Somalia: Puntland Will Civil war or Free election

Published On: Thursday, December, 06 2012 - 05:46:46 This post has been viewed 1348 times

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Fed up with the continued lawlessness rampant in the Southern and Central Somalia and no longer able to live without a government, a Consultation Conference in 1998 brought together a wide cross-section of the communities from the regions of Northeastern Somalia

Garowe (Sunatimes) In a year where locals have been targeted, harassed and, in the case of the late MP Abdisalan Sheikh Mohamud Shaybe, killed by terror organizations for wanting to create a platform where a democratic electoral process could be extended to the people of Puntland, the road to democracy in the region has been long and complicated. Dissident Nation had the privilege of interviewing the Chairman of the Election Commission of Puntland, Dr. Mohamed Hassan Barre. Chairman Barre spoke candidly about many of the issues that the administration of the semi-autonomous region was facing ahead of its upcoming election, as well as the milestones reached thus far. As the lessons from Somaliland show, the implementation of a multi-party system can have some unintended consequences such as the resurgence of clan politics but it can also serve to empower marginalized citizens who otherwise felt their concerns and needs were left unheard.

Constitution

Fed up with the continued lawlessness rampant in the Southern and Central Somalia and no longer able to live without a government, a Consultation Conference in 1998 brought together a wide cross-section of the communities from the regions of Northeastern Somalia (Puntland) to discuss a viable way forward. It was through this spirit of cooperation that Puntland came to be officially declared as the first semi-autonomous and federal state of the nation. At the conference, a transitional charter was endorsed by the attendants which outlined a three-year timetable for drawing up a constitution and holding elections.

In 2001, a draft constitution was approved by the legislature with a referendum on the constitution set to take place in 2004, but due to disagreements and a power struggle in the regions administration, this important juncture did not take place. It wasn’t until about four years later, in 2008, when the revised constitution was finally presented by the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) to the Puntland cabinet. In June 2009 (First draft hosted here), the parliament approved the new constitution, however there were calls from certain segments of Puntland’s society [particularly the civil society], for a final review of the constitution. Finally, on April 18, 2012 delegates gathered in Garowe and an overwhelming majority voted to ratify the constitution (Exclusive copy of new constitution hosted here) bringing an end to the fourteen-year long constitution-making process.

“The newly ratified Puntland Constitution, and the process that was used to achieve this demonstrates that inclusiveness, and taking the time to get it right, are key. This new constitution will provide a solid foundation from which Puntland can continue to develop and grow.” -Interpeace

The historic document extends universal healthcare to all its citizens, protects and safeguards the rights of women, persons with disabilities, minorities, orphans and the elderly, advocates for equality before the law, forbids censorship as long as the beliefs and opinions expressed are consistent with the laws and ethics of the land, protects the environment and outlaws the export of charcoal. A law banning the practice of Female Genital Mutilation was passed by the Puntland parliament in 2011.

The Puntland constitution also bans political associations of a clan nature and demands that political parties have branches in all regions of Puntland, a political agenda and internal rules that regulate its activities, further ensuring that political parties will not fall victim to clan politics.

Opposition

September marked the beginning of registrations of political associations in the region. Since then many of the issues regarding the revised constitution and the upcoming elections have been the focus of criticism and, oftentimes, negative media attention. Although the majority of Puntlanders support the democratization process and want to see their state move away from the clan based system, the most controversial issue has to do with the incumbent supposedly extending his tenure in office. Most of the reproaches come from the delay in the transition to a multi-party system, something the administration had envisioned to complete by 2011.

There is also another kind of an opposition brewing, most of it concentrated in the city of Qardho. The sources of the instability in the city have been pinpointed as Abdullahi Said Samatar and Muse Ali Jama. The two men have been accused of instigating rioting which resulted in the damage and vandalism of private property and spreading anti-government propaganda. Despite efforts by the Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC) to clarify the process, there have been many misconceptions based on rumors being spread by media outlets with their own political agenda, thus making it difficult to accurately inform the electorate. Sources tell Dissident Nation that many of the people who participated in the riots were youths who had not even read the newly ratified constitution nor did they have any knowledge that the five-year term was presented to the parliament in 2008, prior to the election of President Farole.

