Ethiopian Mediation for Somaliland-Puntland Border Dispute

Hiiraan Online reports:

Regional authorities of Somaliland and Puntland are meeting in Ethiopia amid a longstanding
dispute that worsened the security situation of the two breakaway regions over the past few
years.

An Ethiopian embassy official in Somaliland Mr. Berhia Tesfie, said that leaders of the two
regions have reached a preliminary agreement to discuss the border problem in order to forge
peace between the authorities which were at loggerheads following disagreement over Sool,
Sanaag and Ceyn regions.

“The Ethiopian government is working to mediate the difference between Somaliland and
Puntland . We have advised leaders of the two authorities to embrace peace between their
people”.

.  .  .  .

The center of the conflict is the Sool region in the central north of Somalia. On Monday, 1
October 2007, Puntland and Somaliland armed forces fought near Laasaanood, the capital of
Sool region. Fighting worsened again two weeks later, on 15 October. Since then, Laasaanood
has remained in the hands of the Somaliland forces.

The heightened border security divided a community already fractured by a number of internal
conflicts, clan rivalries.

Somaliland Turns 20 Today–Legal Next Year?

More and more, Somaliland is being “discovered” in the media, and is attracting more interest and attention from international investors and businesses, and international organizations. As progress has been made in the south militarily against Al-Shabaab, but the TFG continues to face extensive institutional uncertainty, the time is surely approaching for other nations to start moving toward formalizing Somaliland’s status.

Good coverage this week in three stories and a multimedia presentation in the Financial Times.

Western Union adds Somaliland service, reports the UNPO:

The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU), a leader in global payment services, has extended its rapidly growing agent network to Somaliland, taking the total number of African markets it serves up to fifty.

The strategic agreement between Western Union and Global Exchange and Money Transfer, a subsidiary of Global Export and Import Agency Ltd, will see it offer the Western Union® Money TransferSM service for the first time in the area, initially at a location in Hargesia with additional locations to be rolled out across Somaliland in the course of 2011.

This follows a string of recent agent network expansions by Western Union, which last year celebrated 15 years in Africa and has grown its agent network on the continent to reach more than 22,000 Agent locations.

Somaliland has been receiving an estimated $1B per year in transfers from it’s diaspora, but inclusion in the Western Union network should make a variety of inflows easier and more “regular” for institutions.

Somalia Policy Update

At The Sahel Blog, Alex Thurston discusses Assistant Secretary Carson’s recent comments on Somalia in an interview with allAfrica.com.  In summary:

Stepping back, Washington is clearly happy to see AMISOM make headway against al Shabab, but it seems that Washington’s disappointment with the TFG outweighs that happiness. The parliament’s reach for more time alienated the US, and it appears that going forward Washington will decentralize its political contacts in Somalia even more. What that says for the TFG’s future I can’t say, but August is not far off, and from the TFG’s standpoint it’s a bad time to have run afoul of Washington.

I’ve added a link to a good site from the “Movement for an Independent Somaliland” to the Organization roll at right.  As Washington’s “two track” policy seems to be becoming more established and bearing at least some fruit, perhaps the next evolution is a “three track” policy that moves closer to “the facts of the ground” in acknowledging Somaliland’s functional independence.  At some point, it seems to me there needs to be some type of grand bargain among Somaliland and Puntland and the local groups to establish a relatively understood and stable border between Somaliland and Puntland.

In the meantime, Burundi is sending 1000 more troops to the AMISOM mission.

For an interesting look at a policy challenge in Somaliland, an article from IRIN discusses a recent run-up in the price of charcoal, which is the dominant fuel source for urban residents (and of course helps drive deforestation which impacts the rest of the population which is primarily pastoralist).

Five Links

“Why Tunisia’s winds of change aren’t blowing south to sub-Saharan Africa” Scott Baldauf in CSM

County Council of Nakuru website. An example of action to carry out the opportunities for devolved government under the new Kenyan Constitution.

