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|Radical Warlord, With Ties To Islamist Terrorist Groups, Elected Somalia President|
WASHINGTON DC, 13 Oct. 2004 (The Defense and Foreign Affairs Daily) – Col. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, 67, the military ruler of Somalia's Puntland region, was elected on October 10, 2004, by the newly-installed Parliament (in exile in Nairobi, Kenya) as the President of Somalia. Col. Yusuf won 189 votes, against 79 for his closest rival, long-time diplomat and former cabinet minister in former Mohammed Siyad Barre's government, Dr Abdullahi Adow. The third most successful candidate was faction leader Mohammed Qanyareh Ahmed.
Significantly, Col. Yusuf has run a major militia for more than a decade, and has a history of seizing power when and where he could. He recently (August 2004) was behind an armed invasion of neighboring Somaliland, which is adjacent to Puntland. As a result, his attitude toward the sovereignty of the Republic of Somaliland which withdrew from the union it had with Italian Somaliland, to create Somalia may be expected to be hostile.
Somali sources also confirmed that Col. Yusuf also had a long history of links with radical Islamist groups who had, particularly in recent years, used Puntland to attempt to infiltrate Somaliland and Ethiopia.
Col. Yusuf belongs to the second-largest Somali clan, the Darood. He won the Presidency on October 10, 2004, in a run-off with Dr Adow, after two rounds of elections had failed to produce a clear winner. According to the rules, the winner was required to get at least two-thirds of the 275 votes of a Parliament which was sworn into office in late September 2004. Immediately the result of the election was released at 9.45 pm, Mr. Ahmed was given Kenyan presidential security. He was then taken to VIP dais where he was received by Kenyan Regional Co-operation and East African Affairs Minister John Koech and Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, who has been mediating in the Somali peace process. The Somali national flag was hosted followed by the national anthem as well as Kenya's.
Col. Yusuf had originally been appointed President of Puntland for three years at a meeting of elders after declaring the region's autonomy on August 1, 1998. But when his three-year term ended, he attempted to stay on and was overthrown August 26, 2001, by local militias. On November 21, 2001, Col. Yusuf launched an attack on Garoweh, about 480 miles north-east of Mogadishu, in a bid to overthrow Jama Ali Jama, who was elected the regions new President by elders and civic leaders seven days earlier. Col. Yusuf at that time had close ties with Ethiopia and had been opposed to the Transitional National Government (TNG) in Mogadishu which was formed at a peace conference in neighboring Djibouti in August 2000.
See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, Puntland Warlord Preparing for Attacks on Somaliland. That report noted:
Reliable sources in the area of Somalia known as Puntland which is under the control of forces led by Col. Abdullahi Yusuf, and which declared autonomy from the disintegrating Somalia Federation in July 1988 indicated that hundreds of fighters from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) had, during the week of January 18-25, 2004, begun arriving in the Western and Southern parts of Puntland (also known as Majerteenia) to prepare for a military confrontation with Somaliland.
Neither Puntland nor Somaliland have international recognition as to their sovereignty, although Somaliland formerly British Somaliland was a recognized, sovereign and independent state before voluntarily going into a union with the former Italian Somaliland to create Somalia in 1960. Somaliland withdrew from the union in 1991, with the collapse of Somalia as a viable, sovereign entity. However, since that time, pressures from Egypt, Libya, Djibouti, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia, have prevented recognition of the resumption of sovereignty of Somaliland, reportedly out of concern that the Muslim state, which essentially dominates the egress to the Red Sea at the Straits of Bab el-Mandeb but which has a democratic and secular government, could ally itself with Israel.
As a result, radical Islamist terrorists have attempted to destabilize Somaliland which has actively cooperated with the US in the war on terror particularly in the past two years.
