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Fighting continued between govt forces and local clan militias in Las Anod, while mediators tried in vain to resolve standoff.
Fighting between govt forces and local clan militias continued. Renewed heavy fighting reported early April on outskirts of Las Anod town, Sool region, between Somaliland forces and Dhulbahante militias. After authorities late March said they will go on offensive in Las Anod, local reports in April suggested both sides attempting to recruit reinforcements. Meanwhile, Dhulbahante committee in Las Anod 10 April announced suspending traffic between Sool, Sanaag and Cayn region and Somaliland from 15 April; move would isolate Las Anod from major port of Berbera and impede traffic between Somaliland and Somalia.
Mediation efforts to resolve dispute made little progress. Over a dozen international partners 15 April held virtual call with Somaliland President Muse Bihi but failed to secure pledge to withdraw forces from Las Anod. Clan elders from southern Somalia, who had travelled to Garowe city (Somalia’s Puntland state) and Las Anod in March, 25 April arrived in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa for consultations.
Appointment of envoys hinted at resumption of Somalia-Somaliland talks. Somalia President Mohamud 1 April appointed former Galmudug state president and federal interior minister, Abdikarim Hussein Guled, as special envoy for Somaliland to “ensure the unity and solidarity of the Somali people”. Bihi around 18 April reciprocated by naming former Somaliland FM Edna Adan as envoy to stalled Somaliland-Somalia talks.
Ethiopian-led consultations failed to end fighting between govt forces and local clan militias in Las Anod town; conflict ratcheted up political tensions.
Conflict between Somaliland govt and Dhulbahante militias persisted. Las Anod mayor 2 March said violence in town had killed over 200 people on all sides since early Feb. Dhulbahante clan militias from late Feb pushed Somaliland forces to positions further outside Las Anod in Sool region, leading to drop in mortar shelling of town. In attempt to mediate between parties, delegation from Ethiopia early March visited both Somalia’s Garowe city to discuss with Dhulbahante elders and Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa to meet with Somaliland govt officials. Efforts floundered, however, as Dhulbahante continued to insist Somaliland withdraw its forces to areas outside of their clan homeland, which President Bihi rejected. Renewed fighting reported 18 and 25 March in Las Anod amid reports suggesting both sides are working on securing additional forces.
Las Anod crisis ratcheted up tensions in Hargeisa. Increasing number of politicians distanced themselves from Bihi’s military approach to Las Anod crisis. Notably, two Dhulbahante clan members, Abdirisaq Ibrahim Mohamed “Attash” (founder of Waberi political association and former telecommunications minister) and Saleban Essa Ahmed “Xaglatoosiye” (head of another nascent political association), around 7 March announced their withdrawal from Somaliland politics and called for Somaliland forces to leave Las Anod. Vice chairman of Waddani opposition party, Ahmed Omar Haji Hamarje, 12 March accused Bihi of using Las Anod conflict to delay elections originally scheduled for Nov 2022. Somaliland’s VP Abdirahman Abdilahi Ismail mid-March accused House Speaker Abdirisaq Khalif, who has long voiced opposition to govt’s approach to Las Anod crisis, of having “crossed the line” by allegedly supporting secessionism.
Situation in Las Anod worsened dramatically, with clashes between Somaliland forces and local militias killing over 100; violence could escalate further in coming weeks if fighting spreads in Sool region or draws in Puntland, Somali or even Ethiopian actors.
Violence in Las Anod left over 100 dead. Conference of Dhulbahante clan representatives 5 Feb concluded in contested Sool region’s administrative capital Las Anod; participants said they did not recognise Somaliland’s administration and wanted to be part of Somalia, demanding withdrawal of Somaliland forces from wider area they inhabit in Sool region. Clashes same day broke out between Somaliland armed forces and Dhulbahante militias in Las Anod. Violence 6 Feb killed at least 34 people and wounded another 40, next day left at least 24 people dead and 53 injured. Hargeisa 7 Feb asserted fighters from neighbouring Puntland state of Somalia were fighting alongside local militias in Las Anod, which Puntland denied. Hargeisa 10 Feb announced unilateral ceasefire, which promptly broke down amid fresh fighting, and violence continued throughout month with mortar shelling in town itself. Somaliland 25-26 Feb withdrew forces from important military base in Tukaraq village east of Las Anod.
Regional and international actors called for calm. Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud 7 Feb called for negotiated settlement between Somaliland administration and clan elders of Las Anod, said “solution is in our pursuit of united Somalia”. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk same day urged Somali authorities “to carry out a credible and impartial investigation into the clashes to determine who is responsible and to hold them accountable in fair trials”. UN humanitarian agency 14 Feb said violence since early Feb had displaced over 185,000 people from Las Anod.
Govt forces withdrew from border town also claimed by Somalia’s Puntland state following protests sparked by insecurity.
