By: Sayid Madar
Somalilandsun – On the 8th January 2014, the election of the new President of the semi-autonomous region of Somalia, Puntland, was underway with many International Governments and bodies including UNSOM present. News correspondents were eagerly awaiting the results.
The time came and the winner by one vote was Abdiweli Gaas, the former Prime Minister of Somalia beating former President Farole by 34-33 votes.
A concentration of international focus was placed on this moment with many people congratulating the new President-elect via Twitter and media. The PM of the Somali Federal Government (SFG) in Mogadishu released a statement congratulating him; however the most glaring comment I noticed stated:
“These elections were possible thanks to the improved stability in Somalia and I congratulate Puntland on ensuring that the elections were peaceful, free and fair.”
I’m sure many would argue otherwise regarding the security situation, however the issue I have with this statement, which many people may not be aware of, is that it was not actually a democratic election in regards to the internationally accepted definition of ‘democracy’ nor has the Government in Mogadishu been democratically elected. In fact, the type of democracy people are being sold by the media and stakeholders in the region is a Clan-Selected system in which clan elders pick MP’s who then decides who is ‘elected’ president.
This cycle of unelected governments which is supported by UNSOM doesn’t assist with stability. I believe it’s actually counter-productive as Somalia currently lacks a strong representative government and there is a lack of public support/confidence. After the civil war in the early 90’s, Somaliland was building an inclusive society from the get go. This framework has not been implemented well/at all in Somalia. I would recommend UNSOM takes a step back to understand what created this atmosphere in Somaliland. It was a Somali-led peace process in which elders were used to mediate. Elders are the backbone of Somali society and are exceptionally good at dealing with issues pertaining to Criminal or Civil proceedings as a representative of the person in question; however elders should steer clear of issues regarding power to avoid bias to their individual clan.
The challenge faced in Somalia requires a bottom up grassroots approach in which the movement is a public-led process. Implementing unelected Government doesn’t change anything because it’s more of the same system as previous failed governments. The international community should push for transparent democracy in which people are picked via popular vote ensuring MP’s understand what it takes to gain the support and trust of the general public. The opponent of the Government in Mogadishu is Al’Shabaab which is translated in Arabic as ‘The Youth.’ I do not condone or support their atrocious and barbaric activities however I need to highlight that whilst there’s an unelected government which is perceived as corrupt and unrepresentative, unfortunately Al’Shabaab will thrive as it doesn’t use Clan-Systems. Anyone irrespective of age, race, and ethnicity is treated equally and invited equally. The majority of its fighters are young and indoctrinated into a sense of belonging which should be the motto on the forefront of the SFG agenda because the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. It’s vital for them to feel included.
As a Somali, born in the now Republic of Somaliland, I’m ashamed that the only democratically elected Government and Somali speaking President is Ahmed Silanyo, the President of Somaliland. Somaliland has stability, rule of law and a thriving private sector. I was present in Hargeisa in 2003 and had the fortune of witnessing mass public mobilisation and songs in the street in anticipation of the elections. In the 2003 election, former President Dahir Riyale Kahin won by a narrow margin of 80 votes. It was a very tense moment that was resolved amicably with both candidates laughing by the end of it. I believe this victory was the most decisive moment in Somaliland’s upcoming history as well as solidifying public perception of inclusiveness. Many analysts predicted Dahir Riyale to lose; assuming Somalis would vote along clan lines predicting a landslide win to Ahmed Silanyo. This was evidently not the case. This formed a strong bond within the Former British Somaliland Protectorate which reinstated its independence in 1991.
To effectively tackle the issues plaguing Somalia, I cannot reiterate that it must come from the bottom-up, instead of the current system where people are selected then the international community rubber stamps it as valid. The reality on the ground paints a different picture. A weak selected government protected 24/7 by AMISOM. The presence of Africa forces is being used as propaganda by extremists to justify attacks and recruit under the guise of ‘Protecting from Occupation.’ If this was a Somali led movement from the bottom-up; it would be difficult for Al’Shabaab to recruit under those excuses.
In conclusion, I feel the lack of awareness of the reality of Somalia and Somaliland’s history is restraining and in some cases inadvertently causing more harm than good. Many in Somalia, predominantly in the former Italian-Somalia border region which includes Puntland, believe in re-uniting the defunct Somali Republic which was the union of British Somaliland and Italian-Somalia in 1960, yet they disregard the reality and self-determination of Somaliland’s citizens that overwhelmingly voted for reinstating independence.
Firstly, it’s important to emphasize the notion that an unelected government having the right to govern over a democratically elected government is absurd, but many, including stakeholders who signed contracts with SFG, are adamant about implementing this illogical idea. Moreover, since the Somali Republic divided back to its original Pre-1st July 1960 borders in 1991, there appears to be a rise is the number of ‘Presidents’ which is clearly counter-productive. I believe there should be one Government in Somalia alongside the one government in Somaliland.
Due to complexity of Somali clans and sub-clans, Somalis need democracy to be governed or else rule of law, taxation and basic government structures will be futile against a public unwilling to cooperate. Whilst UNSOM and Nik Kay congratulate and assist the unelected governments in Somalia, they may be causing more damage than they think by fuelling division within the public, pushing minority clans to be swept up by extremist forces. This unfortunate cycle in Somalia must be deterred and a new form of governance which restricts Al’Shabaab whilst mobilising the public is required now more than ever.
The author Sayid Madar was born in Gabiley, Somaliland and currently lives in the UK. A business graduate and a Civil Servant employed by the UK Government. Interests include Foreign Policy & International development. Please note, views expressed are views of the author only. You can contact the author on: