal” districts which were graded A, there were 6 districts graded B (Gabilay, Zeila, Odweine, Buhodle, El-Afweyn, and  Badhan) and 7 districts graded C (Baki, Lughaye, Sheikh, Ainabo, Hudun , Taleh and Baligubadle, the latter being the new district formed since Somalia regime). The total number of  districts were then 19.  Article 3 of the 1993 Law laid that changes could be made to the number, grades and areas of the districts and regions could be under a Presidential Decree, subject to the approval of the House of Representatives.  All the additional 22 districts set out in this Article were set up under Presidential Decree during the last few years, but, with the exception of Salahlay,  it has been alleged that none of them has been approved by the House of Representatives. This much awaited Law, therefore, regularises the  position of all the districts, and also sets up the procedures for  the assessment of and formation of new districts.

[6]  Besides the former six “principal” districts which also serve as the seats of their Regions, Gabiley is the only other district which is graded A.

[7]  Berbera was, of course, one of the six “principal” Somaliland Protectorate Districts, but the Sahil Region, as such, was formed by Presidential Decree and, in December 1989, another Decree (Decree No: 128/1998) moved Sheikh District from Togdher Region to Sahil Region and created two new districts Mandhere and Bulahar in the Sahel Region.

[8]  This Clause is not drafted clearly.

[9]  That is during the liberation struggle which preceded the reassertion of the sovereignty of Somaliland in May 1991.

[10]  The conferment of district status on Salahlay was apparently approved by the House of Representatives in line with Article 3(2) of the 1993  Law.

[11]  The referendum poll in the Sahel region was based on the district boundaries of Berbera, Sheikh, Mandhera and Bulhar (see also note 5 above).

[12]  During this period, a total of 12 districts were gauged out of the territories of the main six principal Somaliland Protectorate districts, making the total number of districts 18.  The 12  new districts were Gabilay, Zeila, Odweine, Buhodle, El-Afweyn, Badhan, Baki, Lughaye, Sheikh, Ainabo, Hudun and Taleh.

[13]  That is presumably the borders they were given on their formation.

[14]  This conference took place in Hargeisa at the end of 1996 and the beginning of 1997 and approved the Constitution of the Republic of Somaliland.  This part of the Clause is not drafted clearly, but it appears that Baligubadle and Salahlay will fall within this category.

[15]  These number 18. There were no Grade D districts in the in the 1993 Law.

[16]  The purpose of this provision is to ensure that on the first nation-wide local elections to be held on 15 December 2002, all Somalilanders, wherever they live (regardless of the grade designation of their district) cast their votes.  The three parties, which gain the highest number of votes in these local elections, will contest the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.

[17]  The text of the Law refers here to Article 12(1), but, it is submitted that this is a typing error, and that the reference is to Article 112(1) which refers to the responsibilities if the district for the “administration of community services, such health, education up to elementary/intermediate school level, livestock husbandry, internal security, water, electricity, communication etc”.  This should be read with Article 3 of this Law  which sets out the criteria for conferment of district status, including the extent of self-sufficiency and arrangements for social provision.  It is also set out in Article 4 of this Law that regulations relating to the assessment criteria will be issued by the Minister.

[18]  This is, in effect, the Government, which, under Article 81 of the Constitution, consists of the President, the Vice-President and the Council of Ministers.

[19]  See footnote 1 above for the text of Article 109(3).

[20]  This clause is, by no means clear.  I have chosen to translate “ismaamul” as self –sufficiency, rather than self-administration, or self-government.  Article 112 (see footnote 1, above) of the Constitution is headed “decentralisation of administrative powers” and is aimed at putting into practice the concept of decentralisation of power, which is enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution.  Therefore this clause, in my view, is aimed at confirming that in assessing how far the community and social services to be provided by the local authorities as set out in Article 112, the unit of administration will be the region, rather than the district as many of the latter will not be be able to put in place all these services.  Any other interpretation of this clause, which gives more power to the unelected regional authorities, rather than the lower democratically elected district authorities, shall not be consistent with the constitutional provisions.  

[21]  Usually known as the Regional Governor, or the Hindi based Somaliland word  “Badhasaab”. 

[22]  Article 111(5) of the Constitution refers only to the appointment of the Chairman (see footnote 1 above), but this Law now re-confirms the Government’s power to appoint the other officers, which was previously set out in Article 15 of 1993 Law.  The main change is that under the 1993 Law, the Executive Committee included mayors of the districts, who were, of course, appointed by the government then, and the regional heads of the government departments.

[23]  See Article 39 for dismissal of the Chairman.

[24]  In the 1993 Law, the Regional Council was called the Legislative Council.

[25]  These functions are practically the same as those set out in Article 16 of the 1993 Law, but a clause giving the Council power to standardise the local taxes of the districts has been removed, primarily, because a separate Law covers local taxes.