Unrest in Las Anod led to govt forces withdrawal. Govt forces 5 Jan pulled out of Las Anod town in contested Sool region for first time since they took over town from Puntland forces in 2007, citing need to “avoid further escalation”; move came after security forces late Dec suppressed protests against insecurity in town, leaving at least 20 people dead. Representatives from Dhulbahante clan (generally opposed to Somaliland’s control of Las Anod and areas they inhabit in Sool region) 8 Jan called for Somaliland forces to withdraw from all Sool region. Interior Minister Mohamed Kahin 11 Jan led high-level govt delegation to Las Anod, 15 Jan said govt was committed to resolving issues in Sool region through dialogue. As traditional leaders and elders from Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions mid- to late-Jan gathered in Las Anod to discuss their future, govt 21 Jan said conference should not be detrimental to Somaliland’s unity and warned of foreign interference; President Bihi around 30 Jan said his administration will amicably settle crisis in Las Anod.
Election-sequencing dispute remained unresolved. Voter registration proceeded in Jan despite lack of progress in resolving election-sequencing question.
Clashes between security forces and protesters left at least 20 dead in contested area near Somalia’s Puntland region.
Deadly clashes erupted in contested area near Somalia’s Puntland region. Clashes between protesters and security forces late Dec erupted in Las Anod town in contested Sool region, with at least 20 civilians killed; protesters complained about lack of security in town, which has been beset by regular assassinations in recent years including 26 Dec killing of local leader and member of opposition Waddani Party, Abdifatah Abdullahi Abdi (alias Hadrawi). Information Minister Saleebaan Cali Koore 31 Dec urged protesters to stop demonstrations and start negotiations with govt. Dispute also ratcheted up tensions between Somaliland and Puntland, both of which claim Sool region. Puntland’s President Said Abdullahi Deni 31 Dec said Puntland stands with people of Las Anod and urged Somaliland forces to stop crackdown.
President Bihi set preconditions for reconciliation talks with Somalia. Joint Norway-Türkyie delegation 5-6 Dec met with Bihi in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa and Somalia’s President Mohamud in capital Mogadishu to discuss prospects of resuming Somalia-Somaliland reconciliation talks; both presidents expressed support, but Bihi later issued set of seven preconditions, making any immediate resumption unlikely.
Election crisis remained unresolved. President Bihi’s initial five-year term 13 Dec came to close without resolution of dispute which pits govt and opposition against each other about sequencing of presidential and so-called “political parties” elections (parliament’s Upper House in Oct extended Bihi’s term by two years). Yet electoral groundwork continued as voter registration 28 Dec kicked off.
Deadlock over upcoming political cycle persisted with little prospect of immediate breakthrough as political opposition stated it no longer recognises Bihi as president.
Opposition denounced govt as illegitimate. Opposition Waddani and UCID parties 13 Nov – originally scheduled date for presidential election – announced they no longer recognise Bihi’s administration, while failing to clarify what this means in practice. Some youth same day clashed with security forces in country’s second-largest city Burco, resulting in at least seven people injured.
Govt remained unwilling to dialogue over sequencing of high-stake elections. Govt in Nov continued to rebuff all domestic and international appeals to dialogue with Waddani and UCID over sequencing of forthcoming elections, reiterating it will organise political parties’ vote – to licence three parties that will be allowed to participate in formal politics going forward – ahead of presidential ballot; also said it will follow National Electoral Commission’s nine-month timeline for presidential election (although parliament’s Upper House in Oct extended Bihi’s mandate by two years).
Process to select new political parties moved forward. Registration committee 6 Nov approved nine political associations, on top of three current ones, to compete in unscheduled political parties’ election; in joint press conference, all nine political associations 15 Nov said any process to overcome current deadlock over sequencing of elections must include them.
Electoral dispute risks turning into wider crisis as opposition vows to no longer recognise govt after 13 Nov.
Postponement of presidential poll increased tensions between political elites. After electoral commission late Sept announced it could not organise presidential election on scheduled date of 13 Nov and requested nine-month delay, parliament’s Upper House 1 Oct extended President Bihi’s term by two years and its own term by five. Leaders of opposition parties UCID and Waddani – who want presidential vote before selection of new parties – next day said they would no longer recognise Bihi as president when his mandate ends on 13 Nov; also said circumstances under which Upper House has authority to extend both terms were not met, and requested explanation as to why extensions go beyond technical delay outlined by electoral commission. UCID leader Feysal Ali Warabe also 2 Oct said Bihi would be responsible for “any violence or instability” that may occur. Garhajis clan – one of Somaliland’s largest – 27 Oct called for “inclusive and consensus-based agreement” between political parties before 13 Nov; warned that “no election will take place in territories inhabited by Garhajis clan” if no deal is reached.
