Speaking at the Iftar dinner which he hosted on Sunday night at the Presidency in Hargeisa, President Muse Bihi reiterated his determination to seek a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Laascaanood. As he addressed a gathering of hundreds of Sheikhs and Islamic scholars, the President confirmed his long-held position on the situation. “The people of Somaliland and I are fully committed to a ceasefire and peaceful settlement of the conflict in Laascaanood”. He also called upon the neighbouring region of Puntland to cease interference in the internal politics of Somaliland and to stop sending its forces into Somaliland territories where they participate in hostilities against the Somaliland military.
The current conflict began on the 6th of February when a pre-meditated, unprovoked, and
unwarranted attack was carried out against Somaliland government officials, members of
their police force, and military. The government officials, including senior ministers, were
visiting Laascaanood for the sole purpose of engaging in a dialogue with local inhabitants.
During and since that initial attack, the government of Somaliland has refrained from carrying out unnecessary military actions and instead concentrated on trying to negotiate with the invaders of its territory in pursuit of a peaceful settlement to the conflict. However, all attempts to do so have so far been thwarted by opponents hostile to Somaliland.
Traditional leaders from Somaliland travelled to Oog, a village close to Laascaanood
where they have remained ever during the month of February, ready to commence peace
negotiations whenever their invitations to do so is accepted. Indeed, so far, all attempts by
the Somaliland elders to meet with the Garaads from Sool have been prevented, either by the Garaads themselves, or by interventions from the loose alliance of forces hostile to
Somaliland which operate from bases in Puntland and the border town of Buhoodleh.
During and prior to the present conflict, intelligence reports, arrests and convictions for terrorist offences made by the Somaliland government have proved that the driving force behind the aggression against Somaliland is the terrorist group, Al Shabab. Having been squeezed from their strongholds in south and central Somalia by an alliance of international forces and the FGS army, they are now focusing their efforts on strengthening their positions in the Galgala coastal mountains which staddle the borders of Puntland and Somaliland, in occupying the Sool region of Somaliland, and consolidating their bases in the Bale mountains of Ethiopia. The chain of command this will create links their forward operating bases in Ethiopia with supplies of arms and ammunition arriving by sea through ports at Bossasso to the north, and Garacaad to the east.
As far as Al Shabab is concerned, it benefits them to hide their true objectives behind a
smokescreen of local discontent in Sool and to portray the conflict as both a clan war, and a
dispute between the inhabitants of Laascaanood and the government of Somaliland. As a
result, whether knowingly, or not, the inhabitants of Sool have become pawns in an Al Shabab plot to destabilise and bring chaos, not just to Somaliland, but to the wider region.
Even though the majority of those fighting for Al Shabab in Sool are originally inhabitants of the region, their loyalty to Al Shabab calls into question the ability of the Garaads to act as their representatives in any peace negotiations. Neither do the Garaads represent the
Mijertayn clan whose members form the bulk of the invading forces from Puntland which are fighting alongside Al Shabab against Somaliland.
There are also repeated instances in which statements made by individual Garaads call into
question their suitability and willingness to negotiate peace. Most recently, when interviewed by the BBC Somali Service on 27th of March, Garaad Jaama Garaad Ismail expressed his refusal to negotiate with the elders from Somaliland, saying the war against his people was being waged by the president, not the clans of Somaliland. He also denied the involvement in the conflict of any fighters who are not from Sool region, even though this is blatantly not the case and is proved by statements made to the contrary by prisoners of war captured by the Somaliland army.
This is the latest of several instances in which one or more Garaads have not told the truth
about the conflict, have declined to advocate for peace, or refused to enter into negotiations with Somaliland. Certain Garaads have even been filmed calling upon their people to rise up and fight against Somaliland.
In order for the Garaads to be eligible to participate in a negotiated peace settlement, it would be desirable, if not essential, that they first of all publicly denounce the involvement of Al Shabab in the conflict, and secondly, that they insist upon the withdrawal from Somaliland territory of all forces originating from, or supported by, Puntland. Only then might they begin to gain the levels of credibility and trust necessary for them to act as genuine mediators and negotiators for the people they purport to represent. Until such time, or until more credible representatives emerge, sadly for the people of Sool, the government of Somaliland and its peace envoys are left waiting and unable to engage in a negotiated settlement
Presidency Communications Office