WHAT THORNS ARE AHEAD OF DENI, THE ELECTED PRESIDENT FOR PUNTLAND?
By Osman Nur Mohamed
As predicted in my recent article titled “Which leader will the MPs elect on 8th January 2019” Said Abdullahi Deni was elected to be the president for the semi- autonomous state of Puntland in northern Somalia on Tuesday, 8th January 2019 in a vote by regional lawmakers. This is what I anticipated based on some determinant factors. I was impressed with his political agenda and appearance of leadership. There is a Somali saying that says: Wixii araggiisu ku deeqo ayaa oontiisu ku deeqdaa: “What is nourishing in appearance is nourishing indeed”. Belated Congratulations!
One thing in advance before I proceed further into my analysis, the majority of the local people did not warmly welcome, and the public is expecting to find the best of him to fulfill his duties as he have hoped when he addressed the parliament after his victory on 8th January 2019.
This article highlights the reaction, perceptions of the local people, and reminds the audience about the challenges versus the political agenda of the elected president. Moreover, it briefly touches the quality of good leaders and presents suggestion for the president. from the local and mine as well.
Said Abdullahi Deni, is a local leader and elected president who will serve a five- year term after emerging first in a field of 21 candidates, including incumbent Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas, after three rounds of voting in a secret parliamentary ballot. It needs no asking that the perceived prescriptive formula is still thriving as the elect president hails from Osman Mohamud (one of the three Mohamud Saleyman (MS) union under Majeerten). It was their term! The formula is that only those hailing from the MS can lead the state. Will the president block this prescriptive formula and lead to one-man vote in the region after his term in 2024? and address the corruption, nepotism, and other issues that Puntlanders are facing? These questions and many more others are haunting in the minds of the people
1) Reaction and perception of local people
As evidenced in many occasions when a president is elected, there is always some sort of happiness ululation, jubilation, and joy whereby people celebrate for the outcome with gunfire, honking and public gathering in the public squares etc. On the contrary this practice of happiness did not happen in the headquarter where the election took place as well other towns in Puntland. And instead there were – demonstrations against the elected president in Garowe, Bosaso, and Galkayo. Majority of the people were in sad mood showing disappointment, anger and frustration. This is an indication that the local people were not happy with the rise of Said Abdullahi Deni, the elected president by the 66 lawmakers. This is confidence crisis that the elect president in Puntland encountered from the majority of the citizens.
On the social media and in the public domain, I found that a high number of commentaries had shown the people are pessimistic about the leadership of the president but that is the nature of human being though it was unique in my recollection since I witnessed many elections in Puntland.
1.1. Why are people sensitive to the elected president
Let me start with a Somali proverb, which says: Fuley xantii ma mooga: “A coward knows that he is talked about”. The Local people relate Said Abdullahi Deni, the elected president to a number of groups namely Damul Jadiid, Al- islaah, and Aaran Jan (AJ). People are sensitive from these groups due to their history in the past. Firstly, Damul Jadiid when translated means ‘’New Blood,’’ is a faction or splinter group from Al-Islaah- a moderate Somali Islamist movement formed in the late 1970s and affiliated with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The Damul Jadid political association is said to be close to former Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud who run the country from 16 September 2012 to 16 February 2017.
Secondly, Al- Islah is a religious group, a moderate Islamist movement that formed in the 1970s and is affiliated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It evolved from a postwar social service network, recognized for the quality of its hospitals and schools (including the University of Mogadishu), to a political movement with broad support from students, professionals, and business people. It has rejected violence. On the other hand, Damul Jadiid (DJ) “New Blood” is a group within al-Islaah that broke with the organizational rejection of violence and joined the Islamic Courts Union in 2006. Former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and several within his cabinet are rumored to be DJ members According to Matt Bryden “Somalia Redux? Assessing the New Somali Federal Government,”
Thirdly, Aran Jaan is a defector faction that emerged during the administration of former Puntland’s president, Abdurahman Farole. During that time, the group was said to be controlling body, who did not only guided the administration but also dominated the business groups in the Puntland. The elect- president Deni is related to this group as well. Abdurahaman Faroole, former Puntland president and currently a member of the upper house of the Federal Parliament supported the president. Faroole campaigned hardly against President Gaas and wanted to defeat him at any cost. He demonstrated his political astuteness in how he managed two of his favorite candidates, President-elect Said Deni and former Finance Minister under his administration, Farah Ali Shire to move to the second round and ultimately one of them, Said Deni to emerge successful. Faroole’s involvement and hard campaign raised a level of suspicion that the elect- president will be them. And Farool’s involvement in the election and support of the elect- president rubbed many people the wrong way and one could contemplate or argue that some of his rhetoric was beneath the level and stature of someone at his level, he nevertheless proved his political tactics against his opponents.
