Crisis in Lasanod: Border Disputes, Escalating Insecurity and the Future of Somaliland

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Debating Ideas goals to mirror the values and editorial ethos of the African Arguments book series, publishing engaged, usually radical, scholarship, unique and activist writing from inside the African continent and past. It affords debates and engagements, contexts and controversies, and evaluations and responses flowing from the African Arguments books.


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At the top of December 2022, a younger politician was assassinated in Lasanod. This was essentially the most current focused killing in a protracted sequence of comparable assaults, which had not been prevented or no less than accompanied up and solved by the Somaliland authorities on the town. In response, Lasanod residents started out protesting in opposition to the prevailing insecurity on the town.

This escalated into violence when Somaliland troops controlling the place started out taking pictures at protesters, killing some 15 individuals and injuring extra (Principally children). The Somaliland forces in the end retreated from Lasanod in early January 2023 leaving the place self-administered.

A committee was fashioned to focus on the long run of the city. Meanwhile, the Somaliland authorities is amassing navy forces and apparatus in the environment of Lasanod. As of early February, it really is unclear what is going to come about. Yet, there’s a probability that the scenario will escalate into important armed battle leading to substantial human rights violations and political implications for the complete area. If Somaliland loses Lasanod, its political declare have got to be readjusted.

International actors and any one desirous about peace inside the Horn of Africa have got to urgently put attentiveness to this seemingly “local” battle, which, in spite of this, touches upon rather more far-ranging political problems. The query is: what answer to this crisis could be discovered that doesn’t contain armed battle and doubtlessly ethnic/clan-cleansing?

Assassinations and rumours

On Monday 26 December 2022, Abdifatah Abdullahi Abdi “Hadrawi”, a younger occasion official of Somaliland’s largest opposition occasion Wadaani, who hails from the Dhulbahante clan dominant inside the region, was assassinated in Lasanod. There has been a protracted sequence of comparable assassinations of largely Dhulbahante intellectuals and officers, usually these working for the Somaliland administration that had forcibly taken over town at the top of 2007.

The assassinations begun in late 2009 and continued over frequent years.[1] They have been discontinued for it slow between 2012 and 2015. In some instances, culprits have been captured. Yet, the assassinations started out once again in 2018.[2] Over the previous two years, some seven individuals have been killed. In complete, no less than 40 individuals fell sufferer to those focused killings. Muse Bihi, President of Somaliland, not too long ago claimed that 32 suspects associated to those instances have been in custody. Yet, the general public in Lasanod is of a completely different opinion. Many confused that the Somaliland administration had not pursued these assassinations efficiently and the killers have been not captured.

Three rumours concerning the assassinations in Lasanod stand out: first, that the killings are portion of intra-Dhulbahante feuds. Yet, this appears somewhat unbelievable. Over the years, frequent feuds between Dhulbahante sub-clans occurred, but in these instances, everyone knew who was concerned; even the killers have been acknowledged. Second, that Al Shabaab are behind these killings to create insecurity in an already unstable place. This is a hearsay, but it seriously is not implausible. In 2008, Al Shabaab attacked Somaliland with substantial bombings in Hargeysa.

The group rejects the independence of Somaliland. So far, it was their technique (additionally in south-central Somalia) to induce unrest in an already unstable place to expand their relevance. What stays puzzling is why Al Shabaab needs to be clandestinely killing individuals for thus lengthy (over 14 years); typically, they might create unrest after which take handle extra swiftly.

The third hearsay on the town is that the administration in Hargeysa and its representatives in Lasanod are behind the focused killings. The logic behind this, which is admittedly not simple, is that Isaaq elites in Somaliland don’t want the Dhulbahante to combine.

They desire to hold energy and authorities to themselves however want the Dhulbahante territory to underline their declare to unbiased statehood. Moreover, some would add that the assassinations of outstanding Dhulbahante are a kind of late revenge of “Isaaq” in opposition to Dhulbahante, because the latter traditionally supported the Somali dictatorship in opposition to the Isaaq guerillas until eventually 1991.

Another conspiracy idea, that seriously is not referred to in Lasanod, however a regional specialist referred to in oral debate, issues Ethiopia and its pursuits in retaining Somali polities weak.

