Sep 29, 2006

Somaliland: Government Fears Country May Fall to Islamists

The government of the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland today broke its silence on the rising threat from the Islamist movement in neighboring Somalia.

The government of the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland today broke its silence on the rising threat from the Islamist movement in neighbouring Somalia. In a strongly worded statement, Deputy Justice Minister Yusuf Ise Duale Tallaabo warned Islamists against their "dream of capturing Hargeisa," the Somalilander capital. Fearing a popular Islamist uprising at home, he warned citizens against believing in "a new prophet" from Mogadishu.

Minister Tallaabo told the press in Hargeisa that his government would not tolerate Islamist aggression in Somaliland. "I tell the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) who dream of capturing Buroa and Hargeisa that Somaliland is an independent republic that has restored its sovereignty in 1991. We have a government, national flag, internationally recognised borders and a constitution," he said, adding, "Somaliland is not Kismayo or Mogadishu."

Warning the Somaliland citizens against being deceived by what is happening in Mogadishu, Mr Tallaabo said: "Where do you think you are going? The Sharia is not only in Mogadishu. We have the Koran and we know the direction of the Qibla [the Ka'ba in Mecca]. Why are you looking at Mogadishu as if a new prophet has appeared in it?"

Attacking further the fundaments of the Islamist movement, he expressed his astonishment at the UIC claiming of following the Islamic Sharia and at the same time using force to capture territories. "Does Sharia mean hijacking people’s will? A man who claims to be ruling on Sharia should follow peaceful ways," the Minister said.

The Islamist court movement, which by now has captured most of Somalia, has made it clear that it wants Somalia reunited, overturning the former British colony of Somaliland's unilateral declaration of independence in 1991, accepted by 97 percent of the people in a referendum - in sharp contrast to the rest of Somalia.

While Somaliland has been successful in building a peaceful, orderly and highly democratic state during the last 15 years, Islamist movements have been allowed to thrive, causing fear in Hargeisa that the population may support an Islamist intervention.

Analyst Bashir Goth told afrol News that the influential Somalilander Islamist leader Sheikh Ali Warsame has now left for Mogadishu, being "a very dangerous development that causes jitters in Hargeisa." Mr Warsame is the founder of the 'Somali al Ittihad al Islami' - a dissolved Islamist organisation that allegedly had close ties with Al Qaeda - and is seen as a close ally of Hassan Dahir Aweys, a Mogadishu hardliner within the UIC. He has been based in the Somalilander town of Buroa during the last years, where he has turned into an influential cleric.

"Minister Tallaabo's tone also reflects the great concern the government has about the Islamic Courts Union winning the hearts and minds of its people, particularly knowing the Islamist grip on the economy and life of Somaliland people," Mr Goth added.

Also in Puntland - an autonomous region in north-western Somalia that is controlled by the militia od Somali transitional President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed - urgent preparations are being made to meet a possible Islamist insurrection. Puntland authorities yesterday banned Somalis from the south from entering its territory and have already deported a number of businessmen and other individuals back to Mogadishu.

The Somaliland press today further reported that Puntland authorities have ordered their forces stationed in the Sool region - a territory claimed by Somaliland but occupied by Puntland - to be ready for redeployment to Baidoa, the seat of Somalia's transitional government. Here they were to take part in the defence of the government against any possible attack by the UIC.

"The latest developments indicate how much Somaliland and Puntland authorities have been alarmed by the fast collapse of the Juba Valley Alliance and the easy fall of Kismayo in the hands of the UIC," comments Mr Goth. Kismayo and the Kenyan border area fell to the Islamists on Sunday, seriously altering the balance of power in Somalia.