The Silanyo Regime on the Dock: Alarm Bells of a Likely Danger to Democracy?.. Muse Farah Nuur
“Our lives end the day we become silent about things that matter”
Martin Luther king Jr.
The expectations that people had of this government was perhaps great but short lived. Since it was elected nearly two years ago people witnessed many strange things. The first sign that people noticed was apparent erosion in the nationhood ethos that previous successive Presidents and their administrations often used to instill in the people.
The current President, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud, ‘Silanyo’ has no qualms about what kind of perceptions people make of his administration.
Immediately, after coming to power he delegated undue powers to his own clans man who was neither experienced in politics nor attained education. Though initially given the post of Chief of Cabinet, other Ministers nevertheless queued to his office because it was obvious that his office wielded extra powers. After all, power is about using it or delegating it. In this case, almost all powers were passed to the Chief Cabinet
When it became rather embarrassing for the Ministers to queue to the Chief Cabinet the latter was elevated to become Minister of Presidency so there will be an excuse for the Ministers to seek his audience. He is after all closer to the President than anyone else.
Until now the three Heads of State that preceded President Silanyo refrained from anything that could be interpreted by the public as clan favourtism and most certainly were not prepared their clans man Minister wield more power than his colleagues in the cabinet. With Silanyo, new backward culture has begun. Yet, ironically, the President has more academic achievements than his three predecessor. People noticed this discrepancy just after he won the election and his standing as a statesman received serious dent. The Presidents willful disregard of the sensitivities to clanism in the context of Somalis is rather baffling.
The President also showed marked preference with people of very low political knowledge . As an educated man, people assumed that he will seek the services of the best and brightest of Somaliland who are surely available in the country and abroad. Nothing of that kind he did. His inner circle are people with the least education. What is the reason for that? Two things comes to mind. He is not the intellectual and cultivated man people thought he was or he has not enough strength to face blame for policy decisions and wants people to target their anger to those that work for him.
The actions of the President are most probably deliberate. He wants people to blame those around him for all the undemocratic and illegal polices that emanate from his office. Let people blame the ignorance of the poor Minister of the Presidency for all the ills could be his strategy. You often hear people saying the President is not aware and all these faults are the work of the Minister.
But this cannot go on like this, even if the Minister concerned do political debacles, it is the President that is ultimately responsible. The buck stops at him. He is after all the elected President.
But that also never diminishes the role of Ministers and advisors. If you give money to a man with three years of education and ask him build the likes of Burj of Dubai, you will surely envisage the likely disaster to happen. But while the disaster could only be the obvious collapse of the building, before it reaches the second floor, lack of education and experience of politicians who influence the lives of a whole population can be a catastrophe that a nation cannot recover. That is why it very important the most experienced and educated person should be selected to highest political offices of the country.
Nations who excel in progress are lead by the most brilliant among their people, in many cases we are opposite of that. Just take an example, when in 2003 the terrorist killed GTZ Kenyan woman and injured a German man, then the Minister of Interior accused the people of East Burao as suspects before any investigation was made. The country was then surprised when people of East of Buaro actually caught the terrorist in Dhoqoshey after a serious fighting that took hours.
A week ago, the present Minister of Interior implied that those who shot the Judge could be ‘those who were talking in the media’. He was referring relatives of the three officials sentenced for corruption. What prompts Ministers jump to conclusions before any investigation is made? The answer is the Ministers do not understand their role, that of courts, and police. They do not subscribe to the idea that man is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. In their misguided actions both of these Ministers harmed the cause of peace in Somaliland. But ordinary people are wiser than them.
Another retrogressive policy that President Silanyo embarked on, is inclination towards satisfying men with money even if that takes to break the laws of the country. A case in point, was his unlawful granting of monopoly to undersea internet cable to the Djiboutian tycoon, while denying the right of competition to local businessmen who unlike the Djiboutian man that was using Djibouti as a base were directly bringing the cable to Berbera.
Dahabshiil company owner, hitherto modest and hardworking man known for accommodating different clan interests is now very much identified with Silanyo administration and his Minister of Presidency who is incidentally his own cousin. The name Dahabshiil comes back in variety of obscure deals that smacks opportunistic use of state powers
But perhaps still the most worrying aspect of Silanyo’s reign, is his attitude to democracy which he obviously used in coming to power. The remark that ‘we shall use the Guurti in our turn’ he allegedly told former SNM commander Ibrahim Dhegaweyne and others when they reminded him of the expiry date of Guurti term, is very telling about his inner attitude towards democracy he so much talked about during Rayale regime.
