Somalia: Unpaid salaries trigger soldiers' protests in Puntland
GAROWE, Somalia - For the umpteenth time, disgruntled soldiers in Puntland have downed their tools over unpaid wages, in yet another indication of simmering tensions within the Federal state in northeastern Somalia, which is also facing difficult moments in handling internal elections that have faced contestation from a number of political formations.
On Wednesday, the aggrieved soldiers blocked all roads leading to the presidential palace in the state, the official residence of President Said Abdullahi Deni, lamenting about their delayed salaries. The soldiers, just like many civil servants, have gone without pay for several months, triggering the latest rebellion.
Also blocked were roads heading to a number of ministries, the disgruntled soldiers using vehicles and stones to obstruct the movement of people and motor vehicles. The blocked road serves as a crucial route used by ministry employees, the Puntland presidency, business centers, and various institutions daily.
This wasn't the first time the soldiers blocked essential routes given that in Bosaso, the commercial capital of Puntland, the troops seized the main port besides blocking several roads in what they termed as "unfair treatment" by the government. Critics accuse Deni of diverting resources to recently concluded disputed local elections.
Participants of Wednesday's mutiny were mainly guards assigned to the presidency and top government officials who claim they have not been paid for several months. President Deni has yet to respond to the grievances.
Deni managed to push for local council elections against the backdrop of sustained criticism against his administration, with the opposition accusing him of crafting a strategy to extend his term in office. Although the elections have been held in a number of councils, the opposition boycotted almost all.
The standoff comes a few days after the National Consultative Council [NCC] announced a proposal to change the current electoral model, paving the way for universal suffrage which is rarely practiced in the country. For years, Somalia has been relying on the opaque clan-based model where leaders are chosen in boardrooms.
Deni has been boycotting NCC meetings, arguing that Puntland will act on her own until a consensus is reached. Most politicians from the Federal State have also opposed the new model, but this will do little to reduce pressure on Deni, who is accused of absconding his duties by failing to pay workers on time.