Friday, March 18, 2016

Opinion - Somaliland - Does Kulmiye Party Deserve Our Votes?

 By Muse Farah, “Telling Truth in Time of Universal Deceit is a Revolutionary Act” George Orwell.

When people of Somaliland elected the present government in 2010 there was tremendous feeling of pride in all over the country. Power was peacefully transferred to the new President, Ahmed Mohamed Silaanyo.  There was something decent about political parties agreeing in the outcome of the election. The event had to a large extent increased the prestige of this country in the region and beyond. The election outcome also contributed to the stability of the country, goodwill of the international community and opportunities for development.
 Large part of that credit should of course, go to then out-going President, Dahir Rayaale Kaahin who courageously conceded defeat. Unlike some of his counterparts in some countries in Africa, he put his country’s interests before his own. In his departing speech, he famously reminded the incoming President, Silaanyo that he was handing him a country that was at ‘peace and united’. It is a statement that is going to haunt Silaanyo for some time. At least,   until the next election.
Almost a year is left now before Somaliland electorate go to the polls to elect a President and members of the House of Representatives.  The forthcoming election would be the 6th one that Somaliland implemented since 2002 local elections. But there were extensions of terms of Guurti, the upper House of Somaliland, the House of Representatives, and the President at different times, which to an extent dent Somaliland democratic credentials. Guurti, the upper House of Somaliland has not been elected since 1997. Around two- third of their deceased members are now filled by their relatives. This hereditary practice of an important House that is vested with powers to extend the President’s term is not in the law and needs to be abolished.
For number of reasons many people are anxious whether the Kulmiye government will be willing to cooperate in organizing clean elections in 2017 or whether they will be prepared to hand over power  in the event of them losing the election. The record of this Silaanyo administration speaks for itself.
The local election of 2012 which was the only election Kulmiye Government implemented was short of Somaliland standards. International Observers described it ‘free but not fair’. That election was the worst election ever organized in the country. There were controversies in the processes the political associations went through to qualify as a party. The exercise   was implemented by Registration and Approval Committee whose members were exclusively handpicked by the government despite their questionable credentials or capacities. In the protests over that electoral mismanagement two people lost their lives.
Also, every trick was devised to derail the current voter registration that the National Electoral Commission and International community were trying to put in place. The whole scheme of the national ID was a ploy by the Interior Ministry to delay the voter registration exercise. There is also widespread believe that money changed hands as result of fraudulent contract given to the ID registration company.  But, the main reason was voter registration be conditional to the successful conclusions of Civic ID programme that the Ministry was organizing.  The intention was   to impede the process which should then make another presidential extension inevitable.
When all is said and done, Kulmiye government will go down in history as the most corrupt one Somaliland has ever had. The scale of theft of national assets whether land, buildings or minerals is frighteningly alarming. The most shameful one being recent seizure of the Women’s Club and the Ghandi library that would forever immortalize the extent of predatory character of this government. Rather than thinking how to advance the welfare of the people of this country, the cabal that runs Kulmiye government is only busy selling state assets and acquiring illegal contracts.
It has been an open secret for some time now that there are mineral extracting project in Simodi Mountains north of Boramme town that involve Chinese. There are reports of tons of stones shipped through Berbera port. When asked about these shipments going abroad, all the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Hussein Duale could say was “ they only sent one container of sample…. to China and they were only in the exploration stage…”. Former Minister of Minerals in Egal’s administration, Ahmed Bihi however contradicts this. In a statement to the media on 10 January 2016 Bihi says “ the Chinese company, African Mining Corporation themselves admitted to have exported from the country 48 tons of minerals worth almost $196 million”. The former Minister also said the company was given license to operate in 2015 although it was active two years before that.
Even if Bihi’s estimate of quantity and cost of precious stones exported is an exaggeration, there is no doubt that the government is doing murky business in Simodi which they willfully hide from the public who elected it.
This resource mismanagement is not the only one that the current Kulmiye government made. Anglo -Turkish Oil Company, Genel Energy pulled out of Somaliland in 2013. The ostensible reason the company gave for their exit from Somaliland is in their website and says, “Seismic operations in Somaliland have been temporarily suspended due to deterioration in the security environment”. That could be a diplomatic way of expressing their abrupt departure.
