Somaliland is referred to invariably by the ancient travelers as Berber Land, Punt Land, Coast of Spices and Land of Aroma. Coastal towns in the region such as Zeila and Berbera were in existence as early as the 1st century AD.

A document which dates back to that time, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea – written by a Greek merchant, gives an account of the commercial activities involved with the people in the coastal ports who traded with the Egyptians, Chinese, Persians, Indians and Arabs. Among the products described in the Periplus document and traded by the local traders from Somaliland included – spices, Myrrh, ivory, frankincense, gum and cinnamon. By the second century Arab trading relations were quite well established along the Somaliland coastal regions.


Like other parts of the region, the interest of the Europeans in Somaliland became more strategic after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. The arrival of the British colonial power in Somaliland started after the Berlin Conference in 1884 which resulted in Britain taking control of Somaliland, as a protectorate at a time when France and Italy were also competing for the control of territories in the region. The partition of the Somali populated regions in the Horn of Africa started in earnest after Britain signed treaties with local tribal chiefs in Somaliland in 1887 and thus made this territory a British Protectorate (British Somaliland Protectorate). Somaliland remained a British protectorate from 1887 up until 26th June 1960 when it gained its independence from Britain. Italian Somalia became independent on 1st July 1960 and the same day the two states merged and formed the Republic of Somalia.


During the first nine years after independence (1960 – 1969) some sort of a parliamentary democracy was observed, and democratically elected governments succeeded each other. The military coup d’état led by General Mohamed Siyad Barre suspended the constitution and brought in a martial law. The regime enacted numerous discriminatory policies which resulted in considerable economic, social and political disadvantages against the people of Somaliland. The repressive policies of the regime gave rise to the formation of an armed resistance against the government in the form of the Somali National Movement (SNM) in London on 6th April 1981. A ten year struggle ensued, affecting particularly the two largest towns of Burao and Hargeisa; and resulting in over 1 million displaced peoples. Under the auspices of the SNM, traditional clan leaders organized a number of community conferences (Shir Beeleed) to consolidate peace and reconciliation between different clans, culminating in the regional Grand Conference (25th March to 26th May 1991) which declared the withdrawal from the union with Somalia and reclaimed its independence.