By Ahmed Abdullahi Isse
When Somalias’s civil war broke out in 1991, the counrty plunged into anarchy and political unrest. After eight years of what Puntlanders referred to as the “waiting years of Somalia state”, a regional consultation conference was conducted in Garowe over the course of three months in 1998. The first federal state in Somalia was formally established at the conference, which was attended by the region’s political elites, traditional elders (cuqaasha), members of the business community, intellectuals and other civil society representatives, with three key founding purposes and principles:
1) Building peace and stability in the region,
2) Delivering basic services to the local population and
3) Taking a key role in rebuilding Somalia government based on federal system.
In order to serve as a role model for the rest of the nation, particularly the war-torn southern region of Somalia, Puntland was founded with the ambitious goal of establishing a self-governing state under a federal system that works for the interests of Puntland’s citizens by providing basic services, safe guild citizen by rule of law, fight against corruption, and be a model that could be replicated in the rest of the country, especially the war-scarred southern region of Somalia.
Despite an overwhelming impediment, Puntland has achieved peace and stability, decentralization of local governments, piloting democratization process, building structures of institutions to restore law and order, unlike the anarchic south as well as taking an imperative role in state and peace building process in the rest of Somalia, but these achievements were not strengthened to be sustainable as the system remains flawed.
But because the system is still broken, these successes have not been fortified to be long-lasting. Similar to Puntland, which previously served as a bright example of statehood for the government of Somalia, toxic politics of furthering one’s own purpose caused things to shift for the worst, and the entire burden rests completely on ineffective leadership. This reminds us of Michael Lewis’s 2018 book of fifth risk, “ the Consequences if the people given control over our government have no ideas how it works” Michael Lewis defines that bad leadership style is a real threat to governance system and will elicit the entire system at the end.
Besides, intellectuals on watch owing the gap in the governance system of Puntland is due to a combination of factors, including endemic corruption that crippled the development of all sectors of life such as affordable energy and water, accessible and quality healthcare, and free and standard education for Puntlanders, as well as feeble hand-picked parliament, and monopoly structured service system. In this opinion article, I will be looking at what has contributed the forementioned gaps of not achieving Puntland’s founding purpose in 1998.
Feeble hand-picked parliament
Generally, an independent parliament benefits every nation by holding leaders responsible and reducing their authority and influence through scrutiny and accountability. However, in Puntland, the fundamentals of accountability have been purposefully abandoned, and the power of the parliament has vanished. In order to advance the president’s policies and programs in the parliament, the Puntland house of MPs, which constitutionally represents the Puntland people and their interests, works today. However, the deficiency of accountability between the government branches in Puntland has created an environment where civil servants and politicians act with impunity, embezzling scarce public resources that could be used for development issues such as education, healthcare, water, electricity, construction of new roads, and other critical development issues that could be a remedy for long time social needs.
Puntland, without a shadow of a doubt, is facing real trouble, the worst since its inception in 1998. The abuse of power is portended by public suppression, the detention of the free press, and a parliament that has lost its constitutional power to limit and hold the government into account. In November 2019, the speaker of parliament was illegally and forcibly removed from his position, followed by the recent dismissal of eight MPs who refused to tow the government line.
To break the constitution, however, eliminating the power of parliament was purposely intended to pave the way for completely erasing the basic principles of accountability. Then, just like Siyad Bara’s modus operandi, they bring the power into the president’s hand.
Monopoly service system
After 24 years of existence, Puntland’s public services sector is entirely under a monopoly system. Consequently, the price is beyond human understanding and worsens the livelihoods of already affected people by Covid-19, severe droughts and poverty. There are no reliable healthcare services for Puntland people. They often seek it from outside Puntland, such as Mogadishu and Hargeisa. Water, which is a natural resource, is even undrinkable and hugely expensive.
Primary education, which should be available to all, is not affordable, forcing some poor families to keep some of their children at home.
Corruption is the third factor that vetoed Puntland’s ability to achieve its founding purposes 24 years ago, undermining democracy, human rights, and rule of law. Puntland like the rest of Somalia, loses millions of dollars on corruption related dealings that could’ve been used to support life changing programs for thousands of vulnerable people across the country. The governance system in place, whether it is the federal government or federal member states tuned for abuse of power, has evolved to the point where corruption and stealing money is not seen as being against the law, “Somali culture” or even “Islamic religion.” Stealing public funds, on the other hand, is often regarded as a clever move, and holding a government docket is synonymous with quickly becoming wealthy.
To halt the precipitous decline in security, people’s cohesion and political development, Puntland must improve governance and re-establish the people’s unity it enjoyed since its inception. Recent moves by president Deni’s government is not encouraging, its just damaging the little trust that exists. Truly speaking, the leadership of Puntland needs to hold a general consultation conference bringing together Puntland’s elites inside and outside to entirely review what went wrong and ask the question, “Is Puntland on the right path to achieve its founding principles in 1998?”
Ahmed Abdullahi isse
Email [email protected]
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