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Somalia: Minister defends Puntland consultative conference outcome after FGS protest

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online
Mohamed Abdirahman Dhabanad, Puntland's interior minister speaking at a press confrence on Saturday March 21

GAROWE, Puntland - The joint communiqué issued after Puntland consultative conference was not mutilated, officials have said, despite complaints from a few FGS officials who were in attendance.

Under the stewardship of President Said Deni, thousands of delegates attended the three-day forum which brought together elders, leaders, the state's representatives in the FGS in Garowe last week.

Mohamed Abdirahman Dhabanad, Puntland's interior minister has defended the outcome of the conference, insisting that "nothing was manipulated" during his Saturday press conference in Garowe.

Dhabanad, who was accompanied by his cabinet colleagues, said: "Most participants agreed with the outcome" including those who "didn't attend" and members of the Diaspora community.

“The meeting was not meant to be a stage for talks between Puntland and FGS but was a consultative conference for Puntland. There was no individual exclusively invited to have his agenda in it,” he said.

Garowe conference was staged at the time Federal Member States [FMS] are struggling to strike a cordial working relationship with FGS, whose leader, President Farmajo, has been accused of "secret plot" to dismantle the regional administrative units.

Over 18,000 guests graced the forum among them current and former Puntland leaders, elders and a delegation from Mogadishu, which culminated on Tuesday with a host of demands, officials said.

Among others, the delegates called for "urgent dialogue with federal leadership" to solve the electoral and petroleum laws stalemate which threatens to derail the progress made by Somalia so far. Sharing of resources has been contentious, with Mogadishu being blamed for "opaqueness" in handling the quest.

Somalia is set to go for first universal suffrage elections in 2020-21, but the delegates in Garowe expressed concerns, calling for "immediate suspension" of such plans since "they will lead to unnecessary term extensions".

The radical changes, delegates said, would be appropriate if implemented by the next government. Farmajo is set to seek re-election, although critics accuse him of "plan to extend the term" without due process.

Also, in the communiqué, the state asked FGS to stop "unnecessary interference" against federal states, citing the recent deployment of SNA troops in Gedo, Jubaland for "illegal" take over.

And even more compelling, Puntland had threatened to invoke article 4 of its constitution should the stalemate remain unresolved, which gives proper guidelines for secession. The state was created in 1998.

But Ahmed Isse Awad, the foreign affairs minister who represented FGS in Garowe conference, rejected the proposals in the communiqué, terming them "unacceptable" in a shocking presser last week, despite having been present when the communiqué was issued.

Already, Deni has expressed interest in visiting Mogadishu to "lobby for FGS and FMS" leaders to attend a more inclusive conference that would bring together all Somali leaders. His strategy was backed by the United Nations on Saturday.

Deni, who is pretty concerned with Somalia's unending squabbles, had said the Garowe Conference, which he's ready to host, would determine the country's future given that dialogue would be given a chance.

While certain quarters believe that he's set to meet Farmajo, Dhabanad dismissed claims that the state leader will meet FGS officials, adding that "it's all about inviting stakeholders" to the much anticipated Garowe II conference.

The lack of synergy between the FGS and federal states has threatened integration in Somalia, a country that has struggled with inter-clan conflicts and the most recent Al-Shabaab threat.


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