Presidential election likely postponed until 2023 due to “technical and financial constraints” as political dispute over sequencing of electoral cycle continued.Impasse over sequencing of elections unresolved after proposed postponement of presidential vote. Electoral commission 24 Sept announced it could not organise presidential election on 13 Nov, citing “time, technical and financial constraints”, and proposed postponing it to July 2023. President Bihi, whose mandate ends in Nov, now expected to file request to parliament’s Upper House to confirm postponement and term extension for himself and govt. Opposition Waddani party 24 Sept welcomed postponement, but dispute over sequencing of elections persisted. Earlier in month, opposition-dominated Lower House of Parliament 19 Sept approved bill to hold presidential and political parties’ elections simultaneously. Upper House, largely seen as favouring govt (which continues to argue that political parties’ elections must be held before presidential election), 26 Sept refused to examine bill and sent it back to Lower House, citing procedural flaws.Attacks on media continued. Information Minister Suleyman Yusuf Ali “Koore” 6 Sept revoked privately owned broadcaster CBA TV’s right to operate in Somaliland, saying its license had expired and it had aired content threatening peace in region. Committee to Protect Journalists 16 Sept called on authorities to allow CBA TV to resume operations and to desist from using bans to silence press.
Protests over upcoming electoral cycle turned violent, leaving at least five dead. After mediation led by clan elders mid-July collapsed, failing to resolve impasse between govt and political opposition over sequencing of upcoming elections, opposition 11 Aug held nationwide demonstrations demanding presidential election be held as planned in Nov; President Bihi has insisted on holding political association election before presidential election, while opposition UCID and Waddani parties have maintained that no other ballot can precede presidential election. Clashes between security forces and protesters left five to seven people killed and 100 injured in capital Hargeisa, Burco and Erigabo cities. Bihi later same day said majority of those injured were security forces “who were attacked with clubs, metal bars, and stones”, pledged to “confront” violent protesters, while opposition leaders said some deaths occurred after security forces opened fire on demonstrators. Six foreign diplomatic missions, including U.S., UK and EU, immediately condemned “excessive use of force” by security forces. Grouping of prominent business leaders in following days attempted to mediate between govt and opposition, but failed to bridge gap.
Delay of electoral cycle increasingly likely as talks between govt and opposition parties over sequencing of upcoming elections were short-lived. Mediation by group of elders, including those from Upper House of parliament, 6 July brought govt and two opposition parties together for series of meetings aiming to end dispute over sequencing of upcoming elections; Waddani and UCID parties have maintained that no other ballot can precede presidential election scheduled for 13 Nov, while President Bihi has insisted on political association election to come first. Opposition parties 19 July said talks had failed, putting blame on Bihi, while govt instead accused opposition of walking away. Negotiation committee next day called on political leaders to de-escalate tension and get back to negotiating table. Waddani’s presidential candidate, Abdirahman Irro, 25 July called on his supporters to launch peaceful nationwide protests following failed talks. Police around 31 July warned opposition parties against holding demonstrations without permission. Technical preparations for elections remained stalled: four election commissioners appointed and sworn in around 5 July, but three positions remained unfilled. Authorities 19 July indefinitely suspended British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Somali service for allegedly lacking neutrality and undermining Somaliland’s sovereignty. Police officers 23 July raided BBC Media Action office in capital Hargeisa, briefly detained five staff members.
Political tensions over sequencing of elections reached boiling point. Opposition parties Waddani and Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) 9 June staged demonstration in capital Hargeisa to demand presidential election be held as planned on 13 Nov before ten-year licenses of current political parties expire in Dec. Security forces used live ammunition to disperse crown, leaving several protesters injured, including one MP and one senior Waddani official, and at least a dozen arrested. EU and several European countries same day expressed concern, urged all sides to “de-escalate the situation” and engage in dialogue. Waddani and UCID 10 June postponed countrywide anti-govt protests scheduled for next day at request of elders to give mediation a chance. Earlier in month, parliament 6 June approved last three members of Committee for the Registration of Political Association with view to selecting new political parties; MPs late May had exchanged blows during session on the matter. Meanwhile, electoral commission disbanded, with chairman Abdirashid Mohamud Ali Rio-raac stepping down 1 June, followed by three remaining commission members 4 June. Parliament mid-June approved four out of seven proposed new commissioners.
Dispute over timing of upcoming electoral cycle remained unresolved. President Bihi 9 May reiterated commitment to hold presidential election in Nov and said he would engage in consultations with other political stakeholders to address any arising challenges. Main opposition leader Abdirahman Irro next day warned he will stop recognising Bihi as president if election is postponed, vowed to confront any effort aimed at delaying vote and accused Bihi of interfering with electoral commission. Amid persisting disagreement over timetable for registration of political parties, new political association Barwaqo launched 7 May. Govt’s external engagements continued. Notably, Bihi 12 May met with U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Larry André and U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) Commander Gen Stephen Townsend in capital Hargeisa.