New Registration Committee
Those of us closely watching the events at home where dismayed when President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo created new committee for the registration of political associations, while the competent Electoral Commission who managed the election he won and put him in power in 2010 were at his disposal. Political observers of Somaliland who know President Silanyo well, predicted his plans to scrap the National Commission and replace them with this newly created Registration Committee. That predication has not yet materialized but given the way the Registration Committee arbitrarily failed political associations the suspicion is not farfetched.
Many of the Registration Committee lacked experience and competence of running serious a job like creating systems and procedures for approving associations or parties. The ultimate product of their work is now in the news. They made a verdict which is so messy and which created political conflict that is now in court. Indeed, after they made their decsion they totally disappeared and switched off their mobile phones only to reappear after several weeks when their bizarre behaviour became too embarrassing for the government. Even when they reappeared they did not give enough explanation to the failed political associations of what they based their decisions.
While the granting of monopoly of undersea Internet cable was against the law that allows free market, the creation of the registration committee was in its inception at fault with the law that created it. Article three of the law of the organisation of political associations and parties says registration Committee shall consist of seven (7) members and at least one of them must be a trained lawyer. (this law was broken. None of the registration committee is lawyer. One of them is said to have studied law for 6 months without any previous background of law)
The laws says members of the committee ‘Must be educated, at least, to first degree University level (none of them has any first degree)
The law says the members of the committee, ‘Must have a work and administration experience of at least five (5) years; (many of them lack that experience)
Fourthly, the law says The legal scholar in the committee must fulfill the other requirements for the selection of Supreme Court judges. The man masquerading as having requirements of the selection of supreme court is not even a lawyer and never finished a university of any kind.
The fifth break of the law is two members of the registration committee were members of political parties in last parliamentary elections of 2005 and as is the practice in Somaliland will replace any of their party member in parliament who is deceased and in which by vote number they were next to him or her. In the same article three of the law, it says “The Republic of Somaliland shall have an independent national level Committee which will be responsible for the Registration of Political Associations and Approval of National Parties’. Can a known party men be independent? There are other places in the law that the committee did not adhere to or simply invented one like counting supporters of the Political Associations.
Why President and his advisors create such registration committee while independent and competent people can be found all over Somaliland and even abroad or when the present Electoral Commission can easily fulfill the job. The answer can only be that the President wanted a committee that he can manipulate. Nothing else
What sort of parliament will approve of a committee that have all these contradictions with the law? What kind of President will sign a law that is already broken?. Are there grounds of perjury? A country cannot have law and expect its citizens to follow and another law for the high and mighty to flout as they please. Here lies seeds of impending conflict if not redressed in a judicious manner. Somalis said long ago ‘Rag Cadaalad waayaa sidii cawsha kala yaace’ which more or less means “Men failing to get justice flee to different directions as gazelles do” The only thing the wise proverb does not add is when these men flee they come back to fight on the time of their choice. Injustice breeds conflict. To know that is not rocket science. It is very simple. All people know except those who are blinded by their selfish pursuits
A Poet, Haybe Farah Nur of Gabiley who used to be in the Somali National Movement (SNM) is imprisoned for producing poetry critical to Silanyo. He is in detention for many weeks now. This practice of imprisoning poets belongs to the era of Siad Barre. It is really abhorrent and should never be tolerated. The practice is not only against the constitution of Somaliland that subscribe to freedom of expression but even against the culture of tolerance of Somalis to poets that predate the UN declarations of rights of man.
Many Somalis will know the encounter between Ismail Mire and Arab Dheere (in early 1920s) who was colonial officer entrusted with duties of suppressing dervish remnants that Ismail Mire figured high. The latter was invited to a ceremony to recite his poetry. He agreed but made it conditional, he recites on his free will and as he likes. He was given the assurances. One of the most famous poem – ‘Ragow Kibirka waa Lagu Jabaa kaa hala Ogaado’ that went into Somali annuls of history was born that day. The poem was very devastating to Arab Dheere who was however, wise enough to tolerate the expressions of the famous poet and warrior. Arab did not stoop so lowly as President Silanyo does now. Ismail Mire was not detained or harmed as was the tradition among Somalis
Faisal Ali Waraabe
Faysal Ali Waraabe speaks straight and loud. Many times off the mark, sometimes on the point. He was quoted as saying “ I bet Silanyo implement ONE election properly in his term” There is plenty of things happening now that vindicate the above quote. No other President before him incarnated a traditional leader that long because he said something that is not quite so to him. Sultan Osman Burmadow is now imprisoned for months without any due process. Journalist are also often detained at will in rate that will soon surpass Rayaale’s 7 years also now
It is true that the practice of journalism in Somaliland is inadequate and needs development. Journalism is profession that demands very wide education and technical knowhow. Though in many countries journalism is prestigious profession many who call themselves journalists in Somaliland have a rudimentary education and therefore have tendency to abuse the profession for their ends. Yet it is commonly understood that ‘bad journalism is better than no journalism’.
Somaliland strength has always been about the freedom its people have to express themselves . The carriers of these expressions where all the time our journalists and especially the print journalists. A country without vibrant journalism cannot build up democracy. To become high in government and public place is to be criticized if there are reasons to do so. Any high official who does not understand that is missing the point. Anybody who do not want to be criticized should avoid public person, stay at home, and nobody will bother him.
Popularity of Dahir Rayaale
Former President Dahir Rayale Kahin enjoys unprecedented popularity (though he too risks squandering that if he does not stop disputes among his UDUB members) that is envy of many politicians in the continent of Africa. Wherever he goes he receives tumultuous applause equal to famous pop stars. Why? He implemented four elections, lost the last Presidential election , made a graceful exit with a courageous speech of conceding defeat. This struck a chord on the people Somaliland. After his speech at inauguration many youngsters were running after his car trying to touch his extended arm. That is why he is now welcomed everywhere he goes. The masses are the judge and their verdict is the ultimate. No politician worthy of a name should patronize them or behave dictatorially.
Somaliland House of Representatives (HoR) is emasculated through the use of small network of friends in the parliament and executive who despise democracy if it is not serving their purpose. But the ultimate responsibility of advancing democracy again lies with the President. Undermining the independence of the parliament will ultimately be the undoing of the regime.
Somaliland people had very high expectations when the present members of the HoR were first elected in 2005. The parliament is now completely subservient to the executive body much to the frustration of those that elected them to represent their interests from often predatory executive powers. All parliamentarians are not sitting ducks though. Quite a number of them are not happy about the pitiful state that their important House is transformed into. Three Kulmiye members in the HoR( Saeed Elmi Roble, Ibrahim Rayte and Ahmed Weyne) made a press conference lately in which they essentially criticized the present regime for intolerance to criticism, dominating the legislatures and interfering with decisions of courts especially in regard to the sentencing of the three officials accused to diverting food aid
Democracy needs vibrant opposition if it needs to have any meaningful practice. It is incumbent for any government to nurture opposition with constructive criticism. Without lively opposition who will scrutinize its shortcoming? How can the government rectify its mistakes? The trouble in Somaliland context is UDUB is still led by the former President who is not behaving like opposition leader. In one of his last press conference, he said “as former President he will not put criticism to the government through the media but he will go the President directly if he see him taking the wrong direction” That is very strange thing for an opposition leader to say. If he prefares that ‘gentlemanly’ position he should at least give a mandate to a spokesman who articulate opposition policies.
Other political observers give more cynical explanation. They say many UDUB high officials are guilty of corrupt practices in their past and therefore are unlikely take on the government for fear prosecution.
UCID leader was more vocal than all the opposition people but he too is silent because his last criticism of the policies of present-day government touched the raw nerve of the President prompting late night reply. That leaves the new political associations to fill the gap. It looks some of the associations are bedfellows of the government and therefore not independent to air their real political positions. Those who are genuine do not want to be strident until they qualify as political parties. There is a fear that if they anger the government badly they would be disqualified.
The only problem with the lack of confident opposition is it will encourage others fill the void. The conferences that traditional leaders organize in the regions of late are the symptom of absence of opposition that articulate the grievances of the public.
Another alarming issue about Silanyo administration is its tolerance to corruption contrary to what most of the people who voted for it including myself thought before the election of 2010. The first test of Silanyo administration was its inability to halt prime land acquisition by certain Somaliland businessmen through shady deals that the previous government allowed. Though appointed committee to investigate these deals in the beginning, the government soon backed down.
Then the government created anti Corruption Commission. Almost two years after its creation the Commission is not approved by parliament. Why? The government does not want it. We all know many bills the government wanted were approved in one day. The one about piracy is an example.
The first Minister accused of corruption was that of Water and Mineral Resources. It was believed that he got $500,000 as a form of bonus signature from an oil prospecting company. When then uncorrupt former Minister of Finance asked him to take the money from his personnel account and put it in the Minister of Finance account, disagreement began. The Minister of W and M.R. refused. “The money is for capacity building for the Ministry” he argued. The argument went to the cabinet who voted in favour of him.
