UN Special Representative discusses political and security developments in Puntland
Garowe – Carrying on her regular engagements with the Federal Member States, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia Catriona Laing, today visited Puntland, where she met with its leadership, political actors and civil society.
Among the issues discussed were Puntland’s relations with the Federal Government of Somalia, the crisis in Laascaanood, and elections.
At a joint media encounter with Puntland’s President Said Abdullahi Deni, the UN Special Representative recognised Puntland’s leaders' efforts to reach out to different groups. Ms. Laing encouraged the President to expand this outreach to “not just opposition leaders, elders and clan leaders, but also people who have a stake – the youth, the women and scholars and – to include them to ensure that when the elections take place there's consensus and of course peaceful elections.”
Following the successful one person, one vote elections in May this year, Puntland plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in February 2024, as proposed by the newly formed Puntland Electoral Commission (PEC).
The top UN official for Somalia commended “Puntland for being an island of stability, for leading the way on democracy through the successful district level elections."
Ms. Laing reaffirmed the United Nations' commitment to work with the government and people of Puntland towards peaceful parliamentary and presidential elections recognised by all the stakeholders.
Federal Government and Puntland relations
Amidst Somalia’s ongoing peacebuilding and state-building efforts, the UN Special Representative and President Deni discussed the relationship between the Federal Member States (FMS) and the Federal Government.
In May this year, members of the National Consultative Council (NCC) – with the exception of Puntland – issued a communique and a new agreement focused on democratisation. In this and the previous NCC meeting in March, Puntland President Deni had not been in attendance.
“I was encouraged to hear that the President [Deni] is continuing to be willing to engage with the President [Hassan Sheikh Mohamud] and eventually more widely thinking about the kind of issues that need to be on the table to ensure Puntland's views are represented,” said the UN official.
At the Garowe media encounter, Ms. Laing also spoke about the crisis in Laascaanood which resulted in about 280,000 people being displaced. The conflict which erupted in February this year caused the loss of many lives and damaged the livelihoods of the affected population.
“Firstly, to commend Puntland for reaching out and supporting the many IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] who came here from Sool region, up to 100,000. I know that's been a big responsibility and we thank Puntland for receiving those people warmly,” said the Special Representative.
In October, Ms Laing updated the security council on the situation in Laascaanood, saying that while the situation was calm at the time, and people were returning home, there had been ongoing conflict resolution efforts to mitigate the potential for a relapse into violence.
“My team and I have had numerous engagements with all key stakeholders, including President Bihi, President Deni of Puntland, elders, the Dhulbahante leaders, and the newly formed Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (SSC) Committee,” Ms Laing told the Security Council, adding, “Our key messages to all parties are to push for an immediate exchange of detainees, a commitment to no further violence and to the start of dialogue.”
While in Garowe, Ms. Laing also met with leaders of opposition parties and representatives of local civil society organisations.