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Issue 473 -- 19th - 25th February 2011
Somaliland: Neutralizing American & Canadian Warlords Will Save Lives
By Dalmar Kaahin
War is never a solution. Nor is it the first option to tackle crisis, however; sometimes, a government may be forced to engage violent groups after all other avenues to disarm them fail. And in the little town of Buhodle, in Togdheer province of Somaliland, the last den for a Somali-American and Somali-Canadian warlords, Suleman Essa Ahmed (Hagal Tosiye) and Col. Ali Sabarey, a dreadful war may be impending. If the local clan chiefs cannot evict the warmongers from the town or persuade them to disarm peacefully, dislodging them forcefully to avert a gruesome bloodbath and save lives is not a choice, but it is unavoidable.
Buhodle town, a battlefield, as soon as the two warlords decided to use it as a launch pad to attack Somaliland security forces, after the town enjoyed peace for two decades, recently witnessed death and misery as well as constant attacks against the security forces. Horning their skills, worlds, also, goad local clans against one another.
Usually, the warmongers’ militias employ hit and run tactics. But unlike any other violent groups, for these militias there is nowhere to hide. Once they attack the Somaliland army stationed near Buhodle, they simply retreat to the town and melt into the population. And after the security forces count their dead and wounded, they, understandably, prepare to take swift and decisive action against the militias. But then, immediately, an order dissuading the army to go in or fire into Buhodle comes from Hargeisa, Somaliland capital. The government’s commendable objective is to save the locals’ lives. However, such a move, avoid apprehending the culprits, demoralizes the army. And the longer this tactic continues, the more soldiers lose their lives and the more frustration from the Somaliland public.
Even more dangerous, the American and the Canadian warlords hope to goad local clans against one another to magnify the war. They also hope that Somalia’s other clans would come to their militias’ aid and attack Somaliland security forces. But the danger of armed rebels or militias intertwining with the traditional clan skirmishes is one that Somaliland people are familiar with and wish to avoid.
Historically, as soon as Somaliland’s former government led by Dahir Riyale Kahin arrested the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) suspects fighting against Ethiopia, in Hargeisa, and handed them over to Ethiopia, the ONLF didn’t go after Somaliland forces. Instead, the ONLF hunted Isaq clans that live in Ethiopia, and the unjustified retaliations included burning over sixty-commercial Isaq clans’ tracks. Dumbfounded were the Isaq clans. Because neither Mr. Kahin hailed from them, nor they agreed with his policies, nonetheless; they paid the price. Now, learning from the ONLF’s villain strategy against oblivious civilians, Somaliland knows that the new militias in Buhodle will likely generate a copycat campaign, triggering a missive clan war—hence, the government cannot afford to wait until it is too late.
More ominous, if Somaliland avoids removing the warlords from Buhodle, other warmongers will assemble their henchmen to milk the Diaspora for lots of money, or use their destructive skills as a power to reckon with, transforming Somaliland into an anarchic state, just like Somalia. For instance, signs of an incipient militias forming in Tuke Raq village near the border between Somaliland and Puntland will soon become another guerrillas bent to destabilize Somaliland. This new militias’ leader, armed and financed by Puntland and Diaspora, is, in fact, none other than the former Puntland’s aviations Minister, Ahmed Ilmi Isman (Karash). After losing his post in Puntland government’s reshuffle, he forms his militias. Also, recently Puntland appoints, a former Colonel in Somaliland army, Mohammed Rage, as the new commander of Puntland forces in Sool province, although Sool is in neither Puntland, nor Puntland controls it [Sool].
Furthermore, a dubious charitable organization, named Kaafi community, based in Toronto, Canada, spent thousands of dollars to arm the militias, as admitted by the Kaafi’s top man Ahmed Diriye, a close associate of Mr. Isman (Karash). Although some members of the Kaafi community disagree with politicizing Kaafi or arming violent militants, the elders in Tuke Raq area mobilize their militias to attack Las Annod, the provincial capital of Sool region.
Now, despite Somaliland appealing for peace and reiterating its genuine commitment to forge a good relationship with Puntland, neither the belligerent Puntland authority, nor the violent PSS (SSC/NSUM) group is interested in peace. To illustrate this, the PSS (SSC/NSUM) group wants Somaliland to abandon the entire Sool and Sanag regions as well as parts of Togdheer province. A wishful thinking! A spokesperson for the PSS (SSC/NSUM), namely Ali Ilmi Warsame (Maraykan) states, “If Somaliland is lucky, we will avoid attacking Buroa [Somaliland’s second capital in Togdheer] province and other cities.” Also, the chairman of Puntland’s Diaspora communities in the Scandinavian countries, Abdirsaq Yussuf reports that Puntland now readies up to 3000 troops to invade Somaliland. He also stresses that Puntland should invade and capture the capital of Sanag province, Erigabo, in Somaliland. Evidently, Puntland remains the primary weapons and ammunitions supplier to the PSS (SSC/NSUM) group.
Similarly, some of the elders in Buhodle offer lip services to promoting peace while they mobilize armed men to attack Somaliland security forces. For instance, one of the elders, Hassan Farah Baad, tells a local radio, “Buhodle clan chiefs will not welcome any peace or mediations. The elders are busy organizing an army, and if any mediators or Islamic scholars seeking peace arrive in Buhodle we will kill them.”
More important, neutralizing the warlords serves a dual purpose; first, Somaliland will drain Puntland and Al-Shabaab’s support for the warlords and ban their militias using Buhodle as a base; second, local clans could employ their traditional approaches to conflict resolution.
In short, despite accusations of Somaliland troops attacking local clans, the preceding statements from the elder, Hassan Farah Baad, and the militias’ spokesperson, Ali Ilmi Warsame (Maraykan), in Buhodle, clearly testify that the real culprits of violence are none other than some of the Buhodle’s residents. The huge amount money from the Diaspora communities is another problem fueling the conflict. Also, Puntland’s involvement is no longer in doubt, as the chairman of Puntland’s Diaspora communities in the Scandinavian countries, Abdirsaq Yussuf, openly states.
Nonetheless, the Somaliland government can afford to resolve the conflict in Buhodle area through peaceful means and should continue—reaching out to the local clan chiefs and persuading them to evict the violent militias from the town.
If that fails, give the civilians a plenty of warnings to evacuate to a temporary safe area, where the authority provides them food, medicine, and shelter.
Next, as a last-ditch effort to avoid war, negotiate with the elders to disarm the militants peacefully.
Now, if all other options fail, the security forces ought to uproot the American and the Canadian warlords as well as their militants—to preserve peace, save lives, and salvage Somaliland transforming into another failed state, with as many heartless warmongers, pirates, and terrorists as there are cruel thugs.