Recently, Col. Abdullahi Yusuf called for Darood clans supporting the ONLF (the ONLF draws virtually all its manpower from the Ogaden/Darood clan) and living in Ethiopia to send him arms, ammunition and combatants to prepare for a conflict with Somaliland. Significantly, the ONLF has engaged in hit-and-run insurgency operations against Ethiopian forces in the autonomous, ethnically-Somali Ogaden region of Ethiopia. What is equally significant is that Eritrea is itself preparing for a renewal of conflict with Ethiopia at a time when Ethiopia has begun building a new infrastructure to move Ethiopian exports out of the country via a road link to the Somaliland port of Berbera. This would forever put an end to the prospect of Ethiopian dependence on exports through Eritrean Red Sea ports, and would limit exports through Djibouti, which had since the last Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict essentially had a monopoly on Ethiopian exports.
Eritrean and Djiboutian support for Puntland hostilities toward Somaliland were believed to be in place, and Libya had traditionally supported Eritrean hostility toward Somaliland, by providing weapons and training to both Eritrean forces and Eritrean-backed insurgents operating against Ethiopia from Somalia, including the ONLF and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
It is important to note that Col. Abdullahi Yusuf’s Majerteen, along with Somaliland’s Dhulbahante and Warsangeli peoples, form the Harti sub-group of the Darood clan. However, there are many other ethnically Somali clans, including the Isaak, Issa and Gadabursi (all of whom also live in Somaliland), who live in the Somali regional state of Ethiopia.
According to sources in the area, the ONLF’s decision to support Col. Abdullahi Yusuf’s call to arms was as a result of the arrest in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, of 34 ONLF combatants between the end of November and early December 2003. Those arrested admitted to having undergone military training in Eritrea.
Although Ethiopia had originally helped Abdullahi Yusuf to create the breakaway state of Puntland, relations between the Ethiopian Meles Administration and Abudllahi Yusuf were now strained.
The sources noted that the ONLF combatants who had come into the Majerteen area had been incorporated mostly into the forces of Col. Abdullahi Yusuf, although some would remain in ONLF units under the Colonel’s control.
Abdullahi Yusuf’s forces had occupied Las-Anod in Somaliland on December 23, 2003, and had then sent emissaries to request assistance from the ONLF and Ogaden traditional leaders to come to the aid of what he called the only exclusively Darood-based administration in post- [Mohammed Siyad] Barre Somalia. His envoys had reportedly visited the Wardheer, Goday, Galadi and other areas in the autonomous Somali regional state of Ethiopia, and had also attempted to incite tribal animosities against the Isaaks, Gadabursi and Issa peoples.
Abdullahi Yusuf, in an interview on the BBC Somali Service, had denied that he had invaded Las-Anod, nor violated Somaliland sovereignty. He then, however, said that he did not recognize boundaries drawn up by colonial powers. He said that since the eastern Sanag and Sool areas of Somaliland were occupied by his Harti kinsmen, the two areas were an integral part of Puntland. This makes up the essence of his cassus belli for starting hostilities with Somaliland, although Eritrea and other powers support him covertly for their own strategic reasons.
Some Somaliland sources believe that he wanted, also, to draw Somaliland into conflict so that he could demonstrate that Somaliland was engaged in the ongoing conflict in the former Italian Somaliland, of which Puntland is a part (and which Somaliland is not). By involving Somaliland in the war in Somalia, it was reasoned, Col. Abdullahi Yusuf could demand Somaliland’s participation in the Nairobi talks on the future of Somalia, which Somaliland has refused to attend, highlighting its historic sovereignty and withdrawal from the Somalia Union. Thus, by showing that Somaliland like Puntland a party to conflict in the former Somalia union territory had a case for sovereignty, so, too would Puntland.
Puntland Minister of Interior, Ahmed Abdi Habsade, was in Las-Anod on January 21, 2004, where he gave a speech in front of the local government office saying that the people of the region should prepare for an Isaak-Darood war [i.e.: Somaliland-Puntland war]. His speech, however, was cut short when the crowd attacked him. He left Las-Anod for Puntland on January 23, 2004.