In 2010 Somaliland people around the globe were jubilant about the changes coming to the country. The election of President Siilaanyo brought hope to the rebirth of a nation that economically stagnant with zero development and politically immobile.
Seven years forward, in 2017, we are on the verge of electing a new leader to take the helm to lead a nation that has been transformed with visible economic development, vibrant private business and stronger national institutions.
National annual budget has grown from meager $40 million to whopping $366 million. Civil servants’ salary tripled in some instance with room to grow, making some employees plan for their future careers in government agencies.
Countless expatriates came back to the country where the members of Diaspora flooded in to the main cities to live, work and start business, halting the imbalance brain drain and injecting needed skills in the labor market while introducing new cultural norms to society.
You could feel the changes in the wind. But also, sadly, youth unemployment, corruption, and tribalism overshadowed any progress made during this time.
The new government struggled to deal with youth unemployment, mainly because of inadequate skills to compete in the emerging markets of technology, booming financial sectors and number of factors looking for skilled labor. Part of the problem is under-education and lack of national vision to invest the future generations.
The Government has also miserably failed to safe guard the national resources, where some kitchen cabinet members and their allies enriched themselves, looting the country openly and without challenges.
In the meantime, a deadly blinding tribalism swept the landscape, dividing people to see their common interest and disappointingly became part of the daily life. This is the darkest spot for the legacy of the outgoing administration.
To be successful in politics, those that run the presidential palace have mistakenly thought bringing back the old mantra of divide and rule would enhance their power. Unfortunately this has destroyed the fabric that binds the nation together. Recovering from it would take time and resilience.
The extreme critics of the current administration more often blame President Siilaanyo and his henchmen about the decline of national cohesion, but in reality other leaders addicted to government handout, personal interest based on what can I gain today contributed to the demise of weakening the strong nationalism that we have come to depend on the trying times.
In addition, Somaliland is suffering from severe drought caused by the unpredictable climate changes. The rural population as well as the livestock, which is the backbone of the economy, is on the edge of famine. No one should be blamed for this natural disaster but the lack of preparation to commit resources and to strengthen relevant government agencies such as Disaster and Emergency Agency, Ministry of Environment & Rural Development and others ahead of time made the situation even more desperate.
Never the less, Somalilanders usually come together to salvage what they can when they are in the brink of disaster, manmade, natural or otherwise. But the effect of this frequently occurring drought have really touched or damaged the livelihood of millions this time.
This contradicting story of modest progress and bleak setbacks is actually happening in Somaliland which is the reality on the ground. However, most people are still positive and hopeful about the future of the country. They are only confused by the mixed messaging coming from the competing parties in this transitional period before a new president is elected.
Instead of presenting solid plans to deal with the hardship and reassuring the public about their ability to solve problems, some candidates have resorted to name calling, divisive language and clan tactics that have damaged their credibility.
So the question electors are juggling with is; who will be the next leader among the three candidates that will have a steady hand to navigate the nation from the challenges facing Somaliland? Who has the courage to stand up external forces and internal enemies of the state? Who is the right person for this job at this time?
Should people elect someone based on his clan and region of origin or based on his ideology and leadership skills?
In reality society elects its own members. For good or bad, that person is the reflection of that society. Can Somaliland be honest about its clannish, destructive behavior that will lead them to nowhere?
The election of Siilaanyo may have been a rare moment for Somaliland to show that united they can make a difference and they have made some progress. It is not however the only chance for Somalilanders to break from this personal clan politics and pity personal attack.
They do have the power, if they choose to exercise, to elect the least disruptive leader from the trio based on the economic development, based on their believes of Somaliland and how to defend it from its enemies, internal or external, and based on strongest leadership with principles that don’t change with the mood of the time.
No wish-washy power hungry, selfish politicians but rather a leadership that has invested blood and sweat in Somaliland from the beginning up to now.