When Siilaanyo was elected as a President I could remember the widespread euphoria and excitement people had for a positive change in Somaliland. Ten years of Riyaale Government became tiresome and lost direction, opening the gate for Kulmiye Party to enter the political fray as a credible alternative and change. With Silaanyo’s history and his crucial role in the SNM, it was a natural order for Kulmiye to become a Government giving the limited options available on the table. In effect, one could be forgiven for thinking there was a sense of righteous entitlement to the Somaliland’s presidency for Silaanyo, given his assured political career in Greater Somalia and as an opposition party leader in Somaliland.
The flagship policy of the Somaliland Governments has always been the pursuit of recognition for Somaliland. However, when Kulmiye took office they took a rational and brave decision not to spend too much political capital on the issue of recognition for Somaliland. Although this was their long-term aspirations, there was a deliberate shift in policy towards reforming and commitment to Somaliland’s internal development. The party have made gradual progress in the area of security reform but such achievement represents peace-meal adjustments and does not fully justify the excitement and change Somaliland was waiting for. Another key area where they have broken the impasse was the commitment to open dialogue with Somalia’s Government in the South where the international community was keen for progress. While there have been challenges on both sides, it is fair to say both sides were not serious about such dialogue and served to underline the existence of mistrust and lack of serious reconciliation.
The Party has recently engaged into contractual bilateral economic and military contracts with UAE with little substantial economic benefit for Somaliland other than filling the pockets of Government bureaucratic. This is a short sighted political decision that will have far reaching economic and security consequence for the stability of Somaliland. As I have noted in my previous article date April 2017 (Somaliland: Exhausted Consensus? North/South Divide? Opportunity for Meaningful Dialogue) where I have argued – in the grand-scheme of international trade, the figures being offered by outside countries amount to Shaxaad money. With the DP World involvement in Berbera, I sense it is intended to stifle further progress by having a control share of Berbera Port so that they do not in the long run compete with Dubai Ports as a regional hub. Call it a Modern form of Economic Colonialism. This is the consequence of political fragmentation, which leads to political and economic stagnation in the long run for all. It is an economic blunder of huge proportion driven by short-term political gain and economic shaxaad, legacy spearheaded by the Kulmiye Party. If one also re-assesses the dispute relating to the Berbera fuel containers, you sense this is a Party for the few, not the many, if one can borrow a recent political analogy.
In assessing the internal workings of Kulmiye, you could sense the Party was made for one person only (President Silaanyo) and the absence of his leadership, the country already sees a degree of stagnation in the last days of his tenure as a President. Once you also assess the Silaaanyo’s potential successor, Musa Bihi, you get a feeling this a party that has run of ideas and leadership. To indorse a candidate with the only noticeable experience being a military colonel during the SNM and the conquer of Somaliland from Siad Bare dictatorship, only seeks to explain the lack of talent and political leadership within the party.
Somaliland is at cross-road today and it is in dire need of fresh impetus with clear economic and political direction, which can steer its prospects to a meaningful development. I doubt such candidate with limited political experience and maturity can navigate the fundamental challenges Somaliland is facing today in an ever-changing global environment that is in retreat and inward-looking.
With the candidacy of Col Musa Bihi you sense this is just the pursuit of a long-held dream for the Somaliland’s presidency, a coronation of some sort without a substantial political direction or plan. To borrow an example, there was once a leader in a European country that only yearned for the office of Prime Minister and when he got the golden price, he had no clue of what to do with it, because the ultimate goal was only to be elected for the highest office for personal legacy. With questionable temperament, I fear the candidacy of Col Muse Bihi will end in this way for the detriment of Somaliland, leading to further stagnation politically and economically.
It also fair to include the era of former military personals leading nations and societies is in re-treat, especially with those with allegations of alleged war crimes hanging over them who have played a pivotal role in Somalia or Somaliland’s clan in fighting during and the aftermath of the civil war. In South Somalia’s recent Parliamentary elections in 2016, we witnessed Somali tribal societies and responsible elders turning away and holding their noses from the candidacy of General Morgan, General Indha Adde, Botan Isse Aalin, Abdifatah Hassan Afrah. The common denominator among these individuals is their dubious history and alleged or proven war crimes against their own Somali people during and after the civil war. It was refreshing to see Somalia’s societies turning away from these dubious individuals and beginning to pave the way for a new chapter in Somalia’s on-going political reforms. The irony is, for all of her progress and stability, to see Somaliland in reverse gear and entertaining the candidacy of Col Muse Bihi as a head of state () is a mind-boggling political quagmire or headache, and at best, detrimental to the security, stability and the fragile safety net (reconciliation) that exists between Somaliland’s societies. To put it simply, the successful election of Col Muse Bihi as Somaliland’s next president would be against the tide of history in the Horn of Africa and it would feel like sailing into the unknown, an outcome that will not sit or vote well for Somaliland youth who comprise 75% of the population that is in dire need for clear political and economic direction.
Once you look at recent political decisions relating to Arab GCC dispute and arrest of journalist or political dissident with different political views, you sense this is a Party that has lost focus and purpose – and are only there to micro manage existing conditions. It is my view a continuation of this political direction under Col Muse Bihi will further lead to stagnation and continuation of chaos that will have far reaching adverse impact for Somaliland and its citizens.
Somaliland has enjoyed much relative peace and stability, owning to its citizens under the supervision of House of Guurti and present and past Administrations. However, with the up-coming hotly contested Somaliland election, to preserve the stability and peace, the election must be free from nepotism, fear and corruption to avoid political chaos that will undermine the peace dividend that has sustained stability for Somaliland.
Somaliland is not an exception from the changing tectonic plates and unexpected political landscape across the world in USA, Europe and Somalia. Somaliland is not immune from these changing phenomena in global politics – and the lack of political direction and leadership from Kulmiye party provides the basis for change in Somaliland.
Mohamed Ibrahim is a London, UK, Social Activist/ keen Author he can be reached via: