Armed factions in Somalia’s Puntland agree ceasefire after clash

Dozens of people had been killed after the Puntland Parliament voted to change the region’s voting system.

Map of Somalia showing Puntland and Somaliland regions
Map of Somalia showing Puntland and Somaliland regions [Al Jazeera]

Armed factions in Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland have agreed to a ceasefire, a local leader told Reuters news agency on Wednesday, a day after at least 26 people were killed and 30 injured in clashes over proposed changes to the region’s voting system.

Regional forces and fighters loyal to the opposition fought fierce street battles in Garowe, the Puntland capital, on Tuesday as the local parliament debated constitutional changes that include the introduction of one-man-one-vote elections.

A group of traditional elders said they helped negotiate a pause in the fighting on Wednesday. Local residents said the sound of gunfire had stopped, fighters had left the streets and shops reopened.

“We talked to the two sides fighting in Garowe. They accepted the ceasefire and we separated the troops,” Islaan Isse, a traditional leader in Garowe, told a news conference.

Opposition groups in Puntland, which lies along the country’s northeast Indian Ocean coast, accuse the region’s leader Said Abdullahi Deni of seeking to extend his term in office beyond January next year, or help tip the ballot in his favour. Deni has not commented publicly on the allegations.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud late on Tuesday called on both sides to silence their guns and return to the negotiating table.

An arid oil-rich region on the northeastern coast of Somalia, Puntland declared autonomy in 1998, and relations with the central government in Mogadishu have often been tense.

Puntland is one of a number of autonomous and semi-autonomous regions in Somalia, where no central authority has fully controlled the entire territory for decades. Clan rivalries and lingering grouses due to colonial legacies have also exacerbated political divisions.

Somaliland, the nearby autonomous region that seceded from Somalia in 1991, is disputing ownership of the city of Las Anod, which the Dhulbahante clan of Puntland claims as its capital. Since February 6, when fighting began in the city, more than 300 people have died and approximately 200,000 have been displaced.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies