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Somali government invites SSC to Mogadishu for Las Anod crisis talks

Sunday May 21, 2023

Jama Hassan Khalif, Somalia's Minister of Communications, meets with the SSC 33-member ruling council.


Mogadishu (HOL) - As tension escalates in the embattled city of Las Anod, the Federal Government of Somalia has reportedly extended an invitation to the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (SSC) to visit the capital, Mogadishu, to engage in talks aimed at resolving the ongoing conflict. This move follows weeks of violence, an alleged arms embargo violation, and a breakdown in communication between various factions in the region.

The invitation comes amidst criticism of the government's perceived passive stance towards the situation in Las Anod. Critics have underscored the need for a more active governmental role in addressing the ongoing conflict.

Jama Hassan Khalif, the Minister of Communications for the Federal Government of Somalia, who is currently in Las Anod, is said to have personally extended this invitation on behalf of the Federal Government. Khalif is the first federal cabinet minister to visit Las Anod.

Although the response from the SSC to the invitation remains uncertain, it is noteworthy that the 33-member ruling council has previously expressed divergent views on visiting Mogadishu. These differences emerged despite recurrent governmental pleas for discussions regarding the conflict in Las Anod.

The town of Las Anod has become the epicentre of fierce clashes since February 6, 2023, between the forces of the breakaway region of Somaliland and local militias from the Dhulbahante clan. These hostilities were seemingly triggered by the murder of Somaliland politician Abdifatah Hadrawi, transforming a domestic issue into a deeply-rooted political and clan dispute.

The dispute was further exacerbated when the Dhulbahante committee declared autonomy from the Somaliland government. Somaliland forces shelled the city in response, causing significant damage and civilian casualties. The armed skirmishes have claimed hundreds of lives and displaced thousands of citizens.

Despite an observable lull in the violence over the past few weeks, heavy fighting recently erupted on the outskirts of Las Anod. Residents reported the sounds of artillery fire echoing throughout the town. Meanwhile, images of a Somaliland military armoured vehicle heading towards the Goja Adde command circulated on social media, triggering further unrest.

Complicating matters further, local clan militia forces withdrew from the frontline and relocated to Garowe, the administrative capital of Puntland State. This move was a protest against local government plans to hold elections, adding a further layer of complexity to the ongoing strife.

Amid this unfolding crisis, the Somaliland administration continues to point fingers at both Puntland and the Somali federal government. They contend that these entities are fuelling the war. On the other hand, traditional elders from the SSC-Khatumo faction, including Garad Jama Garad Ali, the supreme traditional clan chief of the SSC regions, counter with their own allegations, asserting that the information disseminated by Somaliland regarding the conflict is misleading. Garad Jama claimed that President Bihi refused to meet traditional elders from Mogadishu, advocating instead for the continuation of the war.

The crisis was further complicated by recent accusations from President Muse Bihi Abdi of Somaliland, who implicated ex-officials from Somalia's former military regime and the Puntland administration in a conspiracy to partition Somaliland. These accusations have undoubtedly fueled the hostility, placing additional strain on future peace talks.

The United Nations, concerned about potential arms embargo violations and breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL), has called for sanctions against violators. A six-member UN panel has highlighted various prominent actors from the Somaliland Ministry of Defence and the National Army allegedly involved in hostilities. The Panel is probing the origin and chain of custody of weapons and ammunition used in the conflict.

In an unexpected move, Somalia's Minister of Communications and Technology, Jama Hassan Khalif, visited Las Anod for discussions with members of the 33-member SSC ruling council. Yet the duration of his stay and the specifics of the dialogue remain uncertain, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty around potential solutions.


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