Kenyan MP Farah Maalim is fighting claims he incited violence in the disputed region Las Anod in Somaliland, the self-declared independent region of Somalia.
Mr Maalim, a Kenyan Somali, was blamed for inciting ethnic violence in the town that borders Puntland State, reflecting the deep cultural connections between Kenya and Somalia.
On Tuesday, Somaliland President Muse Bihi told an audience of local politicians that the violence that has been raging since December last year was being incited by politicians including as far as Kenya. He then mentioned Mr Maalim by name, a man he accused of playing ‘different shades’ of politics.
“Members of Kenyan Parliament, among them Farah Maalim, have spoken and urged the people of Las Anod to fight back.
“Farah Maalim was the man who came to Somaliland when he was the deputy speaker of the Kenyan Parliament. He visited Las Anod and had the courage to say that Las Anod was part of Somaliland.
“He was the one who gave scholarships to 10 youth from Las Anod and some of his own children [studied] in Amoud University [in Somaliland], where they graduated. He was the man who was always advancing the legitimacy of the case of Somaliland,” Mr Bihi, a former pilot in the Somali airforce, said while defending the military presence among civilians since the violence broke.
Las Anod lies in a disputed region claimed by both Somaliland and the semi-autonomous Puntland.
Somaliland has no international recognition as an independent country, although it runs its own military and central bank and has held regular elections since 1991 when it claimed independence from Somalia, just months after the country fell into civil war.
Caught in crossfire?
Mr Maalim, speaking to The EastAfrican, said he had only criticised the apparent violence by authorities on civilians.
“I pointed out the serious human rights violations there. The (Somaliland security forces) are killing people, and I condemned it the same way I can condemn if violence happens in another country,” Mr Maalim said.
“There are no borders to such condemnations of violations. It is the international norm. But they are trying to create chaos, and these are the kind of things that we as a country should not entertain,” he told The EastAfrican.
To him, the request by Somaliland to have Kenyan authorities censure him is void as the region is not a sovereign state. Kenya, like several other countries in the Horn, has a consulate in the capital Hargeisa but maintains a ‘one Somalia’ policy.
After security forces descended on civilians last week, Puntland leaders warned they could join in to protect people.
Mr Bihi claims what happened in Las Anod “is an incidental clash between the police and the people.”
“It is a Somaliland problem, and we take responsibility for what happened as government and people, and we will find a solution for it,” he claimed.