Somaliland: Swift political settlement is the only way forward

Constitutional acts, relevant terms and charters have repeatedly been used and abused since Somaliland voted for her constitution in 2001. The rule of law had always been a tool for the conflicting interests of the previous and incumbent administrations to disavow all the opposing factors. Human rights and freedom of speech were in the spotlight of every aspirant while on his course to the presidency but ended up a spot of the campaign rhetoric in the past. House of elders, the representatives and the supreme constitutional court have competing shares in plunging every political dispute into a juridical and legislative quagmire. While surviving the squalid living conditions they’ve been through for more than 31 years, people still lack the unity to confront all the power abusers in one voice. Unless the division of the people based on the clan lines by which the so-called politicians often use to manipulate them hadn’t been in place, they would’ve collectively taken the streets in one voice like what happened in Sri Lanka recently. The current crisis could lead this unrecognized nation to an unknown future, as the staggering unemployment rates, economic stagflations and skyrocketing cost of living among the ordinary people are the correct benchmarks for Somaliland being a fragile state. These facts would challenge all the dummy mantras used by those in power like they’re the ultimate saviors of the country’s peace and stability. And finally, Mr. Faysal Ali Warabe’s bombastic rhetoric and Abdirahman Mohamed Irro’s emotion-free words are now a good blend of fine energy to lead their supporters.

Somaliland needs urgent political solutions to sustain her stability.  

Why electoral disputes are recurrent

Disputes related to constitutional elections were not born with the current administration only but had happened during the terms of the previous administrations too. No president or elected body, such as (the two houses of the parliament and the local councils) has ever left their offices on time at the expiry of their term(s). This culture of extension has always been a huge setback and the epicenter of the country’s repetitive political stalemates, the reason of which was attributed to the ineffectiveness of the institutions of the checks and balances, as they fall under the influence of the sitting administration at the time. Every president, while taking the oath, reiterates how he was adamant about upholding the rule of law, preserving timely elections, respecting freedom of expression, the prevalence of justice for all and compassing the nation around the world for getting the long-awaited recognition. The incumbent president, Musa Bihi Abdi, was the last to promise holding a timely presidential election during his campaign trail to the presidency. After the successful parliamentary and local-council joint elections in May 2021, there was a quadrilateral meeting between the International Partners (Somaliland democratization supporters), the two chairmen of the opposition parties, the Somaliland National Electoral Commission NEC, and a delegation representing the Somaliland government in Nairobi, Kenya. The key agenda of such meeting was about sharing ideas on the recent development of Somaliland democratization process, requesting financial support for the upcoming presidential elections by the International Partners, assurances by the opposition parties on their commitments and readiness for the 13 Nov 2022 presidential elections and last but not the least the Electoral Commission’s preparedness and challenges for holding and administering free and fair presidential elections. Nevertheless, achieving those commitments seems to be invisible, if not impossible, due to the presidential election timetable, which is due on 13 Nov this year. The irony is Somaliland’s democratic vehicle is on the same pathways again, taking a U-turn back to the starting line of extensions and overstays.

Why such a swift U-tern?

The long gossip in the Somaliland political spheres has finally been an open secret owing to the president’s recent midnight televised speech after the 11 Aug pro-democracy strikes by the opposition supporters that have engulfed all the Somaliland regions. In my readings, the president was emotionally broken from presumably what appears to be the outcome of miscalculated maneuverings resulted in an enormous challenge shown by the opposition supporters vis-à-vis the impotence of the reliance on the different security forces who have failed to disburse the crowds whilst they have disproportionally used force, teargas and live ammunitions for the unarmed people, killed at least five protesters and wounded dozens across the country. The government cut all the internet services across the country in what many people, mainly opposition supporters, see as a sinister agenda perpetrated for the concealment of any potential casualty(s) or damage(s) inflicted on the people whatsoever, several amateur video clips, vlogs and other images widely shared on the social media after the internet service(s) resumptions, exposed young plain-clothed officers armed with handguns in a white left side rear door window broken SUV Toyota land cruiser deliberately killed and abandoned a young unarmed teenager in one of the city’s residential neighborhoods, an absolutely deplorable action expressly depicting the level of enmity some officers in the government have their own people. Several key members of the opposition parties were taken into police custody in the early hours of the demonstration in an attempt to intimidate or derail the demonstrators. According to the opposition parties, the strikes were licensed, all those killed or wounded were within the earmarked square kilometers, and none was out of it. Though irreparable damage happened during the protests, the opposition parties vow the continuations of similar protests until, according to them, the government returns to the democratic bath. Freedom of Public Demonstration and Expression of Opinion is a right of every citizen enshrined in the constitution (article 32). However, the government has their version of neutralizing this act with claims that Somaliland citizens lack all moral ethics to peaceful demonstrations and might trigger looting or damage of public and private properties, a claim denied by the protesters as there was no recorded theft or looting(s) what so ever. 

