Recalled Puntland MPs returning to Galkayo after being recalled from Mogadishu
Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas, president of the Puntland State of Somalia, which governs itself like an independent state but has steadfastly called itself a part of the to-all-practical-purposes-nonexistent country of Somalia, declared August 1st that his pirate-infested desert fief at the very tip of the Horn of Africa was withdrawing from the Federal Government of Somalia (F.G.S., also called S.F.G.)—such as it is—in Mogadishu.
|Members of Puntland’s Council of Ministers|
ratifying Pres. Gas’s withdrawal announcement earlier this month
A newspaper based in the neighboring unrecognized Republic of Somaliland, another fragment of the former Somalia, described the scene fairly dramatically: “This revelation was made by Gas during a post regional administration cabinet meeting press briefing in which he also ordered all legislators representing Puntland in the Mogadishu based parliament to decamp back to Garowe within 15 days.
The visibly incensed president Gas reported to have roughshod over his council of ministers during the hastily convened meeting on the night of 31st July at his Garowe residence.”
|Somaliland is the area to the west of Puntland, though the border is in dispute.|
Gas’s announcement of withdrawal was in reaction to a decision taken by the government in Mogadishu the day before to formally recognize as legitimately autonomous another de facto independent entity, the even-more-pirate-infested Galmudug State of Somalia, which lies just to the south of Puntland. Galmudug, whose name is a portmanteau of two provinces of “Somalia”—Galgadud and Mudug—uses Galkayo, a city lying on the Puntland–Galmudug border, as its capital. Puntland, which uses Garowe as its capital, governs only the northern half of Galkayo but claims all of Mudug, including all of Galkayo, its capital, as a constituent province.
It is not clear whether the Somaliland journalist or the Puntland administration itself is responsible for the awkward English version of Gas’s strident statement of protest, which states, “Puntland ego has been severely injured by the participation of the international community at the Mogadishu endorsement of the new regional administration.”
|Somalian and Puntland flags flying side by side|
But bruised Puntlandic egos may be the least of it. Puntland’s withdrawal has led, among other things, to reports that a former president of Galmudug, the warlord Abdi Hassan Awale Qeybdiid (a.k.a. Abdi Qeybdiid), is launching plans to “invade” Puntland via the airport at Galkayo. The same newspaper referred to above, the Somaliland Sun, stated that the office of the F.G.S.’s president, Hasan Sheikh Mahmud, admitted openly that it had hired Abdi Qeybdiid to “raise mayhem” and to “dislodge” Gas from power.
|Abdi Qeybdiid (with microphone), pictured here in the days of his presidency,|
is said to be gunning for Puntland’s current leadership—literally.
In what may or may not be a connected development, the chairman of Puntland’s military court, Abdirizak Haji Adan Ahmed, narrowly survived an assassination attempt on August 9th when gunmen said to be members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist terrorist network al-Shabaab riddled his car with bullets in Bosaso, the large harbor city on Puntland’s north coast.
|Abdirizak Haji Adan Ahmed is the latest to be targeted.|
This is not the first time Puntland has taken its ball and gone home. Almost exactly a year ago (as reported at the time in this blog), Puntland’s president at the time, Abdirahman Farole, announced a similar withdrawal. That time, Puntland’s grievances were over more general issues of sharing of resources and powers between itself and Mogadishu, as well as the status of another autonomous state within “Somalia,” Jubaland. Mogadishu was at that point refusing to recognize Jubaland, which is in the al-Shabaab-infested far south of “Somalia,” while Puntland backed it. That confrontation was quietly resolved in the weeks that followed. (Jubaland is now run by an interim administration, while Mogadishu has taken over the running of its harbor, Kismayo.) Through it all, Puntland never goes quite so far as to use the word independence, unlike its western neighbor, Somaliland, which announced a formal separation from Somalia in 1991 (discussed at length in an article from this blog). That was the year that Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia’s Communist dictator, was deposed in one of the many global reverberations of the implosion of the Soviet Union. The former Somalia has been in a state of constant civil war ever since.
|Jubaland has also at times been called Azania and Greenland.|
As of yesterday (August 11th), Gas said that he and the central government in Mogadishu were negotiating how to proceed, but progress had not yet been made. He hinted that the objections might mainly be territorial, stating, “Mudug is partially divided. Puntland controls the north and the south is under other people’s control. We will never retreat from our rights to administer the north of Mudug region.” This may be a shift, since Gas refers here only to the northern part of Mudug. But whether an agreement can be reached is another matter.
|President Gas, waiting for Mogadishu to blink|