Assessment of The Current Situation of Puntland
It is, unfortunately, a matter of public knowledge that our Somali State of Puntland is in a deplorable state: its unity is shattered; its economy is in shambles; its territory is violated and partly occupied; its resources are squandered; its crimes are rising with kidnappings and piracy combining to put it in unfavorable international headlines; and its people have been left to fend for themselves when it comes to safety and security. The list of its ills is in fact endless.
At the root of Puntland’s morbidity is of course the total lack of good governance. It is indeed a sad commentary on the educated sons and daughters of its soil that Puntland has deteriorated to a situation bordering on anarchy. Granted that the structures of governance are there, they nevertheless lack substance and resources: there is a constitution,
Puntland’s dire situation cries out for radical change and that change should come sooner rather than later if the State is to be saved, as it must be. However, the way to save it is not by maintaining a few simulacra of institutions in which administration is personalized. Nor can Puntland be salvaged by concentrating all powers in one man – or woman for that matter – who sits at the apex of a pyramidal structure. Responsibility should be collective within a system whereby power is truly shared and exercised in a manner that is transparent and subject to public scrutiny. With this in view and for the purpose of transforming Puntland into a peaceful, creative and economically dynamic state acting within the framework of a united, sovereign and federal Somali Republic I offer the following platform as a candidate for President of Puntland State:
There is widespread agreement that democratic governance – or good governance – is crucial to development. After the collapse of our national state we have come to appreciate that Government plays its development role best when it facilitates the pursuit of economic opportunities. Our lesson of experience teaches us that when government overregulates, and over legislates and spreads its tentacles far and wide it becomes an insurmountable obstacle to economic development: it becomes part of the problem rather than part of the solution. My Administration will therefore be guided by the Jeffersonian principle that: "That government is best that governs least".
Rights and freedoms will be exercised freely within the bounds of the Law and as guaranteed by the Constitution. There will be constitutionalism and therefore genuine, not illusory, separation of powers.
Public administration can be an effective instrument of governance if it is competent, responsive and responsible. Otherwise, it can cause the collapse of the whole system. My Administration will create a qualified and competent (i.e. professional) civil service which is balanced and imbued with the values of transparency, probity and a sense of serving the public. Professionalism and discipline are deeply ingrained in our Islamic faith. The Prophet (SCWS) has told us: "If a servant of Allah undertakes a job, He will be pleased with him if he does it properly’ and Ali Bin Abi Talib has also told us: "The value of a person lies in what he does best". We know that in Islam honest performance in one’s work is a form of worshiping God. My Administration will do its utmost to reflect these Islamic values. For its honesty, hard work and observance of these values the civil service will be so adequately rewarded as to enable it rise above corruption.
It is an integral element of my program that the Legislative Assembly should be enlarged and directly elected by the people so that it will be truly representative. I am aware that this will require a constitutional amendment which will have to be obtained through the proper legal channels and ratified, if required, by a public referendum.
There will be genuine devolution to Puntland’s sub-regional divisions and local government councils as a means of diffusing power and carrying democracy to the grass-roots level. Training of the necessary officers and staff for these bodies will be vigorously undertaken in order to ensure their technical competence and promote their awareness of being the servants, not masters, of the public. Council members will have the power to appoint, pay and discipline the staff. But since the councilors are elected such appointments and discipline will be subject to appeal so that local civil servants will not be victimized for political reasons.
Experience has taught us that politics can make nonsense of economics. God willing, I will do my very best to establish a healthy polity so that we can advance economically.
Public Safety and Security
The primary responsibility of any government is the provision of safety and security to its people. My Administration will ensure that the forces of law and order are properly trained, properly equipped, properly disciplined and adequately paid. Such forces will provide internal security so that the people in Puntland will live in peace and harmony. But they will also protect the boundaries of Puntland in order to ensure that they always remain in tact. At present, ‘Somaliland’ (our neighbor to the west) occupies parts of our Sool region and I am well aware of the situation, both humanitarian and military. It is part and parcel of my program to have these parts returned to Puntland shortly after taking office.
Additionally, the forces of law and order will be required to protect both our territorial waters and our economic zone. But they will also fight piracy and ensure that the trend of kidnapping our foreign guests and collaborators will cease forthwith.
However, the operations of the forces of law and order will be circumscribed by the need to protect the individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. I am guided in this respect by the most famous former president of the United States (Abraham Lincoln) who said: "There is no liberty without security but if you sacrifice the former for the latter you will end up with neither." I am all too conscious that our Somali State collapsed when liberty was sacrificed for security.
As everybody knows Puntland is not a breakaway region. It is therefore incumbent upon us to maintain our national unity. But the internal unity of Puntland itself is also important and needs to be salvaged and consolidated. The need for this has been made glaringly obvious when Las Anod was forcibly occupied and the other parts of Puntland failed to mobilize and come to its rescue. My government will consolidate Puntland’s unity by promoting the economic integration of its sub-divisions, by encouraging the movement of people, goods and services from one part to another and by ensuring economic complementarities.
Economic development will be crippled, and disjointed if the physical infrastructure barely exists and is in a terrible state of dilapidation as it is now. A network of roads, airports and seaports must connect and serve our sub-regions, cities, towns and villages. Means of communication such as Internet connectivity, telephone and postal services will need to be improved. All these are vital, not only to facilitating but also stimulating economic activities and will feature prominently in my Administration’s program of work.
The exploitation of our God-given resources must be and will be given pride of place in the effort to transform the economy of Puntland. We have mineral and petroleum deposits; we have thermal and solar energy and we can turn the wind that blows hard in many of our areas as a source of energy; we have marine resources in plenty; given our long coast line we can improve salt production and turn salters into entrepreneurs; we have meerschaum which small entrepreneurs used to export to Arusha (Tanzania) before the implosion for the manufacture of high-quality smoking pipes; we can establish that small industry in our own State since we have the raw material; finally, we are rich when it comes to live stock. Ours is not an agricultural State but there are areas within it that are presently under cultivation or have the potential of being improved for agriculture.
With today’s technological know-how deserts can be – and have been – made to bloom. Water is most essential to life, for without it there can be no life. Here lies a great challenge to all of us since many of our areas are arid and we have neither lakes nor rivers. But, we have a long coast and, given the resources and technology, there is the potential for desalinization. We should also develop the capacity to tap underground water.
Land use policy in our State – if there was one – has been catastrophic. Our people have accelerated the desertification process by sacrificing our flora for the production and export of charcoal thus clearing the way for such agents of soil erosion as the wind, floods and overgrazing to finish the job of turning our territory fast into a veritable desert. My Administration will develop a land use policy that will delineate separate areas for agriculture, grazing, forestry and human settlement. It will endeavor to find coal deposits, not only as an answer to charcoal production but possibly also as a means of finding the cheapest but environmentally friendly methods of the electrification so necessary for improving the quality of life.
The human resource is undoubtedly the transmuter of all natural resources. But, to bring that resource to a level where it can transmute the other material but finite resources into usable form a vigorous and accelerated program of education and training will be undertaken so that we will acquire both technical and technological know-how as well as executive capacity.
My Administration will ensure the complementarity of the public and private sectors with the former playing a facilitative role without abandoning its regulatory functions. It will encourage the private sector to establish light industries.
Instead of sending our livestock to the Arab countries on the hoof we should be able to establish meat- processing factories and send the carcass to our traditional trading partners. We should similarly be able to establish tanneries and leather industries instead of sending our camels to Egypt on the hoof and then buying expensive leather goods from it at prices which cancel out what should otherwise contribute to a favorable balance of payments. Factories for the canning of fish, lobster, shrimps and other marine resources can also be established.
All these will generate employment to the numerous but idle youth who are forced by dire straits to resort to crime or desperately throw themselves into the sea by means of dingy dhows in an attempt to reach the Yemeni side of the Gulf of Aden. Furthermore, the private sector will grow and prosper and the economy as a whole will thrive. The revenue base of the government will improve and given the capacity to tap new sources of revenue and improved revenue collection methods it might be possible to engage in labor intensive public projects such as the construction of roads, bridges and airports – projects that will create more employment opportunities and give a further boost to the economy.
Health and Sanitation
The private sector has been making monumental efforts in setting up and running health centers. The government has never proved equal to its responsibilities in this area. My Administration will work with the private sector, with WHO and with UNICEF towards the eradication of endemic diseases such as TB and Malaria as well as fighting the pandemic HIV and AIDS scourge. The government will expand its activities in this vital area in keeping with the augmentation of resources both human and material. Due emphasis will be given at all times to the health of mother and child.
As for sanitation municipal and local councils should be able to ensure that the streets are clean, garbage is regularly collected, and solid waste is properly managed. My Administration will ensure that these councils be alive to their responsibilities in these areas. However, public support will clearly be essential and towards this end my Administration will institute programs to educate the public on the absolute necessity for good sanitation as a measure of preventive health in order to curb or eliminate such afflictions as cholera and typhoid which arise from and thrive on poor sanitation.
Owing to the paucity of domestic resources my Administration will deploy considerable efforts to mobilizing resources from external sources in order to build the necessary capacities for undertaking a rigorous economic resuscitation program. I am in no delusion about the fact that the flow of such resources will depend on our proven absorptive capacity (a function of executive capacity), on the transparency of our processes and on our demonstrated accountability. There is much goodwill in the world, and I believe we will get all the help we need if we show through our work and our honesty that we are worthy partners. Bilateral as well as multilateral donors will take pride in seeing concrete and palpable testimonies of their humanity and goodwill. They will be proud of themselves if they see concrete and ocular evidence of how their money has been put to good use. Yes, it is money that begets more money, but good work also begets more money.
As I said before, we are part and parcel of the federal structure of our country. My Administration will contribute in any way it can to TFG’s efforts towards national reconciliation, restoration of peace and the restoration of national unity. I am well aware, however, that in a federal structure the constituent parts (of which the federal government is one) are coordinate, and therefore the states are not subordinate to the federal government. Their respective responsibilities are a matter for the constitution and judicial interpretation. My Administration will go out of its way to cooperate with the federal government without compromising the constitutional right of Puntland to enjoy its autonomy to the full.
Being keenly aware that we Somalis are brothers and sisters to each other and being aware of kinship relationships with our neighboring states the policy of my Administration towards the States contiguous to Puntland – including ‘Somaliland’ – will be peaceful coexistence, interstate trade, interstate cooperation, free and unhindered movements of people, goods and services and the maintenance of good neighborly relations.
As the famous saying goes, ‘Rome was not built in a day’, and it would be impossible to achieve everything in this platform in my first term or even by the end of a second term. But, as the Chinese say, ‘ A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’, and I am prepared to take a giant first step knowing full well that I should at least pave the ground for my successors so that they will also register their achievements. After all, development is the cumulative result of the efforts of succeeding generations. The Qur’an enjoins us to cooperate in all that is good and so we cannot achieve anything if we are not together in moving Puntland forward.
Having thus laid down my platform I wish to be given a chance to serve and to show what we can together do so that at the end of it all we can be proud of ourselves.
* For further information on Gen. Abdullahi Ahmed Jama's Campaign please visit the official site of the candidate:Puntland Future.com