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Last Updated: Feb 11, 2014 - 5:11:05 AM
Puntland leader urges TFG leaders to 'quit dispute, work for Somalia'

The president of Somalia's stable region of Puntland has called on the leaders of the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to stop their dispute with each other, Radio Garowe reports.

Puntland President Abdirahman Farole
Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, Puntland's leader, told the BBC Somali Service during a Sunday interview that "Puntland is neutral and the best party" to help resolve the political rift between TFG President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and the Prime Minister, Mr. Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmake.

"This dispute is bad for Somalia and we are saddened by it. Somalia does not need any more political infighting especially when there is a UN meeting in New York on September 24th that will focus on Somalia," said President Farole, who is currently in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

The president stated that he personally spoke with President Sharif and Prime Minister Sharmake and urged both men to restrain themselves and to stop the dispute, adding: "However, it seems to me that the President [Sharif] is not ready to find a solution and I could tell this from his words."

In recent weeks, President Sharif has pressured the TFG parliament to call up Prime Minister Sharmake for a confidence vote, but the Prime Minister has resisted.

Farole continued: "I told each one of them that this dispute is not in the interests of Somalia or in your personal interests. I told them to control the anger. This government [TFG] has a short time in office remaining and it should not be changed. This is also the position of countries who are interested in Somali affairs."

He indicated that the governments of Ethiopia and Djibouti have also expressed their position regarding this dispute with the TFG leaders.

"All the countries are united. The dispute should be stopped and the government should not be changed, they all said. Even countries with troops in Somalia [Uganda and Burundi] as well as Western powers have all adopted the same position," President Farole said.

Canceled parliament vote

President Farole said he supports TFG Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden's decision to cancel a parliament session Saturday that was supposed to be a confidence vote for Prime Minister Sharmake's government. The move reportedly angered President Sharif, according to various sources.

"We welcome this step because we do not want to see a repeat of the 2008 parliament vote in Baidoa [former seat of TFG Parliament] that ended in disorder," President Farole said, while referring to a controversial vote against the former TFG leader, Mr. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

President Yusuf resigned in Dec. 2008 following months-long infighting among TFG leaders. The new TFG, under President Sharif, came to power in Jan. 2009 under the terms of the Djibouti Agreement, which Yusuf previously rejected.

"I think the Speaker does not want a repeat of those events and does not want to see any official lose his job through illegal means," President Farole said.

"Both officials [Sharif and Sharmake] came to office as part of the Djibouti Agreement. But the President says he cannot work with the Prime Minister. They are both on the same boat and they should work together for Somalia," Puntland's leader said.

Farole warned that, if the dispute continues, it could reach the level of the TFG dispute that eventually led to President Yusuf's resignation.

Pressure is on Sharif

Puntland's president said Prime Minister Sharmake "cannot be expected to do more" about Mogadishu, where armed groups are fighting to topple the TFG and its African Union backers.

"There is nothing big that Omar Abdirashid [Ali Sharmake] can do about the conditions in Mogadishu, other than to strengthen ties between the TFG and Puntland, which he did in Aug. 2009 when he signed a cooperation agreement [Galkayo Accord]," President Farole said, adding: "The pressure to do more in Mogadishu was expected from the President."

In 2008, in the build-up to the controversial Djibouti Agreement, many people said Sheikh Sharif as TFG President could secure Mogadishu because it is his native region, unlike ex-President Yusuf whose home region was Puntland, in northeastern Somalia.

Nearly two years later, Al Shabaab and other insurgents have gained control over more regions in southern Somalia and now control most districts in Mogadishu, while the TFG is cornered to a few districts and protected by a 6,300-strong AU peacekeeping force, known as AMISOM.

President Farole went on to deliver a similar criticism to the TFG parliamentarians, whose native regions are under the control of anti-government forces, like Al Shabaab.

"Those men in parliament [MPs] who are noisy and demanding that so-and-so resign and who act in ways that dishonors the parliament…they should know that they cannot visit their own native regions and so they should rethink their actions," President Farole said.

Puntland's neutrality

When asked if his comments will be seen as biased, President Farole said Puntland's government remains neutral and only wants to see the success of the TFG in Mogadishu.

"We are the best party to help resolve this dispute. If Omar Abdirashid [Ali Sharmake] is in the wrong, we [Puntland] can rein him in. Also, we have a good relationship with the President [Sharif] so no party is more neutral than us [Puntland]," President Farole said.

Prime Minister Sharmake, who hails from Puntland, was instrumental in closing the gap in relations between the TFG and Puntland by signing the Galkayo Accords in mid-2009.

Since 2004, Puntland has been the TFG's strongest domestic backer, as Somaliland in northwest Somalia unilaterally declared independence in 1991, and the rest of the country south of Puntland is mostly controlled by anti-TFG groups like Al Shabaab.

President Farole said Puntland stands to see a united and federal Somalia that can lead the country out of the decades of war into a future of stability and progress.

He said: "We are not happy that the ongoing dispute continues and all Somalis are not happy [about it]…Puntland wants Somali unity and re-integration. Even those who declared independence [Somaliland] we love for them to reintegrate [with Somalia]. The armed conflict in the southern regions should be resolved with a peaceful agreement and we would love to see the establishment of federal states [in the southern regions]. We are working towards these goals."

Puntland, located in northeastern Somalia, considers itself a federal state in a future Federal Republic of Somalia. The region has its own elected government, civil servants and security forces, and has resisted the violent expansion of spread of Al Shabaab and other anti-government forces.

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