Puntland State of Somalia is one of the few achievements I happen to be proud of. Other Puntlanders, stakeholders and supporters in Somalia and beyond, within the Diaspora and external players today can pause for moment to imagine their social, political status and relationships with Somalia without the existence of Puntland State. While people always give the visible leader the credit for it, I had the chance to know full well that there were a few of us that made the difference in initiating its creation and playing the critical role in making it a functioning reality that changed the political landscape of Somalia for ever. This is my moral authority and basis on which I pen this short article.
Once again, Puntland State is at cross-roads and it was unfortunate that the democratization process failed abysmally. That was a great setback for the people of Puntland. Nevertheless, the State is relatively safe and has high hopes for a better future. But, to survive and progress, Puntland requires an urgent political change that the current administration cannot deliver. Faroole is a spent force and is running out of ideas, on the top of his poor domestic policies. He becomes a divisive figure and liability for Puntland despite his foreign contacts drama and superficial Diaspora perception that he is the man who can challenge the ill-advised and naïve Damul Jadid Clique in Mogadishu. To refresh up the memory of the readers of this article, Faroole was against the foundation of PuntlandState from the onset to consist of Sool, Sanaag Bari (now Haylaan), Nuguaal, Bari, Mudugh and the District of Buuhoodle (now Cayn). He was among the proponents of creating only Northeastern Regional Administration ( not even a regional state) composed of only Mudugh, Nugaal and Bari ( Karkar Region was part of Bari then). He fled to Australia in early July 1998 before the creation of Puntland State and in the last days of the Puntland Constitutional Conference to found the State when he and his colleagues failed resoundingly in their attempt to exclude Sool, Sanaag and Buuhoodle in the process. He came back later to Somalia in early 2000s to oppose Puntland State every step of the way. For a long time he was frequenting anti-Puntland conferences and lobbies in Djbouti, Mogadishu and elsewhere. As he left the Conference, I vividly recall his departing words, on the mike, to the Late Islaan Mohamed Islaan Muse, then the Chairperson of the Constitutional congress and I quote, “Shirku waa afduubanyahay”, unquote ( The Congress is being held hostage). Following Puntland State constitutional crisis involving Supreme Court President, Yusuf Haji Nur, Jama Ali Jama and Late Abdullahi Yusuf, and as gesture for Puntland internal reconciliation, I personally persuaded the later to include Faroole in the New Puntland Cabinet as a counter-weight to the defection of Hassan Abshir Farah, then the Puntland Interior Minister, to Arta’s produced TNG of President AbdulQasim Salad Hassan. Despite his background, he was appointed Puntland Finance Minister. He became President of Puntland State due to the unpopularity of then the incumbent Puntland President, General Mohamud Hersi Muse (Boqor), bribery, intimidation of non-Majertaine MPs in Garowe and absence of capable Presidential candidates on the scene at the time. This can happen again if Puntland communities do not do their due diligence in searching and finding better alternative candidates.
The People of Puntland State are now ready for change. To effectively take part in that on-going political need and imperative for change, Traditional Elders, business community, intellectuals and any person at grass-root level has to help in selecting truly representative and worthy members of Puntland State Parliament. People who hail from Khatumo areas have the moral obligations and legitimacy too as founders of Puntland State to help in the current efforts for political change. All Puntlanders have every right and owe to their country to select and promote capable and honest patriots as presidential candidates on merit: personal integrity, character, leadership talent, experience and vision. They have to do their due diligence to get it right this time around, and peacefully. We must insure that if such a candidate wins the election, he/she must not use Puntland State as stepping stone or leverage for a national position in the Federal Government of Somalia, but willing instead to concentrate and focus on the unity, peace and socio-economic development of Puntland as his/her priority No. 1.
I know a good number of Presidential candidates have put their names forward. My assessment is that while many of the declared candidates have something to contribute, they don’t pass the test of leadership requirements needed in Puntland at this crucial moment. Puntland State deeply suffers from political stagnation, has serious governance and security problems. The country is politically polarized and unity is at stake. Economy has collapsed because of lack of sound fiscal management and absence of competition in a free market, leaders’ destructive interference in the market, nepotism and cronyism of the administration. No one among the known Presidential candidates can meet the challenges now Puntland faces.
Current political perception within Puntland Diaspora and supporters of Puntland is that there are two front runners among these candidates: They claim to be Abdiweli Hassan Ali (Gas) and incumbent President, Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamud (Faroole). I take an exception to this artificial and cosmetic assessment of reality in Puntland. My take on them is based on my Puntland experience and reading of the prevailing political situation at home now.
Let me call a spade a spade. Dr Abdiweli’s chance in that race is extremely limited. I also suspect that Dr. Abdiweli (Gas) has other personal national goals and ambitions and Puntland is not his priority. Based on his short political life as Prime Minister of Somalia, he did little or nothing for Puntland interests, although I acknowledge that he had had a bad working relationship with Faroole that made doing business with Puntland difficult. In fact, tampering of the Provisional Federal Constitution was done under Abdiweli’s watch. He and his team ( including his right-hand Constitutional Minister, Abdi Hosh) failed to deposit the constitutional version agreed upon in Garowe I and Garowe II to Congress delegates that provisionally approved the Federal Constitution. Instead, a print-out of completely another version was distributed to the 800 Congress Delegates, including the Traditional leaders that gathered and finally approved it in Mogadishu. That was a long time before President Hassan Sh. Mohamud got elected. To sum it up, the Road Map Dr Abdiweli seems to be proud of today is faulty and had done considerable damage to Somalia’s future governance as it was detrimental to Puntland vital national interest: Federalism as safeguard against Central Dictatorship and return to a One-City Republic Status. In terms of team work and selection of aides and political advisors, he is considered the worst Prime Minister that the successive Somali Transitional Governments had ever had.
The Roadmap received help and new boost from the most unexpected source: Jubaland, a non-existent entity during the Roadmap process. The appearance of JubalandState (which, of course, PuntlandState has been working tirelessly for throughout its existence) saved the day to re-enforce the Puntland State Vision on future governance system for Somalia. This de facto establishment of Jubaland Administration, in turn, led to the overwhelming acceptance of federalism by the international community as the only viable option for Somalia’s governance. Abdiweli also did nothing to contribute to the noble cause of creating JubalandState. He was not even visible during those tough political and military fights for Jubaland. One may recall that he was a tourist and traveling guest among the Puntland Diaspora in every corner of the world on a mission without an objective beyond his personal interests. Therefore, Puntland does need a man with that profile. It is too risky to take a chance!
I strongly believe that Puntland State communities have yet to produce the right Presidential Candidates to choose and elect from, and that is a heavy responsibility for all concerned. Let us debate on it and get this done. Take a note that time is of the essence in this regard.