Decoding Somaliland military’s failure in LasAnod conflict

After a five-day intense conflict in the city of LasAnod that resulted in significant losses for both sides, the leaders of the Somaliland administration declared an unconditional ceasefire. The move was met with mixed reactions from the local community, who were still considering the credibility of the announcement.

It appears that the conflict was not premeditated by either the Somaliland military or the local population. Instead, it arose from a sudden outburst of violence that the Somaliland administration failed to prevent or control.

 Despite this, the regional community in Sool has been vocal for a long time about their political and economic grievances, which the government led by President Muse Bihi and his predecessors have disregarded.

Beyond the political and economic dissatisfaction that the Sool community has voiced, it is necessary to examine the reasons behind the failure of the Somaliland military in their five-day operation in LasAnod.

The Somaliland military is well-equipped and trained, lacking only in air power. They were mainly facing civilian opposition armed with weapons out of frustration with the actions of the Somaliland military toward the local population. 

The conflict quickly escalated along tribal lines, further intensifying the already existing tensions. The failure of the Somaliland military to bring the conflict to a conclusion can be attributed to several factors, including:

a) Lack of a clear objective

From the perspective of the local community, the conflict appeared to be a fight against an attack on their lives, property, and dignity. 

On the other hand, the Somaliland administration, who did not have the conflict premeditated, struggled to understand the objective of the war and the goal they were fighting for after 20 years of control in Sool.

b) Lack of public support within Somaliland

Since the start of the conflict, the Somaliland population has been divided in their views on the war. The majority of the population views the people of Sool as a significant part of the independence struggle and the formation of Somaliland. Still, it feels that they have not been given the proper recognition. 

President Muse Bihi, however, launched the conflict without widespread public support, unlike the Tukaraq conflict, which was widely supported by the population. Moreover, the public views President Muse Bihi’s leadership as curtailing democratic processes and establishing the oppressive rule.

c) Inexperience in urban warfare

The Somaliland military is well-equipped and trained for conventional warfare but lacks experience in urban warfare. The conflict took place in the heart of the city and residential areas, making it difficult to distinguish between friend and foe. Urban warfare is generally more challenging to conclude, especially without the local population’s support.

d) Different motivations for the opposing forces

The local forces opposing the Somaliland military were fighting for the honor of their tribe, which gave them an advantage in understanding who they were fighting and who their enemies were.

The Somaliland military, on the other hand, was fighting under the banner of the state, but the administration refused to acknowledge that they were fighting a specific tribe. This confused the soldiers and contributed to the characterization of the opposition as militants by the Somaliland administration.

e) Increased pressure from the international community

President Muse Bihi took steps to justify the conflict in LasAnod, such as claiming that Somaliland was under attack or that militants had infiltrated the city. 

However, the international community met these claims with skepticism and instead saw the military indiscriminately attacking a city and its civilian population. This led to increased criticism and condemnation of President Muse Bihi, who ultimately declared a unilateral ceasefire. 

What should President Muse Bihi do?

President Muse Bihi’s administration must acknowledge the current state of affairs in which the people of the Sool region have united in their struggle and have given up any previous opportunities to participate in Somaliland’s governance. 

It is imperative for the Somaliland administration to pursue a peaceful resolution and to establish a fair and equitable relationship with the leaders of the Sool community without imposing its stance on the region at this time. 

The administration should consider the familial, fraternal, or ancestral bonds between the two communities and create a conducive environment for the revival of the longstanding relationships between the two communities for centuries. 

The administration must recognize the existence of a strong relationship beyond politics between the two communities and serve as a mediator between them. Unfortunately, our communities have become embroiled in conflict, exacerbated by the added stressors of war, famine, and drought. 

Hamdi Wardhere Mohamed can be reached via Email:

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