Posts by Abdi Hussein

Total Mer Rouge SA General Manager and Chief Accountant Held
05/25/2011
Authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland today arrested the general manager of oil giant Total Mer Rouge SA, Mr. Sa’ad Elmi, and their chief accountant, Sa'ad Elmi, a Djiboutian national. Their arrest follows the revocation of Total’s license to run the oil terminal in Berbera by the country’s president two days ago.

Government officials from Somaliland’s commerce ministry confirmed the arrest but declined to give further comments.

Junior officials at the oil facility who requested to remain anonymous corroborated the government line. “Government officials and policemen visited us in the morning. After a short while they drove away with the general manager, chief accountant and his drivers. No explanation was given,” explained a junior official.

On Monday evening the office of the president withdrew Total’s license to operate the storage facility citing among others the existing agreement was not comprehensive and was not ratified by the parliament as stipulated by the law. It also added, as per the agreement, Total failed to carryout repair and maintenance on the oil storage facilities.

“Total is in breach the agreement with Somaliland when it sold the oil and its other products to external parties without getting consent from the government ...a technical committee has been set to temporarily run the operations of the facility,” said Somaliland Foreign Minister Abdillahi Omar while speaking to reporters.

The government move has raised skepticism among some members of the business community who feared this action might scare foreign investors which Somaliland greatly needs. They also said since a proper exit strategy for Total was not put in place it could potentially lead to fuel shortage which will negatively impact on the economy and livelihoods of the local communities.

Some people also doubted the government assertion that due process will be observed while choosing a competent company to take over from Total. “The government keeps talking about attracting investors but this action doesn’t help that. Also if fuel shortage occurs as a result it would affect everything including the air transport which we depend to important commodities,” said Hassan Mohamud, a local fuel dealer.

However, Adan Ahmed Director of Commerce tried to dispel this fear by emphasizing that Total’s role for the last two and half years were confined to only storing oil. “Total was not involved in fuel importation that ceased. We have main importers of fuel who have been using the Total facility...so I don’t see any fuel shortage.”

Total Mer Rouge SA’s took over management of Berbera port’s oil-storage facilities in January 2000 during the reign of the late president Mohammed Egal. It was the sole importer and distributor of oil in Somaliland until 2009 when under the rule of the former president, Dahir Kahin, the oil industry was liberalized and the local dealers allowed to import oil.

Ethiopia based TOTAL Mer Rouge was sold by its French parent company TOTAL SA last year. Somaliland, a former British protectorate seceded from Somaliland in May 1991 when the former ruler, Siad Barre was forced out of power. Last week it marked twenty years since the separation from Somalia and has been enjoying relative stability and made democratic gains.

Tit-For-Tat Move
06/11/2011
In what appears to be a tit-for-tat move after Somaliland police arrested an Ethiopian plain-clothes policemen in the border town of Wajale, security forces from Ethiopia's Somali region arrested a Somaliland Intelligence officer and civil society workers in the region’s headquarter, Jigjiga.

Senior police officials at Somaliland Police headquarters, who requested anonymity, told Somalia Report the incident took place yesterday. Teams from both Somaliland and Ethiopia security and intelligence agencies have reach Wajale and are working on ways to resolve the matter.

The civil society workers were reportedly in Jigjiga to attend a workshop and were initially granted permission to enter Ethiopia.

"We came across an Ethiopian plainclothes policemen who was attempting to arrest a famous businessman and we suspected they were also doing espionage activities - as a result we confronted and detained the three of them,” said the police source, saying the subsequent arrest of Somalilanders was revenge for this arrest.

Commuters in the border town of Wajale indicated the incident has disrupted movement between the two border posts as vehicles from Somaliland are not allowed into Ethiopia.

The spar between the two comes as surprise to some locals and observers, as the relationship between them has been cordial over the years. Ethiopia opened a consulate in Somaliland, has been using Somaliland’s port of Berbera and trained the Somaliland Special Police Unit (SPU), which is tasked with safeguarding the security of international aid workers and VIPs.

Drive for Independence Creates Two Decades of Tension
06/22/2011
Somaliland Celebrations
Somaliland Celebrations

Ever since unilaterally declaring independence from Somalia 20 years ago, soon after the ouster of military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, successive Somaliland administrations have consistently maintained it is a sovereign state, creating decades of ‘bad blood’ between the two governments. Somalia Report lays out the causes of friction between Somalia and Somaliland.

When announcing its self-determination in the town of Burao on May 18, 1991, Somaliland leaders indicated they would abide by the pre-independence ‘British Somaliland’ boundaries, which encompass the contentious regions of Sool and Sanaag. This move has been fiercely opposed by various governments institutions, both domestic and international, all of which have repeatedly stressed Somaliland still is part and parcel of Somalia.

