Somalia: Puntland's President-elect gives first interview since winning election
GAROWE, Puntland - The President-elect of Somalia's northeastern Puntland state, Said Abdullahi Deni gave his first interview to BBC Somali service since his election last Tuesday, Garowe Online reports.
During the Interview on Wednesday night, the newly elected President revealed where he stands on a number of the issues, including a war on terrorist groups, Somaliland incursion, and the Inter-state council.
- Somaliland incursion -
Deni has accused the breakaway Somaliland of violating and occupying Puntland territory and called on authorities in Hargeisa to withdraw their troops peacefully and without any precondition and forthwith.
“We have no land dispute with Somaliland administration, but it has violated the Puntland territory. Our intent is not going to war, but, we hope they will leave peacefully and return to their areas," said Deni.
The self-declared republic of Somaliland and Puntland are locked in a standoff over Sool and Sanaag areas, leading to deadly clashes between both sides and have massed soldiers in the contested areas.
Referring to the territorial dispute, the president said: “If they become English – we are not Italians. This is not the land under the Italian and British colony before the 1960s. This is an independent nation".
The conflict boiled in January last year after Somaliland forces seized control of the strategic town of Tukaraq in Sool region, situated some 30 kilometers south of Sool provincial capital of Las Anod.
Following the outbreak of the civil war in 1991, Somaliland in northwestern Somalia unilaterally declared independence from the rest of the country, however, it has failed to gain international recognition.
- War on Terrorism -
The president-elect vowed that his incoming government will 'spare no effort' to preserve the safety and security of Puntland and defeat Al-Shabab and the ISIL-affiliated faction in the mountains in Bari region.
"We will do everything in our power to fight the terrorism, with the support of the public and the International community as well as everyone one who wishes to assist us in this war," said Deni.
In recent months, the US has repeatedly hit extremists aligned with ISIL in Puntland, northeast of Somalia, as part of an expanded American war against the terror groups in the Horn of Africa country.
The militants are led by ex- Al-Shabab cleric Abdiqadir Mumin, who switched allegiance from Al Qaeda to ISIL in October 2015 and was named a "global terrorist" by the US State Department in August 2018.
- The Inter-State Council and the rift with FGS -
When asked about the ongoing political tension between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the country’s regional states, Deni said Puntland ready for a solution, in accordance with the constitution.
He stated that the differences will continue as the country is in the reconstruction stage and the constitution is not complete, adding that Puntland will work towards the establishment of a federal state with a strong foundation.
"Puntland was established with an aim to be part of the Federal system, and has sacrificed life, wealth and time for this and has a responsibility to preserve it. We don't want the FGS to be wiped out," he added.
The President-elect of Puntland has defended the existence of the Inter-state council that brings together the five Federal Member States in the country who are currently at loggerheads with FGS.
"The Constitution allows all states in the country to cooperate in their own interests and that is not unconstitutional," said the newly elected Puntland President during the interview with BBC Somali Service.
Finally, President Deni who is yet to take over the power from his predecessor Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas following last Tuesday's vote has promised to hold democratic locals elections in his first year in office.