Fears of all-out war in erstwhile peaceful northern Somalia grew dramatically Sunday after Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole warned Somaliland to “stop the massacre of civilians,” Radio Garowe reports.
During a Sunday interview, President Farole told the BBC Somali Service that Puntland’s government “will not remain on the sidelines” if Somaliland continues the violence.
“We [Puntland] wish to live in this region peacefully. We wish that the two
stable states of Somalia [Puntland and Somaliland] co-exist in peace and we
hoped that a new administration in Somaliland would withdraw its forces from Las Anod,” President Farole said, adding: “But if the situation is now at a point where our citizens are being massacred and Somaliland wants to seize
Buhodle, then Somaliland must take responsibility for initiating this war.”
He blamed Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo for the violence,
saying that Silanyo’s words “encouraged clan hostilities.” Furthermore,
President Farole said a dialogue process mediated by the regional bloc IGAD between Puntland and Somaliland was now in question, due to Somaliland’s
“war of aggression” against civilians.
President Farole’s strong words to Somaliland come after day-long battles
erupted along three villages in Buhodle district, where local clans have
been fighting against Somaliland’s violent aggression. Upwards of 50 people were killed on both sides, with local sources confirming that local clan fighters remain in control of all three villages where the fighting took place.
Somaliland troops retreated from the battle zones, the reports added. Sunday’s fighting comes two weeks after Somaliland troops attempted to seize Buhodle district, but were repulsed by local clans.
Somaliland: Supporting Terrorism
Puntland government forces are not directly involved in the fighting, but
President Farole’s warning let much room for speculation that Puntland might soon join the war. “This is a continuation of Somaliland massacring our civilians. We condemn this and we will defend our civilians strongly,” Puntland’s leader said.
He went on to condemn Somaliland’s “land expansion” and “baseless claims of ownership” over Sool and Sanaag regions, saying: “Supporting terrorists in Golis mountains [of Sanaag region] or massacring civilians in Buhodle
[district] will not get Somaliland international recognition.” Somaliland has been accused of funding, arming and providing safe havens for Al Shabaab terrorists fleeing Galgala hills after losing a three-month war against Puntland troops. More than 96 Al Shabaab fighters were killed during the military offensive. Reports say the Al Shabaab leader in Galgala, Mr. Mohamed Said Atom, resides in Burao, a major town controlled by Somaliland.
President Farole stated that Somalia’s collapse in 1991, the country disintegrated and the clans regained control over their own territories.
“Land ownership is divided among the clans. If the issue is a farm, then
each man owns his farm. But if the issue is land, then each clan owns its
land,” President Farole said.
There are two fighting forces in the Buhodle conflict. On one side, there is
the Somaliland army dominated by Isaaq clan of Hargeisa area. On the other side, there is the Dhulbahante clan of Puntland defending its territory from Somaliland’s land expansion and separatist policy. But Somaliland’s leadership claims ownership over Dhulbahante clan territory based on defunct colonial-era boundaries drawn up by long-departed British colonialists, while Puntland claims ownership based on kinship, which existed centuries before the advent of European colonialism in Africa.
President Farole said the people of Puntland and Somaliland have “normal
business relations,” but stressed that the “solution lies in Somaliland stopping the war of aggression [against Buhodle] and Somaliland withdrawing forces from Las Anod.”
Somaliland ‘Victim Card’
Furthermore, Somaliland’s separatist rulers have declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991 with no international recognition to-date, but non-Isaaq clans who live in northwestern Somalia do not want to join a
President Farole of Puntland told the BBC: “Those who blame the former
military regime [of Gen. Siyad Barre] for civilian massacres are today committing civilian massacres themselves. As we all know, those people are
even pursuing court cases as far as the U.S.A. against former Barre officials namely Gen. Mohamed Ali Samatar.”
The aging Gen. Samatar, who resides in Virginia, was a former senior official during Barre’s 21-year military dictatorship, which collapsed with the eruption of the Somali civil war in 1991. Gen. Samatar’s accusers belong to the Isaaq clan that has pursued similar court cases against former Barre regime officials.
Puntland and Somaliland, located in northern Somalia, have been largely
stable since 1991. But the two sub-states are ideologically opposed, with
Puntland supporting a united Somalia under federal system and Somaliland
rejecting to be part of a united Somalia. Southern Somalia, including Mogadishu, has been crippled by chronic armed conflict since 1991, with an anti-government insurgency raging in Mogadishu since early 2007.
