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Last Updated: Feb 11, 2014 - 5:11:05 AM
Puntland leadership fails to deliver

EDITORIAL | Overt corruption, which has become increasingly formulaic of this current administration, has reached new heights. But by spilling blood, they crossed all lines.

THE PUNTLAND State government is in political turmoil, again. The recent gun battle in Garoe – the Capital – between the presidential guard and clan militias was not an isolated incident, despite all efforts to make it look as such. It was, in effect, another worrying sign of the region’s gradual descent into instability and regional disintegration. The battle, which lasted less than five minutes but contributed to the deaths of at least three individuals, stimulated, in the minds of the public, still-fresh images from the last wave of political violence in the region. Back then, the semi-autonomous government that administers northeastern Somalia teetered on the verge of total disintegration; while political rivals battled for power, the public was left in the middle to suffer as collateral damage. Today, the region is engulfed in a similar disposition and the question of its very survivability hangs in the balance. Has the Puntland leadership failed the people?

Broken promises

What led to the flare-up of violence in Garoe at the end of last month? Anyone familiar with the on goings in Somalia knows, quite well, that Garoe is one of the more peaceful cities in our Motherland. Situated at the heart of the majestic Nugal valley, Garoe is cherished for its moderate climate and valued for its strategic location: the city interconnects other major cities like Bossaso, Las Anod and Galkayo. Furthermore, the Puntland capital has become home to thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs), most of who fled the perpetual anarchy in some parts of southern Somalia and were attracted by Garoe’s relative peace.

So, why would a city renown for peace temporarily turn into a war zone? Garoe, it must be remembered, is the capital city of Puntland, which means that there are political forces constantly at work. For months, president ‘Adde Muse has been flying in and out of the region for medical reasons, while the public patiently waited for him to name his new Cabinet. Many people were enchanted by the President’s public addresses, in which he repeatedly promised to form a new Cabinet based on the educational and professional achievements of candidates. Furthermore, the President is known to have promised the introduction of accountability, fiscal responsibility and a strict penal on numerous occasions. These captivating pronouncements attracted the masses to the President’s cause: he wants, they believed, an apt government, which acts justly and responsibly.

Then, the vast majority of the people were disappointed with his new Cabinet list, because most of the incumbent ministers were returned to their posts. But the real shocks came during the Puntland parliamentary session whereby the ministerial nominations were to be either approved or rejected on a minister-by-minister basis. The first shock was that the Puntland parliament actually wanted to exercise its oversight powers – before, the President simply appointed ministers and carried on his work without parliamentary oversight. Why, all of a sudden, did the Parliament feel the urgency to exercise its power at such a critical time? More importantly, why didn’t the Parliament utilize its immense oversight powers when president ‘Adde Muse signed a unilateral agreement in Dubai with a junior oil company from Australia? It will be remembered that, while president ‘Adde gave away the region’s vast natural resources to a foreign company, not a single member of parliament (MP) objected or spoke publicly about a president who vastly overstepped his presidential powers.

The second shock came when, in the same sitting, the Puntland finance minister was approved by the MPs while the interior minister was rejected and revoked of his post. Prior to the parliamentary session, the Puntland regions have been relatively peaceful, which attests to the fact that the interior minister, who’s in charge of regional security, did his job exceptionally well. But matters relating to the treasury are delegated to the finance ministry, are they not?  As we all know, Puntland government employees, including members of the armed forces, have not been paid in months. Worse, the Puntland leaders publicly accused each other of stealing funds from the government treasury; it was president ‘Adde who recently accused his VP Hassan Dahir of “loosing” over five million dollars! Who takes responsibility for such gross misuse of public funds?

Despite such reality, the Puntland Parliament sought to evict the interior minister while letting the finance minister maintain his current portfolio. Did the Parliament ask the finance minister where the government’s money goes? Did the finance minister offer documents revealing how over five million dollars became “lost” from the Puntland treasury? The entire parliamentary session was a sham designed to dispose of “some” ministers and had nothing to do with the genuine use of parliamentary oversight powers. How else could the finance minister, responsible for the loss of millions of dollars of public funds, be returned to his post while the interior minister gets the boot? Overt corruption, which has become increasingly formulaic of this current administration, has reached new heights. But by spilling blood, they crossed all lines.

Gun talk

When armed militiamen, angry by Parliament’s injustice, surrounded Parliament House, president ‘Adde Muse was quick to send in his own presidential guard to “quell” the resistance by violent force – within minutes, at least three people were pronounced dead.

Doesn’t Garoe have a police force responsible for security? Indeed, the Puntland capital has its own police force, which is capable of handling all security threats. Then, one must ask the impending question: What was the reason for sending in the presidential guard instead of the police force? Furthermore, why was the administration so quick to use guns instead of diplomacy? The bloody incident in the central Garoe exposed a weak administration and its lack of proper procedural protocol. When armed militiamen captured Parliament House, it was the duty of the police to engage the militias, not for the presidential guard to interfere.  The militiamen, while armed, neither shot nor killed anyone but were there to express their grievance against the injustice incurred upon “some” ministers, while others are given the green light. Puntland prides itself as a region where law and order reign supreme; yet, the president’s personal security forces were quick to break the law. Because of poor judgment on the part of the administration, several families lost their loved ones.

Also, the people of Garoe have guns and could’ve responded violently against the presidential guard’s murderous tactics. But, as with the whole of Puntland, the mediation and wisdom of the Issims, or traditional elders, was given priority. As the Issims of Nugal region calmed the tense and potentially volatile situation in the Capital, the president called in more heavily-armed reinforcements to encamp himself in a “Green Zone” not unlike the American one in Baghdad! Why did the president reinforce his personal security forces if he’s not guilty of anything? What does he have to fear today that he didn’t have to fear the day before the bloody gun battle in Garoe?

Widespread frustration

Garoe residents aren’t the only group of people frustrated with this ineffective and corrupt administration. When president ‘Adde and VP Hassan Dahir went to Las Anod last month to pay respects to the family of the late and great Garad Abdiqani Garad Jama, may Allah (SWT) have mercy on his soul, they were met with an angry public rally denouncing his entire government. Why were the people of Las Anod protesting against the government led by president ‘Adde Muse? Are they possibly protesting against the temporary shutting down of Radio Laascaanood for ambiguous reasons?

A few months ago, the Bossaso police in the dark of the night attacked the property of a prominent Puntland businessman. President ‘Adde Muse was quick to condemn the illegal and unprovoked attack, and even went on record saying that the police behaved inappropriately and accused some police elements of trying to “destabilize” the region. Why hasn’t president ‘Adde condemned the gun battle in Garoe whereby three people lost their lives because of the inappropriate use of force on the part of his own presidential guard?

The public’s frustration with the ‘Adde Muse administration is widespread and the recent eruption of violence in Garoe is but another prime example of the public’s growing discontent. Puntland needs to be saved – not from an outside enemy, but from within the ranks of those in power today. The dream espoused in the signed Puntland Charter called for a representative government that conducts its affairs justly, responsibly and openly. But a government that kills its own people – literally or systematically – and embezzles public funds is a government founded on the evil practices of injustice, oppression and corruption of the highest caliber!

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