Somalia: Puntland President speaks about key state issues

Puntland

GAROWE, Puntland - The President of Somalia's northeastern semi-autonomous region of Puntland, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali "Gaas" spoke about Bossaso port expansion project, Gulf crises, a political rift in central regions, ONLF leader's handover and dismissal of a minister over the issue, Garowe Online reports.

In an interview with SBC TV, President Ali said Puntland has made enormous progress in security and economic sectors, airports, harbors and the infrastructure.

Despite this development, the region still faces numerous challenges, including the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabaab and Pro-ISIL militants, who remain a vicious threat to security in Puntland, according to Ali.

Af Urur attack;

Puntland President, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali "Gaas" has talked about the recent simultaneous Al Shabaab attacks in Af Urur village, near Galgala mountains, located approximately 60 miles southwest of Bossaso city, the regional capital of Bari province.

The raid on a military base in Af Urur on 8 June 2017, was the deadliest terrorist attack against the region's security forces in single day, since the autonomous state's foundation in 1998.

President Ali has described the attack as "Unfortunate and surprising" from Al Shabaab group. He said the security of the area has been tightened and the troops were put on high alert following the assault.

Bossaso port Expansion Project;

President Ali has revealed details about the infrastructure project aimed to expand the port of Bossaso city, saying it is one of the legacies of former Somali military regime led by late Gen Mohamed Siad Barre.

Ali said the project was obtained in an easy way, adding that if it will not be accomplished and benefited would be "misfortune and regrettable". He has warned against opposition against the public interest. 

"The anti-government opposition the development should be separated categorically, I can describe the folks against Puntland progress and critics as idiots," he added.

The President said the people holding meetings in Bossaso and against the expansion of the seaport are opponents, serving for their personal interest, instead of the public and economic augmentation.

Last April, Puntland has signed a deal to develop and manage Bossaso port with Dubai-based P&O Ports. Ali stated that the infrastructure project will make a great contribution to the region’s economy.

Puntland stance towards Gulf Crises;

President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali "Gaas" discussed why Puntland has disagreed Somalia's Federal government over the Gulf diplomatic crises, and sided with the Saudi Arabia led alliance against Qatar.

Ali said Puntland has issued the decision after the central government in Mogadishu took a neutral position on GCC crises, without making any consultation with the Somali Federal members states.

He pointed out that Puntland has no relation with Qatar, but, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have historic and strategic relations with Somalia and helped Somalis in many areas, including humanitarian affairs.

"We don't know where Qatar is located, and we have no any commerce and economic relationship with it. Doha only hosts and funds Atam, former Al Shabaab chief in Galgala hills," said Puntland President.

Continuing, Ali has praised the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for its role in Puntland, especially the support for Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF)  and the DP World's ongoing infrastructure projects.

The democratizing System in Puntland;

President Ali rejected a blame that his administration has been slow in the democratizing System in Puntland, saying the government is working to complete the plan before his term ends in early 2019.

He said the remaining 15 months is enough for the program as the first Political Party was launched in Puntland, that was a good start for the state's journey to hold one person, one vote election in 2019.

The tasks ahead, include public registration, the election of the city councils and among others.

The refusal and devalue of Somali Shilling banknote;

Puntland President has blamed Al Shabaab for being behind the refusal of Somali shillings by shops and businesses across Puntland to receive local bank notes, causing extra hardship for ordinary households.

The markets across Puntland had been flooded with old currency brought from central Somalia, sparking high inflation in food prices and Foreign exchange rate, according to President Ali.

After numerous efforts, Ali stated that his government has achieved to end the Currency crises in Puntland, but, has suffered economic losses.  

Businesses have only been accepting US dollars, resulting in tens of thousands of poorer people who do not have access to dollars to face hardships in life due to the rejection of the currency in markets.

However, the current Puntland government has been accused of printing of fake Somali shilling notes in 2015 to offset salary arrears for the military who had mutinied a number of times over unpaid salaries.

The illegal fishing;

Puntland President, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali "Gaas" talked about the illegal fishing off the coast of the semi-autonomous region, adding that he declared the problem to be a national disaster in 2014.

Ali said Puntland Maritime Police forces (PMPF) are making efforts and leave no stone unturned to end the illegal fishing off Puntland coastline by foreign fishermen.

Local Fishermen have continuously complained about foreign trawlers who are doing the illegal fishing and dumping waste. Some fishermen have gone missing while others are tortured by the trawlers who at times spray boiling water from cannons.

Mudug conflict;

President Ali said the recurrent conflict in Mudug region is senseless, and called for a lasting solution to the violence, reiterating that Puntland and its people will work towards peace and stability.

ONFL leader's transfer and firing minister;

Ali said Puntland has nothing do with the recent transfer of Abdikarim Sheikh Muse known as "Qalbi Dhagah" to Ethiopia by the Federal government of Somalia, a move that sparked public outrage.

He added that Minister Gurhan was sacked and removed from office for supporting Qalbi Dhagah's handover, without government consent and consultation with top leaders.

Finally, President Ali has called on the public to work the security and stand together and fight against anyone against the ongoing development in the region.

GAROWE ONLINE