To that end, the above are the least sensitive issues arose following the election that worried Puntlanders very much. Local people are pessimistic about their future given the groups that the elected- president Said Abdullahi Deni is related to. Puntlanders think that the elect-president will be overshadowed by these different groups who have different interests. The fact that , the Somalis have been lacking effective government that provides assistance and protection to its citizens and in Puntland; the local people have experienced bad leaders who care themselves but not others who are dying because of preventable disease so that is the main reason why are they so worried about their future. There is a Somali saying that says: Dheriga karka kulaylkaa ka keenay: “it was heat that made the cooking pot boil”
And It is said that Somali politics is of more individualistic gains, favoring to their family or group he is affiliated instead of that of the nation.
2) What challenges are ahead of Deni, the elected president
Security: The security situation in Puntland was generally terrible for the last two years and it saw inter clan conflicts, border disputes, attacks from Al-Shabaab, and incidents between IS and Al-Shabaab in Bari region. There has been a tension between Puntland and Somaliland forces in the disputed areas of Sool. Somaliland and Puntland were unable to resolve a long- standing territorial dispute over the Sool region. A lot is expected to be seen from the President. Building unified army for Puntland, clearing the Al-shaabab and IS groups from some parts of Puntland and maintaining the incentives of the forces.
Liberation of Sool: Puntlanders believe that Somaliland occupied into Sool region of which the community and elders from this region await liberation from the current leadership of Deni. He has to find a way to deal with the problem of Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn as well as building solid relationship with his counterpart Muse Bihi of Somaliland.
Government Institutions: Previous adminstration failed to advance the good governement instiuttions that were placed by the former adminstration of Faroole. Dr Gaas failed to fulfil his promises of doing reforms on four key thematic areas: public finance, security, justice, and the civil service. Puntland was said to be lacking a robust financial law and taxation system and governemnt expenses far outweigh the government’s income according to according to the article. “runaway corruption, nepotism, and inefficiency” by Dr. Abdullahi Y. Musse
Corruption: The former government led by Dr Abdiwali Ali failed to maintain the successful implementation of “sustainable Road Maintenance Project” in Puntland Somalia funded by German Federal Government through GIZ, a German government- owned development agency that provided technical and financial support for the rehabilitation of the Jalam- Harfo section of the Garowe- Galkayo corridor. This project was terminated by the partner due to corruption and lack of accountability and transparency according to the press statement released by the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Nairobi on 6th September 2018. “We as International partners cannot compromise on the quality in the implementation and accountability and transparency in using donor funds”
Furthermore, the government was accused to be involved in high fraud and corruption in Puntland which was unprecedented. Gaas was accused to have plundered state assets and lined up the pockets of his close family and sycophantic friends. He is a Guru when it comes to the printing of counterfeit Somali Shillings. “runaway corruption, nepotism, and inefficiency” by Dr. Abdullahi Y. Musse
Poor relationship with federal: Puntland has played a vivid role in the implementation of federalism. And they view as the role model for the rest of the semi- autonomous regions that were established in the region. However, there has been a political confrontation between the central and state member for the last years when Gaas was in power. This needs a diplomatic relationship and collaboration. The elect- president is expect to handle this properly and reduce the political confrontations between the state and the federal level while enhancing collaboration and work closely with other state members such as Galmudug. The elected- president is expected to demonstrate maturity, and political astuteness
Reconciliation: There is a need to hold genuine reconciliation conference for Puntlanders since there are active clan conflicts within Puntland where community has lost trust, esteem, coherence and confidence for the last years, in addition there are grievance and unresolved conflicts.
