Sunday, August 15, 2010

Atomically-Charged Sheikh Atom and Faroole’s Violation of Refugee Protocol

Somalia1Image by IRIN Photos via Flickr

Somalia's Puntland regional state under Abdirahman Faroole is in flagrant violation of the international refugee protocol for forcefully repatriating refugees from central and southern Somalia to the city of Galkayo. To avenge the escalation of violence and assassination of political figures perpetuated by unknown factions in towns and cities across the autonomous state of Puntland, President Faroole's administration has embarked on a sweeping security swoop that target innocent refugees from southern and central Somalia.

According to a UNHCR report carried by AFP news service, approximately 900 refugees have been forcefully repatriated to the city of Galkayo so far and the figure could be rising. After being uprooted from their homes in Puntland and after being subjected to brutal punishment and harsh treatment by the police in Puntland, these poor displaced persons have been left abandoned in a city where conditions remain unforgiving. A clear explanation of the area of conflict and the politics behind is best explained by Ali H. Abdulla in his article The Galgala conflict and its misleading Association with Islamic Extremism.

Having been a refugee himself in Australia-in fact a PhD Candidate at La Trobe University, Australia-Faroole should have known better how to preserve the sanctity of human life. Anyone with an iota of mercy should be perturbed at how a man who has been a refugee himself in the past in a foreign country living-off on taxpayers money, becomes an enemy unto his fellow needy countrymen and countrywomen who have settled in his canton in search of peace and prosperity and the pursuit of justice.

In a recent interview with a Somali news service, a spokesman for GalMudug confided that those who were evicted from Puntland have been law-abiding citizens. These mass deportations have not escaped international media scrutiny and human rights organizations. Some television stations continuously rebroadcast the same event for days. Faroole’s inhuman actions are in par with the harsh conditions subjected to poor Somali refugees living in Saudi Arabia who often become victims of repatriations by the dreaded cane-wielding Saudi police.

Faroole’s administration is in violation of international journalism and freedom of press. The arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of Abdifatah Jama Mire, Director of Horseed Media, has been strongly condemned by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). “Today press freedom was buried in broad day light in Puntland and indeed it is a black day for independent journalism in Puntland and all across Somalia,” said a statement from NUSOJ. The statement by Omar Faruk Osman titled NUSOJ Condemns 6-year jail sentence against media Director in Puntland, states that Abdifatah was caged for six years simply for interviewing Sheikh Atom.

Undoubtedly, Puntland under Faroole has had its share of regional instability and more violence is expected to follow soon. The sighting of heavy military hardware destined for Sheikh Atom’s forces in the northern Galgala Mountains must be a source of concern for Faroole's poor state. Reports that the Sheikh’s tribesmen are pouring into Galgala must not be taken lightly in any way and that's why the area is constantly becoming atomically charged day after day. Having incited international maritime piracy in his region and having abetted human trafficking across the Gulf of Aden, the administration in Puntland feels it has no other alternative left in the eyes of the international community other than opening a new political inferno.

In the Galgala Mountains, Sheikh Atom is mobilizing a die-hard army of religiously motivated youth whose goal is to unite with the Islamist forces in the south. In Mogadishu and in the south and central Somalia, the forces of Hizb al-Islam and al-Shabab are more than determined to overthrow Puntland State as soon as they are done with the current bitter struggles they are engaged in with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Ahlu Sunna wal-Jama'a and AMISOM forces respectively.

The expulsion of southern and central Somali refugees from Puntland has put Abdirahman Faroole in a political dilemma. For now, his administration remains besieged from all sides by remorseless forces. Meanwhile, al-Shabab's black flag is flying high in the mountains of Galgala despite Puntland forces claiming to have routed Sheikh Atom’s forces. Even if Atom’s were to be dispersed and defeated, one thing is clear: they will regroup and resort to guerilla warfare-the same tactics employed by the Union of Islamic Courts when Ethiopia’s occupation forces poured into Somalia.

During the Vietnam War, the “men in black pajamas” caused great havoc for the world’s strongest army and for today in Somalia, it will be a headache for any force to defeat the “men in green pajamas”. Consequently, Faroole's recent inhuman expulsions will further incite violence and endanger the lives of millions of Puntlanders. Perhaps, instead of repatriating these displaced people, it was best they were left in peace to assimilate for the good of Puntland’s economy.

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