Somalia: Somaliland strife over privatization, Khatumo talks
Somaliland administration in northwestern Somalia is facing political strife after the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament were involved in a televised fistfight on Sept. 12th in Hargeisa, the breakaway region’s seat of government.
Parliament house erupted in disorder after Speaker Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Irro’ and First Deputy Speaker Baashe Mohamed Farah began punching each other. The two had disagreed over voting on a controversial motion regarding the privatization of Berbera oil terminal, a national asset in Somaliland.
Somali satellite TV stations broadcastthe Somaliland Parliament in session, with Speaker Irro trying to manage order in the House and Deputy Speaker Farah demanding that MPs vote on the controversial privatization motion.
On Aug. 30th, Somaliland’s House of Representatives voted to reject a motion introduced by the government to transfer Berbera oil terminal to a private company. However, government allies in parliament attempted to return to motion for a second vote, frustrating Speaker Irro who said the move violates parliamentary bylaws.
Berbera oil terminal
The two parliamentary leaders began punching each other and other MPs and parliament staff became involved in the scuffle, some trying to stop the fight and others throwing their own punches. The next day, on Sept. 13th, Somaliland MPs voted to postpone the session to give time to reconcile parliament leaders.
Somaliland media reports that Deputy Speaker Farah, a close ally of Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud ‘Silanyo’, was trying to push the motion to a vote despite Speaker Irro’s declaration that, under Somaliland parliamentary bylaws, the motion in question could only be considered for a vote during the next session of parliament.
Moments before the ruckus erupted, Speaker Irro said: “The House [of Representatives] cannot have two Speakers. If that happens, then the country [Somaliland] might have two Presidents”.
The Berbera oil terminal was built in the 1970s during the rule of former Somali President Gen. Mohamed Siyad Barre. It was inherited by SNM rebels in 1991 and later incorporated under the Somaliland administration.
Political tensions in Somaliland have been heightened since May 11th, when the House of Guurti, Somaliland’s upper parliament house, granted a 22-month term extension for the incumbent President Silanyo. Last week, on Sept. 11th, Mr. Silanyo issued a presidential decree declaring that elections for President, Vice President and House of Representatives will be in Somaliland on March 28, 2017.
Somaliland has held peaceful democratic elections for many years. However, controversial term-extensions awarded to current President Silanyo and former President Dahir Riyale have damaged the breakaway region’s democratic credentials.
The leader of Khatumo faction in northern Somalia, Ali Khalif Galayr, has announced his intention to “open dialogue” with the Somaliland administration.
Speaking in Buhodle this week, Mr. Galayr categorically denied any ongoing talks between Khatumo faction and Somaliland or Puntland. “I want to pledge to the people of Khatumo that I will not seek a ministerial or presidential position in Somaliland or Puntland”, Mr. Galayr told his supporters in Buhodle.However, he indicated that, “Khatumo is willing to talk to Somaliland. We will not hide it. We will nominate a high-profile committee to negotiate with Somaliland” when the time comes.
The Silanyo administration has not publicly confirmed its willingness to engage in dialogue with Khatumo faction led by Mr. Galayr, a former Somali Prime Minister and more recently MP in the Somali Federal Parliament.
Somaliland authorities consider Khatumo faction to be “insurgents” that destabilize the region and Somaliland ministers have vocally opposed Khatumo’s “interference” in what they consider their area of jurisdiction.
Khatumo claims legitimacy over Sool, Sanaag and Ayn (Buhodle area) regions, which are claimed by both Puntland and Somaliland, who have engaged in sporadic fighting over control of these regions since 2002.