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Last Updated: Feb 11, 2014 - 5:11:05 AM
Somalia: President Farole – the Pride of Puntland [Editorial]

GAROWE ONLINE EDITORIAL | The international community has failed to heed President Farole's strategic vision to save Somalia from the ruins of war, pirates, and Al Qaeda.

He did not use a gun or violent street protests to come to power. He used his intellect, his eloquent speech, his charisma, and a style of leadership unmatched in contemporary Somali history to become Puntland's third elected president. The peace-loving citizens of Puntland State of Somalia have created a praise-worthy and stable political environment in an erstwhile chaotic corner of the world. Sharing praise with Puntland's citizens is the former President, His Excellency Gen. Mohamud Muse Hersi (Adde), who prepared an orderly election and respectfully transferred power after conceding defeat in ballots cast by the 66-seat Puntland Parliament on January 8, 2009.

His Excellency, Mr. President Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamud (Farole), seized that moment of Somali history with a statesman's elegance, an unwavering commitment to the cause and to the people, and a reputation for disciplined accomplishment. During the 2008 election campaign, Puntland's then-presidential candidates endorsed Mr. Farole as "opposition chairman" and he was the instrumental figure negotiating with the administration of then-President Hersi. Because Puntland does not have political parties, the opposition candidates (who were all competing against each other for the presidency) formed an umbrella group to counter the government's weight in negotiations leading up to the presidential election.

This is to say that, even before the Puntland Parliament's 49-to-17 vote in favor of Farole as president, the candidates from all of Puntland's regions and clans endorsed Farole as the next leader of Puntland State of Somalia.

Domestic reforms

The Farole administration has accomplished many domestic policy reforms. The president has maintained that security is the number one issue. As such, the administration spends a huge chunk of government revenue on security sector reforms. The Puntland Field Force (Darawish) has been reestablished as the State's military force after years of neglect, with a central command structure and a cross-clan composition of soldiers. The Puntland Police Force, and its subsidiaries such as the Birmadka (mobile police units), have been strengthened, provided salaries and further training, and have actively participated in police operations from Bossaso to Galkayo (800km apart).

Furthermore, to accompany security sector reforms, the Farole administration has hired and trained new prosecutors, judges, other court personnel, and prison guards to help strengthen the State's justice system. There have been reports of jail overpopulation in Bossaso, as the State awaits the final completion of a major prison compound near Qardo, capital of Karkar region. Remarkably, most of the inmates in Puntland jails are convicted pirates or those awaiting trail.

So, what are the evident successes of President Farole's security and justice reforms? The display of weapons in public has been effectively banned in major cities, thereby helping reduce the crime rate. There has not been a single incident of kidnapping or killing of a foreigner in Puntland since the 2009 election. However, there has been the unprecedented assassination of five government officials between Aug. 2009 and Jan. 2010, highlighting a bizarre series of political assassinations intended to harm Puntland, its people, and its leadership. However, once again, the resilient people of Puntland have shown true unity in the face of such extraordinary circumstances.

President Farole's domestic reforms are not limited to the security sector. The administration has particularly reformed the public finance management system – thus becoming the first Puntland administration to consistently pay public workers' salaries every month since the election. A transparent, budget-based public finance system has contributed to an overall reduction in corruption across Puntland – and has led to the gradual increase of public confidence in government. Remember, Puntland has endured years of political adventurism and financial mismanagement by its elected leaders prior to President Farole. Puntland's new president has charted a fresh path to reverse the "old way" by leading the State towards a systematic and accountable way of governance to meet modern times.

Further, the Farole administration completed by the Puntland Constitution and appointed a special presidential delegate to advance the democratization process. Hon. Abdi Hassan Jimale, PhD., was appointed as the State Minister of the Presidency for Democratization and Federal Affairs. On 15 June 2009, the Puntland Parliament overwhelmingly passed the new Puntland Constitution – a milestone in President Farole's plan and election promise to introduce a multi-party political system in Puntland for the first time. According to sources, Dr. Jimale is expected to introduce an Election Commission bill to Parliament during next month's ordinary session in Garowe, the capital of Puntland. Further, the Farole administration has been steadfast in defending Puntland's resolute pro-federalism political position as the "only viable solution for Somalia."

In the social sector, there have been minor steps taken in the education and healthcare fields to wedge the gap worsened by a lack of human, technical, and financial resources. The Puntland government has hired new teachers and health workers, with major plans for school and hospital renovations underway.

Lastly, the Puntland administration has actively sought to end clan conflicts in different regions of Puntland. It is noteworthy to mention that there have been no new clan conflicts, but that the Farole administration came to power with two unresolved violent clan disputes, namely: the Igdhays conflict, which was finally resolved with government backing on 21 October 2009 (no agreement violation to date); and the Cagaare conflict, which remains unresolved to date, although the Puntland government has appointed a committee to advance peace among the warring clans.

Balancing external relations

Similarly to its predecessors, the Farole administration has actively ensured that terrorist groups and wanted fugitives do not find a safe haven on Puntland soil. Mogadishu's megalomaniac murderers have failed to infiltrate Puntland with their brand of evil, falsely hiding under the camouflage of our Holy Religion, Islam. According to the government, Al Shabaab insurgents are responsible for a string of assassinations of Puntland government officials in a hopeless effort to destabilize the State.

Everyone in Puntland rightly knows that Hizbul Islam insurgent chief Col. Hassan Dahir Aweys is not an "Islamic leader" in the noble sense of the title. Most recently, Col. Aweys expectedly rejected the outcome of an Islamic conference held in Puntland last moth (April, 2010) after more than 50 widely respected Islamic scholars from across Somalia (Somaliland, Puntland and south-central regions) issued a declaration that the anti-government insurgency in Mogadishu is not "jihad."

Here in Puntland, in this lawful part of Somalia, Col. Aweys and his partners staged the first "jihad" and are forever recognized as power-hungry criminals who attempted to massacre the civilians of Bossaso in June 1992, as Col. Aweys' clan-cousin, the notorious bloodthirsty warlord who fought American troops, Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed, was committing his anti-Darod clan pogroms in Mogadishu, Kismayo and other southern regions (the root cause of the Somali civil war, unresolved to date). The "jihad" was needed to fight Gen. Aideed's bloodthirsty militias who killed and uprooted hundreds of thousands of Somalis from Mogadishu, not the innocent civilians of Bossaso. But Col. Aweys' exposed agenda was to kill and uproot Puntland clans from peaceful Bossaso while hiding under the banner of Islam. Hastily organized Puntland clan militias defeated Col. Aweys and his Itihad Islamist militia – sending him underground until he reemerged in June 2006 as the leader of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) – the parent movement of today's terror groups, namely Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.

These terror groups pose the most serious threat to Puntland's security. The presence of Hizbul Islam and Al Shabaab in the central regions (Galgadud and parts of south Mudug region) is a clear indication that these megalomaniac murderers are not seeking to "bring peace" to Somalia but are seeking to violently expand further north and threaten both Puntland and Somaliland. The extremist ideology that drives these groups cannot find partnerships in northern Somalia for one simple reason: extremism thrives in anarchy . The political chaos that has ravaged south-central Somalia since 1991 has created an environment, so desperate, that the public would welcome even the Nazis if they can bring peace. Thus, the "bring peace" bandwagon sits well with the public in places such as Mogadishu, Baidoa, and Kismayo – cities most affected by the brutal clan wars of the 1990s, whose residents survived 20 years of violence in the complete absence of any form of government. Comparatively, northern Somalia has enjoyed relative peace and stability since 1991 advanced by self-governments in Puntland and Somaliland, with the exception of isolated events.

President Farole has played cool-headed politics in the land dispute with Somaliland, an unrecognized separatist republic in northwestern Somalia. The Puntland-Somaliland land dispute entered a new phase when Somaliland troops militarily seized Las Anod on 15 October 2007. The former Hersi administration opted for a wait-and-see strategy, instead of declaring war on Somaliland and transforming the erstwhile peaceful northern regions (Somaliland and Puntland) into a war zone. This wise policy comes into stark contrast with Somaliland's violent drive for an international recognition that may never come. With Somaliland's presidential election slated for next month (June, 2010), it is imperative that Puntland play a neutral role – as Somaliland President Dahir Riyale's almost-guaranteed election victory is likely to worsen intra-clan harmony among the pro-secession clans in Hargeisa.

World's misplaced priorities

READ: Anti-piracy efforts treat symptom, not disease: navy chiefs

The international community's obsession with Somalia-based piracy is suggestive of the underlying tone of self-interest and egotism that has nothing to do with pirates – and everything to do with economic and geopolitical interests. We can safely say that all the "big boys" have dispatched warships to fight Somali pirates – how astounding, that a few hundred rag-tag sea bandits require the combined muscle of the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, Japan, and Australia, only to name a few!