Although Somaliland remains unrecognized by the international community, the drive for self determination has turned out to be a national obsession; it cuts across party affiliations and defines what it means to be a Somalilander.

Civil War

Also exacerbating the tension between the two is the claim by Somaliland leaders that during Barre's 22-year rule, inhabitants of Somaliland were tortured and subsequently massacred by his regime at the height of the bloody civil war in 1988.

This claim has hardened their stance and virtually extinguished any hopes of building political or foreign relations, or even engaging in direct talks with numerous Somalia interim governments.

The mounting of a Russian MIG-21 jet as a memorial, which supposedly crashed while bombing civilians during the civil war, in the heart of Somaliand’s capital of Hargeisa, is intended to serve as a stark reminder to both locals and outsiders of the atrocities committed by Barre forces against Somaliland.

Over the years, Somaliland has refused to be associated with Somalia, especially politically. It has never, in an official capacity, participated in more than a dozen peace talks that were held for Somalia, the country under which it technically falls. The talks ranged from Arta in Djibouti to the long and arduous Mbagathi peace talks in Kenya which culminated in the election of former president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

Conferences

Nonetheless, the new Somaliland government in February this year sent an official delegation to London to attend a meeting organized by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, whose centerpiece was securing agreement on the long-term policy solutions and the framework required to effect real change in Somalia. In a similar manner, a delegation led by Somaliland's Foreign Minister, Mohammed Abdullahi, attended the UN Security Council meeting on Somalia, which was recently held in the Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

Observers saw both moves as a departure from previous hard stances and some insiders interpreted it as a commencement of dialogue with Somalia. The unprecedented moves taken by the government also raised eyebrows among some members of the Somaliland population, local media and politicians and opened a ferocious debate among the Somaliland Disapora community, which yields considerable leverage.

In effect, the foreign minister was forced to answer tough questions from the media and was summoned to parliament to shed more light on the reasons behind the extraordinary measures they took to attend both meetings. He dispelled rumors that the administration was softening its stance on sovereignty.

The issue of starting a political relationship with Somalia or the Transitional Federal Government remains a touchy subject and is rarely discussed in public.

In Hargeisa, Somalia Report asked Mr. Abdullahi if their attendance at the Wilton Park conference was worth the stir it caused both locally and internationally. He firmly stressed that they attended after they were given assurance by the conference organizers that Somaliland’s invitation and participation would be similar to other independent states like Uganda, which also took part in the conference.

And more importantly, since the conference focused on stabilizing Somalia through the attainment of peace, he added they were requested to share their experience of how they stabilized Somaliland through a process led by the inhabitants and also the gains they made on the democratic fronts.

On why they took part in the UN Security council meeting on Somalia, he echoed similar sentiments and said it was a platform Somaliland used to explain its case, like the gains it has made and the international recognition it seeks to delegations from neighboring countries and the UN Security Council members.

Somaliland Foreign Minister
Somaliland Foreign Minister

Both Somaliland President Ahmed Silanyo and his foreign minister have repeatedly said they can only cooperate with Somalia and Puntland in the fight against terrorism and piracy as a separate entity.

Following their recent announcements, the masses still remain wary, and members of opposition groups within Somaliland have become vocal, and constantly criticize the new government from within and abroad.

Somaliland authorities have over the years allowed Internally displace persons (IDPs) from mainly southern Somalia, a region still engulfed in conflict and severe drought, to settle and received humanitarian aid in several towns inside Somaliland. Aid agencies estimate their total number at over 100,000.

But due to its unilateral declaration of independence, Somaliland demanded those fleeing the civil strife in Somalia be treated as refugees as opposed to IDPs. This position put Somaliland on a collision course with the UN, which says giving the Somalia IDPs in Somaliland refugee status will be tantamount to recognizing Somaliland.

The players

A crucial government organ, but hardly noticeable outside Somaliland, is the Upper House, also known as the House of Elders. It consists of 82 members nominated from all the sub-clans in Somaliland.

The elders were largely credited with the restoration of peace through the re-integration of various combatants and creating a deal between numerous clans in the early nineties. It also has exclusive power to extend the term of office of the President and the representatives when exceptional circumstances make an election impossible.

However, critics have accused them of using those powers irrationally by extending twice the term of the former president Dahir Rayale without any credible reasons, an action seen as succumbing to the whims of the former president.