Uncertainty over upcoming political cycle persisted, and authorities detained journalists. Opposition parties UCID and Waddani mid-April renewed accusation that President Bihi plans to prolong his stay in power, urged him to schedule presidential election. National Election Commission 27 April replaced NEC Chair Abdirashid Mohamud Ali with commissioner Kaltun Hassan Abdi; former immediately claimed move null and void, said he remained legitimate chair. Gunfire 13 April erupted in capital Hargeisa’s central prison as inmates allegedly clashed with prison guards; security forces detained 15 journalists covering events. Marodi-Jeh Regional Court 19 April released 12 journalists; local NGOs Somali Journalists Syndicate and Somali Media Association immediately welcomed move, demanded journalists still in detention be freed.
Controversy around sequencing of political parties’ selection and presidential election resurfaced, and President Bihi visited U.S. as part of foreign policy offensive. Contradictory public remarks from President Bihi and opposition early March signalled persisting disagreement over timetable for registration of political parties and presidential elections. Bihi around 7 March said registration for new political parties will open in June, followed by presidential election in Nov. In following days, Waddani and UCID opposition parties accused Bihi of seeking to use political party registration process as a means of postponing presidential election and “move away from democracy”. Meanwhile, Bihi 13 March embarked on first visit to U.S., met in following days with State Dept, National Security Council and Congress representatives. U.S. Bureau of African Affairs 14 March welcomed opportunity to discuss “strengthening U.S. engagement with Somaliland within the framework of our single Somalia policy”. Harassment against journalists and curtailment of free speech persisted. Suspected intelligence officers 18 March reportedly fired at vehicle of two journalists in capital Hargeisa.
Govt carried out series of foreign policy engagements. FM Essa Kayd 9-11 Feb led senior ministerial delegation’s visit to Taiwan, described ties with Taiwan as “special and historical relationship between two champions of democracies in Africa and Asia”; China 9 Feb condemned visit, and Kayd 11 Feb said “China cannot dictate” to “born free” Somaliland. President Bihi 21 Feb started multiple-day visit to neighbouring Djibouti to discuss strengthening bilateral ties. Diplomatic offensive follows Bihi’s notable 18 Jan visit to Ethiopia.
Supreme Court issued key ruling on selection of new political parties ahead of presidential election. Supreme Court 16 Jan ruled new political parties should be selected before year’s end in accordance with constitution which stipulates political arena limited to three parties and party licenses awarded every ten years. Opposition parties UCID and Waddani – who could lose party status and thus ability to compete in polls – in following days accepted ruling but said govt could use selection process as excuse to delay presidential election slated for 13 Nov.
Fistfight broke out in parliament following govt’s move to register more political parties. After Information Minister Saleban Ali Koore 12 Dec tabled amendment to Political Parties Law allowing registration of new political parties, opposition Waddani and UCID MPs next day exchanged blows with ruling party MPs inside chamber; opposition argued executive may use measure to delay presidential vote scheduled for Nov 2022.
Authorities continued to expel Somali nationals, and opposition party held congress with view to 2022 presidential election. After authorities in Oct started to expel Somali nationals from Sool and Sanaag regions, police mid-Nov urged “foreigners” still in Sanaag’s Erigabo town to leave, said security forces ready to enter homes and arrest them. Opposition Waddani party mid-Nov held party congress in capital Hargeisa, elected Hersi Ali Haji Hassan as chairperson; move signals Waddani’s continued outreach to Hersi’s Haber Jeclo clan in bid to take advantage of latter’s fracturing alliance with President Bihi’s Haber Awal clan ahead of presidential election scheduled for Nov 2022.
Authorities evicted Somali nationals from contested areas, prompting tensions with Mogadishu. Authorities early Oct started to expel Somali nationals, primarily Rahanweyn clan members, from Las Anod city in disputed Sool region, arguing deportees were major security threat amid series of unexplained assassinations of officials in area. UN humanitarian agency 4 Oct warned “situation has the potential to stoke tensions and exacerbate vulnerability with profound humanitarian consequences”, while Somalia’s PM Mohamed Hussein Roble next day condemned “inhuman and irregular” evictions. UN refugee agency reported 7,250 displaced by 15 Oct. Deportation order later extended to Erigabo town in disputed Sanaag region, with police reportedly evicting dozens 25 Oct.
President Bihi conducted major cabinet reshuffle. Following poor showing of ruling party in parliamentary and local council elections held in May, Bihi 2 Sept reshuffled cabinet, sacking several key ministers; also replaced central bank governor and three regional governors; reshuffle likely carried out with an eye toward presidential election scheduled for Nov 2022.
Opposition coalition secured speaker’s position in parliament’s lower house following tight vote. Parliament’s lower house 3 Aug elected opposition coalition MP Abdirisaq Ahmed Khalif as its new speaker by one vote, cementing opposition’s control over lower house despite President Bihi’s attempts to win over opposition MPs ahead of vote.
