Somali leaders are calling for dialogue between clans clashing in Las Anod, the region in the country that falls between Puntland and Somaliland, in order to end weeks of violence.
But they also want the clans to decide their future, something likely to elicit reactions from Somaliland which claims to be independent of Somalia.
Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre said that Somalis should grow out of the norm of solving problems by turning guns on each other.
“Back in 1988, the government of Somalia then waged war on civilians. It is unfortunate that the same scenario is repeated now,” said PM Barre, indirectly pointing a finger at the alleged shelling of Las Anod by Somaliland forces.
“Differences ought to be sorted out through dialogue,” he added on Thursday.
The clashes in the area, some 1,000 km northwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu, have seen exchange of fire between the forces of the self-declared Somaliland administration and a militia loyal to the SSC (Sool, Sanaag and Cayn) regions since the start of February.
Violence not a solution
Former Somalia Foreign Affairs minister Ahmed Isse Awad told The EastAfrican that the stance by some of the elders to ask for direct administration from Mogadishu need not be solved through clashes.
“Violence is not a solution to problems and bombing civilian targets is not a civilised act,” said Awad.
“SSC region’s elders have reached a consensus on the fate of their people, that is, independence from both Somaliland and Puntland (the two authorities who were in dispute over Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions).”
This indicates that the fate of the SSC regions should only be determined by SSC elders and the Mogadishu-based Federal Government of Somalia.
Somaliland claims that the rebellious town belongs to its jurisdiction encompassing former British Somaliland Protectorate, also formerly known as British Somaliland, which in July 1960 merged with Italian Somaliland to form the Somali republic.
The defiant SSC militias that are loyal to a council of traditional elders from the Dhulbahante clan in Las Anod town vowed to fight on against what they call “the occupying forces”.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Adam Abdelmoula said that the confrontations have displaced tens of thousands, compounding the humanitarian crisis which is compounded by drought.
“Each day, around 1,000 Somalis are crossing into Ethiopia to avert clashes in Laascaanod (Las Anod), Sool and Sanaag regions,” the UN stated earlier this week.
“An interagency assessment reports more than 185,000 people displaced – 89 percent of whom are women and children) from Laascaanood (Las Anod) town in Sool region,” said the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Somalia Kiki Gbeho.
Somalia’s international partners on Monday condemned what it termed “the continued violence” in Las Anod and expressed serious concern.
“We are also deeply concerned about the shelling of civilian infrastructure, which has resulted in casualties and widespread displacement,” they said in a statement.
The signatories to the statement included international organisations and states – UN, AU, EU, and USA among others — that support Somalia’s rebuilding and recovery from war ravages.
The Chief of Somaliland’s Army Operations and Spokesman Abdirahman Abdilahi Hassan aka Abdi Dhere told journalists in Hargeisa that the Al-Qaeda linked extremist group Al-Shabaab is taking part in the war in Las Anod.
“Al-Shabaab has hijacked the war from the other side, rendering the traditional elders (representing the SSC regions) powerless,” Dhere stated, a claim that has been repeatedly rejected by the elders.
A glimpse of hope emerged when Somaliland President Muse Bihi last week announced that the clan elders in Las Anod had accepted the ceasefire his administration had proposed and agreed to meet the elders from Hargeisa in Yagori township, about 30km north of Las Anod.
However, Abdirizak Mohamed Falalug and Garad Jama Garad Ali, members of the local clan elders, denied that any talks would take place.
“We welcome a ceasefire if Somaliland retreats its forces from our town,” Falalug said on Thursday last week.
“We cannot engage in peace talks while hostile troops are at our doorstep,” he added.
Las Anod is getting a lot of coverage through social media, especially portraying resistance by SSC militias and their supporters.