By Ali H. Abdulla
Thursday February 16, 2023
Las Anod is a small
city in North Central Somalia with a population of around five hundred thousand.
It is the capital of one of the 18 regions created by the former military regime.
It is mainly inhabited by the Dhulbahante clan that belongs to the Darod
clan family and the Fiqi Shini
clan that belongs to the Hawiye clan family. The city also welcomed internally
displaced people from the Southwest State
before Somaliland managed recently to forcefully evict all of them without
After the collapse of the
military regime in 1991 and the disintegration of the country into clan
fiefdoms, the residents of Las Anod managed their own affairs until 1998 when
they voluntarily joined their Majeerteen brothers who also belong to the Darod
clan family and became part of the Puntland State of Somalia.
In October 2007, the
breakaway enclave known as Somaliland which is mainly inhabited by the Issak
clan family managed to evict the Puntland forces from the city with the help of
a few Dhulbahante sub-clans who became disillusioned with the Puntland
Administration. Many believe that Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia orchestrated the
switch on the pretext that the city became a conduit for the Ogaden National Liberation Front fighters (ONLF).
Under Somaliland rule,
the city of Las Anod and the region suffered from neglect in terms of security
and development. More than 120 prominent citizens were murdered by unknown
assassins who covered their faces when committing their missions, and who managed
to mysteriously slip through the Somaliland security apparatus with ease. This
type of targeted assassination never took place in other cities under the
control of Somaliland.
On December 26, a well-known personality became
the 120th victim of the targeted killings. His assassination was the
last straw that broke the camel’s back. The city erupted in spontaneous demonstrations
and all the grievances held by the Las Anod citizens transformed into a
revolution branded as the blue revolution in which the blue Somali Republic
Flag replaced the Somaliland secession flag which flew over the city for the
last 15 years.
The Somaliland forces in the city responded with
live bullets and killed a score of youth throwing stones. One of
the victims was gunned down while raising the Somali flag on a pole in the
center of the city. Another teenage girl lost her leg above the knee when a
high caliber bullet shattered her thigh and she developed gangrene for lack of
proper medical care.
Under international pressure and unabated
demonstrations by the youth, the Somaliland administration was forced to
withdraw its forces from the center of the city to the outskirts.
The uprising led to a
call by the traditional leaders for a consultative conference which was held in
Las Anod on 28 January 2023 until 6 February 2023. The conference was well attended
by the fourteen traditional leaders of the clan, and representatives of all
civil society groups such as religious scholars, business people,
intellectuals, the diaspora, youth and women groups etc.
The attendees of the
conference agreed unanimously on a 12 point declaration that included a demand
for the unconditional withdrawal of Somaliland forces from all SSC territories,
and a call for the Federal Government of Somalia to administer these territories
directly until such a time that they become federated.
Somaliland tried to move its forces back to the center
of the city to circumvent the announcement of the Conference declaration. Its
miscalculation triggered a war that has entered its eight day after unionist
forces defended the venue of the conference and the traditional leaders who
were targeted for incarceration. After Somaliland failed to reach the venue, it
resorted to the use of indiscriminate shelling that did not spare places of
worship, hospitals and utilities. It also blocked all paved roads leading to
the city to cut off medical and humanitarian supplies.
To justify its
indiscriminate shelling of the city, Somaliland tried to portray the resistance
forces as Al Shabab terrorists. At the same time, it declared a unilateral
ceasefire which it violated the next day by continuing to shell the city and falsely
claiming that the other side violated the ceasefire.
The world seems to be
oblivious to the atrocities and crimes against humanity that Somaliland
continues to commit defiantly. Since the Las Anod hospital is not equipped to
handle serious injuries, the wounded are transported in ordinary vehicles that
use the only open road to Garowe in Puntland which is unpaved. Some of the
wounded die on the way since it takes 8 hours to navigate the treacherous road.
One of the justifications
that Somaliland uses for breaking away from the Federal Republic of Somalia is the
old colonial borders that divided the Somali people before independence and
that were abolished in 1960 after the Somali people came together and united to
form the Somali Republic. If Somaliland wants to wind the clock back to
pre-independence times, it has no right to force other clans to join it in a
ride whose ultimate purpose is to achieve clan supremacy at the expense of the
other clans in the North.
it uses for its secessionist agenda is based on the facts that the defunct
military regime shelled and bombed the city of Hargeisa killing a lot of
innocent civilians in the process and reducing the city to rubble. It is unfortunate and inexplicable that
Somaliland is now using the same tactics to subdue the clans that do not share
its secessionist program and trying to bomb them into submission.
The Federal government
of Somalia and the International community have to send a fact finding mission to
Las Anod before Somaliland manages to recapture it and commit further crimes
against humanity. Somaliland uses a substantial percentage of its annual budget
to finance its security forces including a branch known as the RRU which always
uses disproportionate force against any form of dissent. They murdered eight
citizens in Hargeisa last year when residents in that city protested against
the unconstitutional extension of the current president’s term.
It is unfortunate that
a few US senators became enamored with Somaliland believing the false
democratic façade that it presents to the world and which is meant to fool the
international community in order to garner support for their one-sided and illegal
secession from the Federal Republic of Somalia. The fact is that Somaliland is
a clan based enclave that uses force to suppress the wishes of other clans who
do not support its secessionist ambitions.
Their rebel movement that took part in the events that led to the
collapse of the Somali Central Government inherited massive caches of weapons
which are now being used to shell innocent civilians who it tries to label as
community has an important role to play in convincing Muse Bihi, the president
of Somaliland, and his lieutenants to stop shelling the city of Las Anod and to
withdraw his forces completely from all SSC territories. They also have an
important mediating role in resolving a festering problem that has lasted for
more than 30 years and that has the potential to destabilize the area to the
detriment of all concerned. The Federal Government of Somalia has an obligation
to protect the Somali regions that are not part of the secession bandwagon.
Ali H. Abdulla