Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Puntland: The Unveiling of Controversial Parliamentarians

By Mohamed Abdiqafar H. Hussein

The ongoing challenges surrounding the elections in Puntland have reached a critical juncture, marked by conflict and corruption. The attention of the people of Puntland and Somalia as a whole has been keenly focused on the election of Puntland, particularly concerning is the apparent manipulation of the overall election process by President Said Abdullahi Deni’s administration, specifically in the selection of the local parliamentarians.

President Said Abdullahi Deni of Puntland

President Deni is able to consolidate his support base securing the allegiance of Puntland MPs who favor him. The ultimate goal seems to be ensuring his reelection and maintaining control over Puntland MPs. It is evident that President Deni’s maneuvers are designed to secure his reelection through the recruitment of Puntland MPs, marking a concerning departure from the democratic principles that should underpin the electoral process. Such tactics of reelecting a former head of Puntland state, if Said Deni succeeds, represent an unprecedented development in the history of Puntland since its establishment in 1998.

Puntlanders were eagerly awaiting the unveiling of the new parliamentary members’ list on December 31, 2023, coinciding with the expiration of the previous parliamentarians’ terms. However, SSC Khaatumo’s declaration that they would not be part of the Puntland government due to their establishment of a separate administration added a layer of complexity to the situation. However, in his candidacy announcement, President Said Abdullahi Deni outlined that the upcoming parliament would consist of 66 members, with 17 individuals selected by the traditional elders of SSC Khaatumo from their region. The inclusion of these 17 members, as per SSC-Khatumo’s stance on the Puntland election, raised concerns about how to address this issue within the context of the upcoming elections.

President Deni dismissed this call, leading to some presidential candidates to propose the option of holding the election on time with 49 members of parliament. Nevertheless, on Jan 1, 2024 at around 2:30 AM, the list of the 66 new parliamentarians was released, and they were instructed to be sworn in at the parliament shortly after at 10 AM. The area of the parliament was secured, streets particularly those leading to the parliament building were closed, and shops instructed not to open, creating a coup-like atmosphere. It was also believed the militias against President Deni’s which Brough their armed militia to the city of Garowe and the government forces would face potential internal conflict. Some opposition candidates and traditional elders opposed the president’s plan, but President Deni still intended to proceed with the election on time, allegedly hand-picking total of 44 members, about  67% of the parliamentarians, bypassing the agreed-upon process, to secure his reelection.

No one can predict the outcome of the election or what could happen, but it is certain that President Deni is committed to holding the election by any means necessary on his own terms to secure his come back. Those who support President Deni defend his move by saying that the president had already shown compromise when he had abandoned his call for one person, one vote (1p1v), and then allowed the election to take place on time.

His supporters believe that the Puntland constitution does not require the president to issue an annex if he cannot hold a one-person one-vote ( 1p1v) election, which would require going back to the past traditional  election procedures,  but they forget to remember that President Deni’s term was due to expire on Jan 8, 2024. In either case, the president did not compromise and has not sat down with opposition leaders to agree on a way forward. On the other hand, the majority of the presidential candidates are also committed to not participating in any election where they are not part of due process; not to mention the issue with the president hand-picking 67% of the parliamentarians. Those who are close friends to President Deni said that the president had in mind three options to show his circle of close friends on how serious he was about the outcome of this election:

1)The first option the president said was that he would die through the process of defending his rule.
2) The second option was that he would rule Puntland and all his opponents would just have to get in line with everyone else who supported him. 3) The third option, the president said, would be the end of what is currently known as Puntland.

Mr. Deni made this prediction when he was in UAE. The option where the president would hold a fair election and accept its outcome whether he wins or loses was not on the table. But many Puntlanders still hope that in the next few days commonsense will prevail, but that is unlikely based on Deni’s previous statements and actions.

The reason why President Deni has decided to behave in this dictatorial way is likely because it has worked for him during the last 5 years that he has been in power where whatever he tried to achieve, he was able to do so by force. For instance, a few months after he was elected as the president of Puntland, certain parliamentarian tried to hold the government accountable during a parliamentary session when President Deni was present and asked a few contentious questions about the president’s performance. Instead of the president seeing those questions as legitimate and trying to respond, the president took it as a personal attack. Immediately, he went on the offensive to the point where eight parliamentarians were removed from their post and were replaced immediately. Days later, the speaker of the parliament was also removed and replaced with a new speaker that was favorable to the him.

Also, during 2022  Somalia’s federal parliamentary elections, 16 federal parliamentarians were selected in Bossaso in less than 2 hours by President Deni without following proper procedures for their election. After President Deni returned from Mogadishu when he had lost the federal presidential election, the president restated the one person one vote  (1p1v) without any compromise and had the attitude that it was “his way or the highway”, until a few weeks ago when he realized that this would not work.

All the things that President Deni did and got away with, were because Puntlanders had an attitude of seeking compromise, and letting Said Deni to do what he wanted to do because he had a mandate. But this time, it is a different case. It is election time. Puntlanders have got used to other presidents that also tried to tilt the level playing field, but in the end, each previous president was able to prepare a conducive environment for the election where opponents could participate. That is not the case for this year’s election, which is proposed to take place on Jan 8, 2024. If Puntlanders had been willing and able to hold their president accountable on his first day on the job, the situation today would have been different today.

History repeats itself. Puntlanders should learn from the history of Somalia. The reason why Somalia has been in its current predicament for over 30 years is because their leaders tried to rule the people by force, dividing  along clan the lines , those who served them and those who were traitors sent to sell out Somali Land.  Also, anyone who tries to rule people by force against their will, inevitably would not succeed, and as a result, the country may end up destroyed. Ruling a nation or region by force will only last some years, but eventually will come to an end. It is well-known what has happened to dictators, like Sadam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Similarly, ruling by force will not work in Puntland.

The only solution out there for Puntland to be saved from this quagmire is for the president to understand that he was elected for 5 years only and at the end of that term, his responsibility is to hold an election where there is a level playing field. It was said that those who support the president advised him to continue dictating the election process and never compromise, because those who oppose him will only accept him being removed from the presidential seat and none of them deserve it.

If that is the advice the president is receiving from those close to him, then the whole issue of the elections has turned from a fair process to a personal vendetta. President Deni should realize this is election time where every candidate wants to win and replace him, but this is not a personal and the president was suppose to focus on setting up a system of a fair election, where every candidate can feel they have the same chance as the president, embrace the process and will accept the result of that election outcome the same way that former candidates have accepted the election of his previous 5-year mandate that has come to end.

Nevertheless, President Deni seems to be able to consolidate his support base securing the allegiance of new Puntland MPs who favor him, thus fulfilling his ultimate goal of ensuring his reelection and maintaining control over Puntland MPs. It is evident that President Deni’s maneuvers are designed to secure his reelection through the recruitment of Puntland MPs, marking a concerning departure from the democratic principles that should underpin the electoral process. Such tactics of reelecting a former head of Puntland state, if Said Deni succeeds, represent an unprecedented development in the history of Puntland since its establishment in 1998.

Mohamed Abdiqafar H. Hussein
Email: [email protected]


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