By: Ali Mohamed
Somalilandsun- Last Week, the un-elected Somaliland House of Elders “Guurti”, unanimously voted to extend the term of the President of Somaliland Republic Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, by two more years. That decision would make Silanyo’s presidency a seven year term, instead of the constitution mandated five year term, which ends this July.This is risky, which could undo the organic peace and stability Somaliland people established for the last two decades, create a political tension and undermine Somaliland’s fledgling democracy, in a region rife with terrorism, autocratic rulers, Clan and tribal driven conflicts.
You would have expected a poor and unrecognized entity like Somaliland to act with great speed to strength its democratic credentials. But Mr. Silanyo has failed to do so. In fact, neither Mr. Silanyo nor Speaker Irro is committed holding a free and fair election on schedule. They had five years to prepare the country for the election; yet the electoral commission recently announced that presidential and legislative elections would be held on July 2016, one year after Silanyo’s term expires.
But “Guurti’s” decision would supersede the electoral commission timetable for the election, unless the voters and the opposition parties get united and take to the streets—-to stop “Guurti’s” decision on term extension, which is un-Islamic and illegal.
In summer of 2009, candidate Silanyo fought hard and protested when the election was delayed because of dispute over the voter registration and electoral timetable. Then President Riyaale used the election delay to seek for term extension of two years. Ironically, now, Mr. Silanyo is using the same delaying to stay power.
Nonetheless, in the coming weeks, the electoral commission would be able to do its job: Train election workers, register voters, issue voter ID’s and test the voting machines to make the election free and fair. And, without Silanyo administration being an impediment, the electoral commission should able to wrap up the whole voter registration with six months or even less.
What should the voters, political parties, and the Somaliland Forum for Consultation, a political action group, do about the Mr. Silanyo’s illegal power grab?
But one of the root causes of the current election crisis has to do with a dysfunctional political system: Not only the opposition parties are weak and divided, but the leaders of the opposition parties are highly flawed and lack the political experience and skills or agenda necessary to run a party or to lead a country.
In fact, they are not political parties. Actually, they are organization own by individuals to serve their own self-interest. For instance, Feisal Ali Warabe’s Justice and Welfare Party, has only a single member in the parliament.
President Silanyo and Suleiman Adan, the leader of the House of Elders, veterans of Somaliland’s Clan based politics, are exploiting the weaknesses of these parties.
But we must use all necessary means, but short of violence, to challenge Silanyo’s illegal power grab and we must also stop the charade of using electoral delays to stay power:
First, we must unite and steadfast against rewarding Silanyo for not doing his job: preparing the country for a free and fair election.
Second, we cannot let the “Guurti” circumvent the will of the people. The un-elected legislature must let the voters choose their next President. But if Mr. Silanyo wants to keep his job; the voters should have to decide his future and not a decision made by un-elected body in a backroom deals. And the fragile Somaliland democracy is not intended for small group of politicians and Mr. Silanyo’s cronies to pursue their own narrow selfish interests at the expense of people’s democratic voice.
And if Mr. Silanyo and Mr. Suleiman refuse to listen the wishes of the voters, the other course of action would be, to call for the West to threaten them with strong public statement, cutting aid, travel restriction and asset freeze. I believe that would force them to give up their illegal process to keep the power.
But I do not like when foreign countries or the highly politicized and corrupt United Nations telling our leaders how to run our own affairs.
Ultimately, the remedy for the persistent postponing of elections should be the Parliament passing constitutional amendment barring any term extension, and the President signing it, before he gets any short term extension. Moreover, the legislature must also pass legislation dealing about the time, place, funding and the manner of elections. That legislation must be specific about the dates of the presidential and legislative elections would take place.
But with Irro as speaker, the legislature would not pass any election reform laws required to avoid electoral delays. In fact, the Somaliland parliament is an extension part of Silanyo administration, because of Irro’s inept and failed leadership.
Somalilanders had given Mr. Silanyo a chance to govern for five years; but he became another African leader who tolerated corruption, bad governance and power abuse.
And I hate to say this, some of Silanyo’s actions such as the recent motor vehicles inspection scheme at Berbera port that parliament shut down are the dictionary definition of corruption and nepotism.
President Silanyo and Chairman Suleiman Adan are on the verge of leaving their legacy —-because of their parochial Clan based politics—–as the men who squandered the liberty and stability that Somaliland people had fought so hard for last two decades. That is risky, which is not only severely could undermine Somaliland’s quest for diplomatic recognition but also damage the cohesiveness of Somaliland society.
To avoid that, and to keep Somaliland moving forward, without a delay , Somaliland people deserve a credible election and a chance the voters to decide their next President.
Ali Mohamed is co-founder of the Horn of Africa Freedom Foundation, Lewis Center, Ohio. He can be reached @ email@example.com