Paul Muite:  Runaway insecurity a symptom of a failed state in Kenya.

Somaliland journalist jailing More from the Committee to Protect Journalists

“Ugandan Who Spoke Up for Gays is Beaten to Death” Eloquent Jeffrey Gettleman coverage of the Kato murder.

 

 

 

Covering Nairobi’s Police Executions, Media Freedom and Internet Access

Expressions Today, “East Africa’s Independent Media Review”, in its weekly “The Bulletin” feature,  takes a look at last week’s coverage of public extra-judicial executions by the police on Langata Road in Nairobi:

And finally, the unnamed citizen who pictured Flying Squad officers executing suspected thugs who had surrendered in full view of members of the public has done citizen journalism proud. When Nation got hold of the shocking pictures, the paper ran them on the Front Page and did a strong-worded editorial about the utter evil of extra-judicial killings.

It was a story that shook the country. At least Internal Security Minister George Saitoti said the concerned officers had been interdicted and will be prosecuted. But at the press conference, why didn’t reporters press Saitoti about the names? Doesn’t the public have the right to know their names, now that they have been placed under investigation (by the same Police Service, by the way)?

(Okay. Many Kenyans, terribly frustrated by violent crime, think suspects should be executed on sight. No. That is not the rule of law. Instead, the Kenya Police Service should have thoroughly professional officers who are well equipped and motivated and who can win public trust and collaboration to curb crime.)

Without those pictures, we would most likely never have known the truth about what had happened on Lang’ata Road. Except for Nation, all other media houses basically reported what the police said about the incident. And it was plain lies.

Here’s what The Star carried: “The three were part of a gang of six and they were killed in a fierce shoot-out with police, according to Lang’ata police chief Augustine Kimantiria. There was no fierce shoot-out.

Thumbs up to citizen journalism!

“Cry Me an Onion” looks at the state of press freedom and the Kenyan newspapers –not as free as some say he concludes.

Concerning three year prison term for Somaliland journalist on charges of libeling the Somaliland Chief of Police and head of Somaliland Electric Agency:

“This sentence has all the hallmarks of summary and punitive justice,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The court should have first established whether or not anyone was defamed and, if they were, a more measured and just penalty should have been imposed. Imprisonment is clearly disproportionate for defamation. We urge the courts to reverse this decision on appeal.”

The East African reports on a new study on internet access in the region:

According to a study conducted by TNS Research International in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu from September to November 2010, out of a population of 40 million, about four million (10 per cent) have access to the Internet.

The study, titled “Digital Life” and conducted to establish people’s online behaviour and activities, found that in Uganda, out of a population of 33 million, about 3.3 million (10 percent) have a access to the Internet while Tanzania comes last — out of a population of 42 million, only 672,000 people (1.6 per cent) have had an online experience.

The study found that based on an adult sample in each of the covered EAC towns, an average of 45 per cent of the urban population have used the Internet, with Kampala having the highest number at 53 per cent; Arusha and Nairobi at 49 per cent; Mombasa at 42 per cent while Dar es Salaam has the least number of people using the Internet at 31 per cent.

The TNS study revealed that in Kenya, mobile devices and Internet cafes are the primary points of access.

The results of the study show that 60 per cent of Kenyans online use mobile phones as compared with those who use PCs at home (29 per cent); PCs at work (33 per cent); and cyber cafes (41 per cent), thereby indicating high potential for growth in the mobile Internet business in Kenya.

The Government of Kenya has announced, according to Business Daily, a revised lending program to support “digital centres” to increase internet access (referencing higher starting figures than what the TNS study found):

The government has released Sh320 million for set up of digital centres in Kenya, a move aimed at creating new business opportunities and boost Internet access in rural areas.

Investors seeking loans will be required to submit a business plan and have until February 25 to apply for the funds.

The money will be disbursed through Family Bank. An investor can borrow from Sh820,000 to Sh3.3 million repayable with an annual interest rate of 11.5 per cent in three years.

Funding glitch

Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo told investors to apply for the loans through Family Bank.

