January 22, 2012 ·80 Comments
HARGEISA — Hundreds of thousands of people rallied across Hargeisa and Burao, two of the largest towns in Somaliland, on Sunday to support country´s separation from neighboring Somalia, sovereignty and its campaign for international recognition.
The protests, which coincided with the visit of a British diplomat who invited Somaliland leaders to attend an international conference on Somalia next month in London, follow days of skirmishes in eastern parts of the country.
In the capital Hargeisa, the rally was staged in Freedom Park where thousands gathered including senior government officials, MPs, speakers of Legislative Assembly, opposition groups, students and policy makers. They all offered their commitment and united front in support of Somaliland’s right to defend its territorial integrity if any threat is posed against the country.
“Any threat to our interests or security will force us to use all available options to defend our interests, and national and regional security,” Muse Bihi, the Chairman of the ruling Kulmiye party, told the crowd. Directing his comments at a tribal militia that has been gathering in Taleeh, in Sool region, Mr. Bihi added Somaliland will not be afraid to use force if they tried to spoil its stability.
Faisal Ali Warabe, the opposition leader of UCID Party, called on the residents of Las Anod, the provincial capital of the disputed Sool, to be vigilant and to choose peace and harmony over devastation and conflict. He warned the government that it must struck a balance between justice and fairness for all communities and not isolate a certain group.
The Speaker of the 82-member House of Representatives, Abdulrahman Mohamed Abdullahi, emphasized that the small group in Taleeh possessed no immediate threat to Somaliland’s territorial integrity. However, he called for maximum restraint and dialogue.
Vice President Abdulrahman Abdullahi Ismail, who was also present, said his government remains unwavering in their commitment to protect its citizens and provide justice to all.
In Somaliland’s second largest town of Burao, hundreds of thousands who staged unprecedented rally sang patriotic songs and chanted slogans in support of Somaliland’s self-determination and its unity. It was the biggest gathering in the town in recent years and it included senior government ministers, MPs, tribal elders, community and regional leaders, businesses, defense forces and students.
The protesters main message was that Somaliland can maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic, regional and international foes.
Recently a tribal separatist militia held a meeting in the historical town of Taleeh, once the base of Sayid Abdullah Hassan, a religious fanatic and the late 19th century version of Osama bin Ladden, in which they declared the formation of a semi-autonomous state. The President Ahmed Silanyo said his government will not tolerate the disintegration of Somaliland during an emergency meeting of both Houses of parliament. An army unit was sent to the nearby town of Buhoodle and the conference in Taleeh came to an end.
The president reaffirmed his commitment to stability, development and peace and for the second time offered amnesty to the SSC militia and urged them to join hands in the struggle to move forward. The leader of the group, Suleiman Essa Ahmed (Hagal Tosiye) of Columbus, Ohio, told the BBC Somali-Services on Thursday that he welcomes President Silanyo’s proposal for peace talks. He also admitted that the Taleeh conference was hijacked by opportunist groups and that it no longer served the interest of the Dhulbahante clan. He pointed his fingers at the former Somali Prime Minister, Ali Khalif Galayr and his so called G9 group. He also expressed his strong dislike for the chosen name for the ‘new semi-autonomous state’ namely Khaatumo State. The residents in the region have adopted to call the state instead ‘Khaatumo Seeg’. It later became clear some of the participants of the conference were in favor of SSC state while others wanted Darwiishland. After a deep disagreement some of the participants fled back to Garowe, the capital of Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland while others left the country.
Somaliland is a former British protectorate that gained its independence in June 1960 but voluntarily unified with its southern neighbor few days later to form what was known as the Somali Republic. After years of armed struggle with Somalia that left more than 50, 000 civilians dead, it reinstated its independence in 1991 but has since failed to gain international recognition.
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