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Tukaraq Battle Presages a Wider Conflict
Sunday May 27, 2018
By Liban Ahmad

In 2005 when Somaliland and Puntland governments exchanged prisoners in the then Adhicaddeeye frontline, General Abdullahi Arays  said both administration were wrongheaded " to fight over a piece of barren land".  This  shows that Puntland never considered the conflict as one  based on a territory. It is Somaliland government that views a territory as the source of the conflict. What Somaliland political leaders have failed to understand is that territories now designated as "disputed territories" lie within the ex-British Somaliland, the territory Somaliland claims to have a legally binding jurisdiction based on sovereignty. Somaliand's understanding of the sovereignty runs counter to the UN Security Council Resolutions that reiterate the territorial and political unity of Somalia. In essence,  Somaliland government's stance is more self-defeating than the position of successive post-independence   former civilian Somali governments that never claimed jurisdiction over territories in Ethiopia and Kenya  in which Somalis live.

Somaliland government has never explored ways to mitigate the impact the disputed territories status has on people in Sool, parts of Togdheer and Sanaag. Hargeisa chose to exploit  poor leadership  of  political entrepreneurs from disputed territories. The former Somaliland President, Ahmed M. Silanyo, signed a "unity agreement with Khatumo "administration" almosy a year ago but President Muse Bihi  has been reluctant  to implement it for fear of angering militias that constitute the bulk of Somaliland forces in Sool. Mr Bihi realised that there is no way to implement the agreement without destroying his alliance with Sool militias represented in the cabinet by the Somaliland Minister of Education Yasin H. M. Hiir. Other political entrepreneurs – Bashi Mohamed Farah (the Somaliland Parliamentary  Speaker)  and Saleban Y. Ali Kore (Minister of Water)  do not have armed militias paid by Somaliland; they have little political influence beyond reiterating Somaliland government " sovereignty" position.

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Unlike Silanyo, President Bihi  came to the office with a strong pledge to "secure the border between Somaliland and Somalia." " Dr Galaydh and I will secure the border" he said on his inauguration day.  Reality has mugged President when he attempted to implement the Khatumo-Somaliland agreement. Bihi opted for a classic Somaliland policy to promise but never to act.

Somaliland  forces attacked Tukaraq checkpoint manned by Puntland customs officers several months ago. It justified the attack on two grounds: An attack by "Puntland-affiliated militias" on people in Tukaraq and Qoriley.  Only two weeks ago a peace agreement was concluded between subclans from Mudug and Southern Sool in the presence  of Garad Jama Garad Ali and Islan Bashir. The agreement binds Khatumo leader to the spirit and the letter of Qoriley agreement.                                           

Somaliland government aims to secure its Yoo'ada border with "Somalia". Those border-securing goals seemed to unnerve Puntland. What Somaliland political leaders have forgotten is that Puntland has been at war with Al-shabaab and Da'esh. Even if Somaliland forces had reached Yoo'ada, there would be no guarantee that Somaliland would not attack Garowe. Somaliland artillery could target parts of Garowe. “Puntland should  refrain from attacking Somaliland otherwise Garowe will become a disputed territory” said Mohamed  Abdullahi Ur'adde , the leader of a Waddani party splinter group.                                       

 Although Somaliland companies such as Somtel invest in Puntland , Hargeisa has made breaking business and political ties between  Lasanod  and Garowe a priority. Puntland, on the contrary, realised it can no longer bank on the policy of plucking low-hanging fruits –  securing privileges to represent people from disputed territories at the  federal level in Mogadishu.  War is disruptive and will cause widespread instability in the ex-British Somaliland territory claimed by Somaliland as a sovereign state. Northern political entrepreneurs lack pragmatism of southern political entrepreneurs. Galka'ayo is a divided city but not a disputed district. Agreements signed by the first generation of northern political leaders are on the verge of unraveling.                               

Last year Somaliland government conducted a successful  election. The election result  divided the electorate into Jeegaan ( rainbow) and non-Jeegaan ( non-rainbow) alliances. Conflict  in El Afwayn between  two constituencies separately classed as Jeegaan and non-Jeegaan is still raging. Somaliland has not sleepwalked into a conflict. Its political position on the sovereignty of Somalia has made it sleepwalk into a conflict. There is no a reason why people in the disputed territories  pay a price for Somaliland's search for statehood based on territories currently known to be under the jurisdiction of Mogadishu. Somaliland government policies are violating the rights of people in disputed territories.

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