Somaliland: It’s All About the Elections, St…d!

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Silanyo and Bihi at happier times/file

Somalilandsun – The factional fighting in the ruling Kulmiye Party has turned into a very ugly and dangerous political conflict with supporters of Muse Bihi, the party chairman, upset and angry at his treatment by the President, while supporters of the President are crowing about his victory over Muse.

The details of the struggle for presidential candidature between Silanyo and Muse Bihi is not particularly important except to Kulmiye supporters, but what is important to all Somalilanders is that this struggle has mutated into a clan conflict between the President’s kinsmen and Muse Bihi’s with their tacit acquiescence. This is unacceptable and demonstrates the inability of both men to transcend their clan roots and articulate a national narrative and perspective.

The supporters of Muse Bihi that are so incensed by the arrogance of the President and his supporters in swatting aside Bihi’s claims to Kulmiye’s candidacy for President in the upcoming elections, have allowed their anger to overwhelm their reason. Silanyo did not dismiss Bihi’s challenge to his candidacy for a second term because of clan affiliation, or in order to demean Bihi’s clan, but because Silanyo and his cohorts desperately want to retain the Presidency. It is true that this government has been the most overtly tribal or clannish that Somaliland has witnessed with the President’s closest advisors and ministers drawn from a narrow group comprising immediate family and kinsmen. However, the root of the current conflict between Silanyo and Bihi is not about tribe or clan; it is about power and its retention.

Review of the last four years shows that this President and his kitchen cabinet have consistently and repeatedly sought to eliminate any perceived political opponents, usually with success. First, there was the vicious expulsion, both physical and political, of Abdulrehman Abdulqadir (who was Deputy Chairman of Kulmiye) from the party when he became an opponent because he was not given the cabinet appointment that he was expecting in return for his unstinting efforts during the last Presidential campaign. Second, there was the concerted campaign to destroy UCID in order to neutralize Faisal Abdi Warabe which resulted in the defection of Abdulrehman Irro and his cohorts with the establishment of WADANI. Thirdly, there was the attempt to emasculate and neuter Irro by downgrading his position as Chairman of the House of Representatives, after WADANI emerged as a national party and Irro became a credible contender for President. Irro woke up to the machinations of the Presidency and ably defended his position, forcing the Silanyo and his cronies to back off.

It is important for the supporters of Muse Bihi to understand the nature of the game that is being played by the President and his supporters. When Bill Clinton was running for President against Bush senior in 1992, he coined a phrase that came to characterise his campaign and which amusingly demonstrated how disconnected from ordinary Americans the Bush campaign was. This phrase was “It’s the economy, stupid!” as Clinton focused his campaign upon the economic woes confronting ordinary Americans. As we all know, Clinton won the election with a large margin (6%) over Bush who had just presided over the dramatically successful first Gulf War, even as the economy went into a downturn. To Muse Bihi’s supporters today, one can say, “It’s about the election, stupid!” The issue facing Somaliland today is not clan competition, or one clan versus another, it is simply about the direction in which our country is headed and who is the right person to lead it.

The past four years have clearly demonstrated that Silanyo and his associates do not have the wisdom, vision or technocratic capability to lead our country. They have to be evicted from the executive branch at the next Presidential elections through a resounding defeat. This will require mass mobilisation of the ordinary people that are fed up and frustrated with the clannish, autocratic misrule of this government that tolerates no dissent, which muzzles and punishes the independent press, which has converted sections of the security forces into its own version of Afweyne’s duubcas to terrorize political opponents, and which has compromised Somaliland’s quest for recognition in favour of sterile, never-ending dialogue-of-the-deaf talks with the discredited and dysfunctional ‘government’ of Mogadishu.

In conclusion, the internal struggle for the candidacy of Kulmiye is a matter of concern only for members of that party. However, the social upheaval caused by the conflation of this internal party dispute into a clan conflict affects all Somalilanders and cannot be allowed to continue. The stability and cohesion of our nation is larger and more important than any clan or clan grouping, and political figures which cannot rise above this narrow, and necessarily exclusive, perspective and constituency have no role in national governance and leadership. Thus, the issue at hand is not clan competition; it’s about the elections, stupid!

Ahmed M.I. Egal
June 2014

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