Somalia’s Puntland Region Leader Rushes to Ethiopia over Somaliland Clashes and ONLF weapons
ADDIS ABABA — The Ethiopian government led by Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs Haile Mariam Desalegne called on the leader of Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland to an emergency meeting in Addis Ababa on late Monday.
Mr Abdirahman Farole quickly rushed to Addis Ababa on a chartered airplane with three other ministers.
According to developing reports, the Ethiopian government expressed concern about Farole’s involvement in Somaliland’s recent eastern clashes that has left scores dead in the Buhodle district. The conflict erupted when Somaliland forces based in the village of Kalshale in the Buhodle district came under heavy attack from a local clan militia called SSC (Sool, Sanaag, Cayn) last week.
Somaliland took a number of militia men hostage who revealed the group was getting arms from Eritrea and had fighters from Ethiopia’s rebel group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in its fighting ranks.
The SSC militia is supported by some of the Dhulbahante subclans in and around the Buhodle town. The group has been trying to convert the conflict into an open tribal war so they can draw support from the Darood family which includes Puntland’s Majerteen, eastern Sanaag’s Warsangeli, Marehans in southern Somalia and the Ogadens of Ethiopia. Mr Farole too admitted that he was going to support his “kins” men on clan bases.
The call for Farole to Addis Ababa follows a day after he issued a warning message to Somaliland authority insisting his administration was getting involved in the conflict “directly”.
The Ethiopians consider the disputed Sool and Sanaag regions part of Somaliland and are strongly opposed to Puntland’s claims.
The Ethiopian government is not at good terms with the SSC rebels as well in May 2010 Ethiopian border patrol police and the militia clashed in Buhoodle, a town on the Somaliland-Ethiopian border. Dozens were killed.
The Ethiopian government was also worried about reports that ONLF was receiving arms through the Puntland port of Bosasso from Eritrea. Eritrea finances a number of rebel and terrorist groups in the region to destabilize Ethiopia, Somaliland and Somalia. Eritrea denies having links with ONLF, Al Shabab and Puntland.
This is not the first time the Ethiopian authority has called Farole to Addis Ababa. In March 2010, he dashed to Addis Ababa to get approvals for his government .
In recent weeks, the Puntland leader has been trying to call for a hoax “national Somali reconciliation conference” at the end of August when the transitional government in Mogadishu mandate expires. Mr Farole has been trying to convince southern Somali politicians to join his conference which also calls for the replacement of Mogadishu as the capital with Garowe, the current regional capital of Puntland.
The Somaliland government strongly condemned the so called conference and warned any incursion into its region and political affair will destabilize the region. The TFG equally said the conference was a joke by a mad “governor”. While ordinary citizens believe this is yet another Farole move to scam international donors.
The idea has raised eyebrows on the Ethiopian government too who believe Mr Farole is trying to destroy the weak transitional government led by the former cleric and one time enemy of Ethiopia, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
The Ethiopians believe Mr Farole is destabilizing the region with millions he made from piracy ransoms. Mr Farole wants to nominate himself for the Somali President at the end of August when Sheikh Sharif’s term ends with US$8 million he made from pirates.
According to our source which is close to the Ethiopian government, Addis Ababa considers Farole’s political maneuvers a national threat and illegitimate. They believe senior leaders in Addis Ababa will order him to stop the so called conference and to withdraw from Somaliland territory immediately. There are reports, troops from Puntland have crossed into Sool region of Somaliland near the town of Tukaraq, about 50km east of Las Anod. Farole gave orders to invade Somaliland after he came under huge pressure from the public in pirate rich Puntland. It is now not clear who he will take orders from– his public calling for tribal war with Somaliland or Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia has historical ties with Somaliland that predates colonialism and the two states have co-existed in peace. Ethiopia considers Somaliland a crucial entity to its own stability and an important factor in the control of Ogaden region. Moreover, Ethiopia knows Darood clans such as the Dhulbahante, Majerten and Marehans are sympathetic to Ogadens quest for independence from Ethiopia and want Ogaden to be part of Somalia. Documents Somaliland government obtained that have been passed to Addis Ababa showed that the SSC miltia wants ONLF to use the Sool and Buhodle regions to launch attacks against Ethiopia. In return, the group have requested support from ONLF and Eritrea.