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The Scoreless Stalemate In Our Political Skullduggery
For many years, I have never penned an article by which I have been aiming at expressing my views on the ever- changing political dynamics in Somaliland. The reason was not that I have been hamstrung by the lack of the proper words that I would describe what was burning inside me but was more of a choice to stay mum about the whole stuff.
Yet, staying in such a hibernation state for those years has left me with nothing but the urge to catch up with the ins and outs of the political system in Somaliland. There are, however, certain hot issues that are boggling the minds of all sensible citizens in this beautiful country. These issues include: the standoff between President Rayale and the House of Representative over the Budget, the public disquiet about the unfair dismissal of the only Defense Minister who managed to set foot on the borderline with Somalia; the manhandling of the outgoing Electoral Commission members by President Rayale and the House of Representatives’ majority vote against the ratification of incoming EC members recommended by the President; the extension of the term of office of the outgoing EC members by the House of Representatives; the public uproar over the recently established political organization, and many others.
Given the seriousness of these issues, I have found myself immersed deeply into them, seeking to address them not with academic dryness but with a refreshingly down-to-earth intellectual approach. Thus, I am here to share my views on the issues I have already stated in the preceding paragraph with the would-be readers of this article. To this effect, I shall deal with each of them separately as shown below:
1. The Standoff between President Rayale and the House of Representatives:
It is not surprising that we often hear the Executive Branch of the State headed by Rayale is at loggerheads with the House of Representatives over a variety of national issues of which the State Budget of 2007 was the latest.
As regards the budget, the House of Representatives have had a series of debates over the budget document presented to them for ratification and revised by the Economic Committee of the House. Every MP has been given the opportunity to make his/her point regarding its contents. Hardly there is a single MP who has missed these lively debates bar those who were either on leave of absence or not in the vicinity of the chamber.
However, these debates have boiled down to putting the budget to a vote. There were two issues (choices) by which the MPs were to vote on: either ratify the budget in the same manner the Ministry of Finance has submitted it or the budget as revised by the Economic Committee of the House. As a result, the yeas for the latter choice (Mostly by Opposition MPs) have outvoted the yeas of the former choice (Mostly by UDUB MPs) by 3 votes, and based on this, the budget has been ratified.
As for the turn of the events regarding the budget issue, I fully support the process by which this issue has been settled. It was a job well done. In fact, I wished that there would be no backstabbing by those who have been outvoted, but, to my chagrin, I have come to realize that they have not bowed out gracefully and yet continued on their path to renege on the time-honored tradition of keeping the national issues available for debates in the chamber, as they spilled them over onto the streets.
Dear Reader, the revisions made on the budget document were necessary because it was not based on agreed formula that would justify the figures placed under certain heads and sub-heads; it was erratic at best. Certain heads hosted exorbitant figures with which the country would be better off had they been placed under the proper and under-funded heads and sub-heads. What the committee did was it just transferred figures from the over-funded heads and sub-heads to the under-funded heads and sub-heads. A penny garnered for the delivery of Health and Education services is worth mountains of gold for the recipients of these services. I, for one, totally subscribe to this mode of thinking!
There is, in my opinion, nothing personal in this standoff, yet the fact that the President is continuing to dig his heels until he gets the situation turning around in his favor elucidates the suspicion that Somaliland is to be seen as a land bereft of any compromises, particularly at the highest level.
In politics, compromise is the antithesis of standoff and is the only thing that works best when all other options are exhausted. Somaliland has been through difficult times that it surfed gracefully with the aid of the wisdom treasured with its own people. No one likes to see the same bad old days revisiting us with disastrous effects. Somaliland must have developed a thick skin to withstand the political storms blowing from every direction of which the ping-pong tussle over the budget is the latest tit-for-tat event. It deserves better treatment, mind you. This is a golden opportunity that the President must seize to save Somaliland from the degrading effects that might result in from the bickering over coins in the budget.
It is high time that we move forward and bury our hatchets through open dialogue and trust.
2. The Public Disquiet over the Unfair Dismissal of the One and the Only Minister of Defense.
As the political stalemate over where the allegiance of certain parts in Sanag and Sool Regions lies with regard to Somaliland and Puntland still drags on, there were armed confrontations between the two forces based in these contested territories. Yet, none of these confrontations has been politically damaging than the one that took place in Dhahar, which ensued the dismissal of the one and the only Minister of Defense (Mr. Waqaf) who managed to set his foot on the borderline with Somalia.
