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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

SOMALIA: Somaliland tells Puntland to pull out of disputed region

NAIROBI, 7 January 2004 (IRIN) - The authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland have warned neighbouring Puntland to withdraw its forces from the disputed region of Sool, a senior Somaliland official told IRIN on Wednesday.

Tension has been rising between the two sides ever since forces of the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland took total control of the Sool regional capital, Las Anod, late last month.

Puntland's spokesman Awad Ahmad Ashara told IRIN at the time that it was normal for the Puntland authorities to send police forces to the Sool and Sanaag area "since both regions are part and parcel of Puntland".

However, Fu'ad Adan Ade, the Somaliland housing and rural development minister, who is in charge of his government's operations in Las Anod, told IRIN that Sool and Sanaag were within the internationally recognised boundaries of Somaliland.

"The presence of Majerteenia [Puntland] forces is illegal and illegitimate," he stated. "They should leave before things get out of hand."

"These people [Puntland] are arguing in terms of clan, and we [Somaliland] are talking about a nation," he added. "Clannism is what destroyed Somalia."

Sool and Sanaag fall geographically within the borders of pre-independence British Somaliland, but most of the clans there are associated with Puntland. These are the Warsangeli and the Dhulbahante, which, along with Majerteen - the main clan in Puntland - form the Harti sub-group of the Darood.

Ade, who spoke to IRIN by satellite phone from the town of Hudun, 82 km northeast of Las Anod, said his forces were on their way to Las Anod. "I will urge the Puntland forces to leave peacefully. We have been patient long enough."

He said the tension created by the arrival of the Puntland forces was hampering humanitarian assistance to the people of the area affected by drought. Thousands of nomads in the Sool Plateau, which is within the disputed regions, have been affected by a four-year drought.

"If fighting breaks out, it will not be confined to this area but we will take it to Garowe [the Puntland regional capital]," Ade warned.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict



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