Somaliland and Ethiopia’s faceoff over Las Anod jeopardizes regional cooperation

As the humanitarian crisis worsens, Somaliland accuses Ethiopia of igniting violence, endangering its stability and peacekeeping efforts.

On 9 March, the Somaliland Council of Ministers, in a communiqué, called on allied troops, including those of the Somali region of Ethiopia, to withdraw from Las Anod. 

The following day, leaders of Ethiopia’s Somali region released a statement categorically denying the allegation. They called for Somaliland authorities to refrain from statements that could “alienate the people of both regions.”

Somaliland, which unilaterally declared its independence in 1991 but is not internationally recognized, claims Las Anod as its own despite opposition from the governments of Somalia, the Puntland region, and local elders who want to form an independent state within Somalia. 

Failed Mediation

This accusation comes on the heels of mediation efforts by the Ethiopian government to end the conflict. 

In response, the leaders of Ethiopia’s Somali region urged the Somaliland administration to refrain from making statements that could drive a wedge between these two fraternal societies.

Compounding Crises

The situation in Somaliland is further compounded by a humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Ethiopia, as thousands of people fleeing the fighting in Somaliland have taken refuge in a remote area already suffering from severe drought

Root Causes

The conflict is rooted in a territorial dispute between Somaliland and Puntland, with the Dhulbahante clan inhabiting the contested regions of Sool, Sanaag, and Buuhoodle. 

Regions of Somaliland, 13 April 2022

Regions of Somaliland; 13 April 2022; Siirski

The Dhulbahante clan, a part of the larger Harti clan family which is a majority in Puntland, also claims Las Anod, the capital of the Sool region, as its administrative center. In contrast, Somaliland is largely inhabited by the influential Isaaq clan which is a minority in the contested areas. 

Before 2007, when Somaliland seized Las Anod, it was administered by Puntland.

Independence Desire

Somaliland has blamed the Somali government and Puntland for attempting to destabilize the breakaway region by supporting the local militants.

Perilous Stalemate

Las Anod is currently in a perilous stalemate, with Somaliland refusing to budge on the withdrawal of its troops from outside the city, and the Dhulbahante traditional leaders unwilling to negotiate unless troops withdraw to Oog. 

Ethiopia, on the other hand, is accused of tacitly supporting Puntland and the local rebels. Ethiopia’s intervention in the conflict could be seen as an attempt to assert its influence in the region. 

The accusation by Somaliland that Ethiopia is fueling the conflict in Las Anod is a worrying development that could further strain their partnership. 

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