ADDIS ABABA — The Ethiopian government led by Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs Haile Mariam Desalegne called on the leader of Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland to an emergency meeting in Addis Ababa on late Monday.

Mr Abdirahman Farole quickly rushed to Addis Ababa on a chartered airplane with three other ministers.

According to developing reports, the Ethiopian government expressed concern about Farole’s involvement in Somaliland’s recent eastern clashes that has left scores dead in the Buhodle district. The conflict erupted when Somaliland forces based in the village of Kalshale in the Buhodle district came under heavy attack from a local clan militia called SSC (Sool, Sanaag, Cayn) last week. Somaliland took a number of militia men hostage who revealed the group was getting arms from Eritrea and had fighters from Ethiopia’s rebel group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in its fighting ranks.

The SSC militia is supported by some of the Dhulbahante subclans in and around the Buhodle town. The group has been trying to convert the conflict into an open tribal war so they can draw support from the Darood family which includes Puntland’s Majerteen, eastern Sanaag’s Warsangeli, Marehans in southern Somalia and the Ogadens of Ethiopia. Mr Farole too admitted that he was going to support his “kins” men on clan bases.

The call for Farole to Addis Ababa follows a day after he issued a warning message to Somaliland authority insisting his administration was getting involved in the conflict “directly”.

The Ethiopians consider the disputed Sool and Sanaag regions part of Somaliland and are strongly opposed to Puntland’s claims.

The Ethiopian government is not at good terms with the SSC rebels as well in May 2010 Ethiopian border patrol police and the militia clashed in Buhoodle, a town on the Somaliland-Ethiopian border. Dozens were killed (see Hundreds flee their homes in Buhodle)
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The Ethiopian government was also worried about reports that ONLF was receiving arms through the Puntland port of Bosasso from Eritrea. Eritrea finances a number of rebel and terrorist groups in the region to destabilize Ethiopia, Somaliland and Somalia. Eritrea denies having links with ONLF, Al Shabab and Puntland.

Ethiopian soldiers target SSC militant group near Buhodle (May 2010)

This is not the first time the Ethiopian authority has called Farole to Addis Ababa. In March 2010, he dashed to Addis Ababa to get approvals for his government (see SOMALIA: Puntland President Dashes to Ethiopia For an Emergency Meeting)

In recent weeks, the Puntland leader has been trying to call for a hoax “national Somali reconciliation conference” at the end of August when the transitional government in Mogadishu mandate expires. Mr Farole has been trying to convince southern Somali politicians to join his conference which also calls for the replacement of Mogadishu as the capital with Garowe, the current regional capital of Puntland.

The Somaliland government strongly condemned the so called conference and warned any incursion into its region and political affair will destabilize the region. The TFG equally said the conference was a joke by a mad “governor”. While ordinary citizens believe this is yet another Farole move to scam international donors.

The idea has raised eyebrows on the Ethiopian government too who believe Mr Farole is trying to destroy the weak transitional government led by the former cleric and one time enemy of Ethiopia, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

The Ethiopians believe Mr Farole is destabilizing the region with millions he made from piracy ransoms. Mr Farole wants to nominate himself for the Somali President at the end of August when Sheikh Sharif’s term ends with US$8 million he made from pirates.

According to our source which is close to the Ethiopian government, Addis Ababa considers Farole’s political maneuvers a national threat and illegitimate. They believe senior leaders in Addis Ababa will order him to stop the so called conference and to withdraw from Somaliland territory immediately. There are reports, troops from Puntland have crossed into Sool region of Somaliland near the town of Tukaraq, about 50km east of Las Anod. Farole gave orders to invade Somaliland after he came under huge pressure from the public in pirate rich Puntland. It is now not clear who he will take orders from– his public calling for tribal war with Somaliland or Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia has historical ties with Somaliland that predates colonialism and the two states have co-existed in peace. Ethiopia considers Somaliland a crucial entity to its own stability and an important factor in the control of Ogaden region. Moreover, Ethiopia knows Darood clans such as the Dhulbahante, Majerten and Marehans are sympathetic to Ogadens quest for independence from Ethiopia and want Ogaden to be part of Somalia. Documents Somaliland government obtained that have been passed to Addis Ababa showed that the SSC miltia wants ONLF to use the Sool and Buhodle regions to launch attacks against Ethiopia. In return, the group have requested support from ONLF and Eritrea.

Somalilandpress | 22 Feb 2011