The president of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) addressed the Puntland Parliament on Saturday, in a remarkable speech that delved into issues of national security, natural resources and the upcoming presidential elections in Puntland, Radio Garowe reported.
Regional officials led by Puntland leader Adde Muse, Members of Parliament, traditional elders and civil society welcomed Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf and his federal government delegation, which included Oil Minister Mohamud Ali Salah, at the airport in Garowe, capital of the northeastern State of Puntland.
It was the Somali leader’s first trip to his home region of Puntland in more than 14 months, as the region’s security and economic woes worsened.
During his 40-minute speech to parliament, President Yusuf focused primarily on security in Puntland and was noticeably critical of the Muse administration’s failed policies on local security.
“The assassinations in [Puntland] towns is aimed at destroying Puntland,” President Yusuf said, suggesting to the crowd that the perpetrators’ goal is to destroy the TFG by creating instability in Puntland, where Yusuf’s interim government enjoys most domestic support.
“If you want peace, establish a power to be feared,” Yusuf said, warning: “But if you want to be harassed everyday, then forget security and focus on the economy and exploration for oil and minerals.”
The Somali leader spoke about his tenure in Puntland (1998-2004), saying that there were “seven regions” under Puntland control when he left, but that “some regions are now missing,” an indirect reference to Somaliland’s takeover of disputed Sool region last year.
President Yusuf spoke briefly about the issue of natural resources, which remains a controversial topic in war-torn Somalia.
Since 2005, Puntland leader Muse has made it his top policy to pursue exploration of the region’s unproven oil and mineral reserves, despite opposition from local clans, local MPs and TFG Oil Minister Salah.
According to the Somali president, the State of Puntland has the authority to continue ongoing exploration activities in the region.
However, President Yusuf underscored that it is the “exclusive responsibility” of the Federal Government to manage production of the country’s natural resources and ensure profit-sharing for all Somali peoples.
Analysts say that the Somali President’s statement is consistent with the federal constitution, but strongly contradicts a Puntland oil law that divided the regional parliament in March.
Further, President Yusuf expressed his dissatisfaction with a new constitution for Puntland, which has been condemned by lawmakers and traditional elders, but enjoys tacit support from Muse.
During his Garowe speech, the Somali President said that “now is not the right time” for Puntland politicians to debate about a new constitution while rising insecurity threatens the regional government.
He also suggested that Puntland wait for completion and ratification of a new Federal Constitution, which will become the law of the land across Somalia.
Somalia’s leader said he advised Puntland President Muse against extending his four-year term, suggesting that such a development would reignite civil war in the region.
“The [Puntland] elections must be held on time,” President Yusuf stated repeatedly to the crowd’s cheers.
The Somali leader suggested that the political atmosphere in Puntland today is “similar to tensions” that led to the 2002 civil war between himself when he was the disputed governor of Puntland and President Muse, the region’s current ruler.
He advised Muse and the Puntland government to avoid such a scenario and to “allow the people to freely elect whoever they want” for president in January 2009.
A second round of reconciliation between the TFG and an Islamist-dominated opposition group known as the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) will conclude “by the end of July” in Saudi Arabia, when the two sides are expected to finalize the details of a “security agreement,” according to President Yusuf.
“We have already established Joint Political and Security Committees” to steer implementation of the UN-brokered Djibouti Agreement, he added.
The Somali leader acknowledged that there is “some opposition” to the Djibouti Agreement, but remarked that “they are in the minority.”
Eritrea-based Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is on the U.S. and U.N. terror lists, has opposed the Djibouti Agreement on grounds it provides “no guarantee” that Ethiopian troops will withdraw from Somali soil.