HARGEISA, Caasimada Online) – A group of 15 International Partners held a joint call with the President of Somaliland, Muse Bihi Abdi, on April 15, 2023, to discuss the ongoing conflict in LasAnod and the delays in Somaliland elections.
The group make up Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Türkiye, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
The conflict between security forces and clan fighters in LasAnod has resulted in more than 200 deaths within a month.
The fighting, which began on February 6, has caused significant damage to infrastructure and homes.
The mayor of LasAnod, Abdirahim Ali Ismail, reported that “210 civilians were killed, and 680 others were wounded” in the clashes.
The conflict was triggered by the assassination of Abdifatah Abdullahi Abdi (Hadrawi), the local chairman of Wadani, Somaliland’s opposition party, and the subsequent murder of local entrepreneur Mohamed Ali Saadle.
The conflict triggers
On February 5, local leaders, clan elders, and notable figures convened in LasAnod to discuss resolving the conflict.
They issued a 13-point declaration reinstating the rule of the SSC-Khatumo regions, denouncing Somaliland as a separatist state, and reaffirming their commitment to being part of federal Somalia.
They also urged Somaliland authorities to withdraw their soldiers from the area. This declaration led to violent clashes, with both sides accusing the other of aggression.
Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but has not been recognized internationally.
The unresolved status has further complicated the situation in the region as various parties continue to vie for power and influence.
LasAnod, which straddles a key trade route, is claimed by both Somaliland and neighboring Puntland, a semi-autonomous state of northeastern Somalia.
The ongoing conflict over this strategic location has intensified tensions between the two sides, further complicating prospects for a peaceful resolution.
International partners’ concerns
The partners voiced their grave concerns regarding the continued violence in LasAnod, now in its tenth week, and its severe impact on the population.
One representative stated, “There must be an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities and separation of forces to agreed locations.”
The group also emphasized the importance of ensuring humanitarian access and delivering assistance to those in need.
Despite repeated public commitments to a ceasefire and dialogue from the main parties involved in the conflict, these commitments have yet to be implemented.
The international partners called for “flexibility and a willingness to compromise” to allow space for dialogue. They offered their support in identifying paths towards sustainable peace, including facilitating such dialogue.
In addition to addressing the conflict, the partners stressed the importance of urgent progress on elections in Somaliland.
They invited President Abdi to publish a roadmap for elections and clarify the sequencing and timing of elections to enable technical preparations.
The partners appreciated President Abdi’s assurances that he is willing to pursue peace and dialogue and allow for unhindered humanitarian access to LasAnod.
However, they expressed disappointment in his lack of commitment to withdrawing Somaliland forces centered around the area.
The international community will closely monitor the situation in LasAnod and the progress of Somaliland’s elections, hoping for a swift resolution and a return to the democratic process.
Partners welcomed the efforts and initiatives by local and regional actors to secure a ceasefire and facilitate a dialogue.
They expressed hope that the security and well-being of the population would be put at the center of all political decisions.
The ongoing conflict and delayed elections seriously impact the international community’s engagement with Somaliland.
The partners urged President Abdi and other involved parties to take tangible steps to ensure elections occur as soon as possible. They reiterated their commitment to supporting a peaceful resolution to the conflict.