SOMALIA: Puntland government Struggles with election dilemma

Published: September 29, 2012


This week, a delegations led by several members of the Puntland Electoral Commission (PEC)  went on a regional tour which covered several provinces in the autonomous state of Puntland ( Northeast of Somalia).

The main objective of this tour was to raise public awareness about the democratization process in Puntland, but this mission came to a halt after a stiff resistance in many of the visited districts.

Gun Fight in Rako

In Rako district (Karkaar region), a delegation led by the chairman of the electoral commission Dr.Mohamed Hassan Barre was forced to retreat from the town, without ever meeting with the local administration and the clan elders.

Barre’s delegation came under heavy gunfire by a local militia before they reached the town center. The delegation’s security guards have returned fire, but no one was wounded in this incident.

“…The delegation’s convoy came under heavy gunfire by a local militia, just before they entered the town. The delegation was taken to the local Police station, where they were expecting to meet with the regional elders, but they found no one there…” says Aydarus Ali, one of the Rako’s residents who spoke to Horseed Media.

After one and half hour of waiting at the police station in Rako, the delegation left the town and head back to Garowe, the capital of Puntland State.
Bander Bayl’s polite diplomacy

Earlier this week, the delegation visited the coastal town of Bander Beyla, also part of the Karkaar region. In Bayla the delegation had an opportunity to meet with some of the elders, who welcomed them to the town for the first time.

Chairman Mohamed Hassan Barre told the residents of Bayl about the democratization process and the need to open new political parties in every district. The elders welcomed the democratization process but then the delegation was caught once again in the elections dilemma.

The elders in Bayla told the delegation, although they welcome all the democratization processes in Puntland, but they say “….We do not welcome anything more than that…”  when referring to the government’s plans to delay the elections in 2013.

Riots in Gardo (Qardho)

When the delegation visited Gardo town, the Karkaar regional capital,  spontaneous demonstrations ensued, and the delegation was forced to stay in Gufure Hotel, in a  neighborhood  west of the town.

Hundreds of protesters took to the street. The people were demonstrating against the President’s plans to extend his term in office for another one year.  The demonstrators gathered in the Town center and set fire to tyres on the road while chanting “No 5 Years”. The protesters were chanting slogans and carrying boards with different messages streamed into the town bringing business to a stand still and Shops remained closed.

The second day of the delegation’s visit, Gardo’s elders called for the delegation to meet with them at the city council, but this meeting never took place.  A source close to the delegation who requested to remain anonymous say, the delegation’s decision not to go to the city council meeting was because of the security situation in the town.

Instead of going to the city council meeting, the Chairman of the Electoral commission Dr. Mohamed Hassan Barre has invited several individuals including the regional administration representatives to the hotel he was staying. This infuriated the locals who demanded the delegation to leave the town.
Also in Waaciye district, there were demonstrations against the PEC delegation, who held their meeting with the mayor in a primary school on the outskirts of the town.

No invitation for Galkayo’s elders

In the southern part of Puntland, a delegation led by Osman Mohamud Haji Hassan a member of the Puntland Electoral Commission (PEC) traveled to the town of Galkayo the regional capital of Mudug. On arrival the delegation quickly organized one hour meeting  on ” the democratization process in Puntland.”
The meeting was held at Golden Hotel, it was attended by the mayor, representatives of the city council and the regional Governor, other attendees included the representatives of several NGO’s and heads of the IDP camps in the town. However, the regional clan elders and local communities were not invited to the meeting.

“….It was a secret meeting we did not receive any invitation to the meeting, that is why we were not present at that meeting….”  said Abdiaziz Yusuf Harin, one of the traditional leaders in Mudug.

Jariban and the fight against Piracy
The same delegation visited the district of Jariban in Mudug region, they met with the local leaders who called on the government to first deliver its promises and support to fight against the piracy activities in the area. Locals in Jariban say they did not get any support from Garowe to fight against the pirates who use the area as a supply hub.

Local leaders say “…This is not the right time to talk about  implementing democratization process while the government cant even deliver its promises and can not do it’s duty to help us fight against the piracy, which is our main security threat, let alone delivering any other public services….”

No Questions in Bosaso

In Bosaso, another delegation led by a PEC member Mr.Barkhad Ali Salah met with the Mayor of Bosaso and the governor of  Bari region. The meeting was also attended by members of the civil society and local elders.
In the beginning of his speech, Mr.Salah told his audience never to ask him two question and those were:
1- The government’s plans to delay the elections on January 2013.
2- The decision to held the up-coming election in only 21 districts of the total 37 districts of Puntland state.

“Do not ask me these two questions, ask them your government and Parliament…”  says Mr.Salah.

These two crucial points are the reasons why the Puntland government is now struggling with the election dilemma.
Many people are against the government’s plans to delay the elections on 9th of January 2013.
Last week, a heavily armed Military police convoy a companied by officials from the office of the governor of Bari region, have closed-down the regional clan elder’s office in Bosaso, the commercial capital of Puntland state of Somalia.
According to the clan elders; the soldiers also took all the office equipments including, computers and furniture.

The decision to closedown the office came just days after a joint press release published by five major clans in Bari region, who called on the President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole not to postpone the Presidential elections in January 2013.

However, the PEC delegation who went to the coastal town of Eyl was warmly welcomed by the locals. The current President of Puntland Dr.Abdirahman Farole hails from Eyl town, Nugal region.
The PEC delegations called their visits to those regions a major success. It took the PEC delegations one week to visit these towns and organizing one day meetings with some of the locals. This demonstrates the government’s weaknesses to reach out the public.
This also explains the hostilities towards the Puntland electoral commission, all the memers of  this commission are hand picked by President Farole and the Parliament speaker Abdirashid Hirsi, both men are now lobbying for another one year in office, without any elections.

The President’s first reaction

This week, Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole warned his opposition and the critical media with prosecution, in response to the protests in the region against his plan to postpone the Puntland elections in January 2013.

Mr.Farole says he will not tolerate “ failed politicians” and some “media” to threaten his rule in Puntland, “…we allow the opposition if they join a political party, but we will not tolerate those failed politicians and so called websites and media who are supporting Puntland’s enemies including terrorists and Pirates….” Says President Farole in his speech during a cabinet meeting in Garowe.

Many people including journalists were surprised by the President’s remarks, he linked the critical media in Puntland with what he called “the enemies of Puntland”  or ” terrorists and Pirates ” , this was seen as a pretext to use force against the independent media in Puntland, which is already facing daily harassment from the local authorities.

“….The regional and district authorities and the security services will take the appropriate  measures against such people…” said the President who is now preparing to launch his own political party.

Many people in Puntland believe the current government did not deliver it’s promises and that is why they are calling for a change in Puntland, just like the recent elections of the Federal government in Mogadishu.

The people say the government is trying to take advantage of the democratization process by delaying the whole process in previous years and by launching the new campaign now to register political parties in Puntland just three months before the Presidential elections, in a move seen as another attempt at prolonging the President’s term in office.

On 11 September, the Puntland electoral commission has officially announced the start date of registering the political parties in Puntland. The PEC says the whole process of registering the political parties will be concluded in February 2013.

The PEC’s decision comes just a month before the end of the term of the current Parliament of Puntland, 0n 30th of October. The presidential elections were also expected to be held in January 2013.

President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole took office in January 2009 and his term of 4 years in office will end on 8th of January 2013.

During his campaign in 2008 President Farole has repeatedly promised that within his first year in office, he will implement  the democratization process by allowing multi party system, registering the citizens and holding a referendum on the new constitution. Now less than 4 months are remaining of his four years term in office.
By: Hussein Farah
Horseed Media