Given that Somaliland has gained stability and financial energy and since 2015 has turn into an vital associate of Ethiopia associated to the Berbera corridor (importing and exporting items to/from Ethiopia by way of the harbour of Berbera in Somaliland), creating insecurity in Lasanod may very well be a technique by the federal government in Addis Ababa to weaken Somaliland. Ethiopia may have used paid assassins.

What is definite is that the dearth of readability and absence of info round who was driving the assignation campaigns induced insecurity inside the region, creating tensions between residents of Lasanod and the Somaliland administration.

Reactions: upheaval on the town

The feeling of insecurity and the frustration of frequent city dwellers with some Somaliland officers (Isaaq by clan) along with the governor of the Sool area motivated locals to stage demonstrations in late December 2022, triggered by essentially the most current assassination of Abdifatah “Hadraawi”. Demonstrations continued for a number of days.

The scenario grew to be chaotic when children have been throwing stones at Somaliland forces deployed to manage the city. On a number of events, the troopers opened hearth, killing 10-15 people and injuring frequent extra (largely younger ladies and men).[3] On Wednesday 3 January 2023, a regional dealer was shot by Somaliland forces patrolling the city; he was armed to protect his enterprise and inside the composition of disarming him, he was killed. This provoked appreciable outrage amongst his shut family, who took to arms and attacked the Somaliland military on the town, which in the future later, on 4 January, withdrew to positions outdoors of Lasanod to preclude additional bloodshed.

In response, frequent locals started out celebrating their “freedom” from Somaliland’s “occupation” and commenced waving the “blue flag” of Somalia on the town (and on social media) to show their help for a united Somalia in opposition to the secession that fashioned the Republic of Somaliland (unilaterally declared in 1991). This provoked irritated political reactions by Somaliland authorities, who reiterated that Lasanod is portion of Somaliland.

The pretext

What makes the regional disaster doubtlessly vital past the composition of Lasanod or the Sool area is that for many years, Dhulbahante inside the region round Buuhoodle (in Togdheer area) in a lot of Sool area and in elements of Sanaag area have confused that they don’t help Somaliland’s independence as a state. On the one hand, Dhulbahante clan leaders, in conjunction with elders from all different clans inside the northwest and with representatives of the Somali National Movement (SNM), met in Bur’o in May 1991 to focus on the peace and choose concerning the political way forward for the area.

Dhulbahante leaders ultimately additionally signed the settlement that contained the declaration of independence of Somaliland, in step with the boundaries of the previous British Protectorate of Somaliland. This meant that Lasanod was included. On the opposite hand, frequent Dhulbahante early on distanced themselves from Somaliland as political undertaking.

In 1993 they arrange their very own clan administration of their areas. In 1998 they supported the institution of Puntland, an autonomous regional state that challenges Somaliland’s claims to the areas of Sool, Sanaag and the areas round Buuhodle. Puntland took handle of Lasanod in 2003, however was chased away by Somaliland forces (in cooperation with some Dhulbahante militias) at the top of 2007. Subsequently, in spite of this, Dhulbahante arrange their very own counter-administrations and militias, which have been first referred to as Sool, Sanaag iyo Cayn (2009–12) after which renamed as Khaatumo State of Somalia (2012–15).

In the previous years, notably after 2015, the administration of Somaliland in Dhulbahante areas, along with Lasanod, gained some acceptance. New authorities infrastructure was constructed (this had started out reasonably already in 2010), with the Dhulbahante diaspora investing inside the local economy, notably in training and future health care inside the city centres. Yet, all this didn’t persuade the bulk of the clan members to full-heartedly help the independence of Somaliland.

The enthusiasm of Dhulbahante to interact in Somaliland politics was additionally hampered by the undeniable fact that from 2010, politics in Somaliland grew to be more and more clan-based. Central positions inside the political events and the administrations went predominantly to the Isaaq, even past their demographic share, which is round two-thirds of the general inhabitants. The political narrative in Somaliland’s centres (Hargeysa, Berbera, Bur’o) mirrored this favouritism, completely that includes Isaaq historical past because the “history of the state”. This included the British colonial historical past celebrated by frequent Isaaq at this time, that includes prominently the anti-regime battle inside the Eighties plus the struggling of civilians on the hand of the Somali military until eventually 1991. This, in spite of this, is partly diametrically against how non-Isaaq, exceptionally Dhulbahante, desire to relate their political historical past.[4]

