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Inter-clan clashes pitted Dhulbahante militias against Isaaq sub-clan fighters in Sool region and parliament prepared for Nov 2024 elections.
Security situation remained precarious in Sool region. Dhulbahante clan militias 6-9 Nov clashed with fighters from Haber Jeclo sub-clan of Isaaq (Somaliland’s largest clan) at Buq-dharkayn town, 20km south of frontline of conflict between Somaliland govt and SSC-Khatumo state (new self-declared administration for Dhulbahante community) around Oog town, leading to unconfirmed number of deaths and capture of prisoners. Govt and SSC-Khatumo state accused each other of stoking violence and reinforced nearby positions. Deadly clashes 22 Nov resumed in Buq-dharkayn and Maygaale areas. Though fighting has mostly been on clan militia level, Somaliland pointed to involvement of Somalia’s Puntland state, while SSC-Khatumo called on Somali and international actors to pressure Somaliland President Bihi to cease hostilities. Ruling party’s deputy chairman, Hussein Aden Adde, 27 Nov reportedly defected to SSC-Khatumo. Meanwhile, self-declared administration continued lobbying to become member state of Somalia.
Electoral tensions remained low amid preparations for Nov 2024 vote. August agreement between Bihi and opposition to simultaneously hold political party and presidential elections on 13 November 2024 continued to hold. House of Elders 18 Nov agreed to form committee to review amendments to election law made by parliament.
Govt messaging signalled desire to retake territory lost to Dhulbahante clan militias in Sool region.
Tensions remained high between govt and Dhulbahante clan forces in Sool region. In strongest public comment since Somaliland army’s pull-out from Dhulbahante-inhabited parts of Sool region in late Aug, President Bihi 14 Oct said Somaliland would not accept separate administration in Sool. Reports emerged of troop mobilisation in Qorilugud area near Buhoodle city, which could augur attempt to retake territory in coming months. Meanwhile, leader of SSC-Khatumo state (new self-declared administration for Dhulbahante community) Abdulkadir Firdhiye 6-22 Oct visited Somali capital Mogadishu, reiterated desire to form new Somali member state during talks with Somali PM Hamza Abdi Barre and President Mohamud; local media 19 Oct reported that Mogadishu recognised SSC-Khatumo as interim administration.
Clan tensions erupted elsewhere. Clan tensions late Sept-early Oct flared around Togdheer region’s capital Burco and Sanaag region’s capital Erigabo, resulting in small skirmishes; SSC-Khatumo 18 Oct accused Bihi of “inciting hatred” among clans.
Electoral dispute de-escalated further. Electoral-related strains continued to dissipate after Gacaan Libaah militia, which originally opposed August agreement between Bihi and opposition to simultaneously hold political party and presidential elections on 13 Nov 2024, late Sept agreed to lay down arms. Election-related tensions continued to simmer in Awdal region, however, with some prominent Gadabursi clan figures attempting to organise themselves both inside and outside Somaliland.
New front line between Dhulbahante clan militias and govt forces stabilised, while election-related tensions dissipated after President Bihi accepted compromise with opposition.
Front line shifted away from Sool region’s capital Las Anod. Following Dhulbahante militiamen’s major victory with Aug capture of Goojacade army base near Las Anod, new front line emerged between Oog and Guumays villages in western Sool. New division corresponds roughly to boundaries between Isaaq and Dhulbahante clans, with Isaaq being dominant grouping in Somaliland. Both sides in Sept sent reinforcements to area, raising fears of further clashes, but new front line remained quiet. Meanwhile, SSC-Khatumo State (self-declared govt of Dhulbahante separatists) 14 Sept hosted large delegation of MPs from Somalia as it strives to become Somali member state.
President Bihi accepted compromise on longstanding electoral dispute. Weakened by army’s retreat from Sool, Bihi 30 Aug accepted recommendations from elders of Haber Jeclo, sub-clan of Isaaq, who had been mediating between govt and opposition on electoral dispute; agreement will see combined political party and presidential election on 13 November 2024. As Gacaan Libaah militia opposed deal, Bihi 6 Sept offered to pardon group in exchange for their demobilisation, and militia late Sept accepted to disband. Political association headed by prominent figure from Western Somaliland also criticised agreement as Isaaq-mediated deal that leaves out non-Isaaq communities such as Gadabursi, tapping into latent grievances in Awdal region.
In most significant advance since conflict began, Dhulbahante militias captured several army positions on outskirts of Las Anod town, driving Somaliland forces out of Dhulbahante territory.
