In January 2014, as the former Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali (Gaas) campaigns for Puntland’s top leadership, many lay people including myself conclude prematurely that his election will mark a new dawn for Somalia, particularly for Puntland region. Arguably, no one deserves better to lead Puntland than a man of his caliber, a PhD holder in economics and former Somali prime minister. But something sinister, only expected from a local clan-oriented warmonger, dominates his election campaign: that is, resurrecting not Somalia, but reviving a clan identity between the Puntland people and the population in eastern regions of Sool and Sanag in Somaliland. Evidently, Mr. Ali is on a collision course with Somaliland instead of formulating an economic “shock therapy” for his impoverished Puntland. And regrettably, his efforts to cast aspersion on Somaliland—branding it as a terrorist den for the notorious Al-Shabab terror group shows that he respects no bounds.
For starters, to get the gist of the conflict between Puntland and Somaliland, one needs to look through the lens of none other than the current Puntland leader. Although, Somalis hail from the same tribe in which its sub-clans are considered the most homogeneous society in Africa, Mr. Ali claims large areas of Somaliland territory on the bases that its inhabitants share not just a national or an ethnic identity with Puntland’s people, but, more important, with clan lineages. This is bizarre and trivial thing for a PhD holder to ponder on. Despite his prestigious degree, he cannot escape the grip of Somalis’ infamous clan doctrine. In other words, through the thick lens of Mr. Ali, the forefathers of the Warsangeli and the Dhulbahante clans of Somaliland and the Majerten clan of Puntland are all the descendants of a gentleman named Said Harti who lived in the plains of east Africa hundreds of years ago. As such, these clans are bound by blood and territories inhabited by the Harti clans should be united; never mind International boundaries. (Only if I could convince my estranged brother to take a leaf from Mr. Ali’s book!) (Sadly, Puntland’s obsession with curving out a clan enclave predates Somalia’s independence, as what is known Puntland today used to be called Majertenia).
Strangely enough, Puntland leaders remain oblivious to International boundaries, favoring to draw new clan borders, instead. Now, if Puntland could annex large chunks of Somaliland territory based on archaic clan affiliations, so could Djibouti; after all, the Isse clans of Djibouti also inhabit parts of Awdal region in Somaliland, bordering Djibouti. Clearly, what is good for Puntland is certainly good for Djibouti. And if Puntland’s flawed logic is implemented, a raging inferno will pulverize Africa to dust overnight, making Puntland—the author of its own misfortune. (Be careful what you wish for!)
In this latest Puntland’s fiasco, its leader, Mr. Ali, its deputy, Mohamoud Haji Umar Amay, as well as its Minister of Security, Hassan Isman Aloore take turns to denounce Somaliland President’s, Ahmed Mohammed Mohamoud (Silanyo), visit to the eastern Sanag town of Lasqory and label Somaliland as a terrorist heaven—an Al-Shabab den—without providing a shared of evidence.
Meanwhile, the Somaliland-flag-waving people of Lasqory take to the streets to welcome the Somaliland delegation. Among other things, Mr. Silanyo lays foundation stone for desperately needed projects, namely rebuilding the hospital and the port, promising to provide more financial assistant for the overall development of eastern Sanag.
The visit, however, not only outrages the Puntland leader, Mr. Ali, but he also mobilizes resources to reach Lasqory for himself. But it is a little late because Mr. Silanyo outmaneuvers Mr. Ali without firing a single shot. Hours before the Puntland leader attempts to depart for Lasqory, Mr. Silanyo inundates the region with a local military contingent to keep Mr. Ali at bay. Adding insult to injury, Mr. Ali is furious but cannot face Somaliland alone. Now what?
Wasting little time, Mr. Ali finds solace in the famous Somali poem: “Rag hadaad colaad leedihiin, ciidanse uwaydo, waxkastood ku ciil bixi kartaa kuu cawo aduune…or if you are embroiled in a hostile war with other men but cannot mobiles a counter-attack force, anything that can alleviate your pain serves as luck on your side.” Hence, portraying Somaliland as a terrorist heaven has everything to do with his emotions running high; and nothing, with reality.
