Somalia: Reunification Revival Gets Violent

A border dispute in northern Somalia got violent again in mid-May and fighting went on for about a week leaving dozens dead. Statelets (Somaliland and Puntland) have been squabbling since 1990s, and sometimes shooting, over possession of the Sool region that lies astride their border.

Both sides claim it, and both are willing to fight for it. The dispute has been going on since Puntland was formed in 1998. Back then Puntland declared they controlled the Sool because the inhabitants belonged to a Puntland tribe. Somaliland based their claim on borders drawn by the colonial governments of Italy and Britain a century ago.

Years of negotiations did not achieve anything. Both statelets sent additional troops to the border in anticipation of a fight for Sool. The current Sool violence got started in January, but there were no casualties then. There has been no threats of Sool violence since mid-2014. Before that there was brief fighting in early 2012.

There was some Sool tension in 2009 and fighting in early 2008. This was a continuation of a confrontation that started in late 2007. The first real threats of violence were in 2003 and ever since the best the two statelets could do was keep things quiet. A resolution of the Sool dispute continues to be out of reach.

Both statelets have been suffering from other internal disputes, but nothing as widespread and destructive as the rest of Somalia. Northern Somalia has been better governed since breaking away from Somalia in the 1990s to form Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million).

The other two-thirds of the Somali population to the south has, until the last few year, been in perpetual chaos since 1990. But the two northern statelets have noticed that the security and economic conditions have greatly improved down south.

In Somaliland there have been demonstrations with people demanding reunification with the rest of Somalia. The local government did not agree and shut down two TV stations that supported reunifications. Three reporters were also arrested as well.

After 2012, as al Shabaab gunmen fled the growing number of soldiers, peacekeepers and local militias in Somalia many Islamic fighers fled to Puntland and Somaliland, where they continue to wage hit runs attacks. Many more fled to northeast Kenya where the local population is often majority Moslem (while Kenya is overall 80 percent Christian).

One of the nasty side effects of this is that many Christians will flee the northeastern areas, leaving the areas short of essential skills. For example in Aajir county (just west of Mandera country) hundreds of schools have closed because their Christian teachers have fled the area. Local leaders are trying to encourage more Moslems to go to university and become teachers. But that takes time and even with the government offering subsidies for tuition there are few takers. So the schools remain empty and fewer Moslem children get any education. Al Shabaab counts that as a victory.

May 24, 2018: In the southeast (across the border in Mandera country Kenya) al Shabaab took over a major mosque at 10 PM and lectured worshippers for five hours, trying to convince the locals the Kenya was their enemy and Al Shabaab was there to help. The gunmen left without hurting anyone but they were apparently looking for a local Moslem leader who was somewhere else.

May 22, 2018: Outside Mogadishu an al Shabaab suicide car bomber attacked an army convoy and killed several soldiers. Inside Mogadishu a landmine planted in a dirt road went off and killed three civilians and wounded two soldiers.

May 15, 2018: In the north fighting between Puntland and Somaliland over a border dispute started up again. Puntland troops sought to take possession of disputed village in the Sool region, which both countries claim.

May 9, 2018: In Lower Shabelle region al Shabaab stoned a woman to death for bigamy (marrying 11 men). Bigamy by women, done in secret, is not unusual in Somalis and usually done for economic reasons. Al Shabaab also took credit for bombing a market in the area that left five dead and ten wounded. A bomb was apparently planted, rather than use a suicide bomber.

May 6, 2018: In the south (Jubba) nine Kenyan soldiers were killed when their vehicle encountered a landmine.

Al Shabaab put the last of a series of three videos on the Internet in which al Shabaab leaders continued to affirm their allegiance to al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliates in West Africa, Arabia and Afghanistan, where the Afghan Taliban is now considered part of the al Qaeda network.

May 4, 2018: In northern Kenya (Mandera) al Shabaab attacked a quarry near the Somali border and killed four Christians who were working there. This is the latest of many attacks in Kenya where over 80 percent of the population is Christian and only twelve percent are Moslem (most of them ethnic Somalis). The area around Mandera has long been the scene between the Kenyan Murule tribesmen and the Marhan from Somalia. The Marhan have long been accused of supporting al Shabaab.

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