[26]  The  power of a regional or a central authority to review the budgets of district authorities is not unusual, specially when funds may be coming from the centre or the region, but this power of the unelected regional authority to review the resolutions of the district appears to be wide and may well be contrary to the principles of decentralisation.  Nonetheless, as currently stated, a review does not imply an automatic veto, and it is hoped that the ministerial regulations will re-emphasise the importance of upholding resolutions or decision by the elected district authorities which are not beyond their powers or “ultra-vires” .  It should be noted, however, that the elected Mayors are members of the Council and, in most regions, will number the same or more of the nominated voting three members of the council.

[27]  This is a statutory re-assertion of the importance of the role of local authorities in undertaking the Somaliland traditional dispute resolution.  

[28]  This phrase appears in brackets in the Law.

[29]  The word “cheques” appears in brackets, and is not inserted to aid the translation.

[30]  This is, in effect, the Deputy Mayor, but is referred to, here, as the Deputy Chairman.

[31]  This wide and rather ambiguous function is new and was not included in the 1993 Law.

[32]  These are set out in the Constitution as the two Houses of Parliament and the Council of Government (i.e the President and the Council of Ministers)- see Articles 38, 81 and 94 of the Constitution. 

[33]  This gives the district council corporate powers to enter into agreements, in its own name, so long as the agreements relate to its local government activities.

[34]  This was set out in Article 4 of the Presidential and Local Council Elections Law (Law No: 20/2001).

[35]  These were also set out in Article 33 of the Presidential and Local Council Elections Law (Law No: 20/2001), but, it appears that clauses 6 and 7 have been switched in this Law.

[36]  See Article 4 above for various district grades.  The classification of the districts in accordance with these grades shall be set out in the local government legislation. Surprisingly, as the district council of the capital is set out separately from the other districts which are graded A to D (according to, it seems, their  importance and urban size), this clause leaves out the educational qualifications requirements of the candidates standing for election in the capital. The logic of the grading, though, suggests that the minimum required of candidates in the capital ought to be education at secondary level. It cannot be any higher as that is also the minimum required for parliamentary candidacy.

[37]  This period is twice that applying to candidates for both Houses of Parliament  - Article 41 and 59 of the Constitution.

[38]  Under Article 59(8) and Article 61 of the Presidential and Local Elections Law 2001, the outcome of the elections of each district shall be declared by the Chairman of the District Electoral Office after all the results are tallied and shall be publicly displayed.  These shall then be confirmed by the Regional Court.  However, on the first nation-wide local elections held on 15 December 2002, the final results were issued by the National Electoral Commission on 22 December 2002 and it appears that this will be the relevant date, for the purposes of this Article and also for the purposes of Article 41(1) of this Law.

[39]  Presumably, to be issued by the Minister.

[40] Articles 49 and, by extension, Article 66, set out the privileges of both House of Parliament as follows:

    “1. No member of the House may be detained, and no action may be taken against him for any matter which he learnt or raised at the House or on which he expressed his opinion.

    2. Clause 1 does not extend to insults or slander committed by a member.

    3.   No member of the House shall be investigated, questioned, arrested, imprisoned or otherwise subjected to any other acts relating to punishment without the consent of the House of Representatives.

    4.   Action may be taken against the member if he is caught in flagrante delicto, in which case, the House shall be informed promptly.

    5.   The House shall consider whether the action taken against the member is proper.

    6.   If the House is not in session, consent for the action taken against the member must be sought from the Standing Committee of the House of Representatives, and the House shall be informed at the following session.

    7.   Civil suits against a member of the House may be instituted, and no consent is required.”

[41]  Article 50 and the similarly worded Article 68 of the Constitution set out the loss of membership of the Houses of Parliament.  The Articles state as follows:

“ Article 50: The membership of the House of Representatives shall be lost on:

1.   the death of the member or incapacity which makes it impossible for him to fulfil his duties;

2.   the voluntary resignation by the member, which has been accepted by the House;

3.   one of the pre-requisite conditions of his election being broken; or on the member’s failure to fulfil his duties;

4.   the passing of a final sentence for a crime which has been proven in a court;

5.   the absence, without a valid excuse, from 20 (twenty) consecutive sittings.

Article 68: A person may lose his membership of the House of Elders:

1.       If one of the conditions under which he was selected is no longer valid, or he can not fulfil his duties in accordance with the Rules of the House of Elders;

2.       if a member received a final sentence for a crime which has been proved in a court;

3.      if the House accepts his resignation.”

[42]  The local elections system is set out in article 22 of the Presidential and Local Elections Law (Law No: 20/2001):

“1. The local elections shall be based on a “proportional representative system” where the seats are allocated on the basis of the proportion of votes cast in the region or district for each association/party….

2. In local elections, each association/party shall submit a list of the candidates standing for election.  The number of candidates in each list must not be less than twice the number of seats to be filled at each district.

3. The number of seats won by each list containing the candidates contesting the local council elections shall be allocated on the basis of “proportional representative list system”.

