Thursday, March 16, 2017

London- The speech of Somaliland presidential candidate at Chatham House

Chatham House, London - The speech of Abdirahman Cirro at Chatham House:

Good afternoon, ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to be with you here today; I want to take this opportunity to thank this great institution, the Royal Institute of Research and International Affairs, for organizing this magnificent event.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Somaliland diaspora in the United Kingdom for their dedication and support to Somaliland.
On behalf of the Somaliland people, I like to convey a sincere and deep gratitude to Her Majesty’s Government and Prime Minister Her Excellency Teresa May. We are forever indebted to the UK for their unwavering and consistent support we have received over the years.
Having said that,
Let me begin with a brief recap of democracy in Somaliland. In 2002 district council elections were held to determine which political parties could contest the first Presidential elections. From this process three parties were given ‘official’ status- UDUB, UCID and KULMIYE.
In 2003 President Dahir Rayale Kahin was elected and first parliamentary elections occurred in 2005. In 2010 President Kahin was replaced by Ahmed M. Mahamoud Silanyo, who is our current President.
President Rayale’s peaceful transfer of power was a remarkable milestone for our democracy and we hope that the incumbent administration will honour the result of future elections in a similar fashion.
2nd Parliamentary elections were originally scheduled for 2010 but have been repeatedly delayed and are currently scheduled for 2019.
The Presidential elections were meant to take place in 2015 but have also been delayed to March 28, 2017 by Supreme Court Ruling. However, the opposition parties - WADDANI and UCID - supported a technical adjustment to the election date due to the current severe drought.
All major national stakeholders agreed to shift it to Oct 10, 2017, however, the House of Elders (Gurti) again changed the date to November 2017 as the new date for the presidential elections.
My party, the WADDANI Party, condemns the norm which has developed whereby elections are repeatedly delayed. While we accept that we exist within a fragile system and one where democracy is in its infancy, we are concerned by this norm, which allows ruling parties to maintain power beyond their elected terms.
Voter registration was recently completed which is a major achievement. Nearly 900 000 people have been biometrically registered using iris scans.
The WADDANI Party is ready and supportive of the elections. One of my key priorities is to get democracy back on track. I want to be clear and bold here, under my leadership there will not be election delays, whether this is presidential, local or parliamentary.
I will now turn to the drought, which is the greatest challenge for Somaliland at present. Cyclical droughts are a common feature of the lives of pastoralists in the Horn of Africa. However, this drought cycle has been recognized as the most ferocious in the recent memory and we are presently facing a famine situation.
The WADDANI Party has been critical of the current Government’s response to the crisis. We believe they have not done enough to prepare to mitigate the effects of the drought and did not develop a coherent response plan.
My party has a detailed plan of managing recurrent droughts and minimizing their damage to our people and their livestock assets, which include building contingency resources in our central government and municipal budgets, investing in water, in fodder production, in environmental regeneration and in the longer-term transformation of the nomadic pastoralist way of life.
In the current emergency situation, we are appealing to the international community to help Somaliland safe its people from the grip of the advancing famine. We are very grateful to the international community for the support it has already given to Somaliland, but the scale of this humanitarian crisis demands much more still.
The children and the elderly are already dying, and rest of the nomadic families are streaming to the urban centres in their destitution. We are also urging the Government of Somaliland to prepare centres to care for the drought victims, and to fully commit to a transparent and accountable process, to reach all drought victims.
Mr Chairman and esteemed friends.
The importance of transparency and accountability is also raised by the recent and controversial developments in Berbera. For those of you who are not aware, Berbera is a port city and strategically placed on the red sea.
It is also a major civilian aviation centre and is crucial for Somaliland’s imports and exports. The development of the port by an international company has been rumoured for the last couple of years.
In June 2016, a deal was signed between DP World, a Dubai based company, and the Government of Somaliland. According to the initial MOU document, DP World has committed to investing $442 million in the port in a period spanning over three decades.
The WADDANI Party encourages the development of Somaliland’s assets, and recognises the potential of Berbera Port. It has the potential to serve landlocked Ethiopia’s fast growing export-import trade.
However, we are very concerned by the lack of transparency and accountability in the DP World contract. There was no open tender process and the contract details and impact is still shrouded with secrecy.
When done in such non-transparent manner, it has the potential to increase corruption and to rob the Somaliland people of their assets.
I want to declare here that under my leadership this lack of transparency culture will change, and that my government will commit to the application of zero tolerance policy towards corruption in all its shades.
The recent announcement of the agreement between the government of Somaliland and the UAE, whereby the UAE will build a military base at Berbera, is also of great concern to my Party and our people.
We are generally supportive of assisting our security allies and of agreements which will bring jobs to Somaliland people. However, this military base has the potential to bring several serious challenges to Somaliland, at a time when we are ill equipped to deal with them.
These include Somaliland being drawn into the conflict in Yemen, and into the wider geopolitics of the region. There is also risk to Somaliland’s national security, if we are seen to take sides in geopolitical conflicts without adequate and compensating safeguards.
Moreover, Berbera and the use of its strategic national assets are for the Somaliland a crucial factor for its future development, both in building political alliances and in securing economic growth for its people. It is a national heritage intertwined with our hopes for freedom and for prosperity.
Therefore, we cannot afford to take these risks without public debate and a rigorous examination of the details of the agreement to protect the interests of our people.
Let me also touch also another burning issue - the current Government’s record of the Freedom of Press.
To Quote from Global Journalist, Somaliland “Once considered a democratic beacon in East Africa, despite the fact that its government has not been formally recognized internationally, Somaliland government has stepped up efforts to silence critical news reporting and dissenting media in recent years.” Unquote.
Scores of journalists are detained because of fulfilling their democratic duties to provide information to the public on critical issues such as Berbera Port and Airport dealings.
One recent example is the Director of Star TV, Maxamed Baashe Xaaji Xasan, who was detained for participating in a debate on the issue of a UAE Military Base in Berbera.
Media houses, including major TV channels such HCTV and Universal are subjected to acts or threats of closure; and even the indomitable BBC is not spared when it comes to threats.
The Somaliland Constitution is clear about the protection of Freedom of Expression in its Article 32 and I am committed to uphold the freedom of speech as an inalienable right of Somaliland people.
I am also committed to embrace the important role that the free press can play in the quest for recognition of Somaliland and in the realization of WADDANI Party’s vision to build a democratic and prosperous society in Somaliland.
I will conclude this brief speech by explaining why I am still optimistic about Somaliland’s future; despite the many challenges we face. Somaliland and its people have experienced conflict, drought, famine, displacement, oppression, and the break-up of families over the last few decades.
Lack of international recognition continues to impede us to maximise our development efforts. Yet we have built a largely peaceful democratic state, in contrast to Somalia.
With very little resources our people have rebuilt their lives and our private sector is growing rapidly. Somalilanders are a resilient people and they are survivors. I am confident that the state of Somaliland will continue to strengthen.
My role is to lead this process and to facilitate pooling of our energies to overcome the challenges I have laid out above and I shall be honoured to serve them in that capacity.
Thank you for your attention
Source - Farah Egal