The international community has failed miserably to intervene in a justified, robust, and coherent way to end the Somali crisis. The catastrophic misadventures of U.N. and U.S. interventions in the 1990s, which suddenly transformed from "food protection" to "nation-building" overnight, must remain a bloody stain on the world's conscience. More catastrophic disasters were to follow, including the Ethiopian army's two-year occupation of Mogadishu (which sparked today's insurgency) and the African Union's current peacekeeping mandate that is limited to Mogadishu's airport, seaport and the Villa Somalia presidential palace, where former ICU chief and suspected Al Shabaab sympathizer Sheikh Sharif Ahmed sits as President of the UN-endorsed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia.

The international community's two-fold priority for Somalia can be summarized as follows: defeat/contain the terror groups, such as Al Shabaab's suicide bombers; and eradicate Somalia-based sea pirates. Viewed solely through this prism, one would mistakenly think that Somalia's complex problems begin-and-end with "combating terrorism and piracy."

This is a false view, perpetrated and driven by geopolitical interests, seeks to benefit from the misery of the Somali people. The hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars spent annually to dispatch naval warships to Somali waters could be much better spent investing directly in a Somali political settlement. This means that, the world's misplaced priorities must be re-shifted considerably by recognizing that "terrorism" and "piracy" in Somalia are products/symptoms of civil war and political collapse – but not the problem itself. Somalia needs a comprehensive political settlement if the international community genuinely wants to see an end to threats such as terrorism and piracy emanating from this war-ravaged country.

But being genuine is not considered a policy priority in the realm of geopolitical considerations. This point is best demonstrated by the status quo policy of "combating terrorism and piracy" –  instead of assisting the Somali nation to overcome divisions and to rebuild institutions based on national consensus.

This point can be demonstrated another way: President Farole, Puntland's elected leader, was recently accused of having links to Somali pirates. This absurd claim, with no evidence except for hearsay by politically motivated persons, was published in March by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, which reports to the UN Security Council. The report alleges that "pirate money" was used in Puntland's historic 2009 election. This homegrown election process, which saw a military general peacefully transfer power over to a civilian banker after an election, marked a moment of pride and joy for the people of Puntland State of Somalia. Those that suggest that piracy money was involved in the Puntland election are either wholly ignorant of realities on the ground, or bitter about the successful election, or they are individuals with a personal stake in Somali politics. Add the fact that the UN Monitoring Group report's primary author is a Canadian national who actively campaigned for Somaliland recognition in past work, and one gets the full picture. There is documented evidence of this fact, and not simple hearsay.

American and French naval warships have regularly transferred captured pirates to Puntland authorities for prosecution. This close collaboration is clear testimony that the U.S. and French governments recognize Puntland as a key partner in the anti-piracy campaign. However, neither the Americans nor the French have funded any anti-piracy project in terms of creating employment opportunities, funding the Puntland government's plan for a 600-strong Coastal Task Force, or supporting prison and court services. Yet, cash-strapped Puntland has assumed the courageous task of doing it alone because piracy is a threat to Puntland's economic development. This is the reason why Puntland’s successive governments have always opposed ransom payments.

If the international community (i.e. the UN, in this case) is genuine about the prospects of peace for Somalia, more recognition and support would be offered to grassroots peace movements in Somalia where the local people have established their own self-government – as opposed to waiting for a foreign-imposed solution. Instead, today's paradigm is a repetition of old failures: finance a foreign-backed "national government" in Mogadishu (the doomed-to-fail top-down approach), which further polarizes the Somali nation, and contributes to the radicalization of Somalis as far as Europe and North America. This is the same "national government" whose parliamentarians were arrested and expelled from Kenyan hotels, where they used to hide from Al Shabaab mortars and targeted assassinations. Even worse, this is the same "national government" whose leader – President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed – is personally guarded by Ugandan soldiers!

Can the world take some responsibility – or will the world continue to blame Al Shabaab and pirates for Somalia's woes?

Emergence of a Statesman

In June/July of 2009, President Farole led a government delegation to Washington, D.C., and London. Many people consider this significant trip to be the moment when the international community finally awakened to an undeniable truth in Somalia: there exists a reasonable voice calling for a sustainable national solution for Somalia. The tyrannical tirades by Mogadishu's megalomaniacal anarchists and the emotional rants by Somaliland's secessionists were at once silenced by the judicious and practical voice from Puntland. Indeed, a statesman has emerged!