Many believe, the security deterioration the company cited came about as a result of corrupt practices of the Kulmiye Ministers. It is known that they had squandered the money from the first small contracts the company gave for security, environmental mitigation, and catering among others. These contracts were not handled in a transparent way.  There was no tender for any of these contracts awarded. They were divided among government cronies who also hastily purchased dozens of landcruisers   with the intention of renting them to the company.
When locals in the oil prospective area who were not consulted heard what was going on over their heads, they threatened to take up arms. Genel Energy had to pull out. Somaliland lost an opportunity to benefit its resources because of rapacious Kulmiye elite. It was classical resource curse in the making that is often talked in other places in Africa
Given this background, it is simply very unlikely Kulmiye government can be trusted to handle this country’s resources. They are simply too corrupt to be trusted again. Somaliland development will be greatly impaired as long as the Kulmiye government is in power.  Corruption and poverty go hand in hand. It is a disease that has crippled development efforts of many governments in Africa before although things are changing for the better in the continent. One of the best stories now come from Tanzania’s new President, John Magufuli who is known as the ‘Buldozer’ because of his intolerance to corruption. Magufuli initiated quite a number of policies eradicating sleaze in his administration that won the support of not only his own people but in Africa as a whole.
Far too many people of this land perished in fighting dictatorship.  They  fought  for democracy and better futures for their children. It is high time that people of Somaliland open their eyes and avoid to be fooled again by people who squandered the trust bestowed upon them. Media has on record of all the rhetoric of President Silaanyo before he was elected. It looks he just did the opposite after he sat on the saddle.  He promised lean government, initially started with 10 Ministers, but now has nearly 60 in his cabinet. He advocated progress and eradication of corruption only to employ back former UDUB officials famous for their shadowy deeds.
 He professed to be friendly with media but his government has imprisoned more journalists than all the three administrations in Somaliland that preceded his regime put together. Up to now Haatuf newspaper and its sister publication Somaliland Times are closed. These publications were closed because they were effective in highlighting corruption practices of individuals in the government.  Their editor-in-chief, Yussuf Gaboobe was also himself imprisoned
Indeed, this Kulmiye government tarnished the image of Somaliland as democratic state. Foreign  friends of Somaliland who advocated the democratic gains of this country in many international forums since 1990s disappeared one by one as the only news emanating from the country was reduced to imprisonment of journalists,  closure of newspapers, postponing of elections and corruption.
But perhaps, the most worrying aspect of this government is the culture of corruption it instills in the public mind. This government has shown no scruple in buying allegiance of journalists, traditional leaders, and youth organization through financial inducement.  No administration in Somaliland had ever been so contemptuous of the law and state institutions than the present one.  Tender board work is all but misnomer now. The employment policy of the government is no better. Ministers employ people without proper procedures that respect merit. It is estimated that this government put in the state payroll two times more staff than when they came to power in 2010.
 It is usual practice for the Silaanyo administration to keep the public in the dark. Case in point is his current visit to Kuwait. He is accompanied by his wife, son-in-law, Port Manager (former UDUB Port Manager that Silaanyo used to accuse corruption when he was in opposition) clansman Minister and Secretary. This political culture of surrounding himself with relatives is something never practiced by Presidents before him. Many people are bewildered about the judgment of the President who increasingly runs the affairs of State as a family business. Some argue his advanced age made him vulnerable to be manipulated by his close relatives. Others disagree and say this practice is his own making.
 As nobody fully knows the aim of the Kuwait visit, rumours get hold of the people. Some say the Kuwaitis are giving Soamlailand some funding for development which the President and his group don’t want others to know which is why the Foreign Minister was so humiliatingly left behind.
 A vote for Kulmiye again will not only promote disharmony within our society because of favourtism and corruption of this government but will also hamper our development aspirations. You don’t have to look further than how Kulmiye administration was over the years unwilling to allow foreign banks open branches in this country because of special interest groups in the country they favour. We also remember how this administration obstructed competition for internet cable despite our open market policies some years ago.  It is because of all these reasons; I mentioned that we should never elect Kulmiye President again. Famous English phrase says “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.
The people of Somaliland who practiced democracy through undergoing periodic elections should be very careful where to give their vote this time. We should not be fooled to vote for clan allegiance. It is essential   to evaluate political parties by their track record. Only then can we fulfill our civil obligations. Democracy is incompatible with blind obedience of clan dictates. This is especially very important for the youth who are the majority of the population to take note.  Uncritical dispensing of votes would inevitably close their future opportunities, and would inevitably contribute to instability of this country.
 Muse Farah,
March 17, 2016