The latest scenario

After the demonstrations and shootings in Lasanod in early January, frequent households left town. They took refuge with family inside the countryside or went so far as Garowe or Galkayo in Puntland. Those who made it to the countryside face dire residing circumstances since it really is at present dry season (Somali: jilal). This means there’s already an absence of water and meals inside the countryside, which is now aggravated by the refugees. Still, a substantial civilian inhabitants (extra male than feminine, extra younger than outdated individuals) stay on the town. Many have taken up small arms and demonstrated their willingness to defend their place in opposition to a possible assault by Somaliland forces. For a month now (as of early February), Lasanod seriously is not managed by Somaliland any extra. There are, in spite of this, Dhulbahante troopers on the town who formally work for Somaliland, below the command of a number of regional officers, essentially the most senior of which is Mahad Ambashe (from the sub-clan Jama Siyad/Reer Warsame).

In mid-January, a number of high-ranking ministers of Somaliland, along with the inside minister, Mohamed Kaahin (Isaaq/Habar Je’lo) and the commander in chief of the Somaliland military, Nuuh Tani (Isaaq/Habar Awal) got here to Lasanod to watch the scenario. They took residence in Hamdi Hotel inside the east portion of the city, guarded by their very own forces. Yet, they didn’t have interaction in noticeable talks with the bulk of the inhabitants or their (classic) leaders. Images being broadcasted from Lasanod at the moment featured the Somali flag, which quickly was additionally hoisted in different places in Dhulbahante-land, along with the small cities of Hudun and Taleh. The scenario on the town stays calm.

In the second half of January, all 13 of the very best traditional leaders (Somali sing.: isim, pl. isimo) of Dhulbahante plus considered one of the Fiqishini[5] clan have come to city. Except for one, Garad Jama Garad Ismail (Jama Siyad), they’d spent the previous years because the 2007 trap of Lasanod by Somaliland troops outdoors of city – both inside the countryside on the point of their respective sub-clans or in Garowe, the capital of neighbouring Puntland (some 140 kilometres east of Lasanod).  The clan leaders have been welcomed by all inhabitants. Moreover, a committee of 33 senior inhabitants representing the varied branches of Dhulbahante and Fiqishini was established to guide consultations. The clan leaders, elders, spiritual leaders, business-people and intellectuals of Lasanod are concerned in these consultations that formally begun on Saturday 28 January 2023 and are envisioned to result in a selection on the best way ahead for Dhulbahante inside the coming days.

On 30 January, President Muse Bihi’s generally broadcasted speech earlier than the federal government blamed “terrorists” for the unrest in Lasanod. This was obtained with contempt by the standard leaders in Lasanod. They blame the Somaliland administration for the insecurity on the town. For them, the reference to terrorists, which clearly hints at Al Shabaab, is a technique to discredit the political motion amongst Dhulbahante which expresses its allegiance to Somalia (rejecting Somaliland’s secession). Meanwhile, Somaliland supporters of their public statements attempt to current what’s at present taking place in Lasanod (and a few different locations in Dhulbahante-land) as irrelevant, as an expression of a minority-position or as an upheaval produced by overseas or terrorist factors. Yet, in opposition to the backdrop of the lengthy historical past of the bulk of Dhulbahante rejecting Somaliland’s independence, the “blue revolution” (i.e., waving the flag of Somalia) is extra credible than Somalilanders hanker to just accept.

Already in late December, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, the president of Somalia, voiced his concern concerning the killing of civilian demonstrators in Lasanod. Yet, the Somali authorities in Mogadishu seriously is not in a place to intervene. It is concerned in battling Al Shabaab in central Somalia and has no energy to take a stance inside the north, the place Somaliland established its de facto independence some time past. The governments in Hargeysa and Mogadishu are purported to maintain talks on their future relations. These talks are at present on maintain, not least on account that of the priority of Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud with Al Shabaab. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) held a meeting in Mogadishu on 1 February 2023 to focus on joint efforts to defeat Al Shabaab (and preclude its fighters from infiltrating neighbouring nations). In this composition, information emerged that Ismail Omar Gelle, President of Djubouti, supplied his prone as mediator between the Dhulbahante leaders and the federal government of Somaliland. Yet, on 2 February, the spokesperson of the committee answerable for inner discussions in Lasanod, Chief ASqil Abdirisaq hassan Falaluug, rejected this mediation provide. He expressed the position of the committee and the clan leaders that negotiations may solely start after Somaliland forces withdrew from all Dhulbahante areas.

