The European Union (EU) expressed concern on Thursday over a decision by authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland to expel one of the organisation's officials from the territory.
Richard Hands, the European Commission's operations manager for Somalia, said authorities in Hargeysa, Somaliland's capital, had asked for the replacement of one of the commission's officers.
In a letter to the EU office, Somaliland's national planning minister, Ahmed Haji Dahir Elmi, ordered the EU liaison officer in the territory, Ahmed Muhammed Mahamud, better known as Ahmed "Washington", to leave Somaliland within 48 hours.
"The EU liaison officer [in Hargeysa] Ahmed Mohamed has been declared persona non grata and he should, with immediate effect, stop his operation here and leave Somaliland within 48 hours," Elmi said in the letter.
The EU had no advance warning and had received the letter "with considerable surprise and concern," Hands said.
"The EC will seek clarification from the Somaliland authorities," he explained. "We are hopeful that there will be a satisfactory resolution to this."
Authorities in Hargeysa claimed that Mohamud was involved in activities that were "contrary to his code of ethics." Elmi alleged that the liaison officer had interfered in Somaliland internal affairs.
The decision to expel the EU official was condemned by two opposition leaders - Ahmed Mohamed of the Kulmiye (Solidarity) party and Faisal Ali Warabe of the Justice and Welfare party.
"We don't believe at all that there is a strong reason to warrant the expulsion. We see that the decision taken by the government was mainly influenced by a personal vendetta rather than a threat to the national interest," said Warabe.
"We therefore call on the government to unconditionally rescind its decision by considering the enormous support the country has been receiving from the EU," he added.
The EU is Somalia's largest donor and is currently supporting several programmes in Somaliland. The projects involve health, education, capacity-building and democracy.