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Somaliland vs. Puntland: More Terror Accusations, More Crying Wolf
By Dalmar Kaahin
Traditionally, whenever Somaliland and Puntland forces are locked in a deadly battle, the Prime Minster of Somalia, Mr. Geedi, quickly flies to Puntland to prop up support for Gen. Adde Muse, the current president of Puntland region of Somalia. (Actually, this is a good sign—the Somali regime has given up Somaliland for good.)
Both in April and in September, 2007, as soon the conflicts broke out between Somaliland and Puntland, Mr. Geedi wasted not time. He quickly flew to the port city Bossaso in Puntland, and not only vehemently supported Puntland’s position, but also shamelessly played the terrorist card and falsely accused Somaliland of getting support from Al-Qaeda, remnants of the Islamic Court Union I.C.U, and lately Somali Liberation group (established in Asmara, Eritrea) somehow has been included in the list of ever growing imaginary terrorists, so elusive they dodge bullets. During the battle in April, Mr. Geedi, without a shred of evidence, said, “The war was the result of Somaliland, terrorist groups, and remnants of the I.C.U, trying to destabilize Puntland and TFG governments.” (TFG: Transitional Federal Government a.k.a Tigray Founded Government.)
The President of the TFG, Abdillahi Yusuf, on the other hand, helps Gen. Adde to simply keep his sanity helmet on, in the heat of battle.
However, it looks as though Mr. Geedi and Mr. Yusuf either run out of steam, this time, or busy backstabbing each other. Lately, Mr. Geedi and Mr. Yusuf seemed to be locked in their own battle—a political showdown. Mr. Yusuf is trying to get rid of Mr. Geedi as a Prime Minster, and Mr. Geedi is contemplating whether to declare Mr. Yusuf as a dangerous monster or not.
So, they paid scant attention to the conflict in Sool province of Somaliland, much less rescuing Gen. Adde Muse. However, Mr. Geedi, this time, instead of taking sides and accusing Somaliland of harboring terrorists, he appealed to both sides to solve the conflict through peaceful means. Things have changed! (Soon, Mr. Geedi would be accused of being a terrorist by Mr. Yusuf.) So Gen. Adde, all alone, desperately, probably for the tenth time in this year alone, pleaded for help to fight off some imaginary Al-Qaeda groups in Sool region, but to no avail. Desperate times, desperate measures!
In an act of desperation, Gen. Adde, obnoxiously, screams louder than ever about some ghost terrorists aiding Somaliland forces. According to Gen. Adde, “Puntland has proof such as, documents and identifications which belong to foreigners fighting along Somaliland forces.” Is he losing it again? Puntland also claims to have captured and killed some of these foreign fighters. (Iraqi refugees escaped from Mogadishu don’t count!)
Of course, Puntland has “proof”; after all, in the past, the authority planned staged terrorism. It planted and foiled a terror plot successfully. Well done! Recently, hundreds of fleeing refugees from Mogadishu have been accused of plotting terrorist acts against Puntland. Fake cylindrically shaped bombs inscribed with Arabic letters (for convenience) rather than Somali were showcased by the authority. Congratulations! Yet not a single person has been charged. So fabricating documents with pictures (taken from the Internet) of some random foreign nationals (hopefully, they resemble the usual suspects) would hardly require any efforts.
And surely enough, years ago, when Abdillahi Yusuf, then the world of Puntland, with the help of Ethiopia defeated Al-Itihad groups in Shinbiraale area, east of Bossaso, hundreds of pictures and documents that allegedly belonged to foreign terrorists were showcased by Puntland. So fabricating new documents may not even be necessary. Why not reproduce the ones that are already in the authority’s possession? Keep it simple!
Also, after the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, hundreds of innocent Iraqi refugees and other Arab nationals have been rounded up in Mogadishu where their pictures and their documents have been confiscated by Mr. Yusuf’s regime. So there will be no shortage of the so-called evidence of terrorism.
