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Newest Anti-Somaliland Front: Las Anod War

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There are times when people lose touch with reality and thus analyse, assess and interpret matters not as they are in real truth, but as they are imagined. Such times come up when people lose their sense of direction.

Directionless and disorientation occur when people are confused about what the time requires, where they stand at present, where they born to or even who really they are. A society mostly becomes disoriented and disorganized particularly when its politicians and public figures suffer from some kind of psychosis; a mental health problem that can’t understand why something is the way it is, or why it is what it is.

The present time is one of those moments in the history of Somalis in which most of Somalis try to defend their rights or interests in denial of others’ rights or interests.

Surprisingly, contemporary Somalis are not culturally emulative, not having yet formed a style of learning behavior, but are imitative, assembling their decisions, thoughts, and behaviors that make them who they are from political demagogues whom they are most frequently exposed.

In view of above, these days Somalis make their decisions and actions out of deception and delusion. They try to attain deceptively and in delusional way what they couldn’t achieve it intellectually and intimately for they don’t know that deceiving each other and deluding themselves share similar outcomes. Both cause the perception of reality to collapse.

A wrong judgment about what to do in, how to defend or resolve Lasanod issue that has been simmering for many years can simply explain how Somaliland deluded itself and lost control of Las Anod city when Muse Bihi administration allowed anti-Somaliland armed militias to enter in Las Anod city, assuming that Las Anod’s long standing political problems would be solved peacefully by an immediate pullout of security forces from Las Anod city.

Wow! Wasn’t it ‘shoot-yourself-in-the-foot mentality?’

Similarly an attitude to disregard reason and reality in favor of envy and emotions can also explain how Sool Sanaag Cayn(SSC)-khatumo militias deceived themselves to believe that Lasanod could only be liberated from Somaliland government by use of force.

How did the current war in Las Anod begin?

The cause of the current armed conflict in Las Anod actually began on December 26 when a local politician, Abdifatah Abdullahi Abdi, was assassinated by unknown attackers, resulting antigovernmental protests across the city, followed by violent crackdown on civilian protesters by Somaliland security forces.

Somaliland troops have since been stationed outside the city, a move that actually left the space for the city to remain under the control of a committee of 33 elders and intellectuals of the Sool clan, with a defensive force that consists of local armed militias and others from neighboring related clans.

Not responding to or reacting after the consequences of the violent crackdown on civilian protesters by Somaliland police forces on February 6, 2023, but acting from their long standing tradition to conspire against Somaliland existence as a separate state, Dhulbahante elders and elites made a communique requiring S/land government to withdraw its troops to Oog, claiming that Oog is the borderline between Sool clan and the rest of tribes in Somaliland.

On February 8, Sool clan highest Garad, Garad Jama Garad Ali, a fugitive for many years, along with all local elders and intellectuals stated their intention to cut ties with S/land government and reunite with Southern Somalia, assuming that shock and awe is the only response that can succeed.

The real war erupted just hours before that statement was to be released, when militias from Sool clan and forces from Puntland region attacked S/land troops in Goojacadde.

Is war really what anyone, any group, or any country can easily start?

The fog of war always starts when either one of the adversaries knows or both of them know nothing about the woes of war. The self-styled SSC-khatumo Militias have learned nothing from the civil war in the year 1988. They had neither been displaced nor had their homes destroyed.

History teaches us that humans go to war when the consequences of war seem to outweigh the conditions and causes of concessionary options, or they go to war when there is no other mutually agreeable solution to avoid war.

Evidently, it is easier to start a war than to stop it; it is easier to wage a war against a country than it is to win. But once warmongers have fell further and further into a quagmire of exhaustion, means of how to take a moment to catch breath and get out of the quagmire will bleed them dry.

War is not what anyone, any group or any country can rush into, no matter how they are powerful. War only happens when all else fails, when dialogues fail, when discussions fail and even persuasion won’t work. Common sense understands this.

In fact, some Sool region elders and intellectuals have instigated the war in Las Anod and encouraged their people to fight not because they love what is behind the war, but because they hate who are in front of them.

Culturally the responsibility of Somali elders was and still is to promote peace, develop confidence-building measures among societies, observe good faith toward all people, cultivate fraternity and harmony within societies and appeal for cessation of hostility, not because the people they represent are too weak to fight, but because war is a catastrophe in essence.

What is the war in Las Anod all about?

The war in Las Anod is not a war between freedom fighters and occupation forces. Nor it is a battle between emancipation movement and exploitation system. Nor it is between a system that wants to assimilate community and others that resist to be assimilated. The war in Lasanod city is neither a battle between rebels and repressive administration.

As they say, haters inspire vice instead of virtue, stir up strife instead of calling for stability, ignite sparks of vengeance instead of faith and forgiveness, and instill the love of learning envy and enmity instead of nurturing harmony and hope. Haters always want to ignite in others what must first burnt inside themselves.