What’s more, the Galangal mountainous region in eastern Sanag remains a death trap for Puntland, as it wages a battle against real and perceived (alienated locals) terrorists. And in futile efforts, Puntland tries to lure Somaliland to join the battle; Somaliland, however, prefers Puntland to liberate the region, not for itself (Puntland), but for Somaliland. For the time being, Puntland claims to control eastern Sanag and its ownership as well, so why not take the heat.
But while Puntland struggles to find a way out of the Galangal dilemma (fight or flee), Somaliland tries to win the hearts and minds of the disfranchised people in the area. More than ever before, the Somaliland leaders are convinced that the unemployed youth in eastern Sanag are more likely to receive paychecks from Al-Shabab or join the Puntland pirates and the human traffickers than to sit idle; hence, the sooner the Somaliland secures the region to deliver much needed projects, the quicker Al-Shabab’s support wanes away. Ironically, this policy is yet another headache for Puntland.
Doubtlessly, Puntland, itself, is a magnet for terrorists, pirates, human traffickers, and clan fighters. (Read: “Puntland Is for Pirates – Foreign Policy”.) Yet, the Puntland authority brands anyone that shows the slightest contempt for the regime—from disgruntle locals to tax-evading camel herders—as Al-Shabab terrorists. Nor does Puntland spare its neighbor, Somaliland. And while Mr. Ali accuses Somaliland of aiding terror groups without a tinge of evidence, one thing is clear: his regime is responsible for much of the chaos in Puntland. Take as an example, within a span of few weeks, Puntland prison guards, in exchange for thousands of dollars, release dozens of convicted pirates in Puntland. Worse yet, Mr. Ali’s body guards murder two UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) employees at the Galkayo airport, on April 07, 2014. And to top it up, not a month goes by that Puntland isn’t at the mercy of its [in]security forces, from attacking the television building to protesting against unpaid salaries to joining pirates and to even defecting to Somaliland. But the authority would blame the bogeyman for all its shortcomings. Evidently, if these soldiers can join pirates, human traffickers, or switch allegiances, joining their adversary [Somaliland], to receive bigger paychecks, what proof does anyone have that they are not in bed with Al-Shabab? After all, Al-Shabab pays the mother of all paychecks!
Truth is: Al-Shabab remains a double-edged sword for Puntland. On one hand, Puntland labels its adversaries, locals, Somaliland, and southern Somalia, or anybody that steps on its toes as either a terrorist or a terror supporter, imploring the International community to provide the “besieged” Puntland financial and military aid as the result of impending Al-Shabab attacks; on the other hand, Puntland faces real and perceived terror attacks; more so, as the terror strikes are staged and foiled by none other than Puntland Intelligent Service (PIS) (Congratulations!). This is the paradox for Puntland. Indeed, the authority is overwhelmed by Al-Shabab’s boomerang effect. For Puntland, Al-Shabab poses credible security threats while at the same time it serves as a powerful propaganda tool to lash out its opponents.
Meanwhile, Somaliland refuses to dignify Puntland’s unfound accusations with answers. Instead, Somaliland, as usual, downplays Puntland’s impetuous decision to lacerate Somaliland, without a shred of evidence. Somaliland Foreign Minister, Mohamed Bihi Yonis states, “We would like to inform Puntland that Somaliland is a peace-loving nation and seeks a peaceful coexistence with Puntland.”
Moreover, Mr. Yonis and Somaliland’s Interior Minister, Ali Mohamed Waran Adde, meet the Puntland leader in Ethiopia underlining that Somaliland is unrecognized state with recognized borders, as Somaliland’s boundaries exist since 1884.Make no mistake!
Rather than heed to Somaliland’s legitimate warning against his incursion into Somaliland territory, the Puntland leader quickly departs for Yemen to seek military aid from the rouge Yemeni regime, under the pretext of flushing out Al-Shabab from Puntland. And no sooner the Puntland leader receives shipments of weapons than he vows, in an audio clip, that Somaliland will face the wrath of Puntland. Without mincing his words, Mr. Ali states, “The enemy [Somaliland] occupying Sool and Sanag will feel our presence soon.” (But this bellicose Puntland leader spares no one. One day before he threatens Somaliland, he also severs relationship with Somalia, recalling all the MPs from Puntland back to Garowe, the capital of Puntland.)