But is Gen. Adde really making himself the laughingstock of the century? No need to be an expert in terrorism; simply, any layman can see the sheer stupidity and political naivety of Gen. Adde. Therefore, Gen. Adde’s terror accusations are ludicrous. Why?
First, Gen. Adde’s fleeing militias could not even evacuate their wounded solders. In addition to abandoning dozens of their wounded militia and prisoners, they also left their heavy weapons and more important their military documents in the battle fields, as reported by an eye witness in Las Anod, the provincial capital of Sool. ( http://tinyurl.com/25shr2). So then one wonders when they got the chance to search the pockets of supposedly dead foreign fighters.
Second, it is hard to believe that these alleged foreigners would bring their passports and documents along to the frontline. (This is not potluck party!) It does not really make sense, does it? Of course not! After all, any sensible foreign fighter would do utmost to hide his identity.
Third, always, foreign fighters fight against none Muslim forces occupying a Muslim country, so why would they side with Somaliland, especially, since both Somaliland and Puntland people are ethnic Somalis and Sunni Muslims? (Surely, having these two Somali societies fighting is embarrassing.)
So then the question is: is Gen. Adde Muse becoming hysterical or is he keeping his fingers crossed, hoping Addis Ababa or Washington would respond to his SOS distress calls?
On the contrary, despite Gen. Adde’s desperate attempts to label Somaliland as a heaven for terrorists, the U.S., in fact, praises Somaliland’s efforts to curb terrorism. An interview with BBC, the Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer says, “We deal with the Somaliland government, and it is important country for the war on terror”. She continues, “Regularly we speak to the President of Somaliland and closely work with the government on security issues and fighting against terrorism in the region”. ( http://tinyurl.com/33benr)
Furthermore, Dr. J. Peter Pham Testimony, director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs, before the United States House of Representatives—states, “Surely if America’s national commitment to support and strengthen democracy as a bulwark against extremist ideologies and terrorist violence has any real-world application, it is certainly the case here [Somaliland].” Dr. J. Peter Pham also confirms that Puntland has attacked Somaliland, but not the other way around. He adds, “…just two weeks ago, armed forces from the Somali region of Puntland opened fire on Somaliland security forces northwest of Las Anod in the Sool district. “ ( http://tinyurl.com/2qwxod)
Meanwhile, Shaykh Sharif, the leader of the Somali Liberation umbrella in Asmara, Eritrea denied involvement in the conflict in Sool region. "We won’t fight Somalis as long as Ethiopian troops are present in our motherland. Our Mission is to push the Ethiopian troops out of Somalia," said Shaykh Sharif, who is currently in Asmara. ( http://tinyurl.com/33xyjn). Obviously, the Asmara group has a bigger fish to fry—the expulsion of the Ethiopian forces from Somalia. Common sense! Clearly, beyond a shadow of doubt, any way you look at it, Gen. Adde’s accusations are not only ludicrous but also shameful.
Is Somaliland bound to destroy Puntland as claimed by Gen. Adde?
Well, again, let’s examine the past events and how Gen. Adde came to power. In 2001, a fight broke out between Mr. Yusuf, then the world in charge of Puntland, and Mr. Jama Ali Jama, an elected leader in Puntland. In 2002, then the commander of Mr. Jama’s army, Gen. Adde, feeling hopeless, was at the mercy of Mr. Yusuf and the Ethiopian forces. Amazingly, Mr. Yusuf accused Gen. Adde of belonging to some terrorist organization. The General and his militias, many of them wounded, fled to Somaliland. Many of his wounded solders were treated in Burao, the capital of Togdheer province of Somaliland, hospital. And what did Somaliland do?
It did the unexpected! Instead of arming Gen. Adde, as he requested, Somaliland in fact mediated between the warring factions, and succeeded it. This surprised everyone. In response to Gen. Adde Muse accusation of Somaliland being bent to destroy Puntland, the current foreign Minster of Somaliland Abdillahi Mohamed Dualeh states,” If we wanted to destroy Puntland, we could have done it easily when Gen. Adde fled to Somaliland and repeatedly asked us to arm him against Mr. Yusuf, few years ago. But instead, we helped them to resolve their conflict peacefully.”
