By Liban Ahmad
A couple of weeks the Democratic Steering Committee of the International Community urged Somaliland government to honour the the Electoral Commission’s time-frame to which opposition parties — Wadani and UCID — have agreed. This week the Somaliland House of Elders ( Guurti) extended President Silaanyo’s term in office to two years— almost one year more than the June 2016 time-frame. The Guurti decision has angered Somaliland political parties and prompted the UN Representative for Somalia, Nick Kay, to urge Somaliland government to reconsider the Guurti decision. The International Community views the Guurti decision as detrimental to “stability and democratic process”.
To understand how the political deadlock has come about one has to refer to Somaliland local elections in 2012. Wadani, the opposition party, is the only successful party that joined UCID and Kulmiye, the ruling party , as the third political party. Wadani Chairman, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi ( aka Irro ) , who is also Speaker of Somaliland Parliament, was a senior member of UCID party led by Engineer Faisal Ali Warabe.
By accepting to lead a new party Mr Irro reduced his former party’s chances of winning Somaliland presidential elections and made his new party susceptible to criticisms that he fell for Kulmiye a plot to brand UCID and Wadani two parties led by two distant Finnish-Somali cousins .
Neither UCID nor Wadani enjoys the level of political support from non-Isaaq clans that Kulmiye does. Kulmiye has pushed the unsuccessful replacement of Irro by Deputy Speaker, Baashe Mohamed, to restore substantive power-sharing. UCID Chairman has long argued that Irro should have resigned as Speaker of Parliament when he became leader of Wadani because his new party did not exist when he was appointed Speaker on the strength of UCID votes.
In a press conference UCID Deputy Chairman Ali Gurey said his party did not agree with Wadani Chairman who had called for nation-wide demonstrations. It is clear UCID is happy to see Kulmiye remain in power rather than allow Wadani ride the wave populism and political opportunism.
The major threat to democracy in Somaliland is not unplanned extension of the president’s term in office. It is the emergence of a ruling party viewed more politically inclusive than opposition parties. Kulmiye is on the path to becoming such a party because neither UCID nor Wadani comes across to people as a serious opposition party. UCID is led by a politician notorious for unguarded remarks whereas Wadani Chairman is not committed to the power-sharing introduced by the now late President of Somaliland Mohamed Ibrahim Egal.
When the now-defunct UDUB party was in power, both Kulmiye and UCID were viewed as serious opposition parties. Kulmiye, the ruling party, cannot escape the accusation that it had plotted to compete with two parties perceived to be politically less inclusive. The Chairman of Good Governance and Anti Corruption Commission has criticised the political structure of Somaliland parties and called for leaders to refrain from exploiting clan affinities to achieve political goals.
The argument by Kulmiye MP, Abdirahman Yusuf Artan, that presidential term extension would give opposition parties time to prepare themselves for elections is not self-serving. President Silaanyo is one of founding fathers of Somaliland; he paved the way for the dissolution of Somaliland National Movement and founded Kulmiye in 2002. Somaliland should contemplate breaking up a party that becomes too big to be challenged politically.
Liban Ahmad is the author of A Map of Confusion: Somaliland, Puntland and People of Sool Region in Somalia (2005)