“Some people have been seeking favours from the MPs with regard to the loans, but this is not going to work since the procedure is that one must go through the bank.”

This comes weeks after a funding glitch hit the model digital centres, threatening five pilot centres started three years ago in Malindi, Meru, Kangundo, Garissa and Mukuru slums in Nairobi.

Nairobi and Mombasa account for 90 per cent of the 6.4 million people who have Internet access, according to data from the Communications Commission of Kenya and the creation of the digital villages —Pasha centres — is meant to expand the Net’s reach.

The centres, most of which will be in the rural areas, will be used for Government e-services, Internet access, computer training, vocational lessons, ICT retail, entertainment and gaming, typing and data entry, printing services, copying and scanning.

Somaliland’s new administration assessed five months in by the heads of the international election observation efforts

“Hope and Caution in Somaliland” by Steve Kibble and Michael Walls, in Pambazuka, suggests some positive developments from the Silanyo government but also significant work that has yet to get underway domestically. Diplomatic efforts seem to be positive in the region (and a visit to China has just been announced):

There is nevertheless ample evidence of general donor goodwill. In September, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs announced a new policy on Somaliland that would see ‘aggressive’ engagement with the administration there, as well as that in Puntland. This is part of a ‘dual track’ strategy which will see the US continue to support the Mogadishu-based Transitional Federal Government, but which will also result in an increase in direct aid to Somaliland. The British ambassador to Ethiopia, a Danish minister, the Swedish ambassador and the UN envoy to Somalia all also confirmed increased aid to Somaliland and there has been some talk of direct budget support for the Somaliland government. If implemented, this would mark a significant shift in donor engagement with Somaliland, contributing materially to the process of incremental recognition mentioned above. However, these discussions are yet to result in action.

Finally, Somaliland has a significant potential opportunity at the present time given the impending expiry of the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government in the south. With the TFG representing an obstacle if Somaliland is to extend the depth and breadth of its formal engagement with the international community, negotiation over their future offers a leverage opportunity for both Somaliland and those amongst the international diplomatic community who would like to see a change in the nature of that engagement.

The new Hargeisa government will need to be far more clear-sighted and long-term in its vision to obtain not just outside support but sustained momentum for democracy and development. Civil society too can play a material role in seeing that Somaliland continues down a road in which the transition from discursive to representative democracy continues to advance the needs of the wider population, not just of a political elite.

Somaliland and Puntland Announce Breakthrough on Security Cooperation; In the meantime, where is the U.S. driving in the region?

A major announcement from Somaliland today, as reported by IRIN:

HARGEISA, 28 September 2010 (IRIN) – Somaliland and Puntland, once-warring territories in northern Somalia, have unprecedentedly agreed in principle to work together to tackle common security threats.

Troops from both entities have clashed over disputed borderlands in the past. They also differ over the issue of sovereignty: Somaliland unilaterally declared independence in 1991, and Puntland, while asserting a degree of autonomy, recognizes Mogadishu as its own, and Somaliland’s, capital.

"You can’t choose your neighbours, whether it is a region or state; for this reason, from now on, we are going to work with the Puntland state of Somalia, in terms of security of the [Horn of Africa] region,” Somaliland’s Interior Minister, Mohamed Abdi Gabose, said on 26 September in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa.

"Of course this does not mean we unite with Puntland or the other conflicted areas. We will discuss the [security] issues later," he said.

“From now on, we [Somaliland] want to work together on security matters because it seems there are anti-peace groups who want to threaten our peace,” he said.

The rapprochement follows renewed clashes in July in Galgala, an area on the Puntland side of the border, between Puntland’s security forces and troops loyal to Sheikh Mohamed Said Atom, a leader of an insurgency accused of having links to Al-Shabab, the main Islamist group fighting Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Atom and Al-Shabab have both denied such links exist.

"Of course the [Somaliland] government has its worries when it comes to the Galgala war because if these groups win or fail, either way it is not good for Somaliland because if they win they may try to enlarge their presence deeper in Somaliland," said Gabose.

