Sunday, October 01, 2023
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Is Puntland into that extreme of being an intellectual barren terra firma?

By Abdiqani Ahmed Farah (Dala’aan) PhD

‘All theoretical (i.e., scientific) knowledge is a mixture of what is given in sense experience and what is contributed by the mind. The contributions of the mind are necessary conditions for having any sense experience at all. David Hume’

Ever since one shifted back into Puntland, almost eight years now, the governmental and private institutions such as higher education and parastatal ones counting research institutions of which PDRC comes into the fray when invoked such names has been dilapidating in a meteoric fashion.

Without a further ado, let’s try to outline what those equated upon the accolade of the term intellectuals explained it. “An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking, research, and reflection about the reality of society, and who proposes solutions for the normative problems of society, and thus gains authority as a public intellectual” (Bullock & Trombley, 1999; Routledge, 1997). “It is not the fruits of scientific research that elevate man and enrich his nature but the urge to understand, the intellectual work, creative or receptive” (Albert Einstein, 14 Mar 1879 – 18 Apr 1955). Looking at these two statements, one wonders if Puntland is into that extreme of being an intellectual barren terra firma and compelled for the so called intellectual Hubbs of Puntland (higher education institutions and the likes of PDRC) to seek characters with the synonym further afield to rescue their intellectual faculties from abyss into the enlightenment of Mogadishu and Hargeisa.

One could mull about what caused one to get stirred up in order to initiation a discourse on the matter at this juncture. To answer the question, you look and observe what has been gaining ground for the past four to five years, now such stage to become a culture intercalated into the habit, at PDRC and other places people hold get together talks by inviting number of southern intellectuals and research institutions such as Abdirahman Badio, Afyare, Prof Abdi Kusow and Mahbub Maalim and Faysal Roble (though later two are invited as expat scholars), who are all decent scholars, HERITAGE, and their likens to profess upon them, or consult on programs being implemented in Puntland in a fashion refilling their intellectual gaps they (Puntlanders I mean in here)  longed for, thus bereft in Puntland settings.

The immediate question comes into the minds of even a commoner, perhaps the probe consigns all Puntlanders as plebeians, asks, as aforementioned, but worth repeating in here, is ‘does the prognoses is that bad? The second question will be obviously to scour Puntland institutions of those intellectuals supposed to run the show/affairs, and finally trickle of unbidden advice.

On that note, just like anybody with a bit of fairness and a touch of sentiment-lopsidedness towards Puntland would’ve done, I went through those institutions, government or otherwise, to head hunt Puntland intellectuals featured in there, and the projection is dismal one. Starting with state house, there are no competent state ministers one can point the finger to who has what it takes to give the president coveted advise on the pressing issues for the day such as the tinder of federal government and federal states issues and international doners matters, affordable energy, cheap natural clean water, agricultural development for the people to grow their food, education, healthcare and the pandemic ravaging the land in an unprecedented scale.

There are also presidential advisors and consultants in the statehouse, who are expensively bankrolled with either the tax payer’s money or international community funds, to offer the best advices on aforesaid demanding themes Puntlanders sought farther afield. In assessing the three years Said Deni has been at the helm, with the exception of reordering the force, either counsels they (so called presidential advisors/experts on their commissioned fields) offered is inadequate, thus are unqualified, phoney doctors/experts (a trade rampant in Puntland) thus incompetent for the mammoth task in hand or falls into the deaf ears of the president. To verify where the blame lies, I did some background check on those counsellors for the president, and credentials, at least they are asserting, and career records, with the exception of few (strangely enough all girls ), both indicate the respective roles they are tasked for is one too many for them.

As for the ministries and agencies (parastatal or otherwise), it’s the ministerial level individuals, though political offices, but in this digital and molecular/Biochemistry era, one expects to be literate enough to run/govern the affairs of the ministry least at first-degree graduate dude level. What does that mean? He/she must be able to coordinate, in a ministry wholly dependent on foreign aid, between sectors of the ministry and doners, and that is not the case due to their dismal level of aptitude and academic proficiency. Rumours had, some of them are straggling and seek help in answering their emails. Coming to the civil servant’s tier of the ministries, almost all DGs (hypothetical professional experts), the executive and administrative heads of the ministries and regulatory managers (male or female: though female DGs are few and far between) perform the policy setting role, supposed to be promoting the operative execution of the day-to-day activities of the ministry, facilitate consultations & cooperation among ministries and international donors, and reports to the minister.

With the exception of medium sized one or two characters who has climbed through the ladder of civil service, all are novice upstarts came to the office through the clan permutation irrespective their technical now how or academic credentials. Obviously, as the abovementioned attributes, DG character required is missing of the incumbents, he or she fails the role, subsequently makes the whole ministry as none functioning juggernaut, and takes the respective ministry with them into the deep hole. Go over with a fine-tooth comb the important ministries such as Healthcare, education, Planning, infrastructure, agriculture-cum-environment and finance, the level of competency of serving DGs is mind bogglingly depressing one. Strangely enough, some of them has been in the role over a decade.

Coming to higher education institutions (HEI, universities) and research centres in the land, just as defined the term intellectual in the preamble of the debate, its worth outlining at least connotations the term carries with it. Accordingly, Research centres/institution is an establishment created for doing research (basic or applied one, sciences or for sociological and historical one) lead by teams of researchers each have enough publications in the fields that they handle, as its through publication in pear reviewed journals that the research, including its applied contributions, is distributed to others in a specific discipline.

