Somali leader urges calm after clashes in disputed north

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed attends the East Africa's regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Summit on Somali refugees on March 25, 2017 in Nairobi. (AFP)
Updated 26 May 2018
0

Somali leader urges calm after clashes in disputed north

  • Tensions in the unrecognized breakaway northern state of Somaliland and the semi-autonomous Somali state of Puntland erupted into violence Thursday
  • The clashes erupted after a major storm brought strong winds and flash flooding to Puntland and Somaliland as well as other areas of the Horn of Africa nation

MOGADISHU: Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has urged troops from two rival provinces to halt their fire after heavy clashes in a disputed northern border region left several dead.
Tensions in the unrecognized breakaway northern state of Somaliland and the semi-autonomous Somali state of Puntland erupted into violence Thursday around the border town of Tukaraq in Sool, a disputed desert region claimed by both sides.
“I want to send a plea to the Somalis who are shedding blood in Tukaraq town: I call for an urgent cessation of fire and an end to the bloodshed,” said the president at a mosque on Friday.
Both sides blamed the other for starting the violence without confirming any casualties, although one local elder said troops from both camps had been killed.
“More than 20 soldiers from the two sides died in the clashes and many more were wounded,” Mohamed Hajji Jama told AFP on Friday.
“There is still military tension.”
“The situation is calm now and both forces from the two regions are in their original positions,” said Abdirahman Osman, an elder in another nearby village.
The clashes erupted after a major storm brought strong winds and flash flooding to Puntland and Somaliland as well as other areas of the Horn of Africa nation, killing at least 21 people, figures provided by the UN’s OCHA humanitarian arm show.
Fighting had also broken out just before the storm, on May 15, in what local elders said were the heaviest clashes in months, saying unconfirmed reports put the death toll at nearly 30 dead.
According to OCHA, the UN’s humanitarian arm, the bloodshed forced around 10,000 people out of their homes, most of them women and children, and “further (complicated) an already complex humanitarian picture.”


Colombia’s new president Ivan Duque is an anti-FARC hard-liner

Updated 6 min 4 sec ago
0

Colombia’s new president Ivan Duque is an anti-FARC hard-liner

BOGOTA: Ivan Duque’s election victory in Colombia makes him the youngest president in his country’s modern history, and gives him a strong mandate to overhaul the government’s fragile peace deal with the former rebel group FARC.
He campaigned on a ticket to rewrite the peace deal signed with the FARC by outgoing center-right president Juan Manuel Santos. His vanquished leftist opponent, Gustavo Petro, supports the deal.
A lawyer with a degree in economics, Duque represents many Colombian voters who were outraged by concessions given to the former rebels, including reduced sentences for those who confessed to their crimes.
He has vowed to make “structural changes” to the 2016 agreement, which led to the group’s disarmament and conversion into a political party.
“What we Colombians want is that those who have committed crimes against humanity be punished by proportional penalties... so that there is no impunity,” Duque told AFP during the campaign.
He will succeed Santos on August 7, a few days after his 42nd birthday.
Latin America’s longest-running conflict left more than 260,000 people dead, nearly 83,000 missing and some 7.4 million forced from their homes.

Duque has railed against the Colombian left, voicing fears that it would drag the country into the same economic quagmire in which neighboring Venezuela is mired.
The left in turn accuses him of being a puppet of Alvaro Uribe, the former two-term president who took a hard line against the left when he was last in power eight years ago.
“Nobody knows if he has his own criteria or if he will obey orders,” Fabian Acuna, a political analyst at Cali’s Javeriana University, said of Duque.
Although a newcomer to politics — he has been a senator since 2014 — politics is in his blood.
Born in Bogota on August 1, 1976, his father was a liberal politician.
But it was Santos, the outgoing president, who took Duque under his wing in the 1990s as a financial adviser. Later, he worked for 13 years for the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank.
Today, Duque finds himself in opposition to Santos over the peace deal.
“He is very dynamic when it comes to public relations, very clever,” said a former co-worker at the IDB.
While working in the United States, Duque met Uribe, who persuaded him to run for the Senate.
“Ivan is very intelligent and I’m sure he has a bright future ahead of him,” wrote Uribe in his 2012 book “No Lost Causes.”
But for Roy Barreras, a senator from Santos’s party, “a president must have experience, autonomy, political capacity — all missing with Ivan, who is, as everyone admits, a good little guy.”
A father of three, Duque used to play bass in a rock band, but his relaxed image contrasts sharply with his conservative ideals — he is a staunch opponent of gay marriage, euthanasia and the decriminalization of drugs.
He has strong support from the far-right as well as an increasingly influential evangelical Christian bloc.