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Backlash as former minister dismisses pact on ONLF as a clan conflict issue

Storyline:National News, Security
Lawmaker and former Minister in the Office of the President Mahad Salad has termed the agreements cited by government on Qalbi Dhagah case as aimed at resolving clan conflicts. Photo: courtesy

A former minister and regional president who signed agreements which the government tabled Wednesday as grounds to declare ONLF senior leader Qalbi Dhagah and his group a terrorist network in same ranks with Al-Shabaab have dismissed them as baseless noting the agreements were not officially sanctioned at state level.

Mahad Salad who signed the June 7, 2015 agreement in his capacity as Minister in the Office of the President and former Galmudug President Abdikarin Guled whose signature appears in the May 2, 2016 communique penned in the border town of Jigjiga have both termed the agreements as between local communities in Somalia and Ethiopia and therefore could not be relied upon as bilateral pacts between two countries.

“The agreement the government is referring to was aimed at ending conflicts between residents of that area (border areas of Somalia) and the government of the Somali region (in Ethiopia). It’s embarrassing for the government to refer to clan conflicts in making such rulings,” said Salad.

Violated constitution

The former minister also noted Qalbi Dhagah was not a terrorist but a Somali citizen ‘who was given to a foreign country unlawfully’. The world, Salad said knows ONLF not as a terrorist organisation adding the Somali government violated the constitution and other laws in extraditing Qalbi Dhagah and subsequently declaring him a terrorist.

Former Galmudug president Abdikarin Guled who co-signed the May 2, 2016 agreement alongside then Posts and Telecommunication minister Mohamed Jama Mursal and Ethiopia’s director of Foreign Affairs Amb. Shamsuddin Ahmed Rooble also lashed out at the government affirming Salad’s view that the pact was between communities in the two countries.

“I want to make it clear that there is no agreement that I made with Ethiopia while representing this government. We spoke with the government of the Somali region in Ethiopia about some issues. We don’t know ONLF as a terrorist organisation but we know them as people fighting for their rights,” said Guled.

Al-Shabaab links

The cabinet issued a statement Wednesday following a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Hassan Khaire in defense of its decision to hand over Qalbi Dhagah to Ethiopia classifying him as a terrorist with links to Al-Shabaab.

It cited the two agreements as ground to prosecute its case after a sustained public outrage questioning the legality and intent of extraditing Qalbi Dhagah. The Ethiopian government confirmed receipt of Qalbi Dhagah adding he had travelled on an Ethiopian passport. The cabinet Wednesday did not however address the question of Qalbi Dhagah’s citizenship. His family have since rubbished claims the embattled ONLF leader holds an Ethiopia passport.

The 2015 and 2016 documents signed by Guled and Salad refer Al-Shabaab and UBBO (reference to ONLF) as common enemies of both countries.