Berbera port in Somaliland
©Somalia Report
Berbera port in Somaliland

Links with Ethiopia

Unlike the tense relationship with Somalia, Somaliland’s relationship with Ethiopia has been largely cordial and dates back to the reign of the former Ethiopia dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. In early eighties, Ethiopia supported and gave sanctuary to the Somaliland Armed Movement (SNM), which played a crucial role in toppling Siad Barre.

In its own interest, observers believe Ethiopia wants to see a stable Somaliland given their shared borders. It also acknowledges an eruption of conflict in Somaliland could easily spill into wider Somalia.

Ethiopia will likely use a stable Somaliland as “buffer” to halt infiltration of members of Islamist groups like al-Shabaab into Ethiopia and also stop members of the outlawed Ogaden National Liberation Front (OLNF), which it has fought inside Ethiopia, gaining a launch pad in Somaliland.

Being a landlocked country and following the conflict with Eritrea, Ethiopia over the last few years has been using the port of Berbera in Somaliland, creating a dependent relationship. To foster this, Ethiopia has opened a trade office in Hargeisa, which also doubles as a consulate which issue visas to Somaliland nationals wanting to go to Ethiopia. It has also over the years been training members of Somaliland Police Force and the army.

Somaliland opened an embassy in Ethiopia and has liaison or political offices in Kenya, UK, France , Ghana and Kenya.

New Recruits and Military Personnel Lack Formal Training
08/13/2011
Somaliland Coast Guard
©Somalia Report
Somaliland Coast Guard

The work-force of the current Somaliland military is estimated at 28,000 with several divisions based in regions within Somaliland, notably Shimibirale in Sanaag, Lowiya’adho in the Djibouti Border, Burao, the second biggest city and Lasanod in the disputed region of Sool. A sizeable number of military personnel and its top-ranking commanders are based at the military headquarters in Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa.

The Somaliland military is led by General Nuh Tani, a former general of the defunct Somali Army. He was re-appointed to the same position by President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo late last year having served the Somaliland military also on a similar capacity under the previous administration of Dahir Rayalle Kahin.

Up until 2009, when cases of piracy grew at the Somaliland coastline and led to hostages being held at the waters, which geographically fall under Somaliland, the Somaliland military was composed entirely of army personnel. The surge in piracy and illegal fishing at Somaliland coast led to the formation of a navy unit, which operates from Bula Har and Las Qoray areas. The unit, which is still in its infancy, has succeeded in apprehending hundreds of suspected pirates, who were later arraigned in Somaliland courts and sentenced to jail terms.

The navy unit has also benefited considerably from support ranging from provision of equipment and training from the British government. Among the equipment they received include speed boats mounted with guns, brand new pick-ups and trucks that can withstand the harsh conditions in the Somaliland coastline.

Based at the port town of Berbera is a diving center run by foreign divers with the primary goal of training the Somaliland navy. The center has been in operation for nearly two years.

The Somalia Air Force base which was based at the Hargeisa Airport collapsed immediately after the civil war in 1990. Its pilots and technicians, majority of whom were foreigners, mainly from South Africa fled and the remaining aircrafts all of which were Russian-made remain in a state of disrepair or were vandalized.

As a reminder of the atrocities committed by former Somalia ruler, Mohamed Siad Barre, a downed MIG-21 fighter jet was mounted in the middle of Hargeisa town. By international standards, the Somaliland military can be considered as a rudimentary outfit, which continues to use outdated equipment. All of its army personnel are from Somaliland.

But by local standards, the military in Somaliland stand above those of it neighbor. The Puntland and TFG in terms of cohesiveness, organization and command structure albeit few cases of desertion that occurred earlier this year from members of the Dhulbahante sub-clan in the disputed region of Sool.

The soldiers, who deserted and joined the outlawed group SSC accused the Somaliland military of killing their fellow clan members during Somaliland military offensive in the town of Buhodhle.

Equipment

When the former ruler Barre was ousted in 1990, Somaliland inherited or took over all the military equipment, hardware and facilities that were within the territories of present day Somaliland. They include tanks, armed personal carriers, transport trucks and water tankers. Also taken over were missile launchers, a cache of ammunitions that included grenades, F1s and missiles.

However, the equipment has outlived their usefulness and either they need a replacement or a major facelift.

Somaliland is still under the UN Arms embargo, partly because it is considered part of Somalia, and therefore is not permitted to purchase firearms. Due to its lack of international recognition, the semi-autonous region of Somaliland cannot be supported formally with military hardware, like some of her neighbors, including Djibouti. As such, it is only left with the option of repairing and modifying the arms that are in its possession.

Among the divisions within the Somaliland military include the artillery brigade, infantry and mechanized brigade as well as the tanks brigades. All the equipment at the brigades are Russian-made and they include BM-21 mobile rocket launchers, BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles, BTR-50 armoured cars, T-34 medium battle tanks and few T-55 main battle tanks.

