NAIROBI - Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region has cut ties with the central government after it learned of a plan to form a new federal state in the center of the country that would allegedly include part of the Puntland region.
Late last month, the Somali federal government and representatives from the central regions of Galgudud and Mudug signed a document that said the region's leaders would work together to form a new administration.
In a statement, the U.N. special representative of the secretary-general for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, welcomed the move but warned of the challenges that await the leaders.
Kay urged the leaders to solve any differences through dialogue and negotiations involving all clan leaders, women and civil society groups.
Days later, Puntland cut all ties with the Mogadishu government over the formation of the new state.
Somalia's constitution allows two or more regions to form a federal state.
While Galgudud sits entirely in Somali government territory, the Mudug region is split in two, with one side being controlled by Puntland and the other by local authorities affiliated with the Somali government.
Mohamed Ali Hashi, a politician from Puntland, said Mudug was split in two because of deadly tribal conflict 20 years ago, and that recombining the regions will not be easy.
If you want to combine the (Mudug region), “there is a lot of work to be done before you take that decision. The local people who are inhabitants have to be consulted, the regional government of Puntland has to be consulted,” Hashi said. “If they agree, no problem. But if they don't agree, you cannot force them, so I think that was a mistake."
Somali media reports said some clans and local groups are also opposed to the deal, which was signed in Mogadishu last month.
Alihashi Mohamed Sahal, a central Somali politician who supports creation of the new federal state, said the people and leaders of the two regions should decide what kind of administration they want.
"All parties should be given and supported in the reconciliation efforts and after that, they themselves should agree and decide on how they are going to form their state,” Sahal said. “If Mudug wants to be part of Garowe and Bosaso (Puntland) or Mudug wants to join Galgudud and Hiiraan regions, they should do it without fighting among themselves."
Abdirahman Mohamed, the head of a political consulting firm in Mogadishu, said the push to create the new state will be a test for the central government and the provisional federal constitution.
"We will have regions that are basically inhabited by clans that come from different backgrounds, different clans in this case. If this one goes through, this will create a precedent whereby regions will start to affiliate themselves with their clans, not according to the regions that are stipulated in the constitution,” Mohamed said.
Despite the bickering among politicians, the United Nations and international community have insisted the process of federalism is necessary to build a stable and peaceful Somalia.