The war in Las Anod city is all about anti-Somalilanderism, a prejudice, fear, and hatred
of Somaliland natives, particularly constituencies in the heart land, their government, their determination to stand independently as a nation, and rule themselves through the laws and governmental apparatus of their own style, an entitlement of having the right to secede from the failed state that was formerly known “the republic of Somalia.”

More importantly, what makes Las Anod war more crucial is SSC-Khatumo’s position to part Lasanod city from Somaliland sovereign territory; a motive that is meant to divide Somaliland State Sovereignty into two or more authorities within the single state, of which the only aim behind this is to destroy and dissolve S/land state, with its constituent parts becoming new sovereign states that would further dissolve into lesser parts.

The point of contention is that Sool insurgents demand that Somaliland forces should vacate Sool region, which many locals in Las Anod consider as “occupied” by Somaliland. But in reaction to that, Somaliland government rejects that request, and reaffirms that there is no way that that demand or desire can be compromised away because there will be no room for another administration in Somaliland territory other than the already established one.

The current situation in Las Anod.

The tension is high and things are very
much up in the air as each side is now on its highest alert against the other side’s sudden attack. Only the position each side will take in dealing with the other side or the current situation can determine when to pull the trigger.

The current locations of the warring sides.

Somaliland troops are entrenched in the areas such as Goojacadde, Maraaga and locations alongside the main road that connects S/land and Somalia, which is the only passage that is open to logistics supplies for Somaliland troops.

On the other hand, local militias and other terrorist fighters are holed up in the city, making their hideout in the homes of the vacated city, with trials to keep their moves from house to house undiscovered.

Because both sides are talking past each other, the current situation bears a high risk of further escalation into an all-out war. Each side is still continuing to amass heavy weapons. Media outlets reported that Somaliland government has reinforced its troops in Sool region, stationing considerable parts of its army including heavy armory and tanks in Las Anod.

While it is hard to state the exact number of soldiers deployed at strategic locations in and around Goojacadde, it is safe to imagine that soldiers number several thousands. More tanks and technicals (pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns) have been brought to Goojacadde over the past weeks.

On the other side, local armed militias are attempting to increase their defensive power. As the fighting continued over the last months and militia lost many men, neighboring clans, bunches of Liyu police from Somali Ethiopian and Puntland’s regular army are still pouring into Las Anod to assist local fighters.

While it is hard to know how many and what type of weapons exactly are in the hands of clan militias, it is reported that through areas south of Las Anod, not controlled by Somaliland, the Las Anod militias have brought a considerable number of mortars, howitzers and armored vehicles into the town.

The side that has the upper hand in the war.

The warring sides cannot control the pain that comes with the fighting but they can control their response and show more courage and strength in the face of fighting. In any armed conflict, military tactics that apparently maximize the art of organizing and employing fighting forces on the battlefield is one way of imagining the side that may have the upper hand.

Only by tracking progress can we know
which side’s strategy is working well. Of course, identifying the momentum of the battle is fairly a straightforward approach, as movements of the frontlines, and logistical sustainability of forces in the field provide obvious standards by which to measure trends of where does each side stand in the fields of fighting.

Predicting ultimate outcomes of the war in Las Anod is still very difficult, but the side that is “ahead” at the current situations is feasible. And only by examining a range of indicators can we determine how to know the fighting strategy that requires improvement.

Joint command on the battlefield is crucial
in the fields of action. There is no unified command for Las Anod insurgents and their ragtag alliances. They are running parallel to one another. Besides this, they are ill-trained and disorganized and undisciplined. The commitment to take commands is the essence of war.

The tactics of victory for Las Anod insurgents and their allies fighting Somaliland government are not to defeat their better equipped foe on the battlefield. They just intend to unequivocally demonstrate their capacity to fight a war of attrition indefinitely and then wait for political support for the mission to collapse on their enemies’ home fronts.

To counter this strategy, Somaliland government took timely diplomatic and military maneuvers.

Militarily Somaliland troops usually take two types of attacks on the militias, hasty and deliberate.

First, Somaliland troops take hasty operations when the allied militias are in a vulnerable positions and could be defeated quickly with available resources.

Second, Somaliland troops execute deliberate attacks when sufficient knowledge of the positions of the allied tribal militias are available to enable the attacking units to ascertain how the militia forces are arrayed on the ground and what they say about their general intent, timings, and capabilities.

The big reveal at the end of the these types
of attacks answered the questions of who are, in addition to local Dhulbahante armed militias, the other forces that are actually involved in Las Anod war.

At the end of those operations, reports showed that the forces that are fighting in Lasanod include: Al-Shabab terrorists, who want to open a new frontline in the region, Liyu police forces from Somali Ethiopian region and Puntland’s regular army of whom many were captured in the battle fields.

What picture did the war in Las Anod give?

The war in Lasanod conjured up a strong sense of despair, disappointment, and displacement.

The despair.

The war in Las Anod has shown the importance of facing reality as it is. There is no hope for Lasanod to become an autonomous state of Somalia. There is no hope for Lasanod to be even part of Puntland.

When two things correlate with one another it means that the changes in one will cause similar changes in the other.

This means that if the boundary between
S/land and Puntland is touched, leave alone changed, the boundaries between S/land and Ethiopia will also be touched and changed as well. The effect of Africa’s current boundaries being touched will surely raise new waves of unresolvable miseries in the African continent. This confirms that Lasanod is part and parcel of S/land territory. He who argues otherwise is an ignorant who tries to spoil the wonders.

The disappointment.

Since February, there have been many big miscalculations. The first was SSC’s confidence about quickly prevailing on the ground against the S/land troops. That is, SSC-khatumo’s confidence that in a matter of weeks they would expell S/land troops from Sool region by force has virtually turned out to be impossible.

The second miscalculation that SSC-khatumo leadership has made was to believe that the Western world would compel S/land to pull its forces out of Lasanod through unprecedented political pressure. And that assumption has not and will never happen.

The displacement.

Surely, in addition to many people being displaced, Lasanod has had many shell shocked and traumatized people, because very few would endure the effects of long-term physical and psychological harm to people, young and old alike, and reduction in material and human capital

Is there a possibility for a negotiating strategy?

Despite many appeals from neighboring countries and Western world to both sides,
S/land and SSC dissidents, to stop hostility and come to negotiating table, unfortunately, we are not closer to the war’s end, than we were at the beginning. The problem is that SSC leadership has still more sincere interest for war than it has for peace.

Negotiations are a discussion aiming at reaching an agreement. Negotiations can deliver more of what cannot be achieved militarily. The sensible realizes that in this particular issue what cannot be achieved by dialogue cannot be attained by force.

If the two sides come to the negotiating table, negotiations will raise strategic questions such as: Is any settlement short of Lasanod liberation from S/land forces acceptable to SSC so long as Garad Jama Garaad Cali and his likes remaining in power? If not, what will be Somaliland’s position in the end game? Is Somaliland prepared for the consequences of SSC’s control in Las Anod?

So far neither side is prepared to see Lasanod go out of their control, more likely leaving Lasanod as a war zone where might is the only factor that can determine which side to win the war, with dire consequences for the local population.

That again brings up another question regarding the fate of Lasanod. If SSC resistance movement will continue in Lasanod, how S/land will suppress it?

Two options are only open for Somaliland. The mujahids should choose one option only. Either pull the troops out of Las Anod or punish the insurgents. It is do-or-die situation and anything other than choosing one of the two options is a waste of time.

The delusion around Las Anod war.

It is sad when people can’t tell what is real from what is imagined. For those who think that Las Anod militia are fighting for what SNM (Somaliland National Movement) fought for in 1980s are beating the bush. Why?

The war in Las Anod is different from the war that SNM waged against Siyad Barre’s regime. The points that SNM and Siyad Barre bickered were totally different in principle from the views Somaliland and Sool insurgency differ now. Siyad Barre didn’t realize that the predominant constituency in Somaliland have the right to have a say in how they are ruled. To him, constituency were worse than enemies. That is why Siyad Barre and his regime had left no stone unturned in order to wipe constituency out of Somalia.

In contrast, Somaliland realizes that all S/land citizens have equal rights and that there are no people who are more equal than others in Somaliland country. Sool region inhabitants are Somaliland citizens and they deserve what all other Somalilanders deserve. We all know that the incumbent Somaliland leadership is dull and deserves punishment.

What does the current situation in Lasanod tell us about how the war might end?

The short answer: While each armed conflict tends to defy history, a clear-cut defeat of either side in this war is unlikely. A more likely scenario is protracted fighting that will finally leave SSC militias exhausted but unwilling to admit defeat, due to ‘mind forged manacles’.

In conclusion, experience teaches us that emotions, especially in times of war, have a tragically long shelf-life. As the war in Lasanod sometimes became more brutal and each side suffered many causalities, all sides should remember and realize that whatever has happened and may happen, in the end, the legacy of relationship, restraint and resilience will prevail without hatred and that the compulsion to rule and govern is an addiction at best, and an incurable disease at worst

 

The author of the book “HALLOWGII XORIYADDA IYO HALGANKII SNM” that is in the pipeline for publishing
By: Jama Abdillahi Ismail (Falaag)
Somaliland, Hargeisa

 

 

Guest piece published first on sii1991.org

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