One thinks the skim through suffices of getting shrill inkling on what research institution is defined. More often than not, those running HEIs believe teaching and research as dichotomous. On the contrary, they are intertwined for first producing competent and ready for the labour market graduates, and secondly the institutional requirements for securing research funding/grants and producing publications that contribute into the community development. Now, looking at the existing research and HEIs, the question is ‘do the current ones qualify for the said set of attributes’?. The answer is on the wall with major colours.

When the essayist examined Puntland being an intellectual barren terra firma, its comparatively either faring better or at bar with the rest of Somalia. There are dozens of top scholars in the uppermost universities in Europe and north America hail from the state, includes are professor Ali Abdi who is a Professor of Social Development Education in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Dr Abdi A Gelle of Department of Health Services, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Dr Abdirashid Shire, now based in Puntland, but worked at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of London University  and Moya clinic and other renowned institution, Dr Abdulkadir Farah worked both at Reading university and imperial college of London Universities, and Dr Bashir Hussein who is an expert on agricultural sciences/economics and based in Puntland to mention a few. They are tested scholars with peer reviewed journals publications, and none of them have been invited to either give sought for consultancy and advice, or public talk for that matter, to the Puntland Institutions, particularly PDRC in which more often than not serve as a stage for our brethren interlocuters from southern edify and serve as salvation consultants for programs supposed to be implemented in the state.

Penultimately, a word or two of unbidden advice for the government, particularly the chap in the helm, Deni, and Research/higher education institutions that has been existed in Puntland for the best part of the past 20 years. First, scouring through their records, I mean Research/higher education institutions, for the aforesaid period, one could hardly find a handful of peers reviewed decent papers in your record, and that is by any measure cataclysmically a dismal record and an anathema to the intellectual testimonials for the land and anyone identifies themselves in knowledge belonging in this part of Somalia. Secondly, given the inexcusable depressing failure in scholarship, you, the protagonists running the show I mean, and the meteoric rise of the parallel institutions in the Somali south (the likes of Simad, Mogadishu Uni. And Heritage) and your benevolent donors (benevolent in the sense of them bankrolling such a long period a runaway institution of ours) to do some soul-searching appraisal and change course bell mell.

The president must do a clean slate start job and get rid of almost all ministerial, though most of them are on track to Mogadishu, and DGs, then bring on qualified and competent with stupendous track records on the jobs at hand in corresponding ministries and agencies. That takes great deal of courage and tenacity, and puts you into the history books as a reformer turned the page, or ensconce in the comfort zone of reaping the taxpayer’s money for the two years left in your tenure, thus go down at bar with your predecessors as a failed administration.

President Said Deni

Universities and existing research centres, such as PDRC, must develop a research strategy for the reason of driving its creativities to significantly increase of its research productivity in the sense of contributing the socio-economic endeavour of Puntland institutions (governmental as well as private ones), and produce graduates capable of competing in the world of work. A target must be set aimed for the next 5 to 10 years in terms of proportion of doctoral research fellow recruitment, particularly in the vice chancellor/president and departmental heads, extend capacity-cum-internationalization, publishing articles/papers in credible peer reviewed journals per staff, socio-economic impacts of produced research and all these culminating in upgraded standing in national, regional and in the global rankings. At this particular juncture, assessing the central character who’s been playing the roles of either chairs of research institutions or vice chancellor/president and departmental heads in those universities’ academic status fall short of the terms of references of the positions. Conventionally, the first criteria for the role are PhD with Publications, and that is not the case for almost all of them.

Its so important accredited research fellows who’re head and shoulder above everybody else to lead those institutions so that he/she will be able to strategically set the target for the short-and long-term goals of the institution, thus carry everybody else with them. Consequently, when they take over the roles, they should accelerate the process to attain set of targets and work towards promoting potential areas of research strength, elevate the university/research centre national and international profile by attracting outstanding researchers to foster renewed research teams and grants/funding (millennium funding to start with).

Once put in place the above, attract masters by thought and research, and doctoral research students. As for the fellows currently running the show of those institutions, have to either be incorporated into the board of directors/owners or, if young with potential to retrain themselves, be retained as part of the future team.

Abdiqani Ahmed Farah (Dala’aan) PhD
Email: [email protected]

Synopsis of the essayist  

Abdiqani Ahmed Farah (Dala’aan) (BSc, MSc, MSc, PGDip, PhD). His work focuses on, inter alia, higher education management-cum-quality assurance, curriculum development, Applied Mathematics & Statistics, Computer Information systems, public health &epidemiology, Biochemistry, Environmental as well as Agricultural sciences. He has been research fellow or taught several universities and colleges including University of Glasgow, Somali National University, Technical University of Kenya, Camden College, East Africa University and Puntland State University. Guest lecturer: University of Helsinki, Michigan State University. Member of African Studies Associations.


The New Fontana dictionary of Modern Thought Third Edition, A. Bullock & S. Trombley, Eds. (1999) p. 433; Jennings, Jeremy and Kemp-Welch, Tony. “The Century of the Intellectual: From Dreyfus to Salman Rushdie”, Intellectuals in Politics, Routledge: New York (1997) p. 1.

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