By: Mohamed Abdiqafar Haji Hussein.
On June 25, 2023, the Minister of Interior of Puntland, Abdi Farah Said Juha, attempted to explain the issue between the government and its opposition, and identify those involved. The fighting in Garowe, he stated, was the result of the division between those who want Puntland to transition from the old system and those who wish to maintain it.
Minister Juha also mentioned that the supporters of these differing ideas consist of 400,000 registered voters and four individuals who are cousins. The minister of interior, who is expected to provide a solution for Puntland, wants to inform the people of his version. Most Puntlanders regarded Juha as one of the most reasonable ministers in the government. When he joined the government, many believed that he would always work towards what is best for Puntland, even if it meant losing his job.
However, based on recent events, he appears to be like any other person used by the government to employ a divide-and-rule strategy. Minister Juha has disregarded the actual reason for the fighting in Garowe. The majority of Puntlanders want to transition from the old system to a one person, one vote system. Puntlanders also want President Said Abdulahi Deni to continue his presidency until his term ends on January 8, 2024. They believe that no one should interfere with his mandate, the same way previous presidents of Puntland completed their terms without any conflict in Garowe.
These leaders were elected under one system and completed their terms under the same system. If President Deni had declared that the election would take place on January 8, 2024, using the same system he was elected under, his government would not have faced any opposition. Candidates would have already begun their campaigns.
However, Puntland is transitioning from an old system despised by all Puntlanders into a new system. The real issue is that the process should be transparent and fair, where every person has an equal opportunity to win or lose. The process should be reached through consensus so that whoever is elected under that system will have the same mandate as all previous Puntland presidents for the last 24 years.
The opposition group feels that the current process is neither transparent nor fair. They believe that President Deni is using the process to ensure his continued hold on power. They argue that the process does not have the consensus of all stakeholders, as three parties opposing the process were accused of wanting the only system the government moved forward with. President Deni stated a few months ago that it was not the right time to reconsider the constitution. However, now he wants to do so because he feels that the three parties may not support his agenda.
The opposition has also accused the government of using government resources for campaigning, while some of the other parties exist in name only. The opposition group is asking President Deni what he is asking from President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, which is that if a new system is being developed, all agreements should be reached by consensus. It is correct for the Puntland government to insist that the federal government cannot move forward without Puntland’s input, but it is unfair to then dictate the process of one person, one vote without the participation of other stakeholders.
Currently, the Nugaal traditional elders have called for a ceasefire and have invited other elders to help resolve this issue. The solution could either be for the government to declare a return to the old system that all stakeholders agreed upon and used for the past 24 years, or for the government to allow other stakeholders to have a say in the new process in order to transition to the new system through broad consensus. There can be no solution if the root cause of this conflict is not discussed. The issue is not merely four men against 400,000 registered voters, as Minister Juha suggested. If the opposition were only four men, there would be no issue, and those four men would have been arrested, allowing the government to move forward.
When the parliamentary agenda was announced, the Danab Forces, Puntland Political Forum, Mudug Consultation Forum, Mideye Party (the second-leading party), and others urged the government to either declare that the election would take place on January 8, 2024, or return to the negotiating table. Reports from Garowe indicate that the government has deployed the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) and the Danab forces have regrouped. The solution lies in addressing the root causes and seeking win-win solutions. Puntland cannot afford another conflict like the one that occurred, based on the perception of just four men, resulting in the deaths of thirty people. Everyone should regain their senses and consider the bigger picture of rectifying an election process that began without consultation or consensus.
By: Mohamed Abdiqafar Haji Hussein