The Country That Does Not Exist

A History of Somaliland

Gérard Prunier

In his inimitable prose, Prunier conveys how one of the world’s newest nations came into being and survived, against all odds.

Bibliographic Details
The Country That Does Not Exist Hardback
November 2020£45.00
9781787382039 320pp
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The Somali people are fiercely nationalistic. Colonialism split them into five segments divided between four different powers. Thus decolonisation and pan-Somalism became synonymous.

In 1960 a partial reunification took place between British Somaliland and Somalia Italiana. Africa Confidential wrote at the time that the new Somali state would never be beset by tribal division but this discounted the existence of powerful clans within Somali society and the persistence of colonial administrative cultures. The collapse of parliamentary democracy in 1969 and the resulting army—and clanic— dictatorship that followed led to a civil war in the ‘perfect’ national state. It lasted fourteen years in the ‘British’ North and is still raging today in the ‘Italian’ South.

Somaliland ‘re-birthed’ itself through an enormous solo effort but the viable nation so recreated within its former colonial borders was never internationally recognised and still struggles to exist economically and diplomatically.

This book recounts an African success story where the peace so widely acclaimed by the international community has had no reward but its own lonely achievement.


Gérard Prunier is a renowned historian of contemporary Africa, author of, inter alia, the acclaimed The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide and editor of Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia, both published by Hurst.