For the past few weeks, bellicose Puntland leaders held a press conference after a press conference and vowed to wage a bloody war against Somaliland security forces in Sool province of Somaliland. Also, Puntland officials spent considerable resources to mobilize women and children to take to the streets of Lasanod, the provincial capital of Sool region. Not a day goes by that the Puntland leaders don’t hold a press conference in Garowe, the Puntland capital, reiterating their commitment to violence and not to peace. And through their thick lenses, the most formidable battalion to pin against Somaliland troops is none other than the most vulnerable people in Sool population. And that is using women and children as the bulwark against the Somaliland troops. Yet, these defenseless people will suffer the most if violence flares up between Somaliland and Puntland.
Moreover, the majority of the Puntland leaders or the war committee, who are poised to wage violence against Somaliland have their families in safe countries, in the hearts of Europe and North America. Most of these leaders have foreign passports. And in the heat of battle, they will flee. Having more faith in their feet than in their guns they will retreat to Europe and North America, far from the killing fields. From the president of Puntland to his deputy and his cabinet ministers as well as the parliamentarians, the call for a wider war, and sometimes a clan war between the Darod and Isaq clans, have been heard loudly and clearly. Similarly, the call for the “liberation” of Lasanod, the people to take up arms and upraise against Somaliland is one that is repeated over and over again by Puntland leaders. As the last resort, Puntland leaders even push for a Jihad war against Somaliland.
No kidding! For instance, Puntland’s Information Minister, Abdi Hersi Qarjab, states: “If you die while fighting against Somaliland, you will go to heaven. And if you refuse to side with Puntland, you will go to hell.” Talk about recycling Al-Shabab’s regurgitated vomit-worth propaganda!
More surprisingly, the current Puntland leader reinforces his minister’s Jihad war against Somaliland. On June 15, 2018, Abdiweli Ali Gas tells his supporters, “We know our Jihad [against Somaliland] is an act of righteousness…Puntland is ready for the liberation of Sool…and those who hail from Sool that support Somaliland will perish in hell, after their demise.” It is as if he took a leave from Al-Shabab’s terror manual. Land disputes and political disagreements are fine but spewing out this kind of hate-filled language remains unprecedented among the educated elite like Mr. Gas. Evidentially, describing him as a heartless Somali-American Jihadist fomenting violence against peaceful Somaliland is an understatement. The irony is Mr. Gas makes loud shrills about Somaliland supporting Al-Shabab, without the corroborating evidence, yet he dances to Al-Shabab’s tune: Jihad war, in a desperate attempt to defeat Somaliland troops.
Yet, Puntland leaders boastfully talk about how they fight and defeat the Somaliland troops at every front, but Somaliland troops keep inching closer to the border between Puntland and Somaliland. Clearly, Puntland leaders get the bragging rights and the Somaliland troops get the job done.
As history attests the former SSDF rebel group that hailed from what is known as Puntland today and fought against the former Somali dictator, General Mohammed Siad Barre in late 1980s was known for its exaggerated gains against the tyrant. As a result, the Somalis mistakenly assumed that SSDF stood for Siisocoo Soosocoo Dumarka u Faan, or go back and forth and brag about your military successes to gullible women. Three decades later, something has not changed: retaining the bragging rights. (SSDF stands for Somali Salvation Democratic Front.)
Aside from joking, the reality is Puntland alone cannot face the Somaliland security forces in Sool province. So, what Puntland wants is to dislodge Somaliland army at the expense of the local population. This is a brutal and cowardice tactic. Of course, as Puntland orchestrated violence erupts in Lasanod, Somaliland’s security forces will restore peace immediately and inadvertently lives will be lost. What will follow? Shedding crocodile tears for Lasanod residents, Puntland leaders will beat the war drums for the “liberation” of Lasanod and demand the world to condemn Somaliland.
Also, under the guise of fighting against the Al-Shabab terror group in Puntland, Puntland receives planeloads of weapons from Mogadishu. And some cabinet ministers and members of the Somali parliament are no longer in cahoots with Puntland’s obsession to wage war against Somaliland, as they openly support violence against Somaliland. The evidence speaks for itself. Recently, more than a dozen MPs and one cabinet minister declared their support for a wider war against Somaliland and implored the Mogadishu regime to provide resources and logistics.
Although the U.N., IGAD and the International community echoed their opposition to violence in the region, they have yet to restrain Puntland’s warmongering tactics, proactive language, and its campaign to create mayhem in Sool region. They also fail to dissuade the Mogadishu regime to cease its clandestine operations against Somaliland. Somalia even makes futile efforts to block funding provided by the international community to support much-needed projects in Somaliland. Yet, the U.N. lectures Somaliland about “Peace-building and state-building”.
Historically, Puntland made tireless efforts to vilify Somaliland and launched a smear campaign against it. Time and time again, Puntland leaders played the “Terror card” and accused Somaliland of supporting, without a tinge of evidence, the Al-Shabab terror group. As I detailed in my article entitled, “Somaliland: Puntland Leader’s Terror Accusations Crossed the Line”, Puntland leaders respect no bounds. And in their struggle against Somaliland, they either use the “Terror card” or the “Clan card” to get an international and local support.
On the other hand, in Somaliland with the exception of the UCID opposition leader, Faysal Ali Warabe, a mentally challenged man, the rest of the Somaliland leaders chose to refrain from galvanizing the situation in Sool province. In fact, when Puntland’s top leader, Mr. Gas, called the Somaliland people, “Savage wild beasts” the Somaliland president, Muse Abdi Bihi, called the Puntland people a “Noble people” who have a lot in common with Somalilanders. Somaliland leaders also promised to restore peace in the region and agreed to have a dialogue with Puntland leaders. So, what does Puntland want?
According to Puntland’s top leader, Mr. Gas, the colonial borders are “laughable”. Hence, he wants to abolish the colonial borders and replace them with clan boundaries. This backward mentality is not only dangerous but we may also surmise that had he been given enough power and resources, he would have disregarded Somalia’s borders with Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti as well. After all, in his words, “Colonial borders are laughable”.
Doubtlessly, Mr. Gas who promised to “liberate” Lasanod four years ago during his presidential campaign, now sees another opportunity to remain in power. Because he rendered Puntland a terror-infested clan entity, he is certain that he will be voted out of office if another election takes place. So, he is adamant that he can delay the upcoming presidential election if he wages a war against Somaliland. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Gas’ war rhetoric is part of his presidential election campaign.
Meanwhile, Mogadishu wants to use Puntland as the launch pad for its campaign to bring Somaliland into the fold, recommitting Somaliland into another gunshot marriage, peacefully or forcefully.
In summary, if Somaliland’s colonial borders are “Laughable” so are the rest of the borders in the world. On the other hand, if countries supposed to inherit their colonial borders, Somaliland is simply exercising its rights. And failure to restrain the belligerent Puntland leaders will bring war closer to Puntland’s doorsteps. Additionally, if the Mogadishu regime continues its unabated interference with Somaliland’s affairs and uses Puntland as the stepping stone, Puntland will be consumed in the process.
Undoubtedly, U.N., IGAD, and the International community cannot see the ominous clouds hovering over the region, as they utterly fail to restrain Mr. Gas.