Somalia: Elders showed Las Anod war damages amid escalating tension
LAS ANOD, Somalia - There could be a moment of relief in Las Anod following the gesture by elders from Mogadishu, after their unprecedented but timely arrival in the city that has been literally the center of a battle between SSC-Khatumo forces and Somaliland military.
For the last two months, Somaliland forces have been at loggerheads with SSC who have been pushing to establish a separate state under Somalia's Federal system. Calls for self-determination agitated Muse Bihi Abdi who deployed soldiers to the Sool region.
On Monday, elders who are set to create room for mediation arrived from Mogadishu but it is not clear if they will be allowed to lead peaceful negotiations. In Somalia, traditional elders play key roles in mediating conflicts which threaten peace and stability.
The elders from Mogadishu were taken to the frontlines outside the city and showed the damages caused by the Somaliland army shelling targeted hospitals, mosques, and other residential buildings.
SSC-Khatumo forces had demanded the withdrawal of Somaliland troops as a pre-condition for dialogue but Hargeisa is yet to comply with the request. The failed ceasefire paved the way for intensive clashes in the east and west of the city, where SSC made gains.
Already, Somaliland has bolted out of the ceasefire and emphasized planned operations in Las Anod which analysts fear could lead to bloodshed. The SSC on their part has promised a 'coordinated response' should Somaliland military attack their bases.
President Muse Bihi Abdi has remained mum over the ongoing conflict with the opposition accusing him of "instigating violence for political gains". Bihi's term expired in November 2022 but surprisingly, he is yet to hold presidential elections as required by the constitution of the breakaway region. He extended his mandate by two more years.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has emphasized the need for warring parties to give dialogue a chance and end the conflict in a peaceful manner. The International partners voiced the same call.