Somaliland: must demobilise militias in Sool

In October 2017 ten years will have elapsed since Somaliland captured Lasanod after Puntland scaled down the presence of its forces in a disputed region. The Somaliland government inherited the security turmoil in Lasanod. Since 2007 the security situation in Sool has been dealt with through reliance on local militias. Militias have subsequently become more powerful than Somaliland authorities that pay salaries of militias.

The choice for Somaliland government was to disarm or disband militias, a Sisyphean and self-defeating task. The decision by Khatumo administration to hold unconditional talks with Somaliland government will help Hargeisa leaders to entertain a third option: to recruit militias from other segments of the district. This strategy will drastically reduce reliance of Somaliland government on militias.

Last year  when disturbances   led to a brief take-over of Lasanod by militias, the Interior Minister, Yasin Mohamud Hir,  overhauled  Sool regional administration. He appointed a new governor and regional police commander despite the new commander being allied with local, Somaliland-funded militias.

Interior Minister: Under pressure to demobilise militias

Somaliland government has recognised Khatumo as the legitimate political representatives of people in Sool. Two weeks ago the Somaliland Parliament endorsed talks between Somaliland  goverment and “Khatumo administration”. In the third round of talks concluded in Djibouti, Khatumo and Somaliland agreed to work towards making Sool an area aid workers can visit in an attempt  to save the face of Somaliland government whose claim of Sool as a part of “Somaliland Republic” has made the region along with Eastern Sanaag a “disputed land” inaccessible to aid workers.

As Somaliland Parliament Deputy Speaker said recently, the Somaliland government supports the resolution of the conflict between two subclans in Sool through traditional conflict resolution and adjudication by religious leaders. Neither approach has so far delivered the desired outcome to stop feuding. The perception that Somaliland is too weak to stand up to the local militias paid in the name of Somaliland government is contributing to the stalemate. Somaliland government has no monopoly on violence in Sool. The demobilsation (abaabul-ka-saarid)  stage  that Somaliland authorities introduced in Hargeisa early 1990s did not take place in Sool. For nine years successive Somaliland governments have not been able to demobilise militias  in Sool. This could have been done by getting political stakeholders in Sool to agree on how to recruit new inclusive security forces. Somaliland government has realised that Sool political representatives in Hargeisa lack the support base enjoyed by Khatumo representatives, who have put on the talks agenda the initiative to make Sool accessible to aid workers. Within this agenda lies the challenge to address corruption in Sool partly and unwittingly documented in Sool Regional Development Plan (2014 – 2016), which brought to the fore phantom schools in Yagoori and  Kalabaydh hamlets in Sool.

Khatumo administration has committed Somaliland political leaders to reversing the policy to outsource the regional security to local militias. A key feature of the new policy will be decentralisation ( maamul-daadejin) agreed by Somaliland and Khatumo negotiators in the third round of talks heldin Djibouti.  The Somaliland security policy has forced the regional adminstration to allow customary law to replace the rule of law in Sool. Since 2009 assassination and assassination attempt cases in Sool have gone cold. Somaliland police grew wary of relying on outcomes of criminal investigations in Sool, where many people view law enforcement agencies as facilitators of jailbreaks. Somaliland must demobilise militias in Sool and accept its securitisation model to keep peace have been counterproductive in the region and a blow to its cause to secede from the Federal Republic of Somalia.