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Renewed Mandate in Doubt as Puntland Breaks Away From Somali Government

  • Michael Onyiego

Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, currently the President of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, speaks during a news conference in central London, Mar 9, 2010 (File Photo)

Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, currently the President of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, speaks during a news conference in central London, Mar 9, 2010 (File Photo)

The Puntland region has decided to separate from the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, dimming hopes for peace and stability as the government's internationally-backed mandate winds down.

In the midst of a campaign for an extension on its expiring mandate, Somalia’s U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government was dealt a major blow when Puntland recently announced the end of its cooperation with the struggling administration in Mogadishu.

Puntland is a region in northeastern Somalia that has governed itself autonomously since 1998. Unlike neighbor Somaliland, which declared full independence in 1991, Puntland maintained ties to Mogadishu in the hope of eventually rejoining a stable, federated Somali state.

The Puntland region has enjoyed relative peace and even prosperity, when compared to the war-torn south. But Sunday’s announcement reflected a growing dissatisfaction by Puntland with what it described as marginalization by politicians in Mogadishu.

The announcement was justified by what the Puntland government decried as a lack of participation and representation at the Djibouti Peace Process. The meeting, held in 2008 and 2009, helped form the current Somali government, led by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

The Puntland government also took issue with failure of the central government to share international development funds with other regions of Somalia.

According to analyst E.J. Hogendoorn of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, however, the announcement was more a political maneuver than an attempt at separation.
"The statement is essentially a shot across the bow, saying that if you do not start giving us more political consideration or more resources we can go our own way," said Hogendoorn.

But the announcement does not bode well for the mandate of the transitional government, due to expire in August. One of the largest donors to Mogadishu is the United States, which recently unveiled a "Dual-Track" policy of simultaneously engaging the unrecognized state of Somaliland.

Some analysts are worried Puntland’s separation spells the end for a unified Somalia, with the emergence of smaller regional states more likely. Hogendoorn said, though, that the chances of an independence declaration from Puntland are slim.

"I think some people worry about that and that is certainly a possibility, but I do not see that happening anytime soon," said Hogendoorn. "People have seen what happened to Somaliland. Why go down that road? There are very few benefits that they will get from a declaration of independence."

Somaliland has been a declared independent state since 1991, but has yet to receive formal international recognition. Although it has held multiple successful elections and been hailed as an example for the region, it has until recently been largely ignored by international donors.

Though the clock is ticking on the transitional mandate, Hogendoorn believes it is possible to see the formation of a new government structure, with Puntland’s participation, come August.


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