The agreement signed in Ethiopia by representatives from Khatumo administration and Somaliland government is a step in the right direction. It will bring to an end a pointless political conflict that pitted Somaliland forces against Khatumo militias . The agreement has the hallmarks of a genuine reconciliation based on self-criticism instead of point-scoring.
A careful reading of the eleven points agreed upon by the two parties indicates that to share political institutions, counterproductive strategies have to be jettisoned. One is Khatumo’s misjudged model of reviving clan-based institutions on a smaller scale after Puntland experiment has failed. The other is Somaliland’s reliance on militias of one subclan to give a veneer of inclusiveness in Sool. Both strategies have undermined the legitimacy claimed by each party. However, it was constituencies claimed by Khatumo that paid the price for the low level conflict that raged in Sool and parts of Togdheer since 2012. Aid agencies do not travel beyond Aynaba district. Las Anod, Huddun, Taleh districts have been labelled unsafe for aid workers. While the “disputed territory” status of those districts has already had an adverse impact on security assessments by the international community, Khatumo’s emergence deepened security challenges as evidenced by clashes in Taleh, Saahdheer and Buuhoodle in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The reasoning that neither Puntland nor Somaliland has the interest of people in those constituencies at heart was the basis for Khatumo’s claim for entitlement to exclusive clan representation. One administration failed to defend territories whose inhabitants it mobilised by appealing to shared genealogy. The other administration has refrained from reaching out to subclans who felt excluded in the new subclan power calculus after the fall of Las Anod in October 2007.
By agreeing to a complete devolution Khatumo has recognised Somaliland government as the legitimate representative of people in Ex-British Somaliland. This remarkable concession commits Somaliland to making at least two strategic political and security reviews in the immediate future. The political aspect of the review will bar politicians in Hargeisa from demonising Khatumo leaders or organizing sub clan meetings similar to the one the former Somaliland Minister for Water has called for on the day he was handing over the ministerial responsibility to a new minister. Article three of the agreement covers this aspect. The security review will address the make-up of local militias absorbed into Somaliland forces in Sool and the claim made by the Somaliland Minister for Interior, Yasin Haji Mohamud Hiir, that ” there are terrorists in Las Anod”. It will put on hold efforts to recruit new clan militias as envisioned by the organisers of the indefinitely adjourned Awrboogays conference. Articles six and seven of the agreement emphasise a comprehensive security review in light of this landmark peace deal.
The biggest dividend to be reaped from this agreement is a common political ground forged by northerners for the first time since 1960. This will strengthen Somaliland’s position when negotiating with the Somali Federal Government. The decision of the Somalia’s outgoing Prime Minister to award Puntland the privilege to endorse MPs from Sool and Buuhoodle district has given southerners a temporary political advantage. It has made Khatumo leaders think about their relevance once they have lost the minimum role they had in the Somali Federal Parliament on the basis of the privilege , now lost, to singlehandedly select five of the eight MPs for Sool region and Buuhoodle district. Somaliland is one step closer to achieving its goal to secede from Somalia. A lot depends on how Hargeisa-based political elites manage the bonanza from a timely political agreement.