HARGEISA, 12 October 2009 (Somalilandpress) – For the last four weeks, Somaliland has witnessed one of its critical political situations in connection to the following reasons.
There was a general concensus among Somaliland people regardless of their various social groupings and regional divisions (wherever they live in the country and abroad) that Somaliland was on the verge of collapse.
This situation arose mainly from the ineptitude and ineffectiveness of Somaliland government to respect the different timetables for the long-awaited presidental election to take place. The presidential election of Somaliland has been extended previously for three times. It became apparent that the president and the vice president whose terms in office expires on the 29th of October, 2009, have not been willing to leave office according to the rules and regulations of the game. The implications of this was huge and it has affected all sections across the society and Somaliland institutions.
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The parliament passed a resolution asserting that the president’s refusal of the election to be based on the voter registration system was unconstitutional and demanded the president to retract from this decision.
The president did not listen to the parliament’s resolution and as a consequence of this, the parliament introduced a proposal for the impeachment of the president and the vice president. In response to this, the president and his government used all their power to discredit one of the cherished institutions of the state – the parliament, for example, by dividing the parliamentarians and bribing some of them in kind and in cash to stop the impeachment.
Those parliamentarians put a counter proposal to dethrone the speaker of the parliament and his two deputies. Later the confrontation reached unprecedented level including fighting in the parliament among the MPs and the arrival of police and security forces in the parliament premises. To the surprise of everyone, the police confiscated the keys of the premises of the parliament and ordered the speaker and the MPs to leave the parliament compound.
In addition to this, in the evening of the same day, they also confiscated the keys of the Chamber of the Elders (Guurti). This was one of the intensive political moments in the Somaliland political history.
Outside the parliament, huge crowds of people assembled to safeguard their parliament and when the speaker and his deputies came out, they were welcomed by cheerful greetings and with ruptured vioces and claps.
The closure of the parliament became a very worrying situation for the Somaliland people and their friends all over the world. People were nervous. Their country that has been praised for its stability and democratic culture has suddenly appeared to be falling into unpredictable political abyss.
Important people from the society including religious, traditional and business people intervened to mediate among the stakeholders and asked the president to return the keys of the parliament.
Also the chairman of the Guurti, Mr. Suleiman Mohamoud Adam, contacted the president and warned him of the grave situation of confiscating the keys of the parliament. As a result of these pressures, the government accepted to return the keys of the House of Elders, but still retained the keys of the House of Representatives.
After heated discussions between the chairman of the Guurti, Mr. Suleiman and the president, the president told Suleiman that he would also hand the keys of the House of Representatives to him. But instead, the president sent the keys to the head of the traditional leaders who, though important, operate outside the Somaliland institutional framework. This made the head of the Guurti, Mr. Suleiman further angry and bewildered and he accused the president of playing political games and not keeping his words, and not giving the due respect that the state institutions deserve.
The fact that the keys were not handed to Suleiman but instead to the head of the traditional leaders further complicated the situation. On the other hand, the speaker of the parliament and his deputies were determined to return to their offices whatever that costs them if the keys were not handed over soon.
Eventually, the mediators gave a promise to the speaker of the parliament that they would take the keys from the president and the parliament would be reopened soon. But that did not take place, either. The following day, the speaker and his deputies drove to the parliament premises and with the support of the crowd outside the parliament, they managed to enter the parliament compound.
The police around the parliament premises fired at the crowd. Two young people were shot dead and several others were wounded. Inside the parliament, the impeachment discussion restarted and those pro-government MPs continued to disrupt the proceedings of the parliament to stop the impeachment discussions.
Inside the Guurti, there was another equally important discussion that was dealing with the extension of the period of the president and his vice president beyond the 29th of October, 2009. The Guurti was divided across the middle around this question. Some of them believed that enough was enough and no more extensions and wanted the president and his government to work with the political parties to accelerate the election processes and the date instead of requesting all the time for extensions.
On the Thursday night (24th of September, 2009), the chairman of the Guurti, Mr. Suleiman invited the three political parties to speak to the Guurti about their views and positions on the intriguing issues of the election. The two opposition political parties, UCID and Kulmiye came to the hall of the Guurti and spoke to the Guurti members to stop extending the period for the president and the vice president and to accept the six points worked by the international community. The fact that the Guurti wanted to extend the period of the president for another one year was unacceptable.
Chairman of the Guurti, Mr. Suleiman was strongly in favour that all stakeholders accepted the six points proposed by the international community. Although the president declared that he accepted the six points proposed, nevertheles, his party (UDUB) did not come to the important Guurti meeting on Thursday. This arose suspicion in the opposition political parties and immediately believed that the president is not sincere about his promise regarding the six-point proposal.
In the evening of Thursday, the two political parties, UCID and Kulmiye held a press conference at Imperial Hotel. Including in the press statements were, that they would form a government if the Guurti makes another extension for the president. They also said their supporters would come back to the streets and continue their peaceful demonstrations.
At 8:30 in the evening, the president sent three senior ministers to meet the chairman of UCID Party, Faisal Ali Warabe to persuade him to retreat what the two political parties said regarding the formation of a government and the re-starting of the demonstrations. Faisal refused and instead said if you continue the idea of extension, then we shall not afraid and refrain to form a government and to come back to the streets.
After the ministers took this message to the president, there were a hot debate among the key closest ministers of the president. Some of them including the Interior Minister raised the gravity of the situation while some of the more hawkish members suggested to use more power against the opposition including arresting their leaders.
The international community which was worried about the worsening political developments in Somaliland intervened to help the situation. When they listened to all parties, they formulated a six points compromise on the 23rd of September, 2009. UCID Party immediately accepted all the six points. On the second day, this was followed by the acceptance of Kulmiye. On Friday night, around 3:30 in the morning, the president accepted the six-point proposal. He sent this message to the Guurti telling them that he abandoned his earlier stand and wholeheartedly now accepted the six points proposed by the international community, and accordingly the Guurti accepted his message.
This was a complete reversal of the president’s earlier statement. Consequently, on Friday morning the Guurti eventually passed unanimously a proposal accepting all the six points worked by the international community and put aside the extension.
The local arbitration committee
The local arbitration committee consisted mainly of four groups: (1) the leading business people, (2) the prominent religious scholars, (3) the traditional clan leaders and (4) non-state actors (civil society and intellectual). They all wanted to bring all the sides together but their agenda and their interests were definitely different. Some of them were putting more pressure on the opposition rather than to be fair and independent. But on the whole, they were all working hard that the country should not be plunged into crisis.
Here comes a question: Who is to congratulate for this breakthrough of the stalemate? Many people heaped a lot of compliments on the Guurti as a whole, but that is not the case.
The credit goes to the following:
Guurti: In the Guurti context, definitely there were a group led by the chairman of the Guurti, Mr. Suleiman who fought to the teeth to stop the extension.
Parliament: In the parliament, the impeachment issue worried the president’s camp a lot. Though the government wanted to stop the impeachment even by pro-government MPs to fight in the parliament, finally they realised they could not stop the impeachment because of mainly the remarkable insistance of the chair (shirgudoonka) who stick to the constitution of the country.
The opposition political parties: UCID and Kulmiye who organised their action intelligently and smartly in that critical period and moreover, the contributions primarily made by the chairman of the UCID, Engineer Faisal Ali Warabe, particularly his strong message to the president through the three key ministers mentioned above.
The people’ power: Somaliland people who, by their demostrations, expressed that no more extension period be allowed.
And finally, who were the winners? Peace and Security and the Continuation of the Democratic Process in Somaliland.
By Dr. Mohamed-Rashid Sheikh Hassan