Somaliland: Government on the Ropes, Turmoil Ahead

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By: Jamal Madar

Somalilandsun – A lot of water has followed under the bridge since the highly disputed municipal elections held in the country on 28 November 2012.

The United States had recognized for the first time in more than twenty years the new Somali government under the stewardship of Hassan Sheikh Mohamed even though Somalia still remains the breeding ground for extremism and piracy, drug and human trafficking, safe haven for criminals, and despite the fact that Al-shabab still retain the capability to shake the ground under the feet of the highest government officials including the president and the prime minister.

Britain had warned its citizens against traveling to Somaliland, and against staying anywhere in the country- a country that was once dubbed as “the oasis of peace and tranquility in Horn of Africa”. This sudden and unforeseen announcement hit Somaliland government officials like a lightening bolt, sending them scurrying to find out what went wrong. Instead of facing the brutal truth and putting their house in order, politicians and government officials especially the bumbling and gaffe prone minister of internal affairs, Mohamed Nur Arale, found it easier to pin the blame on Britain by staging counterproductive nation-wide demonstrations against Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel warnings. Others had drawn up a lousy appeal letter to the FCO, foolishly pleading with the British government to withdraw its travel warnings against Somaliland or in other words to forego the security and personal safety of its own citizens.

The United States heaped more bad news on Silanyo’s government after it has thrown its weight behind Britain warning its citizens and other foreigners against travelling to Somaliland. The government is on the verge of buckling under the weight of the internal turmoil coupled with this unforgiving diplomatic strain. Needless to say, the Somaliland foreign ministry has lost compass, drifting aimlessly in a sea of diplomatic confusion. We failed to make our case to the world. And now we are paying the price for our failure.

An incipient rebellion was blown into the open when senior officials of the ruling KULMIYE party, disclosed that president Silanyo will be the party’s presidential candidate for 2015. Based on the Burao Accord, Silanyo handed over the baton of leadership to Musa Bihi some three years ago seemingly paving the way for Bihi’s presidential candidacy. But this apparent reneging of the agreement dealt a mortal blow to Bihi’s presidential hope. For his part, Bihi muddied the waters by saying anyone who is a member of the central committee has the right to become the party’s presidential candidate, meaning there will be more spoilers than genuine presidential candidates. The in-fighting and backstabbing among party members is unlikely to subside in the run up to April Convention 2013.

The scandal of a vulnerable woman who had been arrested over text messages allegedly insulting the minister of presidency, Hirsi Haji Ali, and the president’s family has rocked the nation, prompting headlines and blistering condemnations from around the world. In a rare show of decency, the not-so-independent judiciary acted against Hirsi who is widely rumored to govern the country. On the order of the judge presiding over the trial, Hirsi was ordered to appear before the court. The hustle and bustle of downtown Hargeisa came to a virtual standstill as Hirsi arrived at court under heavy police escort amid fears of attacks. In the end, Hirsi found out that he was only scared of his own shadow as there was no single security problem.

While the government is determined to prosecute this vulnerable woman to the fullest extent of the law it has shamelessly denied justice to the relatives of the children massacred at Ahmed Dagah by the British funded police. Yet, president Silanyo parrots “Somaliland is a place where human rights and international laws are observed.”

President Silanyo and his Vice-President Abdirahman Sayli are embroiled in a toxic dispute, which could leave the country paralyzed if not resolved sooner. On his departure from Hargeisa on Tuesday 5th February, Silanyo was seen alone at the airport after his Vice-President flatly rejected to see him off. In an effort to resolve the dispute hastily, the president postponed his flight but unfortunately there was no meeting of minds. Earlier, the Vice-President has threatened to spill the beans about what is going on in the presidential palace that sent him packing.

A media horde descended upon his residence gleefully waiting for the Vice-President to wash their dirty linen in public but, in the end, they did not have the field day they hoped for. Constitutionally speaking, the Vice-President is meant to deputize for the President in his absence but Hirsi will be watching him like a hawk during the president’s absence. As they say, the Vice-President is literally a heartbeat’s away from the presidency but now president Silanyo wants to amend the constitution so as to appoint another Vice-President that will not only render Sayli’s post irrelevant but will also prevent him from becoming the sole heir-apparent to the presidency.

To complicate matters further, VP Sayli openly began cajoling government critics by receiving them in his office except HAKSOOR members who are considered by far the largest and most fierce opposition to this government. The Vice President seemingly believes that his political enemies are lurking around every corner of the presidential palace, hatching joint plot against him. Sayli took no chances and orders the bomb disposal unit to sweep his office for any possible IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). If the Vice-President cannot feel safe in the most heavily guarded place in Somaliland how can we possibly convince the British and American officials that Somaliland’s security is up to scratch?

Surely, Silanyo will have a tough time convincing Sayli that, after all, there is no bogeyman hiding in the presidential palace.

More seriously, the dispute between HAQSOOR supporters and the embattled government of Ahmed Silanyo over the disputed municipal election results grew steadily worse as both sides firmly entrenched in their respective positions.

HAKSOOR supporters firmly believe that they have the moral high ground and will literally not give an inch of ground to what they perceive as purveyors of deceit and injustices- the unholy alliance of the National Electoral Commission and the government.

This intractable internal turmoil is tearing apart the fabric of the nation as Silanyo opted to slam the doors of justice in the face of HAKSOOR, alienating an entire people at the country’s peril.

Silanyo’s only solution to this vexed political problem is, until now, to stick his index fingers in his ears, and engage in a perpetual state of denial to avoid the painful reality on the ground. For their part, the dogged HAKSOOR supporters keep piling on the agony for Silanyo, leaving the government on the ropes.

This abbreviated list of afflictions is formidable enough to render the government paralyzed but it remains to be seen whether Silanyo has the tenacity, political skill and energy to tackle these intricate problems or whether he will bury his head in the sand, as usual, hoping that the problems will simply go away.

JamalMadar adammadar@yahoo.com

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