Upon further investigation Dissident Nation found that in June 2008, Abdullahi Said Samatar, who served as the Puntland Security Minister, was presented with a copy of the constitution (which sets the Presidents, Vice-Presidents, members of the House of Representatives term in office as five-years) by the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) for review. The cabinet approved the constitution and delivered it to parliament with the intention of approval, thus extending the mandate of the government Samatar was a cabinet member of. However, members of parliament did not want to extend their mandate at the risk of setting off a political crisis so they instead voted to defer the proposal to the next parliamentary session. Samatar, who now accuses the current administration of unconstitutionally extending their mandate, was also a member of the Puntland cabinet when the constitution was passed in 2009 but never expressed any concerns about the constitution prior to its approval.

In fact, it wasn’t until 2010, when Samatar was relieved of his duties by President Farole for spending exorbitant amount of time outside of the state and letting his ministry fall into disarray as a result, that an opposition against the administration formed. Since then Samatar has been on a mission to overthrow the administration and has made it no secret that he wants to be the next President of Puntland, but has so far refused to open a political party or state his political platform or vision for Puntland.

Multi-party Elections

Despite the smear campaign against the constitution and new system of governance, the process of democratizing Puntland treks ahead. The Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC), along with the Puntland Research Development Center (PDRC) and Interpeace have spent the past two months touring communities in the Puntland region to raise awareness about the democratization process.

The Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC) is an autonomous institution which serves as the highest authority in Puntland on electoral matters. The TPEC is responsible for setting the election date and authorizing political parties. Dissident Nation spoke to the Chairman of the TPEC, Dr. Mohamed Hassan Barre, about the trials his commission has faced, the challenges they currently battle and the road ahead.

“I was personally doing this particular regional tour namely Karkaar including Qardho and Rako…The real truth is that people welcome the process of democratization. There were some isolated individuals (spoilers) who are against the democratization who I am told were there shouting, but this was not noticed during the meeting with the different communities. As you know Somalia is war-torn country and any new process will face some challenges,” said Chairman Barre on the media reports of the TPEC being met with stiff resistance in the Karkaar district of Puntland.

Barre went on to explain that his commission has been meeting with prominent community leaders and frequently updating them on the democratization process in the region. The TPEC traveled to many rural and nomadic communities in the region where his commission was tasked with describing the democratization process to communities that have never been exposed to democratic norms and principles before. Throughout his travels, Barre stated he and his commission felt that, despite the odd protest, the wider population demonstrated full confidence in the work of the TPEC and the democratization process because of their transparency, openness and unquestionable neutrality. Many who were initially hesitant about the multi-party system became supportive of it after understanding the participatory opportunities it presented to them.

“The overall Puntland population accepted the shift from a clan-based administration to a multi-party system,” explained Barre. “This was demonstrated during the Constitutional Ratification Convention held in Garowe last April where 98% of delegates approved the constitution.”

To dispel any notions that his commission has been secretive in their mission or lacks accountability, Chairman Barre provided Dissident Nation with a copy of ‘The Road Map on Puntland Democratization & Elections Process’.

Local council elections will take place in May 2013, Parliamentary elections in late October, Speaker and Deputy Speaker in December, and Presidential elections in early January 2014. So far, three political associations have been declared: Horseed (headed by the incumbent, President Farole), Ugub ( United People’s Party), and the Puntland Democratic Party.

Dr. Barre felt optimistic about Puntland’s experiment with the multi-party system. “Puntland’s democracy is just emerging and will have a lot of challenges ahead, but if it succeeds it is believed to be a role model for future emerging federal regional states in Somalia.”

As Puntland treks along the path to representative democracy it is set to face many roadblocks and opposition from individuals and groups who benefit from the current clan-based system, but the TPEC seems committed to seeing the political evolution of Puntland through. Perhaps the future of Puntland is not as dim as some would like us to believe.

DissidentNation.com

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COMMENTS ()
Dalad says: Tuesday, April 02, 2013 at 22:41:08
fuck u it seems that impossible because puntlander are smart than the others
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