Though, as later confirmed, that the mission was limited to providing protection to the visiting Government Ministers, yet the fact that with his leadership and military background Somaliland forces stationed there have taught the enemy forces a good lesson that they would never forget deserves high praise. This commendable feat runs counter to the accusations that he single-handedly managed the whole event without consulting with the Commander-in-Chief.
As I see it, there was nothing wrong with the way he discharged his duties as the most senior official in the Ministry of Defense present where the armed confrontations occurred.
Moreover, the decision to dismiss him was unfair, hasty and above all inappropriate to the prevailing circumstances that the Minister was in then. You cannot imagine how damaging such disheartening news had been to the morale of the Somalilanders and their well- wishers in the outside world. The President could have waited him until the operation was complete. He should not have used the media to announce his dismissal when the whole world-friends and foes alike- were listening. Rather, he should have asked him to return to base (Hargeisa) for consultation, and if they could agree on anything over a working dinner arranged at the Presidential Palace it would be business as usual, and if not decide on how best he could handle it: Simply delivering the dismissal letter through his Secretary.
Whatever happened to Mr. Waqaf as a result will have no effect on the high esteem we hold for his heroic move to save lives and properties that would go up in smoke if he had insisted on keeping the forces in such hostile territory where the supply lines of armaments, food and other essentials were susceptible to enemy disruptions, thereby causing heavy casualties on lives and military hardware that Somaliland could not afford. Mr. Waqaf has done his best and should have been awarded with the highest gold medal for bravery if ever there was one.
3. The Electoral Commission (EC):
The outgoing EC members have served their statutory term (5 Years) and could have such term extended if circumstances dictate.
On the eve of the expiry of their term, the President has issued a circular informing the two political parties (Kulmiye and UCID) and the House of Elders the need for nominating four persons who, with the addition of 3 persons under his thumb, would become the incoming EC members replacing the outgoing ones whose term expired.
The House of Elders and UCID political Party, have fielded their nominees for the incoming EC- two and one respectively- and together with the 3 the President appointed have had their names put forward to the House of Representatives for ratification, as Kulmiye remained the only political party that did not appoint its nominee for the incoming EC on grounds of principle.
It then occurred that the House of Representatives have overwhelmingly voted against the proposed nominees for the EC, citing reasons ranging from inexperience to being partial.
Rubbing salt into the wound inflicted as a result, the House of Representatives have responded positively to a motion suggesting the extension of the outgoing EC members’ term to two years placed before them for voting.
Aggravating the situation further, the President, in a retaliatory mood, has ordered the eviction of the outgoing EC from the compound one Friday Morning without giving them an ample time to put things in their proper order for eventual handover.
This tit-for-tat mode of resolving conflicts has left Somaliland with no EC in place as the elections dates are drawing near.
One wonders if the President is at all intent on hanging on to power without a public mandate that could only come about through election. If the case is so, that will represent a bad omen for Somaliland. And if not, let us give him enough time to think over, reshuffle his cards and draw all the aces, kings, etc., as nominees for the incoming EC so that the House of Representatives will be compelled to ratify them immediately provided that Kulmiye submits its nominee or, failing that, opt for endorsing the two-year extension the outgoing EC has been granted by the House of Representatives.
Now that the Supreme Court has decided on the EC case by obligating the House of Representatives to re-ratify the list of nominees for the incoming EC that they have already voted against their ratification and rendering the House decision to extend the term of office for the outgoing EC to two years null and void, the ball is still in the court of the House as the ratification process against the incoming EC on individual basis is soon to start in the chamber.
What is unknown yet is whether Kulmiye will field its nominee to the EC for ratification. Time will tell how the situation will end up once these commotions are over.
4. The Newly- Established Political Organization:
Recently politicians have announced the launch of a new political organization, which they called “Qaran” that will participate in the upcoming local council elections. This new political organization has been received with mixed feelings at its inception. Some have supported it, while others have expressed reservations about it. To my knowledge, there was no outright objection so far.
There were a lot of debates about the constitutionality of the newly-established political organization held via certain outlets in the media. Proponents of the establishment of this political organization (Qaran) argue that the Constitution provides for such right according to Article 22, paragraph 1.4. “All citizens shall have the right to form, in accordance with the law, political, educational, cultural, social, occupational or employees’ associations” They also contend that the electoral law upholds the emergence of political organizations once the local council elections are to be conducted. They are, after all, right on all counts.