Despite Puntland leader’s belligerent attitude towards Somaliland and relentless smear campaign against its leaders, Somaliland’s calm reaction can be attributed to Puntland’s historical absurd accusations; for the past two decades, just like the boy who screamed “Wolf! Wolf! Help!” Puntland screams about an impending terrorist attacks against its territory. In other words, Puntland rarely spews out new accusations; it simply recycles the old ones. (Always taking the easy way out!) Just to demonstrate how Puntland uses the terrorist card from its birth to present, read my two articles entitled, “Crying Wolf: TFG And Puntland Desperately Play The Terrorist Card and Puntland’s False-Flag Terrorism Could Undermine Its Stability”.
And again, as Somaliland takes control over the town of Taleh, in Sool province, with the help of local pro-Somaliland groups peacefully, on April 15, 2014, Puntland spits out more venom, accusing Somaliland of collaborating with terrorists and slaughtering the locals. This happens just few days after Mr. Ali announce his visit to Taleh. (Read more: “Somaliland: UK, EU, & US Send Wrong Message”)
Although during his election campaign, the Puntland leader vows to retake eastern Sool and Sanag regions of Somaliland, using force if need be, as he takes power reality sinks in. His constant interferences with Somaliland’s internal affairs results a blowback after a blowback on his face. That is, without firing a shot, Somaliland reaches Lasqory town in eastern Sanag and Teleh district, in Sool; more important, Somaliland aggressively and diligently negotiates with the Khatumo group. In essence, the more Mr. Ali pokes Somaliland the closer Somaliland gets to the border between Puntland and Somaliland. These are the unintended consequences of a leader, Mr. Ali, who holds an impressive degree in economics but remains a slow learner in politics. Now, the unavoidable million dollar question is: will Mr. Ali achieve what his predecessors, namely Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, Gen. Adde Muse Hersi and Col. Abdullahi Yussuf both hardened military commanders of former Somali National Army, failed? All these former Puntland leaders fail to dislodge Somaliland from eastern Sool and Sanag provinces, repeatedly. Of course, the obvious answer to my question is: no. So, Mr. Ali, why not focus on what you know the best—the economy—rather than reinvent the wheel?
To exacerbate Mr. Ali’s blunders, the top Dhulbahante caln leader, Garaad Jaamac Garaad Ismail (clan chief) along with Khatumo’s “Minister of Finance”, Isman Ahmed Ay-jeex, sudden visit to Hargeisa, Somaliland capital, on April 18, 2014, sends shockwaves throughout Puntland and Khatumo’s supporters. Furthermore, Khatumo’s Founder, an opportunistic American world, Dr. Ali Khalif negotiates with Somaliland as he flees,having more faith in his feet than in his gun, to evade Somaliland security forces. (Khatumo is an ineffective armed group that opposes Somaliland’s quest for independence.)
In summary,for Somaliland,the only way to secure the eastern Sool and Sanag regions is through winning the hearts and minds of the disfranchised and alienated citizens. It will be an economic package and a power-sharing framework that will bring them into the fold—not military invasion and marginalization.
As for the Puntland leader,during his post as the Prime Minister of Somalia, Mr. Ali dissimulates his true motives as he persuades gullible International community that he is also the prime minister of Somaliland, even winning the applauses of the naïve pro-Somali-unity Somalilanders (a handful) in Mogadishu. But no sooner does he lose his post than he reshuffles his deck of clan cards, pulling his Ace card under his sleeve. (The Somali version of rediscovering your roots!) Rather than resurrect Somalia from its grave, he belligerently vows to spill blood if Somaliland doesn’t abandon eastern Sool and Sanag regions. The same man (Mr. Ali) who stands for Somali unity yesterday, points daggers at Somaliland’s heart, today. So much for Somali unity!
In any case, the International community should unequivocally reject the Puntland leader’s crusade to redraw the former Somalia’s (Somaliland and Somalia) borders along clan lines, as it is not only counter-productive but is also dangerous.
The architect of the conflict in eastern Sool and Sanag is none other than Puntland itself. And its terror accusations against Somaliland are both inane and insane—and hardly deserve to be dignified with answers, much less take them seriously.
Clearly, Puntland’s clan hegemony is in full swing and so is Somaliland’s chess game to outmaneuver Puntland without firing a shot.