| by Abdulkadir Khalif in Mogadishu
( January 28, Mogadishu, Sri Lanka Guardian) As if Somaliland didn’t have enough troubles already. A self-declared state, its sovereignty has remainde unrecognised by any international country or organisation, despite two decades of lobbying.
That is why a meeting that took place last December 16 appears to have galled so much. Ironically held in Taleh district which is on territory disputed by both Somaliland and yet another semi-autonomous state, Puntland, the “conference” saw the birth of another “state”, further complicating what is already a tangled situation.
There, a spokesman announced that another new country called Khatumo State of Somalia had been born. And on December 20, three co-presidents were selected to run the affairs of the new authority.
“At the end of the conference partaken by representatives from [disputed] Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) regions, Khatumo State of Somalia was instituted,” said Mr Aden Abdullahi Shuriye.
“The three co-presidents will each serve six months in a rotating presidency,” he added, while the new authority would have six starting ministers.
The new leaders were then sworn in on January 19.
“We are simply unchaining our regions from Somaliland and Puntland,” said Dr Ali Khalif Gallaydh, a former prime minister of Somalia and one of the promoters of the Taleh conference. “We want to shape our own destiny.”
As expected, Somaliland officials were scathing in their opposition to the conference.
“The conference taking place at Taleh is a menace to Somaliland’s struggle to gain recognition for its self-determination,” Mr Faysal Ali Warabe, the leader of Somaliland’s opposition political party, UCID, told the media.
Mr Warabe termed the organisers of the conference as “spoilers” for Somaliland’s long sought-after recognition of its declaration of independence.
Information minister Ahmed Abdi Habsade insisted that his region would never accept the formation of another authority opposed to Somaliland.
Observers agree that the rift would only widen.
“Warabe and Habsade clearly demonstrated that the gathering at Taleh was salt being rubbed into Somaliland’s wounds, particularly given its long-sought [bid for] international recognition,” said Mogadishu politician Ali Fidow Nur.
Somaliland considers the disputed SSC regions as part of its jurisdiction which covers the territory of the former Somaliland British Protectorate that gained independence from Britain on June 26, 1960 and joined southern Somalia when it attained independence from Italy on July 1, 1960.
Former British Somaliland and the former Somalia Italiana formed the Somalia Republic on July 1, 1960. But in May 1991, groups in the north-western territories declared independence from the rest of Somalia following the collapse of the feared rule of General Mohamed Siyad Barre in Mogadishu.
Khatumo spokesman Shuriye said that the delegates to the conference at Taleh district were composed of traditional leaders, community elders, civil society, Diaspora and other interested parties who then picked a name for the new authority.
“Khatumo State of Somalia was chosen because of its historical importance of the name Khatumo,” said the spokesman, without further elaborating.
The new authority is unionist and accepts the auspices of Transitional Federal Government that is seeking to rule the whole of Somalia from its base in Mogadishu, the capital.
Puntland, which also seeks jurisdiction over the SSC regions, has not issued a statement in regards its position to the newly formed state. But it has always disagreed with Somaliland over the three areas.
Puntland is a semi-autonomous state and its leaders believe that the people in the SSC regions share close clan linkage with the people in its regions.
It thus already looks like Khatumo State of Somalia is not going to have a smooth path.
On December 15, a day before the new authority was declared, a violent confrontation took place between loyalist Somaliland forces and militias loyal to the Taleh group.
Twelve people died and 20 others were injured, including unarmed civilians in Buhodle district, the capital of Cayn region, some 1,300 km northwest of Mogadishu.
Mr Faysal Farah, a militia leader in Buhodle, claimed that his militants had inflicted casualties on what he called the “invading” Somaliland forces.
“We killed many of their soldiers and repelled them from the town,” he said while admitting that he had lost four men and eight others been wounded.
In Mogadishu, the National Security Council, chaired by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed held a hasty meeting, terming the confrontation at Buhodle town as unfortunate and calling for dialogue between the warring parties.
Leaders have urged the transitional government to support the people in the disputed areas. “The TFG leaders should support the people in the SCC regions,” Al-Haji Abdi Mohamed Ali, an MP, told the Africa Review.
Delegations from the competing sides have since then kept descending on Mogadishu looking for TFG support, but it is apparent that the confrontation over the new “state” will continue well into this year, muddling an already convoluted situation.
Source: African Review