There are several old transport trucks and water tankers still being in used, and most recently, the business community in Somaliland donated a number of civilian transport trucks such as Isuzu FSR, which were modified to carry soldiers and foodstuffs. However, insiders within the Somaliland army indicated that authorities often received arms from Ethiopia and Yemen through the port of Berbera. When the arms are being off-loaded, sources said, civilians are asked to vacate the port, adding that this mostly happened at night.

The military source also said some arms and military supplies intended for Puntland were seized early this year from an aircraft that was forced to land at Hargeisa airport after experiencing fuel shortage.

Also confisticated were arms including mortars transported in two boats by members of the outlawed Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) from Eritrea. The arms caches were netted in Mar-Mar Mountains, in Awdal region close to the Djibouti border. The Somaliland military also runs a medical unit, mainly staffed by trained female nurses. They use an ambulance obtained from the defunct former Somalia army.

Recruitment and Training

Somaliland military still lacks a clear-cut recruitment and training policy. The recruitment process is not consistent and competitive. It is uncommon to see a recruitment exercise being conducted publicly.

The current military personnel comprise combatants from Somali national movements, and soldiers who fled from the former President Siad Barre’s regime.

Prior to and in the aftermath of the Somali civil war, there existed numerous rag-tag armies or armed clan militias just like in many parts of Somalia. In early nineties, they would set up check-points and extort money from the local communities. But in 1992, the late President Egal who also was the first Somalia Prime minister, through a consultative process with clan elders demobilized the armed groups and integrated them into one outfit that is now the current Somaliland military.

But due to lack of funds and imposition of arms embargo, the guns in use belong to the individual soldiers themselves. Before joining the army, both former combatants and new recruits, are required to report for an agonizing recruitment process with their guns. A similar process is observed in other disciplined forces, including the police. Since a big chunk of the army were either Somali national movement members or served under the Barre regime, the soldiers have never received any formal training or refresher courses on modern-day warfare. Similarly new recruits lack long-term and quality training to serve properly in the military. This is because the army lacks the money and other resources needed. It also lacks a proper recruit training school.

But Ethiopia has on several occasions trained certain numbers of Somaliland Army, including senior commanders.

Ranking

Despite being in existence for two decades, Somaliland military lacks the normal ranks one will find in a modern military unit. For instance, there are no titles such as corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, majors, and colonels. As soon as he took power, the Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo formed a committee, chaired by the defense minister, to look into the matter and come up with a proper ranking system. However, although the committee has completed its work and handed over its findings to the president and the military commander, its recommendations are yet to be implemented. Some say the main reason why the government shied away from adopting the new report is because of lack of funds. A military source who sought anonymity said the government feared that implementing it would translate into increased salaries for members of the disciplined force, something the government may not afford.

Salary

Currently, with the exception of a handful of military commanders, every military personnel takes home a monthly salary of $100. The monthly pay was revised from $50 some four months ago, following a pledge made by President Silanyo when he assumed power.

A similar increment was extended to members of other forces, like the police.

Analysts estimate that every year about 30% of Somaliland meager budget goes into paying and maintaining the Somaliland armed forces.

Breaking News
4 Suspected Insurgents Fleeing Djibouti Suspected Insurgents
04/05/2012
Government officials in semi-autonomous Somaliland have handed over four French nationals arrested early on Thursday to a Djibouti security team. According to the governor of the border region of Salal, Mr. Mohammed Muse Bu’ul, the French nationals were transferred to the Djibouti security officers following an order from the Interior Ministry.

“I was ordered by the Interior Ministry to hand the four French nationals we arrested today over to Djibouti security officers. This was after Djibouti requested our government, and we enjoy a cordial relationship with Djibouti, so we obliged,” Governor Bu'ul told Somalia Report.

Bu’ul said the four they apprehended, all holding French nationality, were born in different countries. He confirmed two were of Senegalese descent, a woman hailed from Morocco and the fourth also held Polish nationality. An Interior Ministry official who wish to remain anonymous corroborated Bu’ul’s statement, and said the four suspects arrested were aged between 20 and 32 years. He added that they aroused suspicion when they entered Somaliland through a rarely-used route, and were apparently running from Djibouti security officers who were in hotly pursuit.

"They told us that they were running from the Djibouti government who wanted to deport them to their countries of origin. But we also found that they appeared very religious, and found Quranic literature written in the French language,” the Interior Ministry official added.

Somaliland's Awdal region shares a border with Djibouti, but during the administration of former president Dahir Riyaale Kahin, the new region of Salal was created with land from Awdal.