Top Court upheld results of May parliamentary and local elections and local NGO voiced concern over arbitrary arrests of civilians. Supreme Court 7 July certified results of late-May parliamentary and local elections, dismissing 21 legal challenges brought by defeated parliamentary candidates; parliament’s lower house expected to select new speaker within 30 days. Ruling Kulmiye party MP 26 July alleged opposition parties Waddani and Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) – which together won majority in parliament in May – tried to bribe him to vote for their candidate for speaker of parliament; both opposition parties 29 July accused President Bihi of harassing and bribing opposition MPs. Local NGO Human Rights Centre 18 July called on govt to release 42 people, most of them women, whom it said were arbitrarily detained for displaying Somalia’s flag in June; authorities next day released most of them.
Somaliland successfully concluded long-delayed elections process marking country’s first parliamentary polls in 16 years. Electoral commission 6 June announced opposition Waddani party had won 31 of 82 seats in House of Representatives in late May parliamentary poll, followed by ruling Kulmiye party with 30 seats and opposition Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) with 21 seats; Waddani and UCID same day formed parliamentary coalition, and 22 June nominated joint candidates for speaker and deputy speaker positions. Both parties also won combined total of 127 of 220 municipal races held in late May alongside parliamentary elections.
Amid opposition’s concerns over electoral process, parliamentary and local elections held without major incidents in late May. Opposition Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) and Waddani party 3 May denounced recent arrest of several of their candidates, accused authorities of confiscating voter ID cards from citizens, and called on President Bihi to end “abuses” in electoral process. Authorities 9 May dropped electoral fraud and treason charges against five UCID and Waddani candidates, and Bihi next day said he had reached agreement with leaders of both parties, electoral commission and members of Supreme Court on length of campaign and dispute resolution mechanisms. Unidentified gunmen 23 May fired at opposition offices in Las Anod town, Sool region in east, reportedly injuring at least two. No major incidents reported on election day 31 May.
Intercommunal clashes left over a dozen dead in Sool region in east, and authorities arrested opposition candidates ahead of parliamentary and local elections scheduled for May. In Sool region, clan fighting in Dhabar-Dalol area 16-18 April left up to 17 dead; violence follows late March deadly clan fighting over disputed territory near Shidan town, Sanaag region along border with Somalia’s Puntland state. Ahead of 31 May parliamentary and local elections, authorities 24 April arrested several opposition candidates from Justice and Welfare Party and Waddani party on undisclosed charges. Electoral commission 26 April said candidates enjoy immunity during election period and cannot be arrested. Govt 15 April expressed “concerns” over political crisis in Somalia, labelled President Farmajo’s leadership as “dictatorship”; same day urged UN to engage more directly with Somaliland as distinct national entity. President Bihi 28 April blamed Somalia’s govt for Mogadishu clashes (see Somalia).
Preparations for parliamentary and local elections scheduled for 31 May continued. Electoral commission, ruling Kulmiye party and opposition parties Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) and Waddani 25 March signed electoral code of conduct, notably committing to facilitating free and peaceful campaigning and public debate, and respecting human rights. Electoral commission late March reportedly rejected 28 local council candidates from all three parties for not meeting candidacy requirement; 30 March said it would start distributing voter cards next day. Authorities 7 March released two UCID candidates for parliament and Hargeisa city council seats, after police arrested them in Feb. In state of nation address, President Bihi 8 March said govt will continue to strengthen ties with African countries as part of its efforts toward recognition of Somaliland as a state.
Electoral tensions emerged ahead of polls scheduled for May, and inter-clan violence continued in Togdheer region in centre. Parliament’s upper house 2 Feb approved electoral commission’s Jan scheduling of parliamentary and local elections for 31 May; President Bihi next day signed decree confirming poll date. In capital Hargeisa, police 8 Feb arrested two opposition Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) candidates for parliament and Hargeisa city council; UCID chairman immediately called for their release and accused Bihi of interfering in election process. UCID late Feb said nine party candidates in Awdal region (west) arrested in regional capital Borama, accused minister of commerce of interfering in selection of candidates in Awdal. In Togdheer region, inter-clan clashes 5 Jan left at least one dead in Buhoodle town. After Somaliland suspended all UN programs in Oct in protest at UN-Somalia cooperation agreement, Bihi 3 Feb received UN Envoy to Somalia James Swan.
Electoral commission scheduled long-delayed elections for 31 May, and inter-clan violence broke out in Togdheer region in centre. Amid registration of voters for parliamentary and local elections planned this year, grenade attack by unidentified assailants 12 Jan left at least two injured in voter registration centre in Sool regional capital Lasanod (east). After completing voter registration, electoral commission 16 Jan scheduled polls for 31 May. In Togdheer region, inter-clan fighting 11-20 Jan reportedly left three dead in Buhoodle town, Yayle and Dadan villages.
Somaliland and Kenya announced they would upgrade diplomatic ties. President Bihi and Kenyan President Kenyatta mid-Dec met in Kenya, announced that Kenya would open consulate in capital Hargeisa and that Somaliland would “upgrade” its liaison office in Kenyan capital Nairobi by March. During Bihi’s visit, Somalia – which considers Somaliland as one of its member states – cut diplomatic relations with Kenya, accusing it of meddling in its internal affairs (see Kenya, Somalia). Bihi 19 Dec received Malawi FM, discussed ways to deepen bilateral relations. Bihi and Djibouti President Guelleh 29 Dec announced reopening of their shared border after six-year closure. Registration of voters for parliamentary and local elections, which have been postponed several times since 2019 and are now planned for May, continued throughout month. In Sanaag region in east, Al-Shabaab militants 10 Dec abducted several people in Milxo village; 21 Dec released them.
Somaliland began registering voters for long-delayed elections. Voter registration for parliamentary and local elections, which have been postponed several times since 2019 and are now planned for May 2021, started 29 Nov. In Sool region in east, unidentified gunmen 3 and 17 Nov shot and killed police officer and judge in regional capital Las Anod; landmine 13 Nov killed at least three herders near Dharkeyn-Genyo village. In Togdheer region in centre, roadside bomb 14 Nov killed at least one in Balli-dhiig district. In Sanaag region in east, Somalia’s Puntland forces early Nov reportedly launched operations against Al-Shabaab after group late Oct reportedly captured several villages. After Somaliland suspended all UN programs in late Oct in protest at UN-Somalia cooperation agreement, President Bihi and UN Envoy to Somalia James Swan early Nov reportedly held talks to resolve dispute.
President Bihi solidified his control over ruling Kulmiye party ahead of 2021 elections and Al-Shabaab claimed capture of several villages in Sanaag region in east. Ruling Kulmiye party 4-6 Oct held party congress to elect new party leadership; Bihi retained chairmanship and solidified control over party by expelling several prominent rivals from party’s central committee, including Mohamud Hashi, Mohamed Ibrahim Adan “Qabyotire” and Mohamed Eid Dhimbil, who 14 Oct jointly criticised Bihi’s presidency and party leadership. Parliament’s upper house 6 Oct approved electoral law after lower house did so in late Sept, paving way for long-delayed parliamentary and local elections now scheduled for May 2021. In capital Hargeisa, unidentified gunmen 12 Oct shot and killed military official. In Sool region in east, unspecified number of soldiers 13 Oct defected from Somalia’s federal member state Puntland to Somaliland. In Sanaag region in east, Al-Shabaab 24 Oct claimed it had captured several villages. After Somalia and UN 15 Oct signed new cooperation agreement, Somaliland 17 Oct rejected deal as “an infringement upon Somaliland’s sovereign integrity” and 25 Oct suspended all UN programs until further notice. Somaliland and Taiwan – both of which seek international recognition – continued to bolster their nascent diplomatic relations. Taiwanese President Tsai 12 Oct received Somaliland’s representative to Taiwan, said Somaliland and Taiwan “can staunchly support each other in the international arena”; Bihi 26 Oct received Taiwan’s representative to Somaliland, discussed ways to bolster ties between two countries.
Ahead of 2021 legislative and local elections, violence erupted in Awdal region in west and tensions rose within ruling party. In Awdal region, amid Gadabursi clan’s calls for revision of seat distribution in parliament’s lower house before next year’s elections, unidentified assailants 2 Sept threw grenade at govt building in regional capital Borama. Also in Borama, suspected clan militia 16 Sept reportedly attacked security forces checkpoint leaving at least one dead. In Sool region in east, rebel group Re-Liberation of Somalia 13 Sept reportedly launched attack on army base in Tukaraq town, leaving casualties on both sides. Meanwhile, tensions rose within ruling Kulmiye party ahead of congress scheduled for early Oct to elect new party leadership; prominent party member Mohamud Hashi 8 Sept accused incumbent party leader, President Bihi, of turning party into “personal fiefdom” after breaking with tradition to relinquish party chairmanship upon winning presidency in 2017, and said he would not take part in leadership contest. Somaliland and Taiwan – both of which seek international recognition – pursued effort to establish diplomatic relations, with Somaliland 9 Sept opening representative office in Taiwanese capital Taipei. After political leaders of Somalia – which considers Somaliland as one of its member states – mid-Sept signed agreement on electoral framework that includes Somaliland, Somaliland 21 Sept said it is an independent state that “has nothing to do with the electoral process in Somalia” and urged Somalia to refrain from making “false claims”.