The guys on the other side of the debate view things differently. Firstly, they subscribe to the said article in the Constitution but are unsure of its appropriateness to the current situation, as there are national political parties in existence. They insist on that the three political parties namely, Kulmiye, UCID and UDUB need to remain in the political scene for generations to come so that they will have attained the requisite maturity to be able to represent the diverse views of the general public. And, lastly they hold that the Electoral Law is not clear on the issues of a) whether new political organizations should emerge to participate in the local council election contests with the existing national political parties, b) whether the three parties will be subjected to relegation to a status on par with the emerging political organizations and, c) whether the imminence of local council elections heralds the beginning of a new political era whereby both the existing political parties and newly- established political organizations have to contest in these elections.
I, for one, support the views of the latter group not only because they negate reservedly the very idea of establishing new political organizations to run against the existing national political parties in elections but the fact that the emerging political organizations do more harm than good to the democratization process that we have adopted as a nation by way of stunting the development of vibrant political parties.
To elaborate further on this, I hold the view that the existing national political parties- Kulmiye, UCID and UDUB- are the only democratic institutions through which citizens can channel their political demands. They are symbols of our statehood. They are indispensable to our aspirations to become a truly democratic nation capable of earning the respect of the international community because we have invested a great deal of time, energy and money in them with the sole purpose of getting them reach their potentials in order to be able to respond to the public demand for better leadership.
With all these good attributes, I see no logic to renege on muddling the already chaotic political scene with the introduction of new political organizations that offer little or no way- out to the deepening political maelstrom. And, if these organizations are allowed to come in to the political scene, the existing national political parties will be the first to feel the heat, thus extending it to the fragile democratic process.
It would sound rational if our streams of thought were directed towards the need for these existing national political parties show talismanic leadership, versatility, strong power base, diversity, openness and the political will to serve for the common good so that they will qualify for the contests of the elections to come. The presence of these qualities could be verified through the conduct of Operational Auditing by a commission appointed jointly by the Executive and Legislative Branches of the State.
The commission so appointed will be called “The Political Parties Evaluation Commission”. Their main task is to evaluate the political parties based on agreed criteria by which the party that fails to attain the pass mark will have to be subjected to rigorous scrutiny until it lives up to the expectations of the commission, and that should happen at least three months ahead of the local council elections.
If the proposed Operational Auditing is conducted, the affected political parties will have changed for the better and become more open for the disgruntled to find a way in. The good thing about this idea is that the politicians in the wilderness will be able to realize their political ambitions through the rank and file of whatever party they choose to join. Succeeding the party boss within a short period of time is not a distant possibility.
Apart from my personal view on this issue, this is a constitutional matter and only the Supreme Court is entitled to decide on the constitutionality of the newly- established political organization. In the meantime, let us not take sides but wait until this issue is resolved constitutionally.
5. Other Issues:
The issues in this category are both internal and external and of lesser importance, in that they lightly touch our lives one- way or the other. These include: the galloping corruption, the increasing rate of unemployment; the worsening living conditions of the SNM war veterans and their families; the gagging of the press; the abrogation of the right to hold peaceful demonstrations; the horrible events in Mogadishu and, the possible threat from Abdillahi Yusuf as he gets his Imbagathi Government relocating itself permanently in Mogadishu with the support of other regions in the Somalia proper, at least politically.
These issues demand quick fixes, particularly those of economic nature, which if they drag on may get them reach to a point where fixing them would entail the provision of enormous resources that Somaliland will be unable to afford.
As for the press and the peaceful demonstrations which the government has been handling in a heavy-handed manner of late, I would urge the government to ease its stance towards the freedoms of press and expression by letting citizens exercise their inalienable rights to the extent that the Constitution provides for.
Regarding the events unfolding in the Somalia proper, the government needs to come up with a strategy to enable us to withstand any negative political fallout from our archenemy: Abdillahi Yusuf and his Imbagathi Demons.
Finally, I would conclude my article with the admonition that if our leadership fails to take heed to the simmering boredom in our citizens regarding the dismal performance of the current administration, Somaliland will be ushered to a doom and gloom- a state of being that it will find hard to overcome.
E-mail Address: Idrisi_idrisi@ yahoo.com