Somalia: Puntland’s federalism woes

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By Liban Ahmad

(Somalilandsun) For a while ignore strengths and weakness of federalism or decentralized system and focus on how Puntland, the driving force behind federalism, makes the case for federalism at the regional administration (Puntland calls itself a state) and at the national government (Transitional Federal Government) levels. At the regional administration level Puntland political leadership failed to negotiate with stakeholders whose traditional leaders and politicians met and decided to form a regional administration, Khatuumo.

Although Puntland administration did not undermine or disrupt efforts to hold conference in Taleeh district, President Farole of Puntland refused to recognize the new administration but attempted to hand-pick traditional leaders from the clan who would participate in the Mogadishu conference for elders to select MPs for the new parliament which will elect a new president in August 2012.

Supporters of a decentralized system argue federalism lays the emphasis on clan affiliation not the birth or residential rights of the Somalis. An IDP (internally displaced person) born in Garowe will not have a chance to be elected an MP or a district commissioner in Garowe, they argue. Although Puntland hosts a large number of IDPs from southern Somalia the administration exposed itself to accusations about human rights violations after it deported some IDPs to Galkayo in 2010.

Resource-sharing is principle Puntland president, Abdirahman Farole, emphasizes in meetings but Puntland does not have a good history of sharing resources with its people or being transparent about agreements the administration signed with foreign companies. Since 1998, when Puntland was formed, two companies were given contracts to award fishing licenses: Hart, a British company which, According to Jay Bahadur, the author of Pirates of Somalia, was replaced by “Somali-Canadian Coast Guard (SomCan), a hastily-cobbled-together outfit run by Abdiweli Ali Taar, a former Toronto cab driver”

Piracy started as resistance by some fishermen whose livelihoods were put at risk by Puntland government policies but piracy soon became a growth, illegal business which attracts the attention of many unemployed youths in Puntland.

A large number of pirates who were captured and put on trial in Kenya, Yemen and Seychelles belong to Puntland. Up to know Puntland administration has not explained how many fishing licenses are held by foreign fishing companies nor has it made it clear if the TFG is aware of fishing contracts. The fishing contracts Puntland awarded to foreign companies preceded both the TFG and its predecessor, Transitional National Government led by Abdiqasim Salat Hassan. Puntland’s resource-sharing mantra is not only a way to enrich a few well-connected men but it is also a ploy to see the practice implemented in other parts of Somalia. Puntland has unwittingly undermined the case for federalism.

Liban Ahmad

libahm@gmail.com

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