Different kinds of governance: classic versus state rule

The advanced scenario in Lasanod illustrates two completely different programs of political order in place. In the centre, Principally inside the Isaaq-inhabited areas between Hargeysa, Berbera and Bur’o, the state administration had grown into an efficient element of ordering unusual individuals’s lives. Police, judges at authorities courts and different authorities officers are regulating the every day affairs of frequent residents. The state is thought of reputable in these areas. Yet, inside the Dhulbahante and Wrasangeli inhabited lands in Sool, Sanaag and round Buuhoodle, the Somaliland state (or some other state, for that matter) has not taken root over the previous 30 years (because the collapse of Somalia in 1991). People there are used to self-governance, which is run by regional classic authorities, clan leaders and sheikhs. The logic of political conduct is extraordinarily completely different between state and clan-governance. In the Dulbahante lands, the elders and clan leaders appreciate extra respect than ministers or navy generals.[6] Hence, the difficulties of the Somaliland ministers despatched to Lasanod in mid-January to achieve out to the individuals and to steer the political procedure on the town with any diploma of success. This signifies that the federal government in Hargeysa and the leaders of the individuals in Lasanod at present, and can inside the close to future, communicate previous one another. The logic of Hargeysa is: Lasanod is in our state-territory, we have now to manage it (since we’re the Government). The logic of the individuals in Lasanod is: we’re a clan that Principally opposes Somaliland, we observe our elders, and isimo, the Somaliland administration, have to respect our hanker to self-governance. It is arduous to visualize a compromise for the time being.

Threat of large-scale violence

The latest scenario, on account that all sides are speaking previous one another, bears a excessive hazard of additional escalation into large-scale violence. All sides have been amassing arms over the previous weeks. The authorities in Hargeysa already had stationed appreciable elements of its military along with heavy armoury and tanks inside the region. In the previous weeks, experiences and video-footage circulated in numerous media shops that Somaliland is reinforcing its troops close to Lasanod.

While it really is frustrating to state how frequent troopers precisely are positioned close to Lasanod, it really is dependable to imagine that they range a number of thousand. More tanks and technicals (pick-up vans with heavy machine weapons mounted on major) have been introduced to the region in current days.  On the opposite area, Dhulbahante as a clan search to expand their defensive energy. It is arduous to know the way frequent and what sort of weapons precisely are inside the fingers of clan members have to Somaliland assault.

It is reported that by using areas south of Lasanod, not managed by Somaliland, a substantial volume of small arms, but additionally some technical and heavy machine weapons, have been introduced into city. Besides, Lasanod residents have under no circumstances been disarmed by the Somaliland administration. Thus, small arms have already been round earlier than the latest disaster. In case combating between the Somaliland military and Dhulbahante organized as clan-militias would commence, what would come about is unpredictable – apart from that there would in all likelihood be a excessive range of casualties, along with, in all likelihood, civilians who’re nevertheless in Lasanod.

There can also be a probability that, have to the combating proceed over days and have to Dhulbahante free frequent males, neighbouring clans who’re associated to Dhulbahante, similar to Warsangeli (in japanese Sanaag), Majeerteen (in Puntland) or others may attempt to support Dhulbahante, which might result in additional instability inside the wider area and a increased range of casualties. It is unlikely that Puntland will straight get entangled, because the authorities in Garowe seriously is not well prepared for a fully-fledged navy confrontation with Somaliland forces. Moreover, such an escalation of violence would destabilize the complete of northern Somalia. Should a navy build-up turn into noticeable on the area of Puntland it may provoke Ethiopia’s political interference.

Ethiopia, at present weakened by inner conflicts, remains to be a regional super-power and has appreciable affect in Hargeysa, Garowe and Mogadishu. Nonetheless, there’s a probability that Ahmed Karash, vice-president of Puntland and Dhulbahante/Naleye Ahmed, will clandestinely ship appreciable navy help from Puntland or by using his personal channels. His sub-clan has positioned a substantial range of technicals inside the region east of Tukarak, an vital control-post alongside the tarmac highway half-way between Lasanod and Garowe.

At the second, there’s a impasse between frequent Dhulbahante, exceptionally these in Lasanod, and the Somaliland administration. The committee answerable for inner negotiations amongst Dhulbahante (along with the clan leaders and others) will quickly publish its findings, which most probably can be offered as “the will of the people”.

The hazard is {that a} “maximal demand” from a Dhulbahante viewpoint may very well be requesting Somali forces to vacate Dhulbahante-lands, which frequent locals in Lasanod give some thought to as “occupied” by Somaliland. In response, the hazard is that Somaliland refuses and thus violence erupts is excessive. Muse Bihi is himself below strain. He faces stiff opposition from Wadaani, the opposition occasion that controls the House of Representatives inside the parliament. To stabilize his rule, he has to play the “Somaliland nationalist” card making it not possible that Hargeysa would react positively to calls for coming from neighborhood representatives in Lasanod to withdraw its military additional to the west.

Ways ahead

On Monday 6 February 2023, combating erupted inside the east portion of Lasanod, round Hotel Hamdi. Somaliland forces and regional militias are taking pictures at one another. Somaliland reportedly used heavy weapons. The range of casualties seriously is not acknowledged. The scenario is escalating. The most vital query for the time being is how additional violence could be prevented.

There are frequent civilians in Lasanod. Ongoing combating between Dhulbahante forces and the Somaliland military will well-nigh undoubtedly produce a excessive range of civilian casualties, along with ladies and kids who’re nevertheless in Lasanod. Moreover, a navy confrontation will in all likelihood result in appreciable destruction of property and can produce countless numbers if not tens of countless numbers refugees from Lasanod and the environment. Besides, combating will produce extra refugees and a substantial humanitarian disaster in the midst of the drought season.

In the mid-term, the escalation of violence will consequence inside the lasting disruption of relations between Dhulbahante and the federal government in Hargeysa. It is arduous to visualize how, after frequent extra casualties, a relationship of confidence and cooperation may very well be established between the 2 sides once again.

This would suggest that Somaliland would have much more difficulties to stabilize its rule inside the japanese territories, the place Dhulbahante but additionally Warsangeli reside, who’re associated to the customary ancestor named Harti. If Hargeysa doesn’t plan an “ethnic/clan-cleansing” marketing campaign, it have got to negotiate with these opposing its rule inside the east.

External actors, along with representatives of the United Nations and diplomats from nations cooperating carefully in some regards with the governments of Somaliland and Puntland have to use their affect, notably in Hargeysa, to demand a peaceable answer to the latest disaster. In reality, it will be very beneficial if Somaliland forces may withdraw to some extent and depart Dhulbahante until eventually tensions subside.

After it slow, it really is in all likelihood that Dhulbahante, who’re economically not self-sufficient and are depending on commerce with the east and the west (alongside the tarmac highway which is Principally managed by Somaliland) will recognise {that a} radical stand on political autonomy seriously is not viable.

This would then open new avenues to start talks between the Somaliland administration and Dhulbahante. It have to additionally be clear that there should not be a simple answer to the misunderstanding between either side.

Both have developed in very completely different political instructions because the early Nineteen Nineties. In the long term, a nicely well prepared referendum in japanese Somaliland over the query of Somalia versus Somaliland may very well be an choice to enable for global recognition of Somaliland with or devoid of the Dhulbahante (and Warsangeli) areas included.

End Notes

[1] Hoehne, Markus V., 2015, Between Somaliland and Puntland: Marginalization, Militarization and Conflicting Political Visions, Rift Valley Institute, pp. 98–99.

[2]Telephone interview with resident of Lasanod.

[3]Telephone interview with a future health employee at Lasanod hospital, 25 January 2023.

[4]For extra particulars, see Hoehne, Markus V., 2011, “Political Orientations and Repertoires of Identification: State and Identity Formation in Northern Somalia”. PhD Dissertation, Martin-Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg, chapter 8.

[5]The Fiqishini are initially a sub-clan belonging to the Hawiye/Habar Gedir clan residing Principally in central Somalia. Yet, they moved to the north and have been built-in as “guests” into the Dhulbahante clans some centuries in the past.

[6]Hoehne, Markus V., 2018, “One country, two systems: Hybrid Political Orders (HPOs) and legal and political friction in Somaliland”, in Olaf Zenker and Markus Virgil Hoehne (eds), The State and the Paradox of Customary Law in Africa. London: Routledge, pp. 184–212.

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