Somaliland, the self-declared independent state in northern Somalia, has cited security concerns for evicting hundreds of people from its territory, in a move that sparked criticism from the United Nations.
Details of the eviction had been “distorted” by Mogadishu to portray the region as rogue, officials in Hargeisa, its capital, said in a statement.
Officials described the decision as part of Somaliland’s “sovereign” responsibilities, saying it was “motivated by issues pertaining to security, including appeals from local communities and authorities”.
“The Prime Minister of Somalia chose to convey unfounded information and share baseless accusations on the issue of Somaliland’s legal and necessary decision to deport selected individuals, who had unlawfully settled in the district of Las Anod, provincial capital of Sool region, Somaliland,” they said, referring to criticism by Somalia's PM Hussein Roble.
“The Government (of Somaliland), thus will not have its record distorted by neighbouring Somalia whose inability to meet its own internal and external governance responsibilities has led it to lash out at others in order to distract the international community from its own deficiencies,” it added.
Somaliland, which has existed for the past three decades with its own institutions but remains unrecognised internationally, caused controversy on Sunday and Monday after expelling hundreds of families believed to be causing security concerns among locals.
The people, including pregnant women and nursing mothers, were ferried on lorries and dumped near the border regions with neighbouring Puntland, a federal state of Somalia.
UN humanitarian affairs officials and the Somali NGO Consortium said the forced displacements of people from Las Anod were a violation of human rights.
“The humanitarian community deeply regrets the arrest and subsequent forced displacements of more than 1,000 women, children and men from (Las Anod) Las Canood, Sool Region on 2 and 3 October,” the statement said.
“We are also very concerned about the reports of additional forced displacements planned in the coming days.”
Although Somaliland says the groups expelled had raised security concerns among local communities, the authorities did not provide more details.
The move came after a local civic leader was reportedly murdered. A spokesperson at the Somaliland liaison office in Nairobi suggested that the people expelled did not have proper papers.
The region, one of the safest in Somalia, has a good track record in dealing with terrorism and has largely escaped the wrath of Al-Shabaab militants, who have attacked and controlled parts of central and southern Somalia.
On the expulsion, which they called ‘deportation’, they got the stick for it.
“Expelling Somalis from a Somali territory is shameful, ugly and dishonouring,” said PM Roble earlier on Monday.
“Ordering people who have been peacefully trading to leave for simply originally coming from the Southern regions is an unfortunate happening that will be recorded by history,” he added.
Faysal Ali Warabe, the leader of UCID, one of Somaliland’s opposition parties, expressed sorrow but agreed that the authority in Las Anod had the right to protect its security.
“The authority should expel the unwanted people in an orderly manner,” Warabe told the media.
Somaliland has run its own government, currency, military and institutions following the collapse of the military regime of the late General Mohamed Siad Barre in 1993.
On Saturday, hundreds of people from Las Anod arrived in Burtinle, Puntland.
They were reportedly identified as originating from Southern Somalia and were rounded up, taken to a stadium in the town and ordered to board trucks.
On Sunday, PM Roble, on a visit to Barawe, the capital of South West state, expressed displeasure at the news that hundreds of Somalis had been expelled from Somaliland.
Though it is in the disputed Sool region, claimed by both Somaliland and Puntland, Las Anod is under the control of Somaliland.