EDITORIAL: Las Anod ‘deportation’ was illegal, but how will Somalia avoid a repeat?


EDITORIAL | Somaliland has this week been defending its unacceptable decision to ‘deport’ thousands of Somalis from Las Anod back to Puntland for being a ‘security menace. According to authorities in Hargeisa, the many women, children and poor men packed on cattle trucks and ferried back to Puntland were cause for worry and were behind recent security incidents.

There may be logic in seeking to enhance the security everywhere, not less in Somaliland. But how does a region that claims to be democratic, and runs on unrecognised independence, defends such an atrocity as ferrying a woman in labour for security reasons?

Somaliland, one of the safest places in Somalia, may argue that its intelligence was pointing at these southerners. It may also argue that it had a right to purge (suspected) trouble, makers. But in civilized jurisdictions, people are given a rightful procedure to leave, or at least suspects are given the opportunity to have a day in court.

Yet this is not a Somaliland problem. Somalia itself as a whole has for long operated on lethargic assumptions about its security and borders. Because it insists Somaliland is part of its territory, it has done little to enhance any cooperation with the region as far as security is concerned.

The reality on the ground is that Somaliland believes it is separate and continues to do things it's the way. It organises its police and military, runs on fig-leaf democracy absent in Somalia and at least guards its people against trouble. It is no wonder that most of al-Shabaab’s terror merchants hit the central and southern regions.

To assume that Somaliland will trade these apparent successes for nothing is to imagine that it will forget the strides it has made for three decades. Somalia PM Mohamed Hussein Roble rightly condemned the expulsion. Displacing people in a country they consider theirs is not only repugnant but an outright violation of their rights.

The Somaliland authorities would have been, at least, granted these people local identification even as refugees. Somaliland, which seeks to be a player on its own in the international sphere must first give first impressions that it will stick to global law and standards.

But the blame squarely lies with Mogadishu. First, it must strive to make the country safer for all. Insecurity in most parts of Somalia is the reason the country has refugees in almost every neighbouring country. Second, the Somaliland question has been unresolved for three decades. Surely, Mogadishu cannot now afford to dictate terms, especially when it is the weaker bargainer in this dispute.

Somalia ultimately needs all its regions to unite as one federated country. But the sum of its parts will depend on how the centre provides strength and support to the periphery. There is certainly low motivation in Hargeisa for anything Somalia because Mogadishu has been an arena for rent-seeking rather than proper leadership. Our problems starting with insecurity, hunger, poverty and terrorism are directly linked to poor leadership at the centre.

Unless Somalia gets its head out of sand and Mogadishu entices everyone that it is better to cling to the centre than splinter, there will continue to be disagreements, not just with Somaliland but even those other federal states that seem stronger in leadership.

The sad thing is the people will suffer in these incidents where a clash of authorities’ stances leaves.


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