The recent Somaliland victory in Las Anod seems to be a hollow one.
Puntland may have been militarily defeated but by all accounts the locals simply failed to throw flowers at the liberating forces from the west as Hargeisa had hoped.
The fact that the take-over was accomplished by local Las Anodis lead by pro-Somaliland men made little difference. The victors are largely seen by the overwhelming majority of the population as self-serving individuals at best and outright traitors at worst. This is not quite fair but since when fairness mattered to the Somali?
Puntland, which ran the place since it took over in 2002 breaking a gentlemanly agreement with Somaliland that neither side takes overall control of the disputed area, failed to govern the region properly.
Locals point out that when Somaliland was in control in the 1990s, teachers and police were paid on time, streets cleaned and burglars kept at bay. Under Puntland law and order broke down, schools closed and business came to a halt.
But Somalis are not influenced by these mundanely practical things. Clan sentiment overides everything and on this overwhelmingly powerful indicator, Somaliland, largely seen as an Isaq entity, is on a losing card in Las Anod: the locals are Darod and their loyalty lies with their Darod brethren in Puntland.
Somaliland’s claim on Las Anod is based on the legitimate case that it was within the borders of Somaliland under colonial rule and on independence from colonial rule in 1960. Every African country claims its borders on the same colonial map.
But the fact remains that Las Anodis by a substantial majority do not want to be part of Somaliland.
But there is another fact: Las Anod does not matter to Somaliland. It does not matter economically or socially and it ruled itself out politically thus forfeiting the only card it could have played in Somaliland politics.
The solution for Somaliland is simple: let Las Anod go. It has no economic value to Somaliland and the locals are troublesome. It simply does not deserve the trouble let alone the lives of our kids. Withdraw from Las Anod now and negotiate on demarcating the border. The locals can join whoever they like.
October 31, 2007