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Somalia: Trouble With Putland

By   /  September 7, 2009  /  No Comments

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International Crisis Group has issued its latest report on Somalia about Puntland, which bears that title. This research institute is renowned for its widely acclaimed works characterised by depth of analysis, objectivity, impartiality and a sense of fairness in siding its self with the general interests of the Somali people. Its series of reports written about our country are masterpieces of scholarship integrity. This new report is no exception to its previous publications.
In this article I will try to go through some of its findings, which I hope will shed light on the nature of the political system in Puntland and its prospects as well as its significance to the Somali homeland as a whole. I invite every Somali intellectual to read the full report, which is very instructive and valuable.
The report portrays the region as experiencing insecurity and political tension in the last three years as a result of poor governance, tribal disputes and the grim effects of piracy. Criminality including arms trafficking, kidnapping and smuggling of both people and contraband are rampant. The blame is pointed at the complicity of the political authorities in such activities.
The report traces back the role played by Abdullahi Yusuf, who headed the guerrilla movement known as SSDF, a notorious militia leader and a close ally to Ethiopia who had provided his forces with weapons and training to install him as a president and to protect him by military intervention, if needed in order to maintain him in power. Ethiopia considered Puntland “autonomous status resounding positive, the prospect of another strategic Somali region, led by a long-time ally in Yusuf was seen as a major success”, naturally, to Ethiopian strategy of destabilising and reining in Somalia.
On governance, the report describes the political scene as follows: “the post-Yusuf years could be characterised of unleashing forces that intensified the trend of decline. Security deteriorated dramatically, state power eroded and corruption became endemic”. It further, went on to say, “the electoral system is deeply flawed, law and order has broken down, parliament is powerless and political unrest is growing.”
On the new constitution, the report details manoeuvres waged to pass it in secrecy without input from civil society and key clan constituencies. Some regime figures believe the whole project is an effort to engineer a final break with the south, and move Puntland towards secession. The document was adopted in June 2008, immediately followed by the parliament. This was widely interpreted as an attempt to get around significant public opposition. The reaction from the dissatisfied political forces and clan elders was swift and politically unprecedented fourteen prominent traditional leaders signed a widely publicised critical protest, condemning the whole exercise. One of the major characteristics of this constitution is to force the region towards secession. The name was changed to the “Puntland State of Somalia”, an anthem and flag has been introduced, the head of the region was given the title “the President of the State” These deliberate measures are intended to direct the region towards total secession.
This determined approach is reflected in its attitude to send veiled and unambiguous threat to secede if their conditions are not met, if the federal system is not imposed on other regions, their total disregard of the system in Mogadishu and their insistence to conduct its foreign, finance and defence policies independently. The region by all intents and purposes is functioning as an independent state.
The writer of the report exposed the danger posed by the stand off over the ownership of Sool and Sanaag with Somaliland as well as the confrontation over the possession of the Mudug region with the different ethnic groups who live there. The compiler of the report draws a conclusion, that these disputes prove the assertion of the critics who have claimed that the split-up of the country into mini-states, opens the doors of hell of instability by sparking territorial rows, inter clan friction and renewed and unending conflicts.
The report refers to the looming danger of the rising Islamic movement which is heavily suppressed, has a huge economic power, social structure and a well organised fighting force, and could emerge to challenge the political authority when the time is ripe.
Finally, the report concludes by predicting the violent break-up of the system as a result of the policies pursued which fuel antagonistic rival claims among different entities, a process which is already underway in Sool, Sanaag and Mudug.
It is worth mentioning in this regard that a mission of goodwill representing the central government of Somalia, headed by the Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Shermaarke paid a visit to Puntland recently, in order to explore areas of common ground for building bridges of trust, cooperation reconciliation and common purpose to unify the country.
Instead, the mission was challenged by these claims:
1. The right to exercise full independence in dealing with international affairs and to conclude agreements directly without even notifying Mogadishu, and that the central government must respect any undertaking reached.
2. That the headquarters of the marine force be based in Puntland.
3. To have a full share of hardware, weapons and military supplies provided by the international community, (take note no reference to unified security forces).
4. To be given the privilege to host in Garowe the United Nations Office and its specialised agencies charged with task of assisting Somalia, and from there to conduct their activities to serve Somalia.
5. Garowe should be selected as a seat for the legal committee charged with the mission of drafting the constitutional framework of the federal system for the whole country, and that their federal model should be taken as an example and be replicated in every region.
One can deduce from this agenda how the objective is clear-cut, and it vindicates the bell of alarm raised by the International Crisis group report.
The leaders of Puntland are not only flagrantly seeking to confirm their march for total secession, but are working hard to drag the whole Somalia into the abyss of fragmentation and disintegration and to pulverise the remaining of the united Somalia into tiny tribal fiefdoms which breath under the mercy of the voracious giant Ethiopia. What a precious gift?!
They present their case in unashamed boldness and arrogance, benefitting from the weakness and disarray of the central government in Mogadishu.
The disturbances, agitation and killings, which are widespread in Puntland, the turmoil and the dead end of the constitutional crises in Somaliland, prove beyond any doubt that secession is not the solution to the Somali problem; rather it is the death knell of the Somali nation, its existence as well as its aspiration to dignity, statehood, progress and prosperity.

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Mohamed Sharif Mohamud is vice chairman, Somali Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy, and former ambassador of Somalia and Arab League

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