The border disputes between Somaliland and Puntland, explained

Late last month, dozens of people were killed in heavy fighting between Puntland and Somaliland troops in a disputed region.

The fighting started after Puntland troops reportedly tried to retake Tukarak in Sool region, from Somaliland forces who captured the village in January. According to media reports, more than 45 people were killed.

Why is there a dispute?

Somaliland declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991 following the overthrow of the late Somali president Siad Barre.

Seven years later, Puntland, located in northeast Somalia, declared itself an autonomous state and remained relatively stable compared to south-central Somali regions. It is, however, not seeking recognition as an independent country.

Somaliland and Puntland have long-standing disputes over the Sool and Sanaag border regions that separate the two. Due to the disputes, their troops occasionally clash.

In January 2018, Somaliland forces took control of Tukarak after a brief fighting. Puntland troops have tried to retake the village.

What has been the reaction?

The United Nations Security Council has expressed concern over the  fighting, calling on both sides to stop hostilities and engage in dialogue.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has urged the two sides to halt their fire and start dialogue.

The UN, African Union, European Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the US and the UK have said in a joint statement that they are “gravely concerned over the… armed clashes” in and around the village.

Somaliland President Musa Bihi Abdi has said he wants peace along the border with the semi-autonomous Puntland region, describing the recent clashes there as unfortunate.

The office of Puntland’s President Abdiweli Ali Gas accused Somaliland of launching “another aggressive offensive”.

Is there any ongoing mediation?

No. In 2011, Somaliland and Puntland officials met in Ethiopia to try to resolve the border dispute. But the talks were unfruitful.

Somalia’s federal government and the UN have called for ceasefire and a return to dialogue.

What is likely to happen next?

Women take part in a past independence celebration in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland

Many stakeholders are urging the international community to intervene and help ensure peace between Somaliland and Puntland.

While on a visit to Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, on 11 June 2018, UN envoy for Somalia Michael Keating called for calm and dialogue.

Somaliland’s president has said that it was unfortunate that Somalis, who share language, culture and religion, were fighting over land.

Unless the disputes are resolved once and for all by a fair arbiter, Sool and Sanaag regions are likely to continue witnessing occasional violent confrontations between Somaliland and Puntland forces.

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