Thursday, February 29, 2024
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The President and Prime Minister’s Remarks: A Threat to Puntland’s Election and Development

By Mohamed Abdiqafar Haji Hussein

Upon assuming the office of the Presidency of Somalia on May, 2022, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared his strategy promising to improve peace and security in the country, fostering Somalia that is at “peace with itself and with the world.”  However, it quickly became apparent that his manner of managing government affairs would not lead to a peaceful Somalia. The new president has created a system that is built on patronage, showering government jobs to his close friends, clan and party members, distancing himself from anyone else including those who helped him to secure victory such as the former presidential candidates and leaders of the federal member states.

President Hassan (left) and President Said Deni

One major conflict is with that of President Said Abdulahi Deni, who accused President Hassan reneging a deal made during the presidential campaign, as well as policy and constitutional dispute. Although Deni and Hassan’s clash, is more of a personal, nevertheless the rift between the Federal Government and Puntland is not new, but this time the two leaders, Hassan and Deni, were until recently in coalition to force the former President Famaajo out of office, but their relations soured once Hassan assumed the Presidency of the federal government of Somalia.

Moreover, the conflict between the two presidents escalated when President Hassan spoke from Villa Somalia’s Masjid after the Friday Sermon, where he stated that Puntland might cease to exist in a matter of 24 days if President Deni do not heed to the people’s desire. He also suggested after 24 years of Puntland’s existence, it would not be fair for that to happen. President Hassan attempted to drive a wedge between the people of Puntland and their government by asserting that the current leadership is the issue, not the people. He warned President Deni that his plan to extend his rule would not succeed.

Many Puntlanders perceived President Hassan’s speech as interference in their internal affairs, while supporters of President Deni viewed it as a threat to Puntland. President Hassan implied that he possessed knowledge that was unknown to most Puntlanders, that would lead to the downfall of Puntland under the rule of Deni. There is a fact that there is a difference between President Deni and the opposition, who alleged that Deni is planning to extend his term, but that doesn’t mean Puntland is at the verge of a collapse! President Deni did not publicly address these accusations yet. However, It would have been appropriate for President Hassan to clarify his position, but instead, Puntlanders were left to wary and oblivious of his intentions, as there are no known issues standing in the way of upcoming election, other than the concerns raised by some of the oppositions on the term extension.

However, the impasse between the two presidents necessitated the intervention of Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre, who had an ideal opportunity to ease the tension. There was no known animosity between PM Hamse and President of Puntland. As the executive of the Somali government, it was in his interests for Puntland to bring on board and on the discussion table. The prime minister himself recognized the importance of Puntland. Even if President Deni refused to engage with him, the Prime Minister could have leveraged other channels, including traditional elders, to reach out to President Deni. By listening to Puntland’s concerns and seeking a feasible solution, he could have played a pivotal role in resolving the crisis.

Instead, the prime minister held a similar view to that of President Hassan regarding the Puntland issue. Two days after President Hassan’s speech, the prime minister repeated his sentiments, stating that the Puntland people did not deserve their leaders and that the  federal government of Somalia would not allow one sole individual to destroy Puntland. He also mentioned that Puntland did not participate in the last two meetings that should have addressed Somalia’s debt relief, stating that if the debt relief effort fails, it would be Puntland state’s responsibility, not his government’s. However, this rhetoric only inflamed the situation and did not facilitate any progress towards resolving the difference between President Hassan’s administration and Puntland under  President Deni.

The Prime Minister’s primary objective should be to ensure that Puntland makes progress in its upcoming election and that Somalia’s five billion dollar debt is achieved. However, his statements only pushed Puntland further into a corner, negatively affecting the prospects of Somali debt relief, an initiative that he had previously deemed crucial for the development of both Puntland and the rest of Somalia. Additionally, if anything happens to the upcoming election, the President and Prime Minister would be held responsible.

Given the current situation between the parties, the first step in finding a solution would be to cease communicating via social media. The Somali people expect the federal government to move forward from the point at which it assumed power. Therefore, the federal government should engage the Puntland state through means that do not involve interference in its internal affairs. Puntlanders should be allowed to solve their internal issues without external influence. Rather than engaging in finger-pointing, the federal goverment should also address Puntland’s concerns that the government’s actions are not based on the federal constitution.

To resolve its conflict with Puntland and to achieve peace and stability in Somalia, it is essential for the federal government to engage in meaningful dialogue with Puntland. The Prime Minister’s recent remarks have only added to the already complex situation and stalled any progress towards resolving the issue. It is time for all parties involved to prioritize peace and stability in Somalia.

By: Mohamed Abdiqafar Haji Hussein
Email: [email protected] 
Atlanta, Georgia

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