Urban governance, land conflicts and segregation in Hargeisa, Somaliland: Historical perspectives and post-conflict dynamics

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis offers an explanation for why urban settlement in Somaliland’s capital city of Hargeisa is segregated along clan lines. The topic of urban segregation has been neglected in both classic Somali studies, and recent studies of post-war state-building and governance in Somaliland. Such negligence of urban governance in debates over state-making stems from a predominant focus on national and regional levels, which overlooks the institutions governing cities. Yet urban governance can provide key insights into the nature and quality of interaction between people and the local state, and the processes of making and unmaking of Somali urban spaces. Given the rapid urban growth in the Somali populated territories, I propose a shift in focus to explore city spaces, as a means of deepening understanding of Somali social, political and spatial organisation. In advancing this proposed shift, the thesis scrutinises the nexus between governance and segregation in Hargeisa, drawing on urban ethnographic methods, interview and archival sources. I argue that segregation in the city can be understood as the spatial manifestation of governance practices across colonial and postcolonial periods, in intersection with bottom up processes, particularly the quest for security and peacebuilding in what is largely characterised as a hybrid order. The concept of hybrid governance – while capturing important aspects of control over city space - is often insufficiently historicised and politicised to convey the complex intersection of state institutions, clan and sub-clan allegiance and traditional authorities. My analysis thus situates recent urban governance and conflicts over land in a longer history of municipal governance, urban land administration and conflict adjudication. This historical perspective is important for the understanding of how segregation has been reproduced over time, and adds a new dimension to the understandings of the drivers and dynamics of Hargeisa’s spatial character.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Sussex
Award date1 Oct 2016
Place of PublicationBrighton
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Urban
  • Segregation
  • State-building
  • Governance
  • Hybridity
  • Customary
  • Clan

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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