Eventually, Mr. Adde and his militias went back home where he became the president of Puntland. So in fact, it was not Somaliland, Gen. Adde Muse may not have been the president of Puntland today. But how did Gen. Adde paid back Somaliland the favor it did for him? No sooner he became the president of Puntland than he attacked Somaliland.
What about the contradicting reports about the ware in Las Anod coming from Puntland authority itself?
On one hand, Puntland admits that a local militia led by Mr. Habsade, the former Puntland Interior Minster, took over the city while Somaliland forces remained in the outskirts of the city. That is, Somaliland did not enter the city. (Listen to the eyewitness’s account: http://tinyurl.com/2jo8ws). Furthermore, pro-Puntland websites not only admit that the city fell into the hands of local militias but also they reported that Somaliland forces could not enter the city because locals opposed the troop’s arrival. ( http://tinyurl.com/24q485 and http://tinyurl.com/23ndqe)
Additionally, on October 16, 2007 a group of Puntland Ministers held a press conference and said “Puntland forces left Las Anod to spare the city from destruction and didn’t lose it to Somaliland forces”. Then why blame Somaliland?
But then, on the other hand, Gen. Adde completely changes the equation and says, “Somaliland forces, foreign terrorists, remnants of the Islamic Court Union, and the Asmara group attacked Puntland forces in Las Anod, and Puntland left the city to spare it from destruction.” One is baffled by why Gen. Adde would abandon the city, and let “terrorists” take over it! That’s just really quite bizarre. Here is yet another contradiction: though Gen. Adde said that his forces left Laas Anod to avoid destruction in the city, he vowed to retake it by military force. That is, Puntland’s militias are now coming back to destroy it. As a result, thousands of residents have led Las Anod fearing armed reprisal. And it is worthy of noting that this is the first time that the residents of Las Anod are fleeing their city. Thanks to Gen. Adde’s threats. So then the question is: did Puntland militias fled to spare the city, or they got whipped? In any event, undoubtedly, either the General is hysterical or he is full of it.
And who instigated this latest conflict? Also, do the residents of Las Anod agree with Gen. Adde’s accusations?
On October 15, 2007 , Hassan Daahir Afqudhac, the vice president of Puntland ordered the arrest of Mr. Habsadewho was in house in Las Anod. When Puntland militias arrived at Mr. Habsade’s house, a gun-battle broke out between them and his local militias. And his body guards not only defended him, but also unexpectedly other militias (from Dhulbahante tribes) who were originally allied with Puntland joined Mr. Habsade’s defense and chased away the Puntland forces. The city is now controlled by local militias who are loyal to Somaliland (depending what day of the week it is). ( http://tinyurl.com/2hr48n)
In addition to the capture of the city by local militias, on October 17, 2007, an interview with the BBC, Mohamed Mahomoud Farah (Indhabuur): a well-respected politician from Sool, who lives in Las Anod and who supports neither Somaliland nor Puntland—he is pro-TFG—details the general views of the population in the region about the conflict, and he refutes Gen. Adde’s false claims of terrorists helping Somaliland. Mr. Faraha states, “Tribal chiefs and the population in Sool were split in this conflict; some support Somaliland and others support Puntland.” In addition, Mr. Farah states, “Surely, there are more pro-Somaliland people than before, and this explains why Somaliland supporters easily captured Las Anod”.
And in regards to Gen. Adde’s accusations of terrorists fighting along Somaliland forces, Mr. Farah says “When Gen. Adde and his vice president of Puntland Hassan Daahir Afqudhac inflated the Somali shillings and failed not only to improve the economy of the region but also to defend Las Anod, it is unfortunate now they are looking for scapegoats as they claim there are terrorists in Sool. Their claim is impossible; they want to get help from foreign countries.”
