On Monday forces trained by Sterling Corporate Services also known as Saracen blocked all the major roads leading to the residence of Abdiweli Ali Gaas, a prominent politician and the former Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.
It is believed that these forces were trying to prevent the local politicians and clan elders from visiting the former Prime Minister who arrived the town, yesterday.
Mr.Gaas is currently touring the autonomous region of Puntland State, his delegation received a warm welcome from the residents of Bosaso, the largest city in Puntland.
On Monday Clan elders, politicians and hundreds of residents of Bosaso greeted Mr.Gaas and his delegation on the outskirts of the city. On his arrival Mr.Gaas thanked the people of Puntland for their support. Mr.Gaas and his delegation have so far visited most of the major towns in Puntland, including Galkacyo, Goldogob, Bursalax, Burtinle, Garowe and Qardho (Gardo).
While Mr.Gaas got a warm welcome from the people of Puntland, however the government was not so pleased with his visit to the region.
When Gaas arrived the capital of Puntland Garowe, he was forced to leave all the armed vehicles that his personal bodyguards were traveling on. Instead the President of Puntland Abdirahman Farole adviced Mr.Gaas not to travel to the remaining towns in Bari region, where Mr.Gaas was planning to visit.
According to sources close to the presidential palace in Garowe, Abdirahman Farole the President of Puntland, said Abdiweli’s visit came at the wrong time.
Puntland government is struggling with political tensions in the region, as the government prepares to delay the Presidential Elections in January 2013. Many people in Puntland see Prof.Abdiweli Gaas as a potential candidate.
Gaas has turned down the President’s request and he continued his tour, when he arrived in the town of Gardo, he met with thousands of cheering crowds. After Gardo, Mr.Gaas was preparing to go to Bosaso city, the commercial capital of Puntland.
Bosaso Hotels warned
This week, the district administration of Bosaso and the governor of Bari region have personally stopped three meetings that were supposed to take place in the city, prior to the arrival of the former Prime minister. One such meeting was supposed to take place in Hotel Huruse, but the meeting was postponed after the governor with his bodyguards stormed the conference hall.
The authorities warned all the Hotels and the convention centers in the town not to host any kind of political gathering, without the approval of the government.
Yesterday, the governor issued another statement saying; the residents were not allowed to gather near the main checkpoint of Bosaso. Despite these warnings hundreds of people turned up to welcome Mr.Gaas and his delegation.
Both the Mayor of Bosaso and the governor of Bari who were at the time Bosaso’s main check point, said they were welcoming Prof.Abdiweli, but their advice for him was not to meet with the politicians and clan elders in the town.
Saracen in action
Hours later, hundreds of the Puntland’s Maritime Police Force surrounded the villa he was staying, completely blocking all the roads leading to the residence of Gaas in Bosaso. These forces are trained by a company called Sterling Corporate Services also known as Saracen.
On Tuesday morning the forces left their positions after local residents and armed militias supporting the former Prime minister gathered near his home in Bosaso.
Recently, the Controversial South African private military operator Sterling Corporate Services, aka Saracen International, has lost its anti-piracy contract in the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland.
The termination comes in the midst of strenuous criticism by the UN’s Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) of SCS’s handling of its United Arab Emirates-funded contract to train a paramilitary Puntland Maritime Police Force.
In July, the SEMG published a 350-page report on the security situation in Somalia, sharply critical of the actions of Sterling and the maritime police under its control.
The report highlighted several incidents where Sterling operators – whose nominal brief was confined to training and advising the maritime police force – were involved in military actions against Faroole’s enemies.
Also noted were documented tortures and other incidents of human rights abuse allegedly perpetrated under the command of the mainly South African Sterling corps.
On this basis, the monitoring group called for strong action by the UN Security Council.
Notably, it wanted Sterling/Saracen “designated” along with other companies and individuals in the opaque network connected to the Puntland operation, and subjected to “targeted measures”.
Yet, Saracen continues to operate in Puntland, the company’s assets which includes light airplanes, helicopters and armored vehicles are still stationed at their military camp near Bosaso Airport.