By Mohamed Elmi

On the expansive Sanaag region of Somalia, the secessionist “Somaliland” administration has financed a multi-pronged war to create  a false political reality on the ground.

On February 26,  “Somaliland” deployed its militia from its base in Elafweyn district and  launched a surprise attack on Kalgubatale and Kadhadhe, which falls roughly 11 miles (18km) from Yube, Sanaag region.

According to local sources, the battle began on the wee hours with  heavy gun fire and artilleries exchanged between the two sides. At least 3 local soldiers were reported killed and dozens injured by the invading troops.

The defending side later received reinforcements from Badhan and Balibusle led by Col. Heyle, Col. Gurey, and Col. Hussein Dhere. In the ensuing crossfire, the  “Somaliland” troops retreated to their former base although they had kidnapped and injured civilians and nomads going about their daily lives.

On the coastal front, “Somaliland” has financed intermittent clan warfare on the coastal villages of Shidan and Waqdaria, traditional homelands of the  Warsangeli Garabsare and Jibril Sa’id subclans.  For the past few months, locals from the area appealed to the international community to hold the secessionist administration accountable. Locals accused “Somaliland” of using international aid as an instrument of war and oppression; However, with fierce resistance from the Warsangeli Garabsare, the invading clan militia was repulsed on numerous occasions.

Locals described the Shidan conflict as a land-grabbing scheme. More than 12  people had been killed in these battles with many injured (see Shidan Media for a comprehensive coverage).

Last year, James Swan, the UN’s special envoy to Somalia,  decried the crisis in Sanaag and Sool and called for a peaceful resolution after holding talks with Puntland president, Said Abdullahi Deni. While Swan’s statement reflects a positive step, it falls short of recognizing any meaningful role for the inhabitants whose lands have become a theater of ongoing and relentless conflict.

The Involvement of U.A.E in the conflict        

​Herein lies the crux of the matter. UAE and other external forces have adopted an aggressive policy to punish and sanction Somalia simply for taking a neutral stance against the blockade on Qatar. The tiny oil-rich monarchy hit hardest our nation by perpetuating the myth of centralization and tyranny:  the center against the regions/states and the regions against emerging states. For instance, an ICG report right after the onset of the Gulf crisis and less than a year after the president had assumed office predicted and even encouraged what policy levers UAE has and could otherwise deploy to severely restrict the effectiveness of the government.

U.A.E funds a special paramilitary force that with bases in Qaw and Galgala towns, traditional areas of the Warsangeli, under the pretext of fighting piracy and al-Shabab. Saracen, a South African mercenary company, oversees and administers the special paramilitary force, which conducts covert and clandestine operations without the knowledge of the executive branch of the Puntland state of Somalia. An article by UK based newspaper, The Independent, captures the situation in a title, “Prince of Mercenaries who wreaked havoc in Iraq turns in Somalia” after the newspaper obtained a copy of an intelligence report that was leaked to the media.

Economic Marginalization

Recently, the  Minister of Planning, Investment, and Economic Development mentioned that neither  “Somaliland” nor Puntland effectively controls the Sanaag region dominated by the Warsangeli clan of Darood but the administrations created a dire political situation that needs a political solution.

Most economic development aid are channeled through Garowe and Hargeisa.  Gamal explained the allocation of funds for development are intentionally diverted and barely reach their intended targets. “This is a core national issue that requires a political solution. The federal government of Somalia must come up with the final and permanent solution,” Gamal added.

The recently passed election law is having an impact on the stability of the region as both entities manipulate the situation to make a new reality on the ground. The destabilization policies of the secessionist administration can result in humanitarian catastrophe if not addressed.

“Somaliland” President Muse Bihi was a former commander of then SNM rebels and he is accused of documented war crimes and grave human rights violations during the civil war between 1988 to 1992.

The Quest for Independence from “Somaliland” and Puntland

“The theoretical appeal of ‘building blocks’ lies in a realization and acceptance of the fact that a simple restoration of the former unitary Somali state is improbable for the indefinite future.” Patrick Galkes

The formation of a Maakhir-Khatumo state follows the idea ​​of creating political units as an alternative to a single national unitary state. It is believed that the creations of political units through the current set-up of federalism as outlined in the interim constitution could reconstitute the republic. Termed as “building blocks”, the system aims to highlight political differences (unity vs secession, federalism vs. confederalism) Patrick Gilkes in his article “Briefing Somalia” argues, “The basis for the concept of ‘building blocks’ is essentially the clan family.” Such blocks are endorsed by the international community for rebuilding and restoring the collapsed state of Somalia.

Why have successive administrations in Mogadishu opposed to the formation of a Maakhir-Khaatumo state when if truth be told the people whom it is supposed to serve suffered under the weight of economic sanctions perpetuated by the separatists,  manufactured territorial disputes and conflict, and the perpetuation of division within the community and using political entrepreneurs.

Critics of Northeast state from Puntland also contend that the emerging Federal Member State diminishes the influence of Puntland as a political stakeholder of Somalia, but realistically, Sanaag and Sool regions have never been de facto linked to Puntland by both the federal government and the United Nations’ unfair and outdated policy that lumped these two regions with “Somaliland”. The strategic advantage that Puntland seeks from these regions is its persistent pursuit of political leverage over Mogadishu,  thus using Sool and Sanaag as leverage for negotiation in the wider political context of Somalia but at the expense of stability and chronic underdevelopment.

There has been a series of meetings and political rallies held in various across the United States, Europe, and Somalia in support of the formation of regional administration. A position statement released by the Khatumo-Makhir community in Minneapolis, MN, states the following:


“We underscore that the creation of a regional federal member state in the “disputed regions” conforms to the provisions stipulated in Article 49, section 6 of the Provisional Constitution, that two or more regions coming together may voluntarily form a Federal Member State

 “Because the Northeast Regions meet the conditions and constitutional requirements for forming a member state, it becomes the federal government’s responsibility to implement the will of the people and facilitate the state formation process—an Interim Regional Administration as stipulated in Article 48 (2) of the Somali Provisional Constitution.”[1]

The two communities underscored their belief in Somalia’s unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. They also underscored their firm resolve to engage in dialogue for a peaceful settlement of the conflict and support open and free elections, extending the federal government to northern Somalia.


The emerging Northeast State of Somalia meets the requirements of the “building blocks” and that of the interim constitution to form a regional government that is independent of both “Somaliland” and Puntland.

President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmaajo” has a golden opportunity to make history by recognizing and aiding the people from these regions; alas, he might go the same route as his predecessor, President Hassan Sheikh, who by comparison demonstrated decisive leadership by establishing the member states of Galmudug, Hirshabelle, and Jubaland while he came close to giving Benadir region and Sanaag and Sool regions serious executive consideration.



Gilkes, P. (1999). Briefing: Somalia. African Affairs, 98(393), 571-577. Retrieved February 29,

2020, from


Xinhua. (2019, July 9). UN Envoy decries tensions between regional states in Somalia . Retrieved from XinhuaNet:


The Republic.  (2019, December 21). Position Statement for Makhir-Khatumo Union. Retrieved from


[1] The Republic.  (2019, December 21). Position Statement for Makhir-Khatumo Union. Retrieved from