On 16 Nov 2021, Somaliland’s main opposition party Wadani triggered a new paradigm shift in Somaliland’s long preserved political party ownership status and considered Mr. Hirsi Haji Ali to be the party’s talisman. Mr. Hirsi Haji Ali was elected the chairman of Somaliland’s main opposition party Wadani with an overwhelming majority. Although mixed reactions to this move by the people, many politicians and political analysts in Somaliland have welcomed and commended the former party Chairman (the current presidential hopeful), Mr. Abdirahman Mohamed Abdillahi Irro, for this unprecedented move, a move that has immediately changed the compass of the incumbent president’s political outlook.

Hirsi Haji Ali, the new chairman of the main opposition party Wadani and a former key member of the conservative party Kulmiye, was the elephant in the room for the president’s bid to take the whole country’s political will round in circles achieving no tangible milestones and turned a deafening ear towards any potential efforts from within trying to seek rapprochements between the government and the opposition parties. This is why many politicians and legal professionals see a manmade process entanglement intentionally engineered by the president, such as the dismissal and the replacement of the National Electoral Commission NEC. The million-dollar question is, why is the new Wadani chairman Mr. Hirsi Haji Ali, the real pain-in-ass for the president? What makes him have the same weight as the country’s whole political muscle?

Broken promises deplete humanity and are the worst for someone who leads a nation, but it has become a norm among Somaliland politicians. Somaliland’s electoral process was a fundamental stone for its progressive democratization. Her historic free and fair elections, like the three presidential elections held in Apr 2003, Jun 2010 and Nov 2017, coupled with the two parliamentary elections held in Dec 2002, Nov 2012 and May 2021, were what make Somaliland unique in a region marred by constant electoral disputes which sometimes result in bloodshed and arbitrary political incarcerations.

There are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends, only permanent interests. I don’t entertain this, as it is an intellectually vacuous phrase in politics and among the politicians; it works fine in Somaliland too. It’s a theory notoriously intellectualized and philosophized by the common person with no basic understanding of this dirty business (politics). No politics or politician would ever come to fruition while morality and ethical principles are totally absent. See how those in the world of real politics behave in contrast to this illusive political narrative. No enemies and no friends in Somaliland politics motivated president Musa Bihi to immediately disown many of his key politicians in the same conservative party (Kulmiye), who were the driving forces behind his campaign for the presidency. Many of the key aspirants of the newly registered political associations were among those made pariahs by President Bihi’s and even lost their party’s membership rights. Some new registered political union aspirants seem to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. They are getting even worse as they’ve been lobotomized by the reality on the ground and freely slipped into the muscle power politics of president Bihi. In contrast, the rest seem to be Trojan horses in the delegitimizing bid of the two opposition parties whose licenses expire on 26 Dec 2022.

Political settlement is the only way forward.

Staggering unemployment rates, economic stagflations and the skyrocketing cost of living among the ordinary people are the correct benchmarks for Somaliland being a security risk. Due to the absence of seasonal rainfalls, rampant droughts have caused an untimely rural exodus to the big cities as the draughts decimated thousands of their livestock possessions. On April 1st 2022__ Wahen central market conflagration which destroyed USD billions worth of assets of mainly private sector businesses, was another addition to the economic pinch of the country. Due to the above facts, all the political stakeholders must act out of their egos and return to the round table to score a winning goal for the nation. As many legal professionals and Somaliland political experts believe, a viable political settlement based on a win-win solution could be a breakthrough out of this impasse. Somaliland being a fragile state, any failure to bring about an urgent solution to this political standoff might plunge the nation into a yawning hell.

Khadar Hanan

E mail: khadarhanan@yahoo.com

Twitter: @khadarhanan

Doha, Qatar.

Mr. Khadar researches and critically writes about the rapidly shifting geopolitical, social, and economic landscape pertaining to the Horn of Africa. He is based in Doha Qatar. He can be reached E mail: khadarhanan[@]yahoo.com or on Twitter @khadarhanan

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