Electoral commission ruled out holding elections this year while Somaliland’s nascent relationship with Taiwan prompted opposition from Somalia and China. Electoral commission (NEC) 15 Aug said legislative and local elections – last held in 2005 and 2012 respectively – could not be held in 2020 as agreed in July by ruling Kulmiye and opposition parties Justice and Welfare Party and Waddani; NEC, ruling and opposition parties 23 Aug then agreed to hold polls in May 2021. In Awdal region in west, Gadabursi clan mid-Aug threatened to boycott parliamentary polls if their representation in House of Representatives is not increased; after Supreme Court 26 July ruled out revising seat allocation ratio, and authorities next day reportedly denied Gadabursi clan leader entry from Ethiopia into Somaliland, hundreds same day took to streets in Awdal’s capital Borama; security forces reportedly opened fire on protesters, leaving at least one injured. After Taiwan and Somaliland – both of which seek international recognition – in July agreed to establish diplomatic relations, high-level Chinese delegation early Aug met President Bihi in capital Hargeisa; Bihi reportedly rejected Chinese offer to cut ties with Taipei in exchange for development package and Chinese liaison office. Taiwan 17 Aug opened representation office in Hargeisa; Mogadishu next day condemned Taiwan’s “reckless attempts to infringe on the sovereignty” of Somalia “and violate its territorial integrity”; Hargeisa next day warned Mogadishu to refrain from “groundless and uninformed statements”. Meanwhile, talks with Somalia over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty continued to experience delays.
Ruling and opposition parties agreed to hold long-delayed elections this year, and talks with Somalia suffered delays amid renewed efforts toward Somaliland’s international recognition. Ruling Kulmiye party and opposition parties Justice and Welfare Party and Waddani 12 July signed agreement to hold long-delayed parliamentary and local elections in 2020 and tasked electoral commission with drafting roadmap. Following June resumption of talks with Somalia over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty, committees tasked with hashing out technical issues failed to meet in Djibouti after Somalia postponed meetings, citing need to focus on internal politics. Taiwan’s FM 1 July announced that Taiwan and Somaliland – both of which seek international recognition – had signed agreement in Feb to establish diplomatic offices in each other’s capitals. Somalia President Farmajo 4 July met China’s ambassador to Somalia who expressed Beijing’s respect for Somalia’s unity while Farmajo in turn affirmed his support for China’s “One-China policy”. President Bihi 3-22 July received high-level Kenyan, Egyptian and Ethiopian delegations to discuss bilateral relations. FM late July travelled to Turkey to meet with senior Turkish officials. In centre, inter-clan fighting early July left at least three dead in Togdheer and Saahil regions.
After five-year hiatus, President Bihi and Somalia President Farmajo revived talks over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty which Mogadishu does not recognise, while tensions increased with Somalia’s Puntland state. At meeting in Djibouti under auspices of Djibouti President Guelleh and Ethiopian PM Abiy, Bihi and Farmajo mid-June established joint technical committee to resume talks over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty which broke down in 2015; in following days, committee failed to make significant headway, but both sides agreed to form joint subcommittees to discuss technical issues in July. President of Somalia’s Puntland state, Said Abdullahi Deni, 15 June said he would reject any outcome from talks as Puntland – which has a longstanding territorial dispute with Somaliland over Sool, Sanaag and Ayn regions – was not consulted; Deni 21 June called on Somaliland to “withdraw its troops” from Puntland, and threatened to “use military force”. Prior to Djibouti meeting, Somalia FM early June accused Emirati shipping line DP World of violating Somalia’s sovereignty by its operations at Somaliland’s Berbera port. In response, Somaliland immediately urged Mogadishu to stay out of its internal affairs. In Sanaag region, govt early June signed peace agreement with rebel group “Xaqdoon”. In Togdheer region in centre, inter-clan violence around 11 June reportedly left one dead in Gocondhale district. Parliament’s lower house 28 June approved two opposition members of National Electoral Commission, paving way to organising long-delayed parliamentary and local elections. In capital Hargeisa, police 25 and 27 June reportedly shut down two independent television stations.
Amid COVID-19 pandemic, govt 17 May scolded Somalia for claiming it had delivered medical supplies to contested areas of Somaliland, and rejected Mogadishu’s release of data about number of COVID-19 cases in Somaliland, which it considered incorrect information. On occasion of anniversary of self-proclaimed independence from Somalia 18 May, President Bihi reiterated willingness to engage in talks with Somalia federal govt over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty which Mogadishu does not recognise, but said govt would submit its case for independence to international courts if talks did not achieve desired result. Bihi same day pardoned 365 prisoners. Defence minister 27 May condemned Egypt’s alleged arms delivery to Somalia, saying it was “violating the arms embargo on Somalia”.
