Puntland’s Garowe at a crossroads as traditional leaders convene for critical peace talks



Garowe is currently in the spotlight of intensifying peace efforts and a deepening political crisis, as the town navigates through a period of rising tensions and significant civilian displacement. Today’s arrival of traditional leaders from SSC-Khatumo in the city marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing peace negotiations amidst a backdrop of political upheaval.

Central to this crisis is the standoff between President Deni and the armed opposition, jeopardizing regional stability. The dispute, primarily centred around the January 2024 elections, pits President Deni’s preference for a one-person, one-vote system against an indirect election method favoured by traditional elders and the opposition. This contention was highlighted by the Puntland parliament’s decision on Monday to postpone its session on the revised electoral code by three days, reflecting the severity of the conflict in Garowe.

The situation in Puntland is the culmination of escalating events since early October, characterized by disputes over the election process, the formation of political alliances, and mounting security concerns. The opposition’s challenges to the legitimacy of the Puntland Independent Election Commission, coupled with accusations of President Deni fueling conflict and misusing government resources, have intensified the crisis.

Despite this, President Deni’s recent dialogue initiative and amnesty offer to key military figures, including Colonel Jima’ale Jama Takar, suggest possible de-escalation routes. However, the overall situation remains highly volatile.

Traditional elders’ involvement in mediating the election dispute underscores the importance of customary mechanisms in Puntland’s political framework. Yet, unilateral actions by both government and opposition factions, such as the latter’s announcement of a schedule for parliamentary and presidential elections, demonstrate a deepening divide.

The response to the government’s deployment of additional troops, including the mobilization of opposition forces within Garowe, has heightened the urgency for a peaceful resolution. This military activity, alongside the resulting civilian anxiety and displacement, underlines the critical need for effective peace negotiations in the face of the city’s precarious situation.