The LasAnod War: Its Impact on Somaliland and the Region:
The assassination of Local Politician Mr. Abdifatah Abdullahi Abdi on 26th December 2022 by unknown attackers sparked instant outrage in LasAnod, Sool Region. The protests mostly led by young men and women went on for days and they were forcefully suppressed by the Somaliland Authorities leading to another 20 deaths.
There were instant condemnations in the region and beyond on the high handedness of the Somaliland Security agencies. Cases of similar assassinations were reported in LasAnod for years and the locals have complained that no action was ever taken to bring the perpetrators to book.
This situation forced the SSC/Khatumo Traditional Leaders called “GARAADS” to convene in LasAnod and received warm reception. For days they arrived one by one with pomp and colour; and the residents waved the blue Somali Flag and the SSC/Khatumo one something that was banned by Somaliland for the 15 years they ruled the City and the region.
A scuffle within the city and the killing of another local man associated with a prominent businessman in LasAnod broke the camel’s back. The local forces stationed with the City revolted and clashed with the Somaliland Security Agencies forcing them to leave the City and camp in the vicinity.
After days of meeting and consultations, the Traditional Elders of SSC/Khatumo together with the 33 Member Consultative Council that was formed to spearhead the affairs on behalf of the people were preparing to announce their verdict on the 6th February 2023 when Somaliland Security Forces started shelling the City indiscriminately inorder to gag the people from stating their position.
Nevertheless, the Council went ahead to read their communique stating unequivocally that they were not part of Somaliland. They also noted strongly that SSC/Khatumo is part of the territory of the Federal Republic of Somalia and that they will be governed as such.
What followed is like a script from a Hollywood Horror movie. The Somaliland Security Forces for over 20 days shelled LasAnod City indiscriminately. They bombed Homes, Mosques, Hospitals; literally anywhere their artillery could hit. This forced over 200,000 people to flee LasAnod and its vicinity with over 200 deaths and over 600 injuries as reported by the Mayor of the City Mr. Abdirihin Ali.
The world was dismayed and shocked. There were instant condemnations from the Federal Government of Somalia, US and other Foreign Entities, Somali People, Civil Society Groups, Religious Leaders, Traditional Elders among others.
The people of LasAnod were forced to defend themselves using everyday weapons in their possession and with the meagre resources available to them. Since then, they have received reinforcements from adjacent regions with the larger population from Sool, Sanaag & Cayn, people who share blood ties and common ancestry with them. This has forced Somaliland to lose further more territory like the case in the strategic town of Tukaraq in Sool Region.
The Legal Basis for Unionism in the face of hostile Secession:
The breakaway administration uses force of arms to coerce a unionist population, this is not only illegal but also amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is the situation currently faced by the people of the Sool,Sanaag and Cayn Region (SSC) in Northern Somalia, who are being subjected to a campaign of violence and intimidation by the secessionist administration of Somaliland. This legal argument aims to demonstrate that the actions of Somaliland in this regard are not only illegal but also amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
International law recognizes the right of peoples to self-determination, which includes the right to secede from an existing state. However, this right is subject to certain conditions, including that secession must be pursued peacefully, democratically, and with the consent of the affected population. The actions of Somaliland, which involve the use of force to coerce the population of the SSC region, clearly violate these conditions.
Moreover, the use of force against civilians is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, which requires that civilians be protected from the effects of armed conflict. The deliberate targeting of civilians, the destruction of civilian property, and the forced displacement of civilians are all prohibited under international humanitarian law, and are considered war crimes when committed in the context of an armed conflict.
Similarly, the persecution of a particular ethnic or political group, as appears to be the case in the SSC region, constitutes a crime against humanity under international law. The systematic targeting of a particular group, whether through murder, torture, or other forms of violence, with the intention of causing them harm or driving them from their homes, is a clear violation of international law.
Application to Somaliland:
The actions of the Somaliland administration in the SSC region clearly violate these legal principles. The administration has been using force to coerce the population of the SSC region into accepting its secessionist agenda, including through the use of military force and the destruction of civilian property. Civilians have been subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, and extrajudicial killing, while others have been forcibly displaced from their homes.
These actions clearly violate international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes, while the persecution of a particular ethnic or political group constitutes a crime against humanity. Moreover, the secessionist agenda being pursued by Somaliland is being imposed on the population of the SSC region without their consent, and in the face of their opposition.
The actions of Somaliland in the SSC region constitute a clear violation of international law, including international humanitarian law and the right to self-determination. The deliberate use of force to coerce a population into accepting a secessionist agenda is not only illegal but also amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The international community must take action to hold Somaliland accountable for its actions and to protect the population of the SSC region from further harm.
For couple of days now, the fighting has stopped and there are reports of mobilization going on both sides. The mediation effort by Ethiopia is slowing down and there is no sign of the FGS taking active role to restore law and order in its territory.
Somaliland has lost considerable support and has largely been accused of violation of Human Rights and potential war crimes. Actual action may take years to materialize because of the nature of International System. The British Government has cut down on funding to Somaliland Security Agencies in the light of the public outcry. It is highly possible that more donors will take similar route.
If this conflict escalates, it could have devastating results considering its proximity to international borders. There could also be widespread increased reinforcements on ethnic ground as has already been witnessed. This will be catastrophic for the region and beyond. The time to act is now.
Abdi Mohamed is a commentator on Horn of Africa affairs and a keen observer of matters geopolitics and regional integration. You can find him on twitter twitter.com/oxford92