Inter-clan violence broke out in contested Sanaag region in east and in Awdal region in west, and President Bihi said govt was ready to resume talks with Somalia federal govt. In Sanaag region, deadly skirmishes 11 April broke out between two clan militias over land dispute in Waqdariya area, death toll unknown; two clan militias 19 April also clashed over access to land in Fadhigaab area leaving two dead. To stem violence in Sanaag, military 26 April launched operation to disarm clans, while Bihi late April dispatched delegation led by interior minister to reconcile warring clans. In Awdal region, fighting 13 April broke out between two clan militias over plot of land in outskirts of regional capital Borama, number of casualties unknown. Bihi 9 April said govt was willing to consider resumption of talks – last held in 2015 – with Somalia over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty which Mogadishu does not recognise. Amid COVID-19 crisis, Bihi 1 April ordered release of 574 prisoners.
Unidentified assailants carried out targeted killings in disputed Sool region in east. Car bombing in Sool’s regional capital Lasanod 2 March killed region’s top judicial official; also in Lasanod unidentified gunmen 16 March shot and killed lead investigator of earlier bombing. Somalia, which does not recognise Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty, 19 March closed airspace over Somalia and Somaliland for international flights to curb spread of COVID-19; govt 21 March said Somalia does not have jurisdiction over its airspace. United Arab Emirates early March reportedly cancelled plans to establish naval base in coastal city of Berbera. Following EU mediation late Feb that had unlocked stalemate over long-delayed parliamentary and municipal elections, parliament 28 March rejected nominees to electoral body of opposition parties Wadani and Justice and Welfare Party (UCID); President Bihi and leaders of Wadani and UCID denounced parliament’s decision.
Tensions rose between govt and opposition over electoral process but calmed down late Feb, fighting broke out with Somalia’s Puntland, and President Bihi met President of Somalia despite Somalia’s territorial claims over Somaliland. Amid deadlock over organisation of delayed parliamentary and local elections, member of electoral commission representing opposition Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) 3 Feb resigned and urged other members to follow suit to break impasse. Bihi 18 Feb held opposition parties responsible for deadlock, said that he would submit to parliament constitutional amendment to open, two years ahead of schedule, registration process for new political associations so they could compete to qualify for legal status as political party, putting at risk current status of opposition parties UCID and Waddani as well as ruling Kulmiye party. UCID and Waddani 22 Feb described proposed bill as Bihi’s attempt to cement grip on power by eliminating opposition parties, called for early presidential elections, and gave Bihi until 10 March to reverse his decision. Following EU mediation, Bihi 27 Feb reversed decision to open political party registration and all sides agreed to hold parliamentary elections in 2020. Fighting 26 Feb erupted in Sanaag region in east between forces of Somaliland and neighbouring Puntland in federal state of Somalia, casualties reported on all sides; both sides 29 Feb exchanged heavy artillery fire in Tukaraq in Sool region. Bihi 11 Feb met for first time Somalia President Farmajo in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in face-to-face meeting brokered by Ethiopian PM Abiy. Farmajo 13 Feb issued apology to Somaliland for atrocities under former Somalia President Siad Barre, which Bihi welcomed 18 Feb; Bihi ruled out Farmajo visit to capital Hargeisa.
Agreement to end long-running dispute over electoral commission unravelled while govt and rebel leader signed peace agreement ending rebellion in Sanaag region in east. After opposition parties Waddani and Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) late Dec granted govt until 10 Jan to dissolve new electoral commission and reinstate its predecessor, President Bihi 13 Jan told UCID and Waddani that govt could not legally disband it. UCID and Waddani accused Bihi of reneging on agreement and called on commission to resign. In Sanaag, following mediation by elders, Colonel Arre, rebel leader who defected from Somaliland to Puntland in 2018, signed peace agreement with govt 2 Jan; as part of deal, army is to absorb rebel soldiers, Arre agreed to go into exile. Sanaag residents 15 Jan opened fire on convoy of Puntland’s deputy information minister, no casualties. Unidentified assailants 21 Jan shot and killed police officer in Awdal region in west. In Saudi capital Riyadh, eight countries bordering Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, excluding Somaliland, 6 Jan formed regional bloc to ensure maritime security; govt next day said it did not recognise bloc. Coast guard 24 Jan chased away Djiboutian ship installing submarine communications cable.
Ruling and opposition parties resolved long-running dispute over composition of electoral commission, opening way to organisation of delayed parliamentary and local elections. Following consultations, mediation committee of businessmen and elders 16 Dec released recommendations to end electoral dispute, including dissolving recently appointed electoral commission and reinstating former one. Ruling Kulmiye party and opposition parties Waddani and Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) accepted committee’s recommendations. After meeting with President Bihi, UCID and Waddani leaders agreed to give govt until 10 Jan to implement committee’s recommendations and announce new election date. Ethiopian security forces 19 Dec crossed into Somaliland and opened fire on civilians killing three in Allay Baday. In Sanaag region, two warring clans 22 Dec signed agreement to end conflict in El Afweyn district.