Climate change: Puntland is a disaster hotspot. Every year thousands of people are affected by disasters causing loss of life, property and livelihoods. Some of these calamities affect large number of people over a short period of time like the Tsunami of 2004, Chapala 2013—MEGH 2015, while others occur over several years, but may affect less number of people than events like the perpetual drought. Such events are likely to get more pronounced in the coming years with the increasing effect of climate change. The elect president has to prioritize this and empower the HADMA, which is the mandated government body that faces many challenges from the other government institutions.
1) Political Agenda of the elected president: Commitments:
Goal 1: Establishing strategic political change:
Key things under this goal include, establishment of an efficient government institutions and laws to realize an environment based on check and balance, review policies, establishment of multi- party system in the first year, and restoring the missing territories.
Goal 2: Strengthening Security:
The main issues under this goal include, overall security system, registration of Puntland forces, security strategy, and fight and elimination of terrorists cells or groups in the mountains of Al- Madow and Miskeed.
Goal 3: Financial and Economic reform system
The main issues under this goal include, revenue collection system, tracking on the annual budget, financial accountability and transparency and infrastructures on ports, airports, highways, and completion of the ongoing mega projects in Puntland.
Goal 4: Forming Quality community services:
The main issues under this goal include distribution of quality services to the community such as education, health, enhancement of the quality on water, electricity, with particular emphasis on public private partnership.
Goal 5: Establishing quality Judiciary system
The main issues under this goal include reform on Puntland judiciary system, selection of civil servants, policies, and increase the quota for the judiciary system.
Goal 6: Environmental Protection and Climate change
The main issues under this goal include fighting against deforestation, and desertification, establishment of strategy to protect the environment.
Goal 7: Youth Development:
The main issues under this goal include, job creation for the young people, skill training, and giving chance for the youth to participate politics.
Goal 8: Women Development
The main issues under this goal include the women empowerment, creating income generation mechanisms for women.
So my advice to the president is that come up with his own strategy and seize the opportunity by building strong cabinet outside of all the remit while considering the notorious 4.5 formula of cabinet selection and qualification. Because Somali sayings says say: Talo Xumo tog baas bay kaa riddaa “Bad counsel may cause you to fall into an abyss”
In spite of his good praised leadership and personal traits, he has to have a political will, which is a vital force that will enable him to realize his eight goals.
According to Prof Patrick Lumumba “Leadership is the ability to identify professionals, experts in different areas and use the expertise to achieve the overall agenda that is in the interest of the nation or region”. So that said, the President, should not have to be an economist to ensure that his region is moving in the right economic direction if he identifies the required technical knowhow and use that knowhow. Nevertheless, I request the president not to appoint thieves that will loot the public funds because many African leaders have demonstrated in many uncountable times that that they have corrupted the whole system and Puntland saw high corruption, which was exercised by the highest leadership that ruled the region with high degree in qualification
This is an indication that even those who had the advantage of formal education have demonstrated the education they have does not change their minds and hearts fundamentally.
Mr President, think about the suffering poor children in Puntland and try sometimes to pay a surprise visits to the public places such as the schools, hospitals and market to listen the people and identify their pressing needs and don’t become the man who gets the good bone from the pot and drives a four wheel drive with AC while the vulnerable are dying because of lack of services.
I would advise the elected president not to waste his precious time on political maneuvering but rather focus on the innumerable challenges facing the Puntland citizens. Security, reconciliation, the economy, education, infrastructure, and healthcare, and other issues that were not addressed by the former president, he will thrive and serve his people with dignity and vision.
The many commitments of the president are to be seen in the near foreseeable future, and time will tell the performance of the president thus would request from Puntlanders to closely work with the president since everyone has a role to play to achieve the common objectives and unity of Puntland.
Osman Nur Mohamed
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