Somaliland is a diverse and peaceful nation in the Horn of Africa, known and commended for its multiparty democracy-based political system and well-earned security. Although Somaliland is yet to be recognised as an independent country, the nation is a safe haven for refugees and an economic and social hub for neighbouring countries.
Elections are set for next year — three known presidential candidates, countless promises and a chance at a renovated Somaliland. Regardless of politics, it appears that women and youth will be key indicators on who will lead Somaliland from 2017 onwards. Out of the main candidates, which presidential hopeful is giving necessary attention to the youth and women demographic? Wait for it. Mr. Muse Bihi Abdi.
Empowering and encouraging youth are not easy tasks, especially when youngsters are traveling the Mediterranean Sea in search, mainly, for better economic opportunities. Each year, thousands of youth from the Horn of Africa are smuggled, tortured, face death and danger in uncertain voyages to Europe, Middle East and North America. What causes these young men and women to leave their homelands? The answer to this question varies. Employment or economic empowerment, gender equality, diaspora craze or prioritisation, marginalisation, and a ray of other multifaceted factors cause migrant smuggling (better known as “Tahriib”). Most of the social, economic drivers causing youth to leave the country can be resolved or, at least, handled by policies, representation, and youth/community to government consortiums. Let me elaborate a little on the diaspora craze. Somaliland nationals deal with an influx of diaspora members every summer. Oh, and parties, government welcoming or announcing the small and tremendous achievements of diaspora contribution and so on. This generally discourages the youth of the country.
Somaliland’s 2017 elections will determine the future of the youth because either a leader who understands, mobilises and represents marginalised groups or a political glory-seeker will win. Muse Bihi, Kulmiye Chairperson and Presidential Candidate, is a native of Somaliland, who has never before lived outside of the country – making him the most plausible contender. Youth in Somaliland need a leader who can comprehend the frustrations of political, economical and social disenfranchisement. Marginalized communities want policy reforms, effective and feasible programs and, most of all, change they can relate to and believe in.
Presidential hopeful, Muse Bihi, promises:
- Youth representation in the political system (e.g. legislation)
- Education Reform (more schools, universities and scholarships)
- Investing in youth enterprises — creating more jobs and generating trust and cooperation between government institutions and the community
- Effectively diverting migrant smuggling and khat addiction
- Accessibility – youth will have regular meetings with Muse Bihi, if elected into office.
- More Recreational and Entertainment Youth Centres
Photo: Muse Bihi, in the capital city of Hargeisa, conversing with a local youth.
Democracy and development of a nation can be determined by the amount of existing and transparent gender equity and equality. Women will, hopefully, be represented and far more discernible in the cabinet Mr. Muse Bihi constructs – upon winning 2017 elections. Not only representation and decision making, Mr. Muse Bihi and the Kulmiye Party plan on increasing the number of women in lead positions — from workforces to business to even security posts. Women are indisputably the most resilient, vibrant and multi-dimensional persons in every country but they are often excluded and ridiculed; the Kulmiye Party plans to change this. We currently have a few women holding key political positions in Somaliland. The aim is to have a gender balance in the future cabinet and government.
Presidential hopeful, Muse Bihi, promises:
- Nationwide Gender Campaigns which will provide census on what programs and policies are needed to make Somaliland more equitable in terms of gender issues.
- Visible and powerful political representation
- Education and Literacy projects for women
- Mobilising women to reclaim their communities and create support networks and economic empowerment
- Health reforms — prioritising mothers, elderly and disabled persons
Photo: Sagal Mohamed Abdi, Vice Chairwoman of Kulmiye UK Youth Affairs, speaking to Kulmiye supporters and community members.
Overall, Kulmiye Party will be including youth, women, minority groups, and disabled communities in national developmental plans and initiatives. Knowing President Ahmed Mohamoud (Silanyo) has put forth the solid efforts of inclusivity, I am positive if Muse Bihi is his successor, we will be seeing more viable policies, voices and sustainable actions in the “irreversible change” context of Somaliland.
By: Sagal Mohamed Abdi