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Reflections on Puntland State of Somalia’s 25th Anniversary: Towards Peace and Stability

By Mohamed Abdi Baldho

Today, on 1st August, Puntland State of Somalia will mark its 25th anniversary, replicating its journey towards peace and stability. Established with the aim of becoming a federal member of the future Somali government, Puntland emerged as a bottom-up approach to state-building, established on wider consultation among political leaders, traditional elders, and civil society members to become foundation for self-governance in Puntland and restore peace and stability across Somalia by reconstituting the Somali state on basis of federalism, good governance and effective institutions.

Under its inaugural president, Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed, Puntland achieved several milestones, but encountered challenges in implementing its ambitious objectives, especially concerning the democratization process due to limited resources and time constraints. However, after 25 years of existence, the aspiration of the people to elect their leaders and establish democratic institutions in Puntland remains unfulfilled.

The current administration, which reinitiated the democratization process in 2019 after a suspension in 2013, has faced its own share of challenges. While it initially made progress by holding early elections in three districts as a pilot project, the process was interrupted when the president sought to become president of the federal government and failed in his endeavour.

Restarting the Process

Regrettably, the electoral process was hastily restarted without meaningful consultations and addressing serious disagreements that resulted from the way he forcibly selected the representatives from Puntland to the senate and the house of the people of the government of Somalia the administration’s mishandling of this selection further exacerbated animosity, leading to armed elections, smuggling of voting ballots, and militarization of election posts. Reasonable voices were disregarded, and warnings about potential negative consequences were ignored.

While local elections were held in 30 districts out of 50, conducting elections in three districts of Nugal region created a polarized atmosphere and led to violent confrontation among Puntland security forces. Additionally, the president’s pursuit of constitutional changes for personal political reasons encountered opposition from various political associations, civil society groups, intellectuals, and political entities.

Federal Government Relations

Since its inception, Puntland’s relations with the federal government have had their ups and downs. Both governments have worked together for the common good, but some major issues require broader consultation and political consensus for effective resolutions. Unfortunately, the current administration has suspended all relations with the federal government and failed to present viable options for Somalia’s state-building.

Considering Puntland’s substantial investment in the federal government and its pioneering role in federalism, remaining passive in the face of Somalia’s challenges is not an option. Any future administration must weigh the pros and cons of the federal government relations and consider the potential gains or losses for Puntlanders whether they choose to participate or stay away from the state-building process.

A Way Forward

Puntland now stands at a critical junction and must navigate its path forward carefully. While some advocate for the continuation of the electoral process with possible term extensions to produce legitimate parties and elected leadership, others argue that the process has been tainted, lacking political inclusivity and legitimacy. They propose holding parliamentary and presidential elections on time to rectify existing mistakes, with the completion of the electoral process to be entrusted to the next government.

In order to ensure stability, coexistence and progress towards a prosperous and peaceful Puntland, there is a need for the following:

  1. Convene a conference, inviting politicians traditional elders, civil society representatives, and other social groups to listen to their recommendations and chart a way forward for peaceful elections.
  • Avoid seeking term extensions, as this may exacerbate tensions and undermine democratic principles.
  1. Commit to conduct parliamentary and presidential elections as scheduled, following the outcomes of the aforementioned conference and adopting an agreed electoral model that satisfies all stakeholders, thereby ensuring the transparency and integrity of the democratic process.

As Puntland commemorates its 25th anniversary, it faces challenges, but with inclusive and transparent efforts, it can pave the way for a brighter future for its people and contribute to Somalia’s overall progress.

Mohamed Abdi Baldho, MPA & MA (IR)
Email: [email protected]

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