Hargeisa is faced with another security concern – an armed group claiming to be fighting to liberate – and which is named after – the Somaliland border regions Sool, Sanag and Cayn. The group rejects the legitimacy of Somaliland’s government and sovereignty and says it has set up its own administration.

Increased engagement

Puntland Information Minister Abdihakim Ahmed Guled said of Gabose’s statements: “We welcome the openness of the new government in Somaliland and its aim to solve the problems in peace and negotiations.

200912161259400734.jpg
Photo: Wikimedia Commons magnify.gif
Puntland and Somaliland have agreed to work together to tackle common security threats

“On our side, we are happy to hear that the Somaliland government is ready to work with us on security matters because at this time, there are new groups in the region who are killing Muslim people in mosques. These groups have in the past carried out suicide attacks in Hargeisa as well as in Puntland’s port of Bosasso."

Meanwhile, there have been international moves to increase engagement with both Somaliland and Puntland, most notably by the United States, which plans to send more diplomats and aid workers there.

“We think that both of these parts of Somalia have been zones of relative political and civil stability, and we think they will, in fact, be a bulwark against extremism and radicalism that might emerge from the south,” Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnny Carson said on 24 September.

The US has stressed, however, that this initiative does not mark the beginning of a process to recognize Somaliland’s independence.

Commenting on the US move, Sally Healy, an associate fellow of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, told IRIN: “Both territories are quite effectively administered by authorities that are hostile to Al-Shabab and the spread of extremism in Somalia. Their strategic position is important in terms of the security threats emanating from the Gulf of Aden.

“They have important and influential diaspora communities in the west. So it makes a lot of sense for the US to do business with them instead of putting all their eggs in the TFG basket, which remains extremely fragile.”

An op/ed piece from Puntland’s Garowe Online describes the new U.S. policy of "agressive engagement" with Somaliland and Puntland as a "U Turn" by the United States. The statement by Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson on Friday does indicate some real change in direction, but it remains a bit unclear what we are driving towards.

Some points: First, Carson’s comments on its face treats Somaliland and Puntland in parallel and equivalently. Second, Carson stated clearly that the U.S. was not moving toward recognition and seems to echo previous policy in that regard. Third, the new policy seems, then, to be entirely dependent on the "informal" status identified by Carson for initiatives to support the capacity of local authorities in "development" catagories. Fourth, changes in policy in regard to Southern Somalia are not yet clear. Fifth, this will continue to be run primarily out of Nairobi.

This is the long slow turn of sorts that I have seen transpire on Somaliland from my vantage point: When I started as Director for the East Africa office for the International Republican Institute in Nairobi in mid-2007, our status in regard to a Somaliland program was up in the air. We had previously operated a Somaliland program from Nairobi and had made a major monitoring effort for the 2005 parliamentary elections. Funding for the program had expired in 2006 and we had been given a "no cost extension" through the end of 2006. After that time, we were doing our best to maintain contacts and stay close to the situation, but had no money for travel, overhead or anything else. Regional officers in State’s Africa Bureau in Washington indicated that new funding from USAID should be forthcoming, but nothing happened until the very end of the fiscal year in September 2007. When we finally received a Request for Proposal for a funding agreement, the annual funding amount was suddenly more than tripled to $1M annually for three years and we were to open an office in Hargeisa which we had not expected. At that time, local and presidential elections in Somaliland were schedule for the spring of 2008, with the president’s term ending in April.

Nonetheless, at that time, State Department and USAID employees and direct contractors were barred from travel to Somaliland. In the spring of 2008 we had an evaluation visit from regional experts who were contracted by USAID and we were not able to secure permission for them to visit Hargeisa. During this time frame Jendayi Frazer made an initial visit to Hargeisa from an African Union meeting in Addis Ababa. This got a lot of attention in Somaliland and seems to have been a bit of a breakthrough in terms of educating American officials about the level of stability there (the degree of security was the subject of a certain amount of amusement by Somalilanders, although the bombing of the presidential office and Ethiopian facilities in late 2008 changed the environment somewhat).

