The recent verdict that was handed down hastily few weeks ago by a military court to a group of suspected military camp assailants in Hargeisa could lead Somaliland back to civil war .
The court verdict was swift and harsh and the defendants didn’t get a chance for legal representation.
Somaliland government argues that the men attacked a military camp and caused deaths although both the accused and the military were involved in the incident and exchanged heavy gunfire.
The cause of the conflict was a land dispute that is common in Somaliland. The disgruntled attackers who are remnants of the Somali National Movement (SNM) felt betrayed because the strip of land that they have been occupying for the last 21 years belonged to their grandparents. They were informed that Somaliland government was taking the land from them and selling it to a local businessman.
The matter was reported to the Somaliland authorities before the incident happened. But local sources say that Somaliland government provoked the attack by placing army around the disputed area before a planned negotiation with the would be attackers took place .
The incident caused unnecessary deaths of three army personnel and four civilians including innocent pregnant woman and a child hit by stray bullets .
The dispute could become national if the verdict of killing the 17 suspects by firing squad is carried out. This is simply because, this young nation is still in transition from a coalition of clans to full democracy. Any provocation of a clan conflict could take the nation back into civil war , keeping in mind that all the accused are from one sub-clan of a major stake-holder in the country. Also, Somali politicians who don't want Somaliland secession could exploit any Somaliland clan conflict and break or weaken Somaliland clan coalition entity.
It would , therefore , be advisable to Somaliland government to let civilian courts take over the case and let the legal processes take its own routes rather than letting military tribunals threaten the public with death penalties and closed room verdicts.
Back ground of Somalia and Somaliland :
Since 1991, no central government has controlled Somalia , despite several attempts to establish a unified central government. The self-governing region of Puntland covers the northeast of the country. It declares itself to be autonomous, but not independent from Somalia. The Islamist Al-Shabaab controls a large part of the south of the country. Without a central government, Somalia's inhabitants subsequently reverted to local forms of conflict resolution, either civil, Islamic, or customary law. The internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government controls only parts of the capital and some territory in the centre of the nation, but has re-established national institutions such as the Military of Somalia, and is working towards eventual national elections in August , 2012, when the interim government's mandate expires.
After the collapse of the central government in Somalia in 1991, Somaliland ( Former British Protectorate ) , led by the Somali National Movement (SNM), declared independence from the rest of Somalia on May 18 , 1991. Since then , Somaliland has held two presidential elections with smooth transition of power and one parliamentary election.