By Ali H. Abdulla
What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man! who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment or death itself in vindication of his own liberty, and the next moment be deaf to all those motives whose power supported him thro’ his trial, and inflict on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is fraught with more misery than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to oppose. Thomas Jefferson
Las Anod is a small city in North Central Somalia with a population of around three 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 FiqiShinni 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 justification. The city has been under siege for the last few days by the forces of a Somali Administration that wants to break away from the Federal Republic of Somalia without going through the internationally acceptable norms and procedures. More than 70% of the population have become internally displaced as a result of indiscriminate shelling.
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 Warsangeli and Majeerteen brothers who also belong to the Darod clan family and became part of the Puntland State of Somalia.
In October 2007, the breakaway administration 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 Somaliland move 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 of the clan 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 Dhulbahante/FiqiShinni 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 its clan supremacy goals at the expense of the other clans in the North.
Another justification 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 by shelling 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 and believed 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 portray as terrorists.
The international 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 Dhulbahante/FiqiShinni 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. Its deafening silence is an indication that it condones the indiscriminate shelling of innocent civilians whose only crime is to demand their inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Ali H. Abdulla
Email: [email protected]
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