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Puntland needs evenhanded conflict resolution

By Liban Ahmad


Puntland in 2010 has a few in common with Puntland in 2002 when forces led by Mohamud Musse Hersi (Puntland president 2005-2009) waged hit and run attacks against Puntland security forces. It was the decision to remove Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed (Puntland president 1998-2004) to be replaced by by Jama Ali Jama that threw Puntland into a security crisis. Traditional leaders elected the first Puntland president and disagreed on his removal, causing supporters of Jama Ali Jama to take up arms and set up a base at Ceel Afwayn where Somaliland administration supplied the militias of Mr Hersi with arms although Mr Jama Ali Jama renounced violence when his forces were defeated in 2002. The clashes between the Puntland forces and Hersi’s militia nearly dragged Puntland into clan warfare. Former Puntland president Abdullahi Yusuf described Shimbraale, a place where a group of Hersi’s militia regrouped, a terrorism base.

Talks were organised by traditional leaders led by Boqor Bur Madow who brought Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Mohamud Musse Hersi together for talks, and facilitated the absorption of disaffected sub-clan militia into the Puntland security forces. This conflict resolution initiative paved the way for the sub-clan militia leader, Mr Hersi, to win Puntland presidential selection in January 2005. Mr Hersi appointed Abdirahman Farole, a Minister of Planning but sacked him after a disagreement over policies. In 2006 “ Gunmen loyal to Planning Minister Abdurrahman Farole entered the building on Sunday, before being forced out by security forces on Monday,” BBC News reported. (Militia attack on Puntland’s MPs”).

The tension was diffused and Farole left for Australia where he gave the BBC Somali Service interviews critical of his predecessor. In Janaury 2009 president Farole inherited a Puntland plagued by piracy, corruption and an economy run by money-printing business clique.

The autonomous administration’s coffers were emptied to fund the Transitional Federal Governmnet under president Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed whose government lacked funds to run a parliament and cabinet based in Baydhaba and Mogadishu.

Today President Farole faces challenges—the war between Puntland security forces and forces loyal to Sheikh Atom who , among other things, now demands, the disbandment of Puntland Intelligence Service. Sool, Sanaag and Cayn Leadership Council led by Saleban Ahmed Essa (aka Xaglatoosiye) whose supporters have withdrawn support for Puntland as a clan-based autonomous administration is another challenge.

President Farole’s response to the Sheikh Atom (regarded by Puntland leader as a man “ who has been hiding out in the mountains for a few years” and his description of SSC Leadership Council as an “armed militia” modeled on the clan-based opposition groups of pre-1991 Somalia shows a total failure to apply conflict resolution evenhandedly in Puntland. President Farole admitted the Galagala issue has been dragging on for few years but had handled it in a manner that undermined sub-clan cohesion on which Puntland is based. Puntland Intelligence Service is agency formed without clan-wide consultations. Why does a clan need to have an Intelligence Service?

Quoting the former TFG president, president Farole said: “ Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed told me that he would not have set up an armed opposition group if he could have foreseen the disintegration of Somalia at the hands of opposition groups,“ in reference to the SSC Leadership Council. Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) led by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was the first armed opposition movement against former military regimes of Mohamed Siyad Barre. Initially set up by a group of clansmen as Somali Democratic Action Front (SODAF) with a base in Ethiopia, the membership of the armed group swelled after the leader was supported by his clansmen living near the border between Somalia and Ethiopia. Few members from other Somali clans joined in an attempt to make the opposition to the military regime a multi-clan initiative. The one-clan organisation image had impact on leadership decision-making and interactions between the front’s members, causing members from other clan to set-up a clan-based opposition groups that eventually toppled the military regime but failed to form a broad-based-government . President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed benefited from failures of SSD and used the political skills he gained to reconcile with the leader of sub-clan militia that challenged his authority as Puntland president and campaigned to be selected as president of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia in 2004.

President Farole seems to be ignoring the need for reconciliation in Puntland but quotes a leader whose past political failures helped him to give concessions to his opponents to avoid administrative collapse.

Liban Ahmad

E-Mail: Libahm@gmail.com

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