Puntland, a semi-autonomous region in Somalia, has long been a beacon of stability in a country often plagued by conflict. However, recent developments have raised serious concerns about the future of democracy and peace in this region.
In 2019, President Said Deni took office and embarked on an ambitious journey to implement a multi-party system. This was a significant departure from the region’s political history, and the people of Puntland welcomed the change. However, the path towards this new era has not been without challenges.
In October 2021, the first local council election was held as a test. However, after his party was defeated in two of the three districts where voting took place, President Deni removed election officials and suspended the electoral process. This move halted democratic progress and raised concerns about his commitment to democracy.
In May 2023, local council elections were held in 30 districts of Puntland. However, the process was marred by violence in the capital city of Garowe, where 20 people lost their lives. After the election, President Deni unilaterally revised Puntland’s constitution and electoral rules, approving 8 parties regardless of actual public support. He also stacked the Election Commission with 8 out of 12 members appointed by the government.
These moves have raised concerns that President Deni is trying to consolidate power and postpone the presidential election in January 2024. Such a move would be against the Puntland election system and could lead to chaos and conflict.
The international community must exercise caution and principle in its dealings with Puntland. Puntland’s reputation as a democratic, stable state is at risk. Support should only be granted to initiatives genuinely furthering democracy, inclusion, and stability. Puntland’s people deserve transparent, accountable governance upholding their aspirations and hard-won peace.
The clock is ticking, and the world is watching Puntland’s future closely.
by Samatar J. Abdi – firstname.lastname@example.org