21.02.2023: Laascaanood, Sool
Fighting enters its 16th day in the Northern Somali city of Laascaanood between locals opposed to the secessionist ideology and the pro-secessionist Somaliland authorities in Hargeisa.
As the sun rose above the city on Tuesday morning, the very few locals stranded in the city were awoken to the sounds of heavy gunfire and artillery barrage as separatist forces launched another attack on the city this time from three different fronts in an attempt to encircle, crush and subjugate the people of Laascaanood and Sool into the vision of a separatist Somaliland regime that stretches the old British Somaliland Protectorate – a colony established by the British Empire against the will of the local people. A concept in itself founded in injustice and oppression
Reports indicate that separatist forces launched the attack from the east and southern flanks of the city and its defences. Separatists began shelling the town in an attempt to soften defences before attacking SSC-Khaatumo positions in the east and south east of the city with technical pick-ups and infantry.
Latest updates show that the attack was repelled by SSC-Khaatumo forces and Somaliland units were forced to retreat to their positions.
How Did the Battle This Morning Unfolded?
Speaking to the media in Laascaanood, spokesman for the 33-member Committee that governs the SSC region, Abdirizak Falaalug explained that the battle began at around 5:30am and continued on for more than three hours. He went on further to outline that separatist forces attempted to enter the city from three corners but were pushed back to their bases far from the city with some being chased further away.
Similarly, speaking to the press, Garaad Abdikarim, one of the senior traditional elders of the SSC-Khaatumo exposed that the homes of a number traditional elders in the city continue to be bombarded by separatist despite calls for peace and dialogue. He also criticised the so-called peace delegation sent by the traditional elders of the Somaliland region, highlighting that the solution to the conflict isn’t negotiations with the people of Laascaanood as they are the victims of an attack but rather sending a delegation to Hargeisa as the war machine is been navigated from there.
On the other hand, the traditional elders from Hargeisa that are attempting to mediate talks between the separatist Somaliland regime led by Bihi and the SSC-Khaatumo authority in Laascaanood released a press statement on Tuesday.
The Spokesman explained that the traditional elders were voluntarily attempting to mediate the peace and were not appointed by the Bihi regime. They called for an immediate ceasefire without no pre-conditions, highlighting the un-Islamic nature of this needless conflict.
Splinters Emerging within Somaliland
Indeed, it is always positive to see traditional elders that are outside the realm of political discourse attempting to resolve political impasses in Somalia. This has been the solution to political issues in the country since the collapse of the civil war.
However, the issue here and what is clear is that the traditional elders in Hargeisa continue to come short of condemning the constant and blatant attacks by the clearly more powerful Somaliland units against the civilians and people of Laascaanood.
This is not an even battle. This is a military force attacking a civilian population which means there is a clear wrong and right in this situation.
The elders highlighted the continued destruction of private property and civilians deaths. However, the main question to them is, are the SSC-Khaatumo defence forces bombing cities and killing civilians or is it Somaliland forces stationed on the outer skirts of Laascaanood that continued to bombarded the city from afar indiscriminately?
What traditional elders should be doing is sending a delegation to the Presidential office in Hargeisa to talk Bihi into stopping the continued bombardment.
This is not the first time President Bihi stated he wants peace and will not attack the city only to launch an assault the following morning. Latest events unfolding on Tuesday show just that.
Ultimately, what Bihi does not realise is that he is only dividing and destroying the very vision of Somaliland he claims to stand for.
Last week, traditional elders from the Garxajis clan, a major sub-clan of the Isaaq clan – the majority clan in Somaliland decided to up out of any war in Laascaanood because:
- They realised this war is a unjust war and civilians are being killed
- Somaliland forces that were members of the Garxajis were reported to be treated differently to the ruling sub-clan – in other words, clan discrimination.
- The unilateral decision by Bihi broke the original clan power structure that underpinned Somaliland.
Finally, the committee of the clan outlined that any war crimes or atrocities in the city of Laascaanood is in the hands of Bihi and his administration.
Similarly, the Ayuub Sub-clans Ugaas released a statement yesterday equally condemning the violence in Laascaanood, outlining that the Bihi regime is engaging activities that are criminal.
Ultimately, what is evident is that there is a heavy splinter within the traditional and clan systems that maintained peace in northern Somalia known as Somaliland.
Aside from the split in clans and traditional elders, there has also been split within the political establishment of Somaliland.
MPs such as Mohamed Abib of the Somaliland regional parliament have highlighted that the Bihi regime failed to even seek Parliamentary approval prior to the attack launched in Laascaanood.
Other MPs have openly and vocally condemned the violence in Laascaanood as a clear war crime and violation of any international or local.
Opposition parties including Wadani and Ucid have condemned the war as unjust and criminal. Many have highlighted the oppressive measures taken by the Bihi regime last year when the people of the region came out in the thousands to support elections to be held in the scheduled month of November only to face live ammunition from the police – dozens were killed and many opposition politicians were wounded or detained.
Currently, the Bihi regime has exceeded its constitutional mandate as stipulated by the regional laws of Somaliland yet he continues to overstay using force and violence. Therefore, it is not a surprise to many the Bihi regime used brutal force to subjugate the locals of Laascaanood.
A Shift From Political to Clan Tensions?
The reality is that this conflict has shifted away from a political to a clan issue. The splinter amongst the Isaaq clan of Somaliland as well as the claims being pushed by the local Dhulbahante clan of attempts by the Bihi regime to displace the local residents to reshuffle the demographics of the region demonstrates that crux of the conflict might be political but it has heavily shifted towards clan tensions.
Regardless, the underpinning issue is one of political nature. The concept that Somaliland’s borders swallow the Sool region in its entirety while also seeking secessionism from the rest of Somalia
A concept rejected by the traditional leadership of the Sool region.
Currently, it seems as though the Bihi regime is hell-bent on destroying the city, its locals and traditional elders before subjugating its population and then sending traditional elders to deceive the international community of a peace attempt while coercing the outcome of any talks.
The SSC-Khaatumo leadership want all Somaliland forces to leave the region and return to their bases before any talks can begin but this seems to be rejected by the Bihi regime despite public pledges to ceasefire and initiate talks.
Authorities in Hargeisa continue to insist that the war in Laascaanood is an attempt to pacify what Somaliland claims to be an international terrorist cell that has overran the city which has been rejected by many analysts and intellects that are well-versed in the politics in the region as well as the clan elders themselves.
Ultimately, it does not seem as though this war will end anytime soon.
An Absent Federal Government
However, what has equally shocked Somalis worldwide is the lack of action from the Federal Government aside from the Somali Disaster Management Agency heroically providing some medical support to wounded locals.
There has been no official government policy outlined or any plans to mediate this conflict. The statement released by the 33-member committee including the establishment of FGS authority in the region until a FMS established has not been addressed by Mogadishu.
Again, if President Hassan Sheikh really believes in the unity of this country and wants to see a Somali Heshiis or Somali in agreement as he puts it, he must take action now. Speeches and statements do not provide actual solutions to these problems.
MPs have elected Hassan Sheikh to lead our nation and it clear currently, he is failing to do so.
Follow Suldan Mohamed and HORUMAR for regular updates and analysis on Somalia.
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