Somaliland: After Two Decades the Armed Forces Come to Age


Army Guard of Honour File PhotoOfficer Rankings to establish formal Chain of Command” Defence Minister

By: Yusuf M Hasan

HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – The ministry of defence has finalized plans to establish a formal chain of command within the national army.

The ministry of defence has announced that the long awaited plans to create a formal chain of command within the armed forces are complete two decades after the defence force was established in 1992.

During an exclusive interview with the Horn newspaper and the defence minister Hon Ahmed Haji Ali ‘Adami’ informed that all arrangements for the issuance of ranks within the armed forces are complete.

The defence chief further informed that two officers are currently in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for the purpose of collecting the array of insignia that will be given the various cadres of service ranks for both Non Commissioned Officers-NCO (corporal & Sergeant) and Commissioned officers-CO (Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Colonel, Brigadier & Generals). The insignias are under production by an Ethiopian military factory.

Commandos Trooping their colours“Implementation of the ranking exercise which will take one month to complete shall commence on the 15th December 2012 thus end on 15th January 2013” Said Adami

Despite being in existence for two decades, the military has operated devoid of the normal ranks one will find in a modern military unit. For instance, there are no titles such as corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, majors, and colonels etc

Current development in grading military personnel are as a result of a committee of military experts chaired by the defence minister which was established by the president H.E Dr Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo immediately he assumed power in mid 2010 thus fulfil one of his presidential campaign promises.

According to the defence minister The committee mandated to look into the issue of a formalized chain of command within the armed forces has completed its work and handed over its findings to the president who then mandated the minister of defence and the military commander, with implementation its recommendations.

The committee is reported to have reached conclusions of its duties upon entering upon a broad based investigation of all army personnel in the country as pertains to Education, Military training, experience, current/past responsibilities held, and skills etc thus subsequent recommendations that are now under implementation.

As per this development the ministry of finance has shelved the planned 40% civil service salary rise due to what the finance minister Mr Abdiaziz Samale attributes to the imminent increase in salary payments within the army where remuneration shall be based on ranks as opposed to prevalent status that see a two uniform pay scales for officers and servicemen respectively.


Current personnel including civilians in the Somaliland military is estimated at 35,000Tank Battalion with several divisions based within all the regions of the country while the bulk of the top brass and various divisions are at the military headquarters in the capital, Hargeisa under the overall command of General Ismail Shakale, a former officer of the defunct Somali Army.

Up until 2009, when cases of piracy grew at the Somaliland coastline and led to hostages being held at the waters, which geographically fall under Somaliland, the Somaliland military was composed entirely of army personnel. The surge in piracy and illegal fishing at Somaliland coast led to the formation of a navy unit, which operates from BulaHar and Las Qoray areas. The unit, which is still in its infancy, has succeeded in apprehending hundreds of suspected pirates, who were later arraigned in Somaliland courts and sentenced to jail terms.

The navy unit has also benefited considerably from support ranging from provision of equipment and training from the British government. Among the equipment they received include speed boats mounted with guns, brand new pick-ups and trucks that can withstand the harsh conditions in the Somaliland coastline.

Based at the port town of Berbera is a diving centre run by foreign divers with the primary goal of training the Somaliland navy. The centre has been in operation for nearly two years.


The Somalia Air Force base which was based at the Hargeisa Airport collapsed immediately after the civil war in 1990. Its pilots and technicians, majority of whom were foreigners, mainly from South Africa fled and the remaining aircrafts all of which were Russian-made remain in a state of disrepair or were vandalized.

As a reminder of the atrocities committed by former Somalia ruler, Mohamed Siyad Barre, a downed MIG-21 fighter jet was mounted in the middle of Hargeisa town. By international standards, the Somaliland military can be considered as a rudimentary outfit, which continues to use outdated equipment. All of its army personnel are from Somaliland.

But by local standards, the military in Somaliland stand above those of it neighbour. The Puntland and Somalia in terms of cohesiveness, organization and command structure as well as the ability to win hearts and minds within local communities.


When the former ruler Barre was ousted in 1990, Somaliland inherited or took over all the military equipment, hardware and facilities that were within the territories of present day Somaliland. They include tanks, armed personal carriers, transport trucks and water tankers. Also taken over were missile launchers, a cache of ammunitions that included grenades, F1s and missiles.

However, the equipment has outlived their usefulness and either they need a replacement or a major facelift.

Somaliland is still under the UN Arms embargo, partly because it is considered part of Somalia, and therefore is not permitted to purchase firearms. Due to its lack of international recognition, the country cannot be supported formally with military hardware, like some of her neighbours, including Djibouti. As such, it is only left with the option of repairing and modifying the arms that are in its possession.

As from last month this trend is set for reversal after the EU officially incorporated the country into the EUCAP NESTOR program, which is geared towards strengthening the maritime capacities of Horn of African Countries the EUCAP NESTOR program in which the coast guard shall receive training and equipment after an ongoing assessment is complete.

Among the divisions within the Somaliland military include the artillery brigade, infantry and mechanized brigade as well as the tanks brigades. All the equipment at the brigades are Russian-made and they include BM-21 mobile rocket launchers, BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles, BTR-50 armoured cars, T-34 medium battle tanks and few T-55 main battle tanks.

There are several new and old transport trucks and water tankers in use, and most recently, the business community in Somaliland donated a number of civilian transport trucks such as Isuzu FSR, which were modified to carry soldiers and foodstuffs.

Analysts estimate that every year about 30% of Somaliland meagre budget goes into paying and maintaining the Somaliland armed forces and incoming rankings are set to see this figure grow to around 35%.