Qatar, Somalia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States have expressed concern over fighting around a disputed town in Somalia’s northern breakaway region of Somaliland, where at least 34 people were killed in clashes in early February.
Tension has risen between Somaliland and local clan forces in Lascanood since the end of last year, and heavy fighting has broken out around the town, which straddles a key trade route.
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“The partners expressed concern about the ongoing conflict in and around Lascanood and called on all parties to adhere to the ceasefire, de-escalate, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and engage in constructive and peaceful dialogue,” the six countries said in a joint statement released by the US State Department on Tuesday.
Fighting around the town erupted in early February after elders in three provinces of Somaliland – including Sool Province, where Lascanood is located – announced that they wanted to rejoin Somalia and issued a statement pledging support for Somalia’s federal government.
Somaliland, a region of 4.5 million people, claimed independence from Somalia in 1991 and has been relatively stable.
Somaliland’s quest for statehood has gone unrecognised, however, leaving it poor and isolated internationally even though it prints its own currency, issues its own passports and elects its own government.
Somaliland authorities announced a ceasefire on February 10, but both sides in the conflict accused each other of violating it.
Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, director of the main hospital in Lascanood, told the AFP news agency by telephone last week that the medical facility had been bombarded.
“They have destroyed the electricity system of the hospital, the oxygen system, the blood bank, the office of the human resources and other parts of the hospital building,” he told reporters.
Somaliland, through affiliated media, denied of involvement in attacks on hospitals and schools in Lascanood.
We want to make it very clear to the people of Somaliland and the international community that National Army have never targeted community facilities like hospitals and schools. pic.twitter.com/Ix1THyYppr
— Somaliland National TV (@SLNTV) February 28, 2023
The UN said last week that more than 185,000 people had been uprooted from their homes owing to the clashes, with aid workers struggling to respond to the situation due to inadequate resources.
Women and children accounted for an estimated 89 percent of the displaced population, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement. Many were reportedly seeking shelter under trees or inside schools, which have been forced to shut.
In addition to those displaced inside Somaliland, more than 60,000 others have fled to Ethiopia’s Somali region to escape the violence, the UN’s refugee agency said.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk this month called on authorities to conduct a “credible and impartial investigation” into the clashes and warned that they compounded the already fragile humanitarian situation in the region.