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2012 article from Dissident Nation website.


Puntlanders have an expression when dealing with their Somali countrymen; β€˜Mogadishu may be a pot of boiling water, but in that pot is good meat, and getting your hands burnt is a small price to pay for the reward.’ In other words, the south of Somalia may be in disrepair, but the people and the leaders of Puntland understand fully that the situation will not always be as it is today, and that participation in national politics is key to survival and progress.

At different times in Somalia’s contemporary history, the relationship between Puntland and the southern half of the country has been both confrontational and peaceful. For the duration of modern Somalia, the two sides deployed both force and diplomacy in order to find common ground. This theme has been at play ever since the first generation of Puntlanders fled drought and war in their native regions for the greener pastures of southern Somalia more than a century ago.

During all of that time, and despite the ease with which Puntland could lock itself away from the rest of Somalia like its neighbor Somaliland, the thought of isolation or secession never came into the public consciousness of Puntlanders.

But this changed sometime around 2008-2009 when Puntland’s former strongman Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was relieved of his duties as Somalia’s president in favor of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) group. Within a year of President Yusuf’s departure Puntland had adopted the first official regional flag in its history.

Even during the reign of Puntland’s relatively autonomous sultans during the colonial era nothing more than a provincial seal was used to signify administrative autonomy. After the adoption of a flag in 2009, Puntland still held tight to its belief in a united Somalia, and continues to play a strong role in the Transitional Federal Government.

A year after the adoption of the flag a new group emerged, calling itself the Puntland Independence Movement (PIM). Their stated goal is the separation of Puntland from the rest of Somalia, citing that the semi-autonomous state’s attempts at stabilizing Somalia have hurt the local economy and severely weakened security.

The PIM are not wrong in their assessment. Shortly after deploying large numbers of troops to Mogadishu in 2007, Puntland lost most of its territory in the Sool province as a result of an opportunistic Somaliland encroaching on its western border. A thinned-out security force also meant rising instability in the region. From around 2007 to recent months, Puntland experienced a spate of assassinations, piracy, human smuggling, and internal clan warfare.

Following the complete pullout of Puntland troops from Mogadishu in 2009 and the inauguration of Abdirahman Farole as president, Puntland’s fortunes began to change for the better. Within two years Farole had completely eradicated piracy from its largest strongholds, reformed the security force to deal with humanitarian crises and pressure militant cells, and he succeeded in brokering the end of Somalia’s most bloody clan feud.

First appearing in 2010, the PIM has created a small online presence but hasn’t come out on any public medium, and its origin and leadership are unmentioned. The legitimacy and seriousness of the organization is questionable, but it doesn’t take away from the reality of there being an actual independence movement in Puntland and among the Puntland diaspora.

Politically, any allusion to secession in Puntland is considered dangerous. Unlike its neighbor Somaliland, Puntland’s pragmatism has allowed it to benefit from a dual-track mindset in dealing with its own development as well as the status of the entire Somali state. And it is this pragmatism and forwardness in working with the rest of the Somali people that Puntlanders pride themselves on.

But, in deviating from this old standard, Puntland’s president, Abdirahman Farole stated in an address at the Somali Women’s Convention in Garowe this past week that if the constitution doesn’t work out as originally agreed upon, Puntland would not be the weakest link. While not in any way a separatist declaration, it definitely points to a planned regimen of isolation for Puntland.

Historically, Puntland benefited from its union with the rest of the Somali nation because of its strategic trade position. To this day, Puntland’s Bosaso port caters to Somali populations in Somaliland, central Somalia, and even Ethiopia’s Somali-dominated territories. Losing this huge customer base as a result of sour political relations would seriously damage Puntland’s economy.

Some say, that despite no clear victories in his quest to unlock Puntland’s energy potential, Farole may have a contingency plan that gives Puntland an economic lifeline to fall back on if Mogadishu returns to its days of anarchy.
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