Thursday, January 23, 2020
Wardheer News
  • Opinion

Open Letter to Puntland on the SSC Regions

By Osman Hassan

To: H.E. Said Abdullahi Deni, President of Puntland 
H. E Ahmed Elmi Osman
Info: Government and Parliament of Puntland
Representatives of UN Security Council UN Permanent Members
UNSRSG, IGAD, EU, AU Representatives to Somalia

Subject: The Right of occupied Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) for freedom and self- determination 

Your Excellencies

As you may be aware of, fast moving developments are taking place around us, in which the destiny of the occupied SSC regions could be decided over their heads by outsiders and sacrificed to Somaliland as a carrot, no doubt to appease it to be more flexible in its negotiations with the federal government. Paying that price to get flexibility from Somaliland at the cost of the occupied SSC people is more important to the naive and incompetent President of Somalia to oblige his foreign mentors than respecting the inalienable rights of the SSC people for self-determination. Whether this brewing conspiracy succeeds or not depends on whether the SSC people and their Puntland partner acquiesce to it or counter it, and follow the only course that can lead to victory over the occupation. 

From the outset we have to ask ourselves why the SSC regions still remain occupied twelve years after Somaliland invaded Sool and occupied Lascanod – eventually expanding to much of the SSC region? Or to put it differently, why has Puntland failed to liberate them? The answer lies in what options were open to it, which it has pursued and which it has eschewed.

The first option open to Puntland would have been the military one and that was when Somaliland invaded and captured Lascanod in 2007- what was Puntland territory after the SSC regions joined it in 1998. This action would have been seen justified by the international community. But Puntland for its own reasons abandoned that course of action in favour of relying peacefully on what it considers its legitimate legal claim on the SSC regions and counting on support from the international community to regain them.

Unfortunately, Puntland’s reliance on its legal claim on the SSC regions and support from the international community as its option to end the occupation has failed to carry much weight with the international community for three reasons : first because Puntland has no presence in the SSC regions; secondly because of the absence of resistance from the occupied people in support of its claim; and thirdly because the international community no longer sees Somaliland as an aggressor occupying Puntland regions. Rather, it sees it as another rightful claimant of the SSC regions, and not only that but more so than Puntland since it is the de facto authority controlling these regions with no resistance against its rule from SSC population. For all these reasons, the international community is reluctant to put pressure on Somaliland and upset the status quo which could otherwise de-stabilize what they consider the second most stable regional administration in Somalia.

With the failure of Puntland’s peaceful approach, we would have to ask ourselves whether resort to the military option would now be a viable option. There was another occasion when the military option would have been justifiable in the eyes of the international community and that was when Somaliland once again invaded Puntland territory in 2018 and captured Tukaraq. But just as it refrained from military action when Somaliland captured Lascanod, it did so again when it captured Tukaraq. Having lost that chance, the military option is no longer an option, not only because it is very costly and victory is far from assured but also because the international community would not countenance a destabilizing war between the only two stable States of Somalia. 

Where we are now is that Puntland is at a dead-end to get Somaliland out of the occupied SSC regions, having failed to win international support for its claim, and resort to military action is not feasible. Devoid of potent options, the only card in the hands of Puntland, which it played in the past, is to defiantly maintain its hollow failed claim on the SSC. Unfortunately, that would be seen as empty talk by Somaliland, the rest of Somalia and the international community. These basic realities would not change for the foreseeable future.

The question that arises then is where do the occupied SSC people go from here? Unless they want to remain part of Puntland in name but in reality are part of Somaliland by force, the only remaining option that could have credibility in the eyes of the international community and win their support is one in which they themselves are seen to wage and lead their own struggle on their own and in their name, and not for Puntland or as its proxy. Puntland’s role would be to back-up the SSC struggle at all forums – national and international – and provide it all possible material support.

How Puntland responds to the desire of the occupied SSC people to wage their own struggle for freedom will tell whether it merely cares about its nominal claim on these regions and nothing else or whether it shares their aspirations for freedom and supports their struggle. Puntland should help them,not hinder them.

Please accept, Your Excellencies, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Osman Hassan
Email: [email protected]
Osman Hassan is a seasoned journalist and a former UN staff member.
Mr Hassan is also a regular contributor to WardheerNews.

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