Any vacant seat shall, therefore, be filled by the next name in the same party as the departing incumbent.  Of course, after the first nation-wide local elections which were held on 15 December 2002, any successful councillors who belong to the parties that did not succeed, in the elections, as one of the three national parties accepted under the Article 9 of the Constitution must join one of the three successful parties.  If a vacancy relates to the councillors of the losing parties, it will, therefore, be filled in accordance with the list of one of the three successful parties that the departing incumbent has joined.  As stated above, under Article 34 of the Presidential and Local Elections Law (Law No: 20/2001), all councillors belonging to the unsuccessful parties must join the three successful parties.

[43] For the relevant party list, the preceding footnote.

[44]  Article 111(8) of the Constitution sets out the circumstances and procedures for dissolution of local councils shall be determined by law. This Article now sets out the circumstances when a District Council may be dissolved.

[45]   This Clause needs to be read with the following Clause 6 of this Article which links the timing and periods of the elections to the Presidential and Local Councils Elections Law (the Elections Law).  Article 8 of  the Elections Law gives the independent National Elections Commission the power to declare the dates when elections can be held, and their declarations shall be published as Presidential Decrees.  It is submitted, therefore, that before declaring the date of the “by-elections”,  the President will be informed by the Elections Commission about the appropriate date.  Whilst this Article is unlikely to be invoked, in practice, it is important that the Elections Commission exercise the responsibility for setting the date of the elections. This Article also fails to set out the interim arrangements for the administration of the District during the interregnum.  It appears to have been assumed that these circumstances will only arise during the formation of new elected councils, when presumably, the status quo of central government control will prevail, but however unlikely this eventuality is in the future, some formal provision for carrying on the administration of the District needs to be made.  

[46]  The reference to Regional Council in this Clause appears to be superfluous.  The title of this Article clearly relates to District Councils.  For details of the composition of the Regional Councils, see Article 12 of this Law. 

[47] This refers to the Presidential and Local Councils Elections Law.

[48]  See note 38, above, relating to Article 28 of this Law.  The results of the first nation-wide local district elections were announce on 22 December 2002.

[49]  The oath in Article 129 of the Constitution is as follows: “I swear by Allah that I shall be true to the Islamic religion and my Somaliland country, and shall manage my people in equity and justice so long as I hold office.”

[50]  The English phrase “absolute majority” is used in the Somali text in this Clause.

[51]  The Executive Secretaries are, in effect, the chief officers of each local authority, and this clause, among others, gives central government an extremely tight control of the local authorities.

[52]  Local Taxes (Uniform Tariffs) Law, Law No: 12 of 2000, passed by the House of Representatives on 27 March 2000.

[53]  It is not clear why the word legislative is used in this clause.  The 1993 Law (Article 20) set out a structure whereby the district council was divided into a legislative council consisting of all the members and an executive council, which consisted of the Mayor, his deputy and the Chairs of the sub-committees.  The legislative council was, therefore, synonymous with the whole council, and as the old divisions no longer exists, it is submitted that this word is redundant. 

[54]  The office Auditor-General is one of the main offices of state set up under Article 113 of the Constitution.

[55]  This Law was passed by the House of Representatives (Resolution GW/KF-17/216/2002 of 24/06/02) on 24th June 2002 (on a vote of 39 for , 2 against and 7 abstaining, and with nine clauses being passed by a simple majority on a clause by clause basis), and by the House of Elders on 10th July 2002 (Resolution GG/JSL/KAL/FADHI17/Go’aan – 3/07/2002 of 10/07/02). It was  signed by the President on 29th July 2002, and came into force on that date.

End Note: I have translated the almost interchangeable words “degaanka” and “Degmeda” as “local” and “district” respectively throughout the Law.

[Home] [Introduction to  Somaliland Law] [Somaliland Legal News] [Articles &  Commentaries] [Somaliland  Constitution] [Constitutional  Developments] [Somaliland &  International Law] [Administrative Law] [Somaliland Citizenship Law] [Civil Law] [Civil Procedure  Law] [Commercial Law] [Somaliland Customary Law] [Somaliland Company  Law] [Criminal Law] [Criminal Procedure  Law] [Environmental Laws] [Electoral Laws] [Foreign Investment  Law] [Family &  Personal Law] [Somaliland  Government] [Health Law] [Insurance Law] [Somaliland Judicial  System] [Labour &  Employment Law] [Land & Planning  Law] [Hargeisa Law  Faculty] [Somaliland Legal  Profession] [Somaliland Lawyers' Association SOLLA] [Local Government  Law] [Local Government Cont'd] [Maritime Law] [Military Law] [Somaliland  Mining Laws] [Press &  Media  Law] [Somaliland Public  Finance Law] [Somaliland  Parliament] [Somaliland Security  Committees] [Sharia   A Source of Law] [SHURO Net Human Rights Network] [Transport &  Traffic  Law] [Miscellaneous Laws]