Clan militias forced govt troops out of Dhulbahante territory. In major victory, Dhulbahante militiamen 25 Aug captured Goojacade army base from Somaliland forces, as well as several smaller outposts on outskirts of Sool region’s capital Las Anod, meaning Somaliland forces no longer retain significant presence in Dhulbahante territory. Abdulkadir Ahmed ‘Firdhiye’, who was elected 5 Aug as chair of self-declared SSC-Khatumo state’s executive council (new 45-member body tasked with running area), same day gave triumphalist speech vowing to “immediately commence efforts to secure our region and establish our own administration”. Somaliland President Bihi and opposition party leaders next day jointly pledged to defend Somaliland’s territory. In joint statement, UN, African Union mission in Somalia, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, European Union and others 27 Aug condemned “escalation of conflict” and urged all sides to agree to “immediate and unconditional ceasefire”.
Clan militia protesting election delays mounted new attack in Togdheer region. Newly-formed militia composed of members of Haber Yonis clan protesting against delays in Somaliland’s electoral cycle 11 Aug ambushed Somaliland security forces in Godayar district in Togdheer region, killing nine and injuring 17. Abdirahman Irro, founder of main opposition party Waddani (which is dominated by Haber Yonis clan), 12 Aug called on both sides to refrain from violence.
In other important developments. Ruling Kulmiye party 21 Aug elected Bihi as candidate for presidential election set for late 2024, and Interior Minister Mohamed Kahin as new party chair. Elders from Haber Jeclo clan 27 Aug proposed combining political party and presidential elections in Nov 2024 as means to bridge gap between govt and opposition over electoral dispute.
Fighting between govt forces and Dhulbahante clan militias continued in Las Anod, and electoral authorities announced election roadmap despite opposition.
On-and-off clashes continued around Las Anod town, Sool region. Fighting between Somaliland forces and Dhulbahante militiamen 8 July damaged Las Anod hospital, injuring staff; NGO Doctors Without Border 24 July announced withdrawal of services from hospital. Heaving fighting and artillery exchange also reported mid-July and around 29 July on outskirts of town. Dhulbahante clan 6 July replaced 33-member committee tasked with governing SSC-Khatumo region with new 45-member grouping. Delegation of Somali traditional elders attempting to mediate in conflict mid-July left Somaliland after three-month mission without concrete results.
Electoral commission set election dates despite opposition. Electoral commission 17 July scheduled political parties election for Dec 2023 and presidential vote for Nov 2024, which means one and two-year delay respectively; opposition parties previously demanded presidential vote be held before political parties election, and rejected full two-year extension of Bihi’s term. House of Representatives 23 July elected Yasin Haji Mohamud ‘Faratoon’ as new speaker after previous speaker defected to Dhulbahante in June. Somaliland forces late July clashed with newfound militia group upset over electoral process in Gacan Libaax mountains (Togdheer region).
Las Anod crisis continued amid fighting between govt forces and local clan militias and defection of high-ranking officials.
Fighting between security forces and local clan militias continued. After lull in violence between Somaliland forces and Dhulbahante clan militias in early to mid-June, fighting picked up with several clashes and mortar exchanges reported 24-27 June in and around Las Anod town. President Bihi 25 June reiterated commitment to defend territorial integrity but expressed willingness to engage in negotiations with Dhulbahante elders.
Senior officials switched sides. Deputy commander of army, Lt. Gen. Suleiman Barre Gesood, early June defected and reportedly joined Dhulbahante forces. House of Representatives speaker, Abdirisaq Khalif, 12 June resigned, said President Bihi’s govt and security forces responsible for violence around Las Anod. Move came days after Attorney General filed lawsuit against Khalif, accusing him of absenteeism and undermining unity of Somaliland.
In other important developments. Electoral authorities 21 June completed distribution of voter cards; election timeline remained elusive, however, with opposition and govt divided over whether presidential vote or so-called political parties election should be held first.
Fighting between govt forces and Dhulbahante clan militias spread in Sool region; as parties recruit new fighters, conflict could morph into confrontation between clan families and ripple into other parts of Somaliland.
Govt and local clan militias clashed north of Las Anod. Govt forces and Dhulbahante fighters 16-17 May clashed heavily around Dhabansaar and Samakab villages, north of Sool region’s capital Las Anod, as field of conflict widened; warring parties fought for control of road connecting Las Anod to Burco town, with reports that militias from wider Harti clan joined the fray in support of Dhulbahante. Recruitment of new fighters risks fuelling confrontations between clan families and widening conflict beyond Sool. Meanwhile, in attempt to woo Dhulbahante voters living on Somalia side of border in lead-up to 25 May local elections in Puntland state (see Somalia), Puntland President Said Deni 10 May pledged commitment to “liberating” Las Anod from Somaliland forces, raising concern of more substantial backing for Dhulbahante militias.
Violence also flared elsewhere. Protesters clashed with security forces in various locations in lead-up to 18 May Independence Day, including 8 May in Borama city, Awdal region (west), where local clan members have long complained about marginalisation. Communal clashes between two Isaaq sub-clans 15 May left two dead in Togdheer region’s capital Burco (centre); President Bihi and opposition leader Abdirahman Irro (who hail from respective sub-clans) in following days reportedly travelled to Burco to lead reconciliation efforts.
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.