Somaliland: Debate on Compatibility of Customary Law with Human Rights and Democracy


There are three justice systems existing in Somaliland Traditional Shariah and Formal

Somalilandsun-Human Rights Centre held in Hargeisa public debate attended by students, academics, elders, civil society members and other people. The debate discussed the compatibility of human rights and democracy with Somali customary law. The aim of the debate was to sensitize human rights and democracy with the public by facilitating experts of customary law to dialogue with human rights experts in public place where the participants are enabled to engage in the debate by asking questions and presenting comments.

Two panel guests were invited by Human Rights Centre. Chief Mohamed Ali Mohamed, traditional leader and customary law expert, and Yousuf Mohamed Dirie, dean of social science at Gollis University, debated about human rights and democracy and Somali customary law in a manner that has sparkedthe participants to deeply analyze the cross cutting issues.

The experts presented that human rights and democracy are not against the long held and accepted customary law. They further detailed how Somali people have been using their own version of democracy.

The objective of the debate was to find out a clear-cut understanding on how human rights and democracy can be adopted with Somali customary law and to analyse comparatively by giving the public chance to express their divergent views on this crucial subject in order to defuse tensions against human rights and democracy.

In the forum, it has been discussed that Somali tradition is based on democratic practices tailored for the pastoral life of Somalis. It has been presented that human rights and Somali customary law can be adopted together by addressing the differences and fostering similarities. The discussions emphasised that Somaliland constitution which guaranteesfundamental freedoms and rights is a result of long bottom-up peacebuilding and state building processes led by traditional leaders. Hence the bill of rights in the constitution reflect the need and desire of the people of Somaliland who opted free and democratic country. Moreover, the debate unrevealed that some traditional practices harm basic human rights like that of women.

The debate provided space that facilitated dialogue and open discussions on vital subjects that affect the lives of the people of Somaliland.


Hana Abdisalaan Mohamed

Deputy Director on Programs

Human Rights Centre

Email: or 


Guleid Ahmed Jama


Human Rights Centre