Puntland State of Somalia suspends its planned and ill-prepared multi-party elections, following local political violence where scores of people lost their lives and many others got hurt. The ruling political elite, who initially half-heartedly embraced the idea of pluralism on “My way or the highway” approach by using the instruments of political coercion, intimidation of public servants and use of public resources in a desperate attempt to stay in power or extend their term in power, has to fall back on the State’s political founding formula of sub-clan power-sharing through traditional selection process of members of Parliament along sub-clan lines, a scenario appropriate then at height of the Somalia’s Civil War, but no longer valid after nearly two decades of local self-government, a political stagnation and paralysis of vicious circle that Puntland State is unable to grow out of it.
The multi-party experiment, or they call it, Democratization Process, was meant to fail as it was hastily ill-prepared for an already pre-determined election outcome in favor of the ruling group, thus creating the seeds of political confrontations and violent reactions to the government political maneuvering. Fragile, poorly-prepared and ill-equipped new political parties and the masses rightly noticed that there could be no fair play in the process as they also saw and predicted the danger of destabilization and threats to peace in Puntland.
The local Parliament, another institution always bent on self-preservation rather than deliberating on and legislating genuine bills to move the country forward, has to quickly endorse political clannism in an Annex to the constitution. For the Puntland Parliament, it is business as usual as its members see the institution as permanent job for retirement without ever worrying about the obligations of public accountability, a dangerous source of political corruption and bad governance leading to facilitation of poor executive leadership in the State.
Some elements among the so-called opposition are yesterday’s men whose capabilities, ideas and visions are even far below than that now in power in the State. They have been already tested when they had had their once in a life-time accidental opportunity and a shot at positions of leadership. One would wonder if those are still able to marshal at least animal instincts to search for a new generation of leadership and talents to take over next and lead the country. They are better advised to go quietly and retire for the good of their people, family and country.
The time-tested traditional leadership of the various regions of Puntland now seems in disarray as the old generation gets aged and senile or passed away. The new generation of the traditional leaders are either inexperienced, pushed aside by or accommodated by the regime for its own agenda. The loss of Las Anod in Sool Region, the passing away of Islaan Mohamed Islaan Muse, Boqor Mohamud, Beldaaje Haji Farah, Garad Abdiqani Garad Jama and Ugaas Yassin is the greatest loss of PuntlandState since its foundation in August 1998 and the main causes of poor and unaccountable governance in the country. PuntlandState of Somalia was originally founded on the principle of over-whelming grass-root support led by the traditional leadership with the skills and art of modern statecraft equipped with all the three branches of government independent of each other with all checks and balance of power in place. Puntland State had had in its history incidents where a sitting President was removed by the Supreme Court, a Vice President impeached by Parliament and Ministers brought before Parliament for accountability and on Question Period on a Vote of Confidence. Unfortunately, that is no longer applicable to Puntland State of today. They got a serious governance problem. There is a lack of able, mature, wise men and women of vision, integrity and selfless commitment to efficient management of public affairs.
The Role of International and Donor Community
The International Donor Community acts in a wishy-washy fashion in Puntland Governance and Democratization Process. They tend to persuade their client leaders in the State for their poor Ad Hoc assessed positions on the agenda without a plan (B) to fall upon amid changing fluid situations. They have to re-assert the fact that there is no true democracy without the principle of one man (woman) one vote. There will be resistance to that principle by people who endured lawlessness for so long and there will be price to be paid by implementing it. By nature, people resist and ridicule anything new. If they are genuine in helping Puntland, in particular, and Somalia, in general, they have to be bold enough to push the Democratization Process forward and support the State contain the political violence that surely would occur. This should not be a trial and error exercise on their part. They must deliver for the sake of contributing to world peace and security at least.
The Way Forward
For Puntland State of Somalia, staying permanently in a vicious circle and political stagnation is not an option. Keeping multi-party democracy hostage to sub-clan patronage system for ever is not the solution to the current Puntland governance problems. Using public institutions and resources by the ruling elite for their own interests and advantage is to go alla Somalia Style of Siyad Barre. That would definitely lead to a total ruin of Puntland again.
What is required now in Puntland is a genuine debate about not only to avoid political destabilization, but ways and means of how to lift Puntland out of its chronic political paralysis and bring it out of the woods on the road to good governance based on:
The wishes and aspirations of its people demonstrated through fairly prepared elections.
- The equitable distribution and fair management of public resources
- Free market economy with no place for cronyism and despotism
- Political pluralism in a plane field to compete without violence and political intimidation, a fair game to produce quality result and sound popular leaders and talented statesmen.
To achieve the above, Puntland state of Somalia has to renew itself by addressing its fatal problem of intellectual bankruptcy. There is no shortage of learned Puntlanders. They are all over the world and inside Puntland. There is a total brain-freeze though among these talented intellectuals. Their problem: they only see the bigger picture of Somalia, ignoring Puntland altogether. By the way, this is the problem of successive Puntland leaders as well-never concentrating on Puntland development as the first historic and founding pillar of Federal Somalia, for someone’s perspective, one of the first Mandates of the creation of Puntland State.
The way forward for Puntland State of Somalia is not easy, but is worth doing it for the sake of present and future generations. Doing it is a great honor to those who sacrificed a lot in the foundation of State, in the first place, in order to re-instate and achieve a united, strong and prosperous Federal Republic of Somalia owned by free people of Somalia.