The President of the Republic of Somaliland addressed the nation today about the ongoing crisis in Las Anod and stated that terrorist groups assassinated 40 people, mostly government officials and prominent members of society, including high-ranking members of the opposition parties and has called for calm and reiterated Somaliland’s commitment to peace and stability.
Las Anod, the capital of the Sool region has seen days of protests following the assassination of a prominent politician from Puntland, Mr. Abdifatah Abdillahi Awil. Somaliland security forces have been accused of heavy-handed response that result in the death and injury of civilians.
President Bihi stated that 32 suspects are in custody in connection with the forty assassinations that have taken place in Las Anod since 2009, while eight others remain at large. He added that while some have been sentenced to prison terms he did not specify, two have been exonerated while the prosecution of seven suspects is still ongoing.
Speaking of the deaths and injuries following the recent protests in Las Anod, President Bihi sent condolences to those affected and stated that a thorough investigation will be conducted once the current situation is under control.
“Today, the task in front of us which we are working on is for the peaceful coexistence of the people, and we are working with the leaders, the intellectuals, the youth, the traditional leaders, and the women of the people living in Las Anod. What we are saying is, let’s talk about our differences, but first, let’s secure peace. If there is no peace, nothing can be solved. The army is not there to oppress the people and is there to defend them and will leave once peace is restored” said President Bihi.
President Bihi spoke of external factors including Somali government officials and foreigners calling for violence in Las Anod and spoke of a Mr. Farah Maalim, a Kenyan member of Parliament national at length and his previous role in actually helping integrate Las Anod in Somaliland.
Recently, the President of the Somali region of Ethiopia Mr. Mustafa Mohammed Omar has warned a diaspora group which held a meeting in Jijiga that incitement and actions against neighboring countries are not welcome.
In addition, President Bihi addressed the President of the Puntland region of Somalia, Mr. Saeed Abdullahi Deni, who has openly declared war on Somaliland and threatened that he send troops into Las Anod. The Puntland region of Somalia claims the Sool and Sanaag region of Somaliland as part of Puntland based on a tribal composition. Somaliland’s boundaries are based on colonial boundaries on which much of Africa’s boundaries are based.
“War was declared by the President of the Puntland administration and his deputy, but we did not expect that Puntland would declare war, but today we are calling for peace and good neighborliness, and we appeal to them to reconsider as war has no benefits. But if you attack us, you will reap what you have sawn, and Somaliland stands ready to defend its sovereignty,” said President Bihi.
Members of Parliament, Ministers, and other prominent politicians have called for the assassination of Somaliland government officials in Las Anod for years. Mr. Deni, whose close advisors include Mr. Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan, known as the Butcher of Hargeisa for his role in the genocide against the people of Somaliland, has been under pressure to respond to events in Las Anod.
President Bihi, who has been widely criticized for tone-deafness and failing to unify the nation with multiple meetings with leaders of Somalia despite their open hostility to the security and sovereignty of Somaliland, stated in his speech, “Today in Somaliland there is no opposition or pro-government, and we stand together for the sake of our nation.”
The Somaliland Ministry of Foreign Affairs sharply rebuked a statement from the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission in Somalia Mr. Souef Mohamed El-Amine, and called upon him to stick to ATMIS‘s mandate to secure Somalia, and that Somaliland is an independent country. In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called upon the International Community to stand with Somaliland in its effort to combat terrorism and condemn those who have carried out the assassinations in Las Anod and the neighboring leaders who are calling for violence in the region.
On May 2018 Somaliland clashed with armed militias from Puntland over the control of its eastern flank with Somalia. The unofficial truce between the Republic of Somaliland and Puntland has held with minimum incidents.
President Bihi did not specify concrete steps to address the grievances of the people of Las Anod including law enforcement overhaul and steps to ensure the safety and security of the public in the region.