By Liban Ahmad
The newly elected Somalialand President, Muuse Bihi Abdi, has many issues in his in-tray. The implementation of Khatumo-Somaliland agreement signed in Ainaba district before Somaliland elections in November is one of them. For the agreement to succeed the incoming Somaliland government must remember that the outgoing administration has struck a balance between loyalty and political vision. Loyalty of locals to Somaliland ensured the efficacy and reliability of Somaliland institutions in Sool. The political vision reflected in Ainaba agreement will help Somaliland government consolidate its legitimacy by making the polity more inclusive.
The President-elect of Somaliland, Muuse Bihi Abdi, had a meeting with Khatumo leader, Dr Ali Khalif Galaydh, in Hargeisa. Mr Bihi reiterated his commitment to implementing the Ainaba agreement. No matter how committed Somaliland government is to implementing the agreement, it will face insurmountable hurdles if Khatumo leader violates the terms of the agreement such as cessation of propaganda. In an interview with VOA Somali Service Dr Galaydh argued that Somaliland politicians from regions Khatumo claims as its core constituency are figureheads. This is a wanton violation of the agreement. If the incoming Somaliland government decides to put implementation of the agreement on hold or suggests modification in the agreement, Dr Galaydh has no one else to blame but himself.
Khatumo leader (left) meets Somaliland President in Hargeisa
The Ainaba agreement cannot succeed if Khatumo leader questions the mandate of the incoming Somaliland government by assuming Somaliland will crown him as the Paramount Chief of Sool. If Bihi gives in to a pressure to side-line Somaliland politicians from Sool, his administration will be viewed as a weak and beholden to a very traditional conception of politics: empowering clan leaders instead of politicians.
Demagoguery was a remarkable aspect of Somaliland elections. Traditional leaders organised meetings to canvass votes for respective presidential candidates before 13 November elections. In their pursuit to remain relevant traditional leaders are in a power struggle with politicians. If Khaumo leader keeps disparaging politicians who denied demagogues the ability to claim exclusive clan representation privileges, then it will be clear to anyone that Khatumo leaders are not serious about implementation of the agreement.
To prevent Ainaba Agreement from collapsing the incoming Somaliland government ought to include guiding principles in the implementation process of the agreement. One of those principles is: Somaliland government is empowered and mandated to act impartially to implement Ainaba Agreement. Another principle about ensuring cooperation among Sool politicians could be: Politicians should not resort any action that can jeopardise the spirit and the letter of Ainaba Agreement. Violations of an agreement delay its implementation and sow mistrust among stakeholders.
The decision to withdraw confidence for Puntland was based on disillusionment with clan-based political arrangements. That principle is equally applicable to anyone who attaches primacy to clan identity instead of political institutions based on the rule of law. Without Somaliland government’s intervention southern Sool clan feuding would go on now. Only an administration with mature institutions like Somaliland is capable of dealing with clan hostilities that flare up from time to time in Somali-inhabited territories. Dr Galaydh urged Somaliland government to discourage sub-clan meetings aimed at derailing pre-agreement talks. If he insists on being granted exclusive political representation of Sool within Somaliland, he will be contradicting himself.
Ainaba Agreement is the opportunity to address the “disputed territories” status of many parts in Eastern Somaliland. Articles in the agreement reflect commitment to peaceful solution of political problems on the one hand and making Sool accessible to aid workers. All stakeholders have a vested interest in making Ainaba Agreement a success.