During his Congressional testimony, the President of Puntland said: "Somalia cannot be reinstituted or re-imagined in the old way. This is a country whose citizens have brutalized each other for the past 20 years. The wounds of war are still fresh in the hearts and minds of many. Our duty is not only to rebuild the Somali nation-state, but it is to re-stitch together the fabric of Somali society and restore trust. Perhaps, this is the most daunting of all challenges."

In London, while addressing the prestigious Chattam House think-tank, the President said in his speech, " Puntland is a Reconciliation Model for a New Somalia": "There are limited options for dealing with extremist and terrorist threats in Somalia. The international community must support stable regions (for example, Puntland) and offer long-awaited development incentives…The Puntland Government is determined to effectively address the above challenges and find a lasting solution to the instability and criminality posed by the pirates. But we cannot do it alone. The cost of helping Puntland will be far less than what is currently being spent on expensive naval patrols."

Nearly a year later, Somali pirates continue to seize foreign-owned vessels far from home, from shores near the Seychelles Islands, Oman, and other countries. The international community has failed to heed President Farole's strategic vision to save Somalia from the ruins of war, pirates, and Al Qaeda.

The doomsayers, the haters, and the ignorant have had their heyday. At first, they said the 2009 election would destabilize Puntland. That did not happen. Then, knowing fully well that they control nothing on the ground, they began the Internet campaign through fancy names such as "International Crisis Group" and the "UN Monitoring Group" to launch a new campaign of misinformation against Puntland, its people, and its leadership. Yet, despite this massive campaign of misinformation, Puntland remains a united, strong, and an example for the rest of Somalia. There is even a popular 2009 song entitled, "Ku Dayo, Puntland" ("Mimic Puntland").

The hard truth in the form of continued stability and development in Puntland did not stop them. They sought to defame President Farole's statesmanship credentials with accusations of piracy. But the man stood tall – even taller than what most expected. In the face of a wave of unprecedented bombings and targeted assassinations, the President of Puntland urged calm, restraint, and respect for civil liberties. It was the President's charismatic voice that halted the Puntland clans from carrying revenge attacks against suspected extremists hiding among the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) – who fled their homes in Mogadishu and other parts of south-central Somalia, as Col. Aweys and his extremist allies (Al Shabaab) continue their relentlessly violent campaign to seize power by force. The IDPs were welcomed to Puntland to find peace and protection from the extremists. Yet, the people of Puntland have paid a heavy price for their generosity and tolerance.

The people who transformed Puntland through hard-work from the old days of insults such as "Gaari-waa" (a reference to a road-less, remote Puntland neglected by Somalia's successive central governments) to today's model-state for a future federal Somalia were the first displaced victims of the Somali civil war who survived Gen. Aideed's clan pogroms. They did not seek revenge, but some fled Somalia altogether  and most returned to their ancestral homelands to begin a new life from scratch. Certainly, Puntland clans (and the larger Darod clan-family) were victimized and expelled from Mogadishu by Hawiye clan militias, whether or not they magically transform into religious factions, such as Hizbul Islam under its Fascist insurgent chief, Col. Aweys. Let us remember: current TFG President Sheikh Sharif and Col. Aweys were the twin leaders of the Hawiye-dominated ICU movement in 2006. Today, they are arch-enemies. Comparatively, President Farole's closest election challenger, Gen. Abdullahi Ahmed Jama (Ilkajir), is today's Puntland Minister of Internal Affairs. The distance between Puntland's democratic system and Mogadishu's cutt-throat politics can be separated by the all the world's oceans combined!

The Somali conflict is intertwined so intricately that it is sometimes impossible to differentiate who's right from who's wrong. This is partly due to the fluid nature of politics – and more so, Somali politics. Also, this fluidity has contributed to the international community's overall ignorance, confusion, and lack of insight of the realities in Somalia.

In the Somali saga, for the first time in 20 years, there has emerged a heroic statesman and so all the groups feel threatened: starting with the foreign-based war industry, as well as the Somali war profiteers, anarchists, secessionists, and pirates.

Mr. President, H.E. Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamud (Farole), truly is the Pride of Puntland. But can the Somali people and the international community swallow this liberating remedy?

Garowe Online Editorial
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The independent news Web site is the online sister publication of Radio Garowe, a community radio station based in Garowe, the State capital of Puntland, a self-governing stable region in northern Somalia. Radio Garowe, est. 2004, broadcasts daily from Somalia on shortwave 89.5 FM , covering all the latest headlines in Somali news, politics and society, as well as broadcasting other special programming for its local audience.

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