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|Somaliland’s Eastern Strategy Is Working|
By: Jamal Gabobe
Listening to a lady reporter who was being interviewed by Radio Galkayo the other day has confirmed to me that Somaliland's current eastern strategy is working. The lady in question, who happened to be a supporter of warlord Abdillahi Yusuf, said that Abdillahi Yusuf's militia want fighting to start soon in Las Anod rather than let the current tense situation continue. Her reasoning was that once the shooting starts inside Las Anod, people would have to take sides. Since war is inevitable, it's better that we have it soon rather than later, she explained. As strange and perverse as it may seem for someone to advocate that war with all its attendant death and destruction should take place in one's own town, the woman reporter was tacitly admitting that the present status of the conflict was so unfavorable to Abdillahi Yusuf, a shooting war inside Las Anod would seem a better alternative. Which only confirms that Somaliland's current approach to Abdillahi Yusuf is the right one and should be built upon and continued.
The essence of Somaliland's eastern strategy seems to be identifying the weakest links in Abdillahi Yusuf's security structure, then bringing so much pressure to bear until that structure implodes. Somaliland must keep in mind though that once the pressure gets to be too much, the warlord might decide to attack before he reaches the breaking point. Somaliland should be ready to thwart any such attack.
Even for someone who is as far away from the theater of operations, as I am, and does not have all the relevant information, it is not difficult to identify warlord Abdillahi Yusuf's vulnerabilities. His biggest weakness is that he rules by force and not through the consent of the people. Once the people there realize that they have a chance to get rid of him, and that this time they have a determined ally who would help them do it, they might decide to join in the efforts to put an end to his reign of terror. That is one more reason why Bosaso is important. Besides being the biggest source of Abdillahi Yusuf’s income, it was the first city whose residents said enough is enough and threw him out in 2001. The warlord never forgot that and has used heavy-handed tactics to keep that city under his grip. Many of the people of that city have never accepted the warlord's rule as legitimate. This may explain the riots and the curfews that regularly take place there. Somaliland should extend a helping hand to Bosaso’s beleaguered people, so that they can free themselves from the warlord's tyranny.
In addition to the military campaign, Somaliland must simultaneously move along political lines with the aim of building a broad-based democratic opposition that can replace the warlord and that is also acceptable to its neighbors.
Somaliland must also continue isolating the warlord diplomatically. The recent statements by Djibouti's Foreign Minister which made it clear that Abdillahi Yusuf is the aggressor in his current conflict with Somaliland and that he should withdraw his forces from Las Anod is a welcome diplomatic victory for Somaliland. So is the visit to Garowe by the Ethiopian military delegation that told Abdillahi Yusuf to respect Somaliland's colonial boundaries. So is the confirmation by the British parliamentarians that "Somaliland's boundaries are known internationally."
Somaliland should take advantage of the fact that Abdillahi Yusuf is a military man who knows little about politics or diplomacy. To confirm Abdillahi Yusuf's lack of political skills, one has to look at how he started a conflict with Somaliland at exactly the time when he should have focused his attention and little resources on winning the diplomatic game with the warlords meeting in Nairobi; one has to look at how he is alienating Ethiopia, the only country in recent history to treat him favorably; one has to look at how he was outmaneuvered by the likes of Abdiqasim Salad Hasan and even Muse Sudi in the Jan.29 Safari Park agreement; one has to look at how his political stocks are so low these days that the Kenyan government has openly threatened to arrest him and other warlords if they insist on rejecting the Jan.29 agreement. The Kenyan government has also allegedly told him he can't leave the country which makes him look, with every passing day, more and more like a hostage. The international community is not treating him any better either and has brushed aside his demands regarding the Nairobi peace talks and Somaliland. British parliamentarians are also looking into atrocities committed by him and have referred to court cases against him in Britain. Even his relations with his spineless deputy, Mr. Mohammed Abdi Hashi whom he routinely humiliates by overruling his decisions from as far away as Nairobi, are lousy (one reason for the rift between the two men is that Abdillahi Yusuf despises his deputy for abandoning him when he was thrown out of power, only to come back and claim his position once Abdillahi Yusuf had fought his way back to the top).
Abdillahi Yusuf these days is a man under great internal and external pressure, a big part of which is due to Somaliland’s effective current eastern strategy. He may be nearing the breaking point and his violent one-man-show is about to be put out of commission. Somaliland should increase the pressure to make sure the job is completed. When that happens, the old colonel would have nobody to blame but himself, because he had brought it on himself with his brutality toward his people, his invasion of his neighbor and his momentous miscalculations. In this regard, he is no different from another tyrant who finally ran out of options and was recently caught, like a rat, in a dirty hole.