Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Somaliland: A Rudderless Government?

Somaliland: A Rudderless Government?
Written by Ahmed Kheyre   

On June 26th, 2010, a majority of Somalilanders, a strong majority, voted for and welcomed a new government from the KUMIYE party under the leadership of Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud "Siilaanyo". Fifteen months later, a lot of these voters are wondering if they had made right choice.

After almost a decade of UDUB government´s under the late Mohamed Ibrahim Egal and his successor Dahir Rayale Kahin, Somalilanders vote for a change and a new direction. However, it is very doubtful that they voted for a rudderless government, without a sense of direction and bereft of strong political leadership.

A government with a domestic policy that is yet to take shape, a foreign policy that is adrift in turbulent international water, and the foul odour of alleged graft and corruption.

At this stage, this article emphasis that Somaliland remains a beacon of hope, progress and stability in an otherwise insecure region that is the Horn of Africa. Somaliland´s tried and test formula of dialogue, discussion and consensus remains in place. Somaliland remains a tolerant, inclusive and democratic nation which has over twenty years contributed to stability, development and democratization of the region.

It is therefore imperative, for reader, to appreciate that this article is a critical evaluation of the current government in Somaliland, nothing more, and nothing less.

After a decade in opposition, KULMIYE, under the leadership of Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud "Siilaanyo" came into power in a thumping victory, which left in no doubt the need for change desired by the Somaliland electorate. The second presidential election in Somaliland´s history took place in a free and fair manner, followed by the smooth transition of power unheard of in Africa and in many other places across the globe.

The new government came into office raring to go, with a lot of goodwill and most importantly of all a legitimate and solid mandate from the Somaliland electorate. The new government´s agenda was ambitious and extensive. This new agenda was formulated after a decade in opposition and presented with skill to the Somaliland public. 

The new government´s agenda on domestic policy was seen as a new deal for Somaliland; a pledge to develop Somaliland´s infrastructure, increase revenue, upgrade public services, such as schools and hospitals, fight corruption and restore good governance. 

On the international front, the new government´s foreign policy was aimed at extensive engagements to further Somaliland´s quest for de-jure recognition.

After fifteen months in power, the government´s domestic and foreign policy are in tatters. The president, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud "Siilaanyo", a normally genial and avuncular person, appears isolated, out of touch and reduced to middle of the night rants on national television. Mr. Siilaanyo is surrounded by an inner cabinet in the presidency which intends to control access and information to the President. Not, even the usually vocal and straight forward KULMIYE chair, Muse Bihi can get through the political cordon surrounding the president.

The government´s most talented, effective and progressive officials are leaving in droves. The Somaliland public is becoming disenchanted and disillusioned, all in fewer than two years.

How did all this come about?

First of all, President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud still has three and half years left in his term, and may win re-election in 2015. There is still plenty of time left steady the ship and head for the right direction. But, if matters continue on their current course, it is very doubtful that things would be better in 2015, they may well worse, much worse.

The main issue in Somaliland, the only issue, both domestic and foreign, is the sovereignty of the country. Everything else is secondary. Under this government, Somaliland´s sovereignty appears to be under assault, both internally and externally.

Without a strong domestic policy; unity, territorial integrity, a common purpose, inclusiveness, tolerance and dialogue; there is no foreign policy, and vice-versa.

It is a great irony that a government which has some of the most patriotic members in Somaliland´s history at should find itself so vulnerable, and it is all the government´s doing!

Say what you would like about the previous government, but in terms of Somaliland´s number one issue, sovereignty, there is no doubt about their fidelity to the nation´s aim. The recent Wiki-leaks diplomatic cables are ample proof.

The main problem facing the current government is not due to a lack of talent, knowledge, drive or patriotism, it is a lack of leadership. Political leadership, not personal leadership is the cause of the government lack of a sense of direction.

The government´s ambitious domestic agenda is not gaining any traction; it is deeply mired in controversy and incompetence. Instead of improvement in Somaliland´s infrastructure, things appear to be getting worse, particularly in the key public services sector, such as security, hospitals and school, to highlight a few areas.

There have been alleged reports of rampant corruption within the government and uncomfortably close to the President. Allegations made by some of the Somaliland´s leading media outlets, include the contracts for the increased security installations at some of Somaliland´s main facilities, the Drysdale saga, the currency printing contract, the Berbera cement factory license, the Somaliland Defence Force census, the communication bill, and the student scholarships to Turkey and Uganda, just to name a few.

Then there are the other miss-steps by the government. For example, the expansion of political parties was a core campaign promise by the KULMIYE party prior to the last presidential election. The expansion served a political purpose, to emasculate a strong opposition by allowing a plethora of political party to emerge. 

Although, there was a strong opposition to this bill, partly based on political survival by the opposition parties, UDUB and UCID, and from concerned Somalilanders worried about repeating the experience of the 1960´s when formation of countless political parties led to corruption, mayhem and eventual military coup in the defunct Somali Republic. The bill was pushed through a disturbingly toothless and in-effective Somaliland parliament.

Today, in Somaliland, as a result of this bill, there is the spectacle of the Somaliland speaker of parliament, Abdurahman Abdillahi Irro, having failed to take over his old party UICD, resigning from that party, forming his own party, Wadani, and yet refusing to relinquish the Speaker´s chair!. A plethora of new parties have been formed, some solely based on community affiliation. Exactly, the results the government expected, and precisely what the majority of Somalilanders feared. 

If the idea behind bill was to maintain KULMIYE´s ascendancy, it has worked a treat; unfortunately, it is has put Somaliland´s nascent democratic process in serious jeopardy.

Another miss-step by the current Somaliland government was the recent humanitarian trip to take Somaliland´s donations to the help drought stricken in Somalia. The trip had the support and backing of the government, and has back-fired in a spectacular fashion!

It was right and proper to help those suffering in Somalia, but charity begins at home. There are a lot of Somalilanders who need the support and assistance of their own government. 

The idea behind the Somaliland assistance to Somalia may have been a noble one, filled with good intentions, but, as expected, it was used by the politicians in Somalia to try and undermine Somaliland. 

The apparent economic, administrative and political neglect of the eastern regions of Somaliland is another failure by the current Somaliland government, which needs a strong and effective remedy.

We now come to Somaliland foreign policy under this current government, which appears to consist of the foreign minister, Dr. Mohamed Abdillahi Omar, a young, energetic, educated and very inexperienced politician meeting and talking with un-elected and un-representative operators from the various administrations in the region! Somaliland with its democratic credentials should not give legitimacy to these entities.

Somaliland should always take the strong position in its foreign policy, i.e. Somaliland´s sovereignty is sacrosanct and non-negotiable, especially with un-elected political opportunists parachuted from overseas to fill their pocket with aid money and return to comfortable exile whilst their poor people continue to suffer.

In conclusion, Somaliland finds itself at its most vulnerable situation under this government since 1991. The country´s domestic and foreign policies require strong and steady political leadership, from the President on down, through all of Somaliland´s national and political institutions.

Fortunately, there remain the true vanguards of Somaliland´s independence, security, stability and progress: the Somaliland citizens.
It is these citizens who sacrificed for their independence and freedom, and who must remain, vigilant, united with a common purpose and goals.

Ahmed Kheyre

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