EDITORIAL: Shun inflammatory language, support Las Anod victims
EDITORIAL: Somalia has this week been plunged into another territorial tussle, pitting Somaliland forces on one side and civilians taking up arms to protest alleged high-handedness.
The talk of the violence had morphed into allegations by Somaliland that Al-Shabaab was taking advantage of the chaos to plant a cell in the region, a claim that leading traditional elders in Las Anod vehemently denied and said the statement is intended to pave the way for the civilian bloodshed.
The immediate challenge, however, is the rising number of people needing humanitarian assistance and the cession of the hostilities.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said “tens of thousands of people need life-saving support, safety, and security in an area that was already heavily affected by the drought situation.” Sool is not a wealthy region, but in times of peace, its people have been able to fend for themselves and keep the peace necessary to grow.
This is why the best way to help the Las Anod people now is to send whatever relief to help them sustain themselves. Yet. Besides calls for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid, politicians and bloggers must do better to encourage harmony among communities.
Since Monday, fake images and videos have been doctored and labeled as Las Anod incidents. Some videos and social media postings border on hate speech or political ethnic incitement. Somalia is neither new nor ready for any further clan violence. And Somalia is in a region where ethnic violence has often rocked countries to deadly consequences.
Neither do we condone any propaganda by Somaliland authorities who touched off the original spark of violence by mishandling civilian protests.
This is not to underestimate the problem in Las Anod. The people there may have genuine rights to express themselves. But by adding fuel to their grievances, exaggerating them with deep fakes, the people spreading alarmist information do so without regard for the safety of the very people they purport to support.
Indeed Las Anod, in spite of age-old clan differences, had always been harmonious. The people of Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (SSC) regions had always avoided clashes in most cases largely through dialogue.
Since December 2022, protests escalated when Somaliland law enforcement agents responded with live ammunition, causing the death of over a dozen demonstrators.
Now the problem has snowballed and the Las Anod situation is a severe issue even for the international community.
The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), EU, IGAD, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Norway, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Poland, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Türkiye, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, and United Nations all signed a statement calling for the cessation of hostilities and unfettered humanitarian access.
Once the violence settles, we will all learn the importance of guarding against incitement while respecting every civil liberty. In the meantime, we hope that authorities in Somaliland will think about peace and listen to the self-determination voices of the SSC people.\