At this point, Somaliland has come through a long and difficult process of voter registration, its first ever, and its second successful presidential election, with a peaceful transfer of power. IRI has been up and running in Hargeisa for two and a half years. The UNDP and a variety of NGOs have continued to work "on the ground". Foreign investment is increasing and awareness is growing of economic opportunities.

I certainly welcome the new realism reflected in Carson’s statement, and I do think that there will be opportunities for the U.S. to do more to help–and the government in Somaliland and the authorities in Puntland have welcomed it as well. At the same time, I wonder how far ahead we are looking and what we see in future years if we are discouraging hopes for eventual recognition for Somaliland (and do we mean to send that message?) There seems to be a broadly shared consensus that the policy of supporting the Ethiopian invasion in December 2006 displacing the UIC in Southern Somalia was short-sighted and has ultimately proven to be a fiasco leading to worse conditions now and worse options going forward. Is there some vision of a federated Somalia including Somaliland someday? If not, do we seriously think that the AU will someday move forward on recognition for Somaliland without U.S. leadership on the issue? Is there something more or different that Somaliland could do on its own to persuade us to move toward recognition in coming years?

Tough Neighborhood

As the Referendum campaigns have by Kenyan election rules ended today, it’s a good time for a bit of catching up on the challenges in the region.

With elections coming up on August 9 in Rwanda, Mike Plantz has a new piece from Chatham House “Rwandan Election: Doubts About the Poster Boy”

For similar conclusions on Somalia and Somaliland from different sources, try “Somalia’s Rough Road to Peace” from Abena Ampofoa Asare in Pambazuka and “Ballots and Bullets: The Tale of Two Somalia’s” from J. Peter Pham, published everywhere but here is the Somaliland Press version. I had also missed Bronwyn Bruton’s op-ed in the NY Times (HT to the Sahel Blog).

On Uganda, with elections upcoming early next year, the U.S. lobbyists representing Museveni, the Whitaker Group (the group that picked up Jendayi Frazer when she left the State Department) has moved out of “public sector” work and is wrapping up their contract, seeing more opportunities on the non-public side.

CPJ: “Somaliland elections and coverage surprisingly . . . normal”

The blog of the Committee to Protect Journalists gives an assessment of the state of media coverage of the Somaliland elections.

I thought this was particularly interesting:

In comparison to greater Somalia, however, where insurgents banned viewing the World Cup and a near-powerless government continues to arrest journalists for negative coverage, Somaliland’s media scene appears robust. Journalists were allowed to move freely throughout the polling stations without hindrance, Associated Press reporter Mohamed Olad told CPJ.

The public and local press feared violence after two former ruling party officials alleged there had been vote rigging in favor of the opposition in five precincts, Abdi told CPJ. “But I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the offices of Radio Hargeisa,” Abdi said. “I found Radio Hargeisa staff actually complaining that the allegations were false and could lead to post-election violence.” Even Riyale supporters objected to the allegations and the two officials were arrested, Abdi added.

How has Somaliland kept the elections and its media coverage relatively peaceful? “They have learned from example—the bad example of their neighbors,” said Olad, who often reports in the war-torn Somali capital, Mogadishu. Somaliland has become a haven for exiled Mogadishu journalists fleeing the fighting in Somalia, where 33 journalists have been killed for their work since 1993.

Somaliland journalists told me they now hope government and media relations will improve under Silyano. Whereas Riyale was a former intelligence official and wary of the press, Mohamed said, Silyano was more open with the press as an opposition party leader. “But let’s wait and see,” a cautious Amin told me, as opposition leaders often change their spots once they attain power. A once-popular Senegalese opposition leader, Abdoulaye Wade, had promised upon his 2000 presidential election to decriminalize libel laws against the press. A disgruntled local Senegalese press, who had strongly supported his 2000 candidacy, is still waiting.