April 10, 2015
Lewis Center, Ohio—In the coming weeks, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, the President of the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland, the northern part of Somalia which declared independence in 1991, would seek to stay in power after his five year term ends in July. Silanyo is expected to get a term extension because of a weak and divided opposition and a political crisis that is looming in Somaliland: Both of the legislative houses their terms had expired. Mr. Silanyo is the only elected person in office but his term only has less than 90 days left.
Despite President Silanyo and the speaker of the parliament, Abdulrahman Abdullahi Erro, the presumed Wadani presidential nominee, having five years to prepare the country for election; yet the election commission is vague about the timing of the presidential and legislative elections.
Delaying elections repeatedly, to stay in power longer, has become a norm for Somaliland’s incumbent presidents. In summer of 2009, I was in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa, when the election was delayed because of dispute over voter registration and the electoral timetable. Then President Riyaale and his Ministers, including the current interior Minister, Ali “Warran-Adde” Mohamed, were fighting “tooth and nail “for a term extension for Riyaale.
Candidate Silanyo fought hard against the impartiality of the electoral commission, and the delaying tactic of President Riyaale to get a term extension. Silanyo and his Kulmiye party organized huge demonstration, which turned into violence, three people died and scores were injured when the security forces fired live bullets to disperse the protestors.
After the demonstration, an interview with the BBC, candidate Silanyo said,’ we will never accept: intimidation, repression and bullets…”
Finally, a compromise was reached the dispute over the election between President Riyaale and the challenger Silanyo, brokered by the Chairman of the House of Elders “Guurti”, Suleiman Mohamoud Adan, who showed strong leadership during that crisis.
Nevertheless, in the coming weeks, the electoral commission would be able to do its job: Train election workers, register voters, issue voter ID’s and test the voting machines to make the election free and fair .Without the Silanyo administration being an impediment, the electoral commission should able to complete the whole voter registration within six months.
But to find a remedy for the persistent postponing of elections, the legislature must do their job: The parliament must now pass and the president should sign, before he gets any short term extension, legislation dealing about the time, place, funding and manner of elections. The legislation must be specific about the date of presidential and legislative elections would take place. And, the makeup and the selection process of the election commission should be also changed or reformed.
Silanyo administration is blaming a lack of foreign funding for the election delay.
Why should Somaliland always rely on foreign funding for its elections?
For instance, auctioning Somaliland’s Cellular communication bandwidth and surcharges or taxes on money transfer businesses could raise several millions of dollars to fund the elections.
The Somaliland people have come a long way in the past two decades. But to keep moving forward, Somaliland’s political leaders need to adhere to the rule of law .Because without accountability and the rule of law; government would lose its authority and legitimacy to rule and lawlessness will prevail, like the neighboring countries: Yemen and Somalia.
Somaliland voters gave Silanyo a chance to govern for five years; but all he delivered was a laundry list of broken promises and he came short on people’s expectations. He also failed to crack down the massive network of corruption left by the previous regime.
Instead, he helped a great deal for his kinsmen; but he failed to improve the lives of ordinary people who lack basic services: piped water and electricity. For instance, the state power utility in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa, a city of 1.3 million, has been transferred to Dahabshil group, without a transparent vetting process. And, now, without utility regulations, the customers could expect soon an energy rate hike as high as $2 /Kwh. For instance, in Kenya, customers pay a rate between 18 and 22 US cents per Kwh. Moreover, Silanyo and his cohorts circumvented the legislature, negotiations of the privatization of the Berbera port—the main source of revenue for the Somaliland government.
There is no doubt that Silanyo cares about Somaliland and he served well for its people. He led the struggle against the oppressive regime of Siad Barre.In the 2003 presidential election, Silanyo showed patience and statesmanship, after he accepted the result of an election marred with fraud, in which less than 84 votes were separated between him and the incumbent President Riyaale.
But majority of Somalilanders are hungry for a change and they deserve good governance and a chance for a better life .With Silanyo leading the country that would not be possible. To keep Somaliland moving forward, send Silanyo packing.
Indeed, it is the time for a new generation to take the helm of Somaliland leadership.
Ali Mohamed is co-founder of the Horn of Africa Freedom Foundation, Lewis Center, Ohio. He can be reached @ firstname.lastname@example.org