Somalia: Puntland elections; Time for new leadership

Under President Farole’s administration, the Puntland security, economy, and territorial integrity have all suffered. President Farole’s autocratic rule and abuse of power in public resources has hindered progress and prosperity of the people of Puntland, and the time has come for him to be replaced.

Economically, President Farole’s government lack of transparency and accountability has discouraged investors from investing in the development of the region. In fact, Puntland is worse off today than before, when Farole came to power. The hopes and trust of business community has deteriorated to a point where Puntland born investors are leaving the major commercial centers of Puntland such as Bosaso, Garowe, and Galcaio in droves for more business friendly cities like Mogadishu, Jig-jiga, Berbera, and Hargeisa.  Many businesses have closed or are closing their operations here in Puntland because they no longer find attractive investment option. Thanks to President Farole’s lack of leadership Bosaso is not anymore the favored historic port for exporting livestock to the Middle East, and for importing goods into the North, North East and Central Somali. Given the importance and ideal location and close proximity to the Arabian Gulf States, one would have expected Bosaso port to be buzzing with activity but to the contrary the port is very much underutilized.

The Bosaso port is not competitive anymore because taxes and custom fees are much higher than competing ports such as Berbera and Mogadishu. These high taxes and port fees have discouraged investors, traders, and suppliers of goods and made them to switch to other business friendly ports like Mogadishu and Berbera. It is worth mentioning that products that come through Mogadishu and Berbera even when added to arduous transportation and journey are selling competitively here in Bosaso giving them cost advantage over goods imported thru Bosaso.

The port infrastructure and airports have deteriorated under President Farole. For example, the infrastructure in Bosaso, Garowe, and Galcaio airports are in dismal state and the landing strips are not suitable for larger aircrafts to land. This is the reason that even though Bosaso is two hours closer to Dubai than Mogadishu the fare is almost twice higher from Bosaso to Dubai. Much needed revenue could have been generated from the port and airports if they had been repaired or expanded.

The decades old road and the only one that links Bosaso, Garowe and Galcaio has deteriorated so badly with potholes that it is neither save nor efficient to travel on it. This adds to the cost of goods and the time it takes to deliver goods to customers, again making Puntland businesses unable to compete with goods from Mogadishu and Berbera.

The Puntland Security situation has been getting worse since Farole administration took power.  On a daily basis innocent individuals are assassinated all over Puntland. The police are poorly paid, trained, and are under equipped. The law enforcement agencies lack the discipline, demeanor and skills required of professional law enforcement agency to keep law and order.

Additionally, Somalis from the South who fled violence there, are routinely stopped at checkpoints and whisked out of vehicles and subjected to harsh interrogation, humiliation and imprisonment. The only way to regain freedom is to pay bribe to corrupted prison/police/judicial officials.

On the real estate front, the Farole administration has lost big chunks of territory to Hargeisa because of his mistreatment to the people in Sool, Sanaag and Cayn.

Politically, the Father and his sons rule by intimidation and iron fist. His administration has created sharp divisions among different citizen-groups, and alienated some of the most ardent supporters of Puntland, leading to the creation of Khatumo administration or annexation by Somaliland administration against majority’s will.

In health and education, suffice it to say low and poor quality.

By judging him purely on performance, there is not one good reason – save tribal solidarity- to re-elect him again to office. The good news is that his intransigence has made the political tide turn against him. The bad news is that despite his poor performance he will not give up power easily and there is still a possibility that he might come out victorious come Election Day because he has at his disposal all of the State’s machinery to harass and intimidate both voters and candidates, and he has a lot of money to bribe members of parliament and buy their votes. That is why it is too early to count him out.

It is widely believed that if anyone other than him wins the election he is determined to fight it to the teeth unless of course the winner is someone who hails from the same tribe but a nudge nobler than him. Then he would not risk fighting within his own clan. If such candidate succeeds him, that, I think, would ultimately save the region from further disintegrating.

Furthermore, since he will not easily give up power, he must have prepared for a long worn-out fight. Rumors have it that he has put on stand-by a formidable force that is heavily armed and well-trained by Saracen International, a security firm in South Africa, to call them to duty if he loses the election and if fighting between different factions breaks out it will be the end of Puntland as we know it because things might go out control and push the region to further disintegration, in-fighting, and perhaps another civil war, may GOD forbid.

So in the upcoming Puntland election, MPs have a moral duty to vote their good conscience to avert bloodshed. They must realize that this administration’s political life has come to an end and the strongman must be voted out of office come hell or high water; and another leader who is up to the daunting task of reversing the dire situation around must be elected.

The question is who can successfully challenge the strongman? I think the only candidate who stands a chance to the Throne is someone who is not tainted by Somalia’s ugly politics and protracted civil war/blood libel, someone who will bring about change, development, growth, and brighter future for the young, someone who will not steal from the coffers of the state, someone who will attract investors, someone who is rational and pragmatic, someone who in the political arena can keep his cool while standing his ground, someone who understands the art of decency in public speaking, someone who will work with regional leaders towards peace and stability, someone who will not use religion to sow the seed of discord, someone who will build and repair the infrastructure, someone who is not only educated and intellectual, but is also one whom Farole dare not pick a fight with, someone from Farole’s same clan but is more noble than him, and above all someone who will abide by the constitution and uphold the rule of law even if he is the one to be defeated.

Although the other candidates are all well qualified, none of them may be able to muster enough votes to win the election outright and none will be able to avert the bloodshed that would inevitably result in if Farole loses.

Now, having established the view that a nobler Farole cousin is the right candidate, then you may be in for a surprise because I have heard through the Fadhi-ku-dirir grapevines that there is one such candidate who goes by the name of Mohamed Abdi.

So a word of counsel to the wise MPs is that the entire burden of this election and the winner thereof is on your shoulders. You can choose to be on the good side of history and become a savior of your people or you can choose to succumb to intimidation, pressure and bribery and keep the status quo, thereby living with their resentment ever after.

In conclusion, let’s hope that common sense will prevail and the elections will be held in a fair and free atmosphere; let’s hope the region will once again become peaceful and prosperous.

So help us GOD.

Ahmed Bashir



More from this stream