Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Somali regions agree truce after border clashes

The leaders of two of Somalia's autonomous regions have agreed a UN-backed truce, after heavy border fighting, blamed on either clan feuding or Islamist militants, killed at least 30.

The fighting broke out on 1st September in Galkayo, a town of around 500,000 which lies on the administrative border between the autonomous regions of Puntland, in Somalia's north-east, and Galmadug. Unlike Somaliland to the northwest, neither region is seeking outright independence from Somalia. Given the impotence of the beleaguered government in Mogadishu, however, both areas largely run their own affairs, with their own military forces.

Control of Galkayo is divided between the two regions, with Puntland governing the northern area of the town and Galmadug administering the southern tip. In February 2011, the two regions signed an accord agreeing to coordinate on security and economic affairs, in Galkayo and in the wider border region.

This accord did not prevent the recent round of clashes, which involved heavy artillery and killed the head of Puntland's paramilitary forces. The Puntland Interior Ministry claimed that their security forces raided areas of the town to fend off an attack by the Al-Shabab militia, which dominates central and southern Somalia. They accused the Galmadug authorities of “aiding the terrorists by providing safe refuge, medical assistance and even ammunition.”

The Galmadug administration denied the charges, and insisted that the fighting was between two sub-clans. Media outlets supporting this version of events claimed that the recent deployment of police forces from a rival sub-clan to most Galkayo police officers created friction which boiled over into gun battles.

The ceasefire was brokered by the UN Political Office in Somalia, which brought together the two regional presidents in Mogadishu. According to a press release, the two sides “agreed to (1) establish and maintain direct communication at the highest level, (2) address future issues in a cooperative manner and (3) recognize that they face a common threat from insurgent groups.”

Previous accords have been insufficient to stop the violence. The divided nature of Galkayo's administration, the lack of government control over local militias, and the ongoing threat from al-Shabab, make it plausible that violence will flare up again the future.

Sources; Garowe Online, AFP, BBC, UN Political Office in Somalia

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