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Since Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland began drilling for oil this month in conjunction with Africa Oil's Horn Petroleum Corporation, opposition is brewing among former Puntland officials who object to the way Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole is governing the region and warned the drilling will ignite clan warfare.
In an effort to understand the reasons behind the conflict, Somalia Report interviewed Bile Mohamud Qabowsade, one of the board members of Somali Golaha Samatabixinta Puntland (GSP, or the Puntland Rescue Committee), a new opposition group established to oppose President Farole. Mr. Qabowsade served as Puntland’s Deputy Minister of Port and Fisheries and as a media advisor to former Puntland President Cadde Muse. Today he is the leading voice for those who are not satisfied with the way President Farole is handling this project, which could bring billions of dollars to the region.
Thank you for giving us your time and the exclusive interview. You are member of GSP. Can you tell us about GSP?
Thank you. Yes, I am one of the five board members of the GSP, which is similar to the Puntland Rescue Forum created by Puntland politicians to fight insecurity, lack of development, and clan fighting. Like them, we intend to make changes to Puntland. We are made up of 25 members, including our board.
Who else is on the board of the GSP?
We are mostly from Puntland, including Muse Ali Jama, the brother of Puntland's former president Jama Ali Jama. I can't tell you the other names for security reasons.
Are you a political party?
Not yet because there aren't any political parties in the region. It is our intention to become a political party, but according to Article 141 of our current constitution, political parties aren't allowed. We are against that article as well as the government led by Farole.
You are criticizing currently government. What is your aim?
Our aim is clear. We are working with our people to change Puntland through good and fair policies unlike the current Puntland administration which failed to gain people's hearts.
What exactly does GSP intend to do?
If we win the next election, we want to do the following:- We primarily want to develop links between the government and clan elders because clan elders are a primary source of conflict mediation. Right now they see the government as their enemy.
- We also want to immediately implement a party based system to give every citizen a chance to work for his people;
- We want to ban foreign armed companies from working in Puntland;
- Our administration will be based consultancy, and not a dictatorship like the current one.
What power do you have?
It’s easy to take power in our locality, but GSP is not seeking to seize power or to be an armed opposition group. The only power we have are as civilians. We are running to get everyone their rights peacefully, not by guns or violence.
How do you want to implement your policy?
We are waiting for the next election. After the current administration’s period ends, then we want to begin to implement our aim, which is to initiate better policies, satisfy the citizens, and ease conflict. We don’t want to create violence in the region. There is another group in Karkaar region who want to create instability because they oppose the current administration’s way of managing oil drilling. We are not supporting any group that intends to create insecurity. We have supporters in Bosaso and Gardo, but they are not armed.
Why are you opposite oil drilling in Puntland?
We are not against oil drilling, but we do oppose the way it is being managed. Before drilling began, there should have been suitable policies to manage it. There are a lot of people not satisfied with Puntland’s behavior. We have to end that dispute instead of drilling oil. Now is not the time to do any drilling. First we have to enhance the security and mediate clan fighting in Puntland to take steps forward. The drilling is just going to make things worse. It will turn brewing clan fights into full on battles and clan warfare.
Where do you think the oil revenues will end up?
Thanks, very good question. I don’t think Farole will pocket oil revenues because no single Puntlander can make such decisions or take such action. Everything must pass through lawmakers and elders.