Even pro-Puntland garoweonline editorial states, “Somaliland's military success in Las Anod is in large part due to serious divisions within the Dhulbahante clan; Ahmed Abdi Habsade, a former Puntland government minister and a Dhulbahante clansman, backed Somaliland's takeover of Las Anod.” ( http://tinyurl.com/39k2mp) (Garowe: the capital of Puntland) So then is Gen. Adde calling some of the residents of Las Anod who opposed his regime terrorists?
Furthermore, even Garaad Saleban, a well-respected Dhulbahante tribal leader and a die-hard supporter of Puntland, who hails from Sool region, accused the vice President of Puntland, Hassan Daahir Afqudhac, who also hails from Sool, of favoring his tribe’s men over other tribes’ in the region and giving them more government jobs. And according to Garaad Saleban, this favoritism alienated a large Dhulbahante population in Hawd region. As result, Puntland lost the fight against Somaliland. ( http://tinyurl.com/35pu5d) So Gen. Adde’s terror accusations are not only baseless but also dangerous—a double-edged sword.
Overplaying the terrorist card may backfire on Puntland
Inadvertently, Puntland’s false terror accusations against its own people as well against Somaliland may eventually undermine Puntland’s security and very likely its existence as a region. Virtually, any group: political, environmental, human rights, religious, youth, or social that apposes Gen. Adde’s feeble administration is quickly labeled as a terrorist. Not a week passes by that someone or a group is not accused of being terrorists. In Bossaso, the capital of Puntland, just few days ago, a group of environmental activists, from Eastern Sanag region, who strongly oppose the deforestation of their region by Puntland charcoal commercial companies were surrounded and accused of being members of (a non-name brand) terrorist group, by the authority. As a result a deadly gun-battle erupted between the group and the police. Lives were lost on both sides.
And an MP of the TFG, Asha Ahmed Abdalla, who hails from Eastern Sanag, condemns Gen. Adde’s brutality against innocent people and labeling them as terrorists. In addition, she accused that Gen. Adde murdered a number of Warsengali tribes (inhabitants of Eastern Sanag region) when he was in the rebel group: Somali Salvation Democratic Front SSDF or Siisocoo Soosocoo Dumarka u Faan, as some Somalis misunderstood it. This rebel group which fought against Gen. Siyad Barre in the 1980s was led by Mr. Yusuf, the current president of Somalia. ( http://tinyurl.com/28wqmn)
However, according Puntland police chief Abdulaziz Gacamey, “The attackers had ties with a group of Islamist fighters who survived the June shelling of the Puntland mountainous areas outside the coastal town of Bargal by a United States Navy destroyer that left several dead. These are the remnants of the Bargal group that has strong links with extremists…” ( http://tinyurl.com/2ne99o)
In other words, when disgruntled local people of coastal town of Bargal, in Puntland, protested against Gen. Adde’s regime and his incompetence as a leader, he duped gullible Americans to bombard the town in order to flush out some elusive “terrorists” hiding in the mountainous area near the town. As it seems, Puntland may undermine its own security by constantly labeling its own citizens as terrorists. The possibility of civil war in Puntland is real, if falsely labeling citizens as terrorists is not stopped.
Gen Adde’s claims to be a peaceful, but is he really a man of peace or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
In sharp contrast to a peaceful man, just like Mr. Yusuf, Gen. Adde may be a weak leader, but his quest for tribal domination over many Somalis regions from the South to the North is beyond belief. Puntland’s Minster of Employment, Abdinuur Ilmi Mohamud, on October 18, 2007 told the BBC that, apart from Sool region, 45% of Togdheer province, as well as Erigavo, the capital of Sanag region, of Somaliland, fall within his tribal borders. So this translates to over 50% of Somaliland territory belongs to his tribal fiefdom—Puntland. Much of Puntland leaders’ argument is in fact weakened by their devotions to changing colonial borders into tribal borders.
All these tribal hegemonies are accomplished while Abdillahi Yusuf inaugurates himself, using money, as the president of Somalia, and Gen. Adde Muse claims to be a peaceful man. Are they kidding themselves?
However, the truth of the matter is: from Buuhoolde town, near the Ethiopian border, in Togdheer province of Somaliland, to the port city Kismanyo ( the Promised-Land for Puntlanders) of Jubba province, deep in southern Somalia, close to the Kenyan border, virtually, anyone who reminds Abdillahi Yusuf and Gen. Adde Muse to stop waging relentless wars and making claims to other Somali regions is accused of being a terrorist— an Al-Qaeda camel herder. Needless to say, that thousands of Puntland militias wage merciless war in Mogadishu—a campaign of terror. Even Mr. Geedi could not tolerate them anymore. He encouraged the Mogadishu residents to defend themselves from these thugs. Yet these two men: Mr. Yusuf and Gen. Adde seem to be baffled by why they haven’t been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize! This really beats me!
Beyond a shadow of doubt, much of Gen. Adde’s accusations of Somaliland invading and occupying Sool regions have been discredited by eyewitness reports, and in fact Puntland government website reported that Somaliland didn’t capture Las Anod by force, but some local militias took control of the city, after Puntland forces decided not fight in order to “spare” the city from destruction. But Gen. Adde vowed to retake the city by force. So much for sparing the city from destruction!
In any event, one thing is clear: In 2003, Mr. Habsade who was the Interior Minster of Puntland sent militias to Las Anod to evict the visiting President of Somaliland, Mr. Rayale Kaahin, from the city. But despite that fact that Mr. Rayale barely escaped an assassination attempt, still Puntland accused Somaliland of attacking the city and causing havoc. Puntland militias not only captured the city by force, but also they barraged about how they chased Mr. Rayale from the city.
Amazingly, in a bizarre twist, four years later, in 2007, Mr. Afqudhac, the current vice president of Puntland, sent Puntland militias to capture Mr. Habsade—he barely escaped with his own life. (What goes around comes around! No surprises there!) And this was what instigated the latest clashes. But luckily, now Mr. Habsade recaptured the city from the same militias that he himself sent to assassinate Mr. Rayale Kaahin, in 2003. Somaliland did not attempt to assassinate the president of Puntland nor did Somaliland invade Puntland territory (according to International borders, not according to tribal ones). But Puntland, not only invaded Sool province of Somaliland in 2003, but also it nearly assassinated President Rayale Kaahin.
So, clearly, Somaliland neither invaded Puntland nor wanted to destroy it. In fact, if it was not Somaliland Gen. Adde may not have been in power today. And instead of returning the favor that Somaliland did for him, he attacked it. Remember, in 2002, he fled to Somaliland with dozens of wounded solders. These solders were cared in Burao hospital. Oddly enough, today probably, these solders are once again cared in Borao hospital, after Puntland militias left them in the battle fields (because, supposedly they were busy collecting documents that belong to terrorists).
Also, evidently, Puntland did not put a good fight against the local Las Anod militias, but what about telling good lies? That does not cost loss of lives. Why did Puntland failed to tell reasonable lies? While Gen. Adde claims that his fleeing militias collected documents that belonged to foreign terrorist who fought along Somaliland forces, dozens of his wounded solders, prisoners, and documents were left behind in the battle fields.
What’s more, Puntland leader’s who repeatedly label their own people as terrorists pose far more threats to Puntland stability, than imagined terrorists do.
And despite, Puntland’s nuisance accusations of terrorists supporting Somaliland, U.S. regards Somaliland as an important ally in the war on terror.
Furthermore, hypocritically, while Gen. Adde and his cousin Mr. Yusuf appeal for peace and calm, they wage brutal wars against other Somalis from Buuhoodle, in Togdheer region of Somaliland, to Kismanyo, deep in Somalia. And while these two leaders want peace for their region, they won’t allow other Somalis to have peace in their regions.
Clearly, beyond a shadow of doubt, any way you look at it, Gen. Adde’s accusations are not only ludicrous but also shameful. His SOS distress messages of terrorist attacks against his militias are indeed crying wolf.
The author can be reached by firstname.lastname@example.org