The Auditor General was called to investigate about allegation of corruption in the Ministry of W and M. R. The Auditor concluded his investigation and absolved the Minister. Then the Minister of Finance was dismissed for reasons that are not officially disclosed. After that the Minister of W and M and R suddenly presented a cheque of $500,000 to the new Minister of Finance to deposit. Is this new money from another company or the old money that created the controversy? Nobody explained. But whole affairs looks suspicious.
The former Director General of Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused his Minister for pocketing money earmarked for Somaliland ‘embassies’ abroad. Minister denied the accusation despite the Director possessing alleged evidence. Again Auditor general was called in and again nothing came out. The Director General was stopped from leaving the country after he was resigned from his post but after few weeks he was allowed to leave the country
Now the third allegation of corruption concern the airport. There is rumour that Minister of Aviation granted contract to a man related to the President with a fictitious construction company. The Minister is now said to be gathering some construction equipment from Djibouti. The issue was lately in the papers and people are closely watching the outcome of this rather bizarre saga.
Few days ago, a trial of three government officials who were accused of corruption was concluded with sentencing of two government officials. The three officials were the governor of Hargeisa, Director General of Ministry of Rehabilitation and an advisor to the Vice President. The three officials and others were accused of misappropriating food aid from Oman. There is wide spread believe among the people in Hargeisa that the men were set up after they stumbled into a wide scale scam that leads to the Presidency offices. The advisor of the Vice-president is now released after he paid a fine. He said he will write a book about the injustices visited upon him.
The case revealed that food was diverted but a lot of things are in the dark. What was the original quantity of the food. Who was it intended to? How many tons of the food are missing? Who took it and how much?. All these questions are not answered. Corruption is not only crime that hinders progress of the society but it is also against human rights because it is all about robbing people from what collectively belongs to them. Corruption can also be harmful to Somaliland peace-making as competition to illegally acquire resources breed animosities that leads to conflict
There is now frenzy for land acquisition in the prime Sha’ab area which prompted the Minister of Public Works to issue warning to those people illegally selling government houses in the area or elsewhere. It is an irony that the Minister himself sold government house to a businessman for more than $200,000. True that was during the term of the previous government. Is he then the right man to issue warning or head the Public Works Ministry?. The Minister is not the only one that sold government property. The present Justice Minister and another man who is an advisor to the President were also said to have sold government houses during the previous regime. There are surely many other state property that are illegally sold though fortunately all the records are kept
The purpose of this article is constructive criticism on the political practice of this government. It is not intended to slander or defame anyone. I suppose the small things mentioned are the tip of the iceberg and there are a lot of more sinister things going on. I like people to shed their attitude of apathy and take actions that prevent politically unwise decision that put us into the road to conflict. We shall not tolerate to all sorts of dictatorial behaviour, injustices and corruption if we want to make our country a better place
One thing is clear. If government tampers with the democratic process of the country by rigging votes in the coming local council elections or even try to interfere with the work of the Electoral Commission there will be serious problem to the peace in the country. Respect for the will of the Somaliland people in elections not enormously contributed to the cause of peace but pulled the carpet under the potential warlords that often want to resolve disagreements through the force arms
Another flash point for trouble is if the alleged corruption goes unchecked. Until before Silanyo’s regime the influence of tycoons to the successive administrations before was not noticeable. Former Presidents often dealt with local businessmen and even borrowed money to finance some businesses of state but they always them at arm’s length. They never allowed them interfere with legislations of the country or show illegal influences.
The most frightening thing about Somaliland today is the apathy that took hold of the people. There is general atmosphere of withdrawal which is dangerous.
There were many associations that were vocal for the development of Somaliland for the last decade who are now for some reason or other silent. These include Somaliland Forum, Somaliland Societies in Europe, Somaliland Democracy Watch, Samotalis, Shuronet, Horn Watch, ISG, Somalilandlaws.org, Haatuf Group and many others. All these institutions together with the all independent media outlets contributed to the building up Somaliland democracy that we all enjoy today. Their silence about things that matter is not only morally wrong but great disservice to the Peace and Democracy in Somaliland.
Those who care about good governance in Somaliland can choose between becoming silent bystanders who expect the ‘good things’ to happen or becoming those who shape the peaceful and progressive policies. Failing to address important issues of our time will give a platform to other dark forces that will undo all the peace and democracy invested in Somaliland.
Muse Farah NUR