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Somaliland President Muse Bihi warns Puntland, FGS not to agitate Las Anod situation

Tuesday January 3, 2023


Hargeisa (HOL) - Muse Bihi Abdi, President of Somaliland, said that his government is committed to finding a solution to the week-long anti-government protests in Las Anod, the capital of the Sool region, but also cautioned the Somali government and Puntland administration not to aggravate the situation.

The president, speaking after a meeting to assess the situation in Lasaanood, stated that Somaliland has adequate resources to handle the matter, while also extending his sympathies to all impacted by the crisis.

"We spoke about problems in Lasa Anod and how to fix them. We agreed that Somaliland has enough resources to resolve this issue... We deeply regret the actions last week and express our sympathies to all those who died in Las Anod, which was sudden and unexpected, "President Bihi stated.

The president said that following the establishment of peace, steps would be made to address the core issues and find a solution, but he emphasized that normalcy must return to Las Anod before real peace talks can begin.

The president stated that the majority of those slain in Las Anod during the last 15 years were government officials and that the majority of those responsible for the killings had been apprehended.

Demonstrators say one of the root causes for the anti-government rallies which killed dozens is the local administration's failure to deal with political assassinations.

"From 2009 to today, 40 people have been killed; 32 have been arrested, 8 are fugitives, 23 have been convicted, 7 of their cases are still pending, and 2 have been freed by the courts. 24 of the people killed were government officials, while the remaining 16 were civilians. All of them have been killed while supporting the Somaliland government," said President Bihi.

The Somaliland President also warned those Puntland lawmakers who advocated for Somaliland to leave Sool. Bihi said that Somaliland would defend its territory in the event that one of Somalia's five regional administrations invaded and charged that the Somali federal government is assisting Puntland's President Dani in mobilizing against Somaliland.

Puntland state President Said Abdullahi Deni said on Monday that all political and military options were on the table for Puntland to solve the dispute.

"If Somaliland does not accept the calls of the people of Las Anod, who demand that Somaliland leave the town and the entire Sool region, Puntland is ready to take all possible actions," said Deni.
Security experts worry the involvement of Puntland forces raises the risk of escalation and could lead to further skirmishes in Sool or along the disputed border between Somaliland and Puntland.
Somaliland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it "rejected" calls for peace from Souef Mohamed El-Amine, the AU Special Representative for Somalia, arguing that it was outside the scope of the ATMIS mission.

"Laas-Anod is a district in Somaliland which the Government has ensured peace and security in since the country regained its sovereignty in 1991. The Government of Somaliland will not tolerate seditious statements by African Union Transition Mission in (ATMIS)  that go beyond their mandate as the Republic of Somaliland is an independent country."

Somaliland's foreign affairs ministry blamed the violence on criminal elements.

"We urge all stakeholders to act responsibly and condemn the criminals who have exploited local grievances which incite clan tensions."
Hundreds of residents have begun fleeing their homes on the weekend in anticipation of continued insecurity. Security personnel are likely to remain deployed in the area in the coming days, as analysts expect. Further confrontations between protesters and the security forces are likely.

Bihi ended his address by making an appeal for peace.

"Today, we stand for peace and good neighbours, and we say there is no need to fight. We can resolve it because we, our brothers, have suffered worse." 

The conflict between the breakaway region of Somaliland and Puntland over the Sool region, notably Las Anod, has lingered for several years and has its roots in a wider disagreement over the border between the two regions.

In October 2007, intense fighting broke out between the two sides over control of Las Anod, with the Somaliland military capturing the town. Both sides have accused the other of aggression and violating ceasefires.


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