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Fear in Khatumo ahead of Puntland polls
Hargeisa, 26 December 2013 (IRIN) - Thousands of people in northern Somalia’s two-year-old Khatumo state remain displaced for fear of a repeat of the armed violence in late November that forced them to flee their homes in the state capital, Taleh.
"The life of the displaced people is now getting worse for several reasons, including lack of shelter, shortage of food stuffs and medicine" said Muktar Ibrahim Habashi, who serves as minister in the state’s presidency.
“Disease broke out in the camps of the villages settled by the people displaced from Taleh, including diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria, etc., so they need emergency assistance,” he added.
The displaced are scattered in various locations in Taleh district, including Haliil to the east, Lumay and Habar-dhegooti to the southeast, and Kalcad and Buuq-dheer to the southwest.
Elders in eastern Sool, Sanag and Ayn areas announced the formation of Khatumo state in January 2012, expressing dismay with the administrations in Somaliland and Puntland, neighbouring regions whose long-running territorial dispute
covers parts of Khatumo.
The violence in November, in which several civilians were killed, pitted Puntland’s forces against those of Khatumo, with each side blaming the other for the clash, which took place just ahead of a planned conference to take stock of developments in Khatumo and to name a new administration.
Puntland’s leadership dismisses the Khatumo entity as a bid by “failed politicians” who now want to destabilize Puntland ahead of presidential elections due on 8 January 2014.
Commenting on the outbreak of violence, the UN Special Representative for Somalia Nicholas Kay on 30 November urged for calm.
"Violence cannot and will not resolve political issues. All those with a stake in the area must show calm and pursue reconciliation," he said.
"Peace and stability are also critical to the Puntland election process."
There are challenges ahead of the elections.
"Poor preparations and last-minute cancellation of local elections in July  underline the challenges of reconciling competing clan interests with a democratic constitution," said a 19 December briefing
by the International Crisis Group, which noted that as social tensions remain unaddressed, "the presidential vote by a clan-selected parliament in January 2014 will thus be fraught."