There has been mutually beneficial peaceful co-existence between Puntland and Somaliland. For instance, there was free movement of people and merchandise on both sides of the border.
Moreover, the law enforcement agencies of both entities routinely share information on crime and terrorism. Things abruptly changed for the worse, however, when Jamal Hassan, a minister of Farmajo’s government, visited the eastern parts of Sanag, a disputed region claimed both Puntland and Somaliland. This has angered the authorities in Hargeisa which considers such acts as a provocation on the part of both Puntland and Farmajo government. However, I firmly believe that neither the government of Puntland nor Farmjo government has the appetite and the desire to pick the fight with Somaliland for the time being. Who then is behind this renewed conflict and clashes?
The man who orchestrated this recent clashes and conflict is none other than Jamal or “Gamal” Hassan. He is a well known anti-Somaliland zealot who until recently acted as the Media and Public Relations Director of the online-based anti-Somaliland group who call themselves Northern Somalis for Peace and Unity (NSUP). He was then appointed as the Somali Ambassador to Nairobi, Kenya during the tenure of Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s government. Even in that diplomatic position, Jamal “Gamal” Hassan continued his anti-Somaliland posture. When Farmajo was selected as the president of Somalia, he appointed Jamal Hassan as his minister for Planning and International Cooperation. In that capacity and with a different title, Jamal Hassan found the opportunity again to confront with Somaliland and paid a visit to Eastern Sanag Region of Somaliland.
Moreover, some reports emerge that indicated Farmajo himself was planning to visit that region during his visit to Puntland. For Somaliland, this was a turning point and indeed a provocation as no one representing Mogadishu government in an official capacity has ever set foot in this region for the last 27 years of Somaliland’s existence. While visiting in the Eastern Sanag Region, Jamal Hassan, gave an interview to BBC Somali Service and emphasized his right and desire to travel to any part of Somaliland as the representatives of the Federal Government in Mogadishu. In response to this provocation, Somaliland Army has reportedly attacked military bases of Puntland forces in Sol Region in order to send an unequivocal message to Farmajo and his hosts in Garowe that any further interference of Somaliland internal affairs would not be tolerated. As I am writing this piece, the President of Puntland has declared war on Somaliland and has called his people to mobilize resources to defend their country. Ironically and hypocritically, the Farmajo government who orchestrated this fiasco has called on both sides to stop the fighting and the bloodshed.
Where to go from here?
In order to de-escalate this conflict, following steps must be taken:
1) Farmajo needs to mind his own business and immediate restrain Gamal Hassan, a loose cannon in his administration that has his own anti-Somaliland agenda, from any action, directly and indirectly, that may poison the already minimal trust and goodwill between his government and Somaliland
2) Puntland government should not allow its territory to be used as launching pad for Farmajo government’s interventionist policies against Somaliland
3) Somaliland government should restrain itself in the face of what it considers provocations from Mogadishu and Puntland and instead use communications and dialogue to defuse the situation
1) After almost three decades of conflict, war and devastation, Somalis have not yet reconciled. A deep-rooted enmity and suspicions of ill-will from one region/tribe to another still runs high
2) Peace among Somali regions/tribes is fragile since a single person with agenda such as Gamal Hassan can ignite a conflict and endanger the peace and the stability of even in the most peaceful areas of Somalia proper
3) Somali Diaspora is a source of instability in the country. It is in the Diaspora where destructive plans are hatched, funds are raised and evil-doers are sent from.