By Ismail H. Warsame
President Gas of Puntland is politically isolated within a short time into his mandate and has lost touch with reality in both Puntland and larger Somalia. Despite his continuous travels and repeated tours in some parts of the country, while intentionally avoiding some regions, including those regions considered his political power-base, yet being highly visible in receptions at Villa Garowe with Somalia’s International Partners.
This self-imposed political isolation and complacency is due to the following blunders of his making:
1. The President chose to surround himself at the State House with young novices as his key advisors, who neither have the political skills, education, nor the experience of working in any region of Somalia, not to mention about having slightest field work experience in Puntland State of Somalia.
2.The President is incapable of gauging the mood and the feeling of ordinary men and women towards his leadership performance in terms of the economy, public order and personal safety.
3. State employees, including security forces are not paid for months after months, often triggering off threatening periodical mutiny of forces, ensuing dangerous security situation, and creating an atmosphere of growing popular deep discontents. The President does not treat this precarious situation as a national emergency and priority number one for the very survival and unity of Puntland.
4. The President is in a state of “a know-it-all“ mind, a superficial Ivory Tower Attitude, devoid of any real and on-the-ground political context and smart understanding of current dismal economic and geo-political situation of Puntland.
5. The President clearly enjoys hosting high-level delegations, who continually jet in and out of Puntland with no benefits to deliver to the State, even a small budgetary support for the security sector engaged daily with extremists and militants-the very forces that enabled the so-called “international Partners” to have trouble-free discussions with Puntland authorities inside the country to show-case their engagements with Somalia, and thus defuse the concerns of their generous Donor countries. Rather than demanding reciprocity, the President is enticed with diplomatic niceties, empty, and meaningless receptions in his Office. It is disturbing to see even junior NGOs officers being to driven to the State House rather letting them mind their own business with government ministers and departments concerned. One critical fact Abdiweli has to learn about these international organizations is that they are not accountable to anyone. As they are faceless, their promises and statements to their interlocutors mean nothing as they would never honour or deliver on their promises- a black hole that Puntland fell into recently. The President often gets busy himself with departmental tasks and mandates- an award tendency to a one-man show exercises.
6. Under the fledgling leadership of President Abdiweli Ali (Gas), Puntland State has abandoned the on-going Somali National Debate on the re-institution and re-construction of the Somali Republic, along the Vision the State of Puntland has been fighting for nearly two decades.
7. Worse of all, it seems that President Gas has no a vague idea of the Mission and Founding Objectives of Puntland State of Somalia. Probably, in his Ivory Tower vanity, he did not bother to browse thatHistoric document even briefly. Let us Paraphrase some highlights of these Guiding Principles for his benefit:
a) After many trials and failures of the National Reconciliation Conferences, it became obvious that Somalia could not be re-instated and re-constructed from the “Top-down”. It must be re-instated from “Bottom-up” by the formation of “Building Blocks” (Federal States) producing legitimate and representative leadership to discuss the future governance of Somalia.
b) Puntland State of Somalia is founded with a vision to create an orderly, peaceful and democratic society with the marriage of traditional societal leadership with a modern and efficient administration of statecraft capable of delivering public services, working towards economic self-sufficiency and safe-guarding the security and unity of the State. Puntland State of Somalia is an integral part of Somalia, and would not entertain unilateral secession or independence as an option. Governance system and public institutions would continue to evolve and grow leading to further democratization process, population census, population disarmament, and building strong, credible and lasting public institutions.
c) Puntland State was committed to taking the leadership role required to help credible and representative community leaders from various parts of Somalia engage in constructive dialogue in building constituent regions to form regional states on free will and voluntary basis. The people of Western Galgaduud Region of Central Somalia were invited and had free option to join Puntland State whenever they were ready. In this regard, Puntland would spear-head a National Reconciliation Process leading to the resolution of the legacy of the Civil War, deepening peace and restoring public trust again in a shared government and institutions.
d) Puntland State of Somalia would promote peace and good neighbourliness among the peoples of East Africa, and with Somali neighbour states, in particular.
Based on the narrative above and serious issues raised therein, how does the “scoreboard” of Dr. Gas stacks? If you live in Puntland State, or closely follow its “state of the union” today, you have every reason to worry about where the country is heading. Besides the economic calamities besetting the people of Puntland, there is strong lack of political leadership and direction. President Abdiweli Ali (Gas) is now in a political trap designed by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud’s faction in Mogadishu, to politically isolate Puntland, on the one hand, and destabilize it in the Central Somalia front, while welcoming and approaching Somaliland encouragingly. That is on the top of the political Puntland headache on threats to its unity and Sool and Sanaag issue.
It takes leadership to acknowledge one’s mistakes, ask for advice, and listen to the concerns of one’s own constituency attentively. Would he?
Ismail H. Warsame