The politics of Puntland is at its lowest level now. Those who were elected to leadership are no longer talking about how they would save the livelihood of the people. Instead, they are busy making sure to defeat those who they see as a threat and talking about how they could remain in power by any means necessary, even if more innocent people died as a result.
A threatening encounter
For example, the Speaker of the Parliament, Abdirashid Yusuf Jabril, is said to have had a conversation with a few individuals who oppose the government’s plan of amending the constitution. According to the government’s schedule, the topic of reconsidering changing the constitution was due to occur four days after the day when Abdirashid had a discussion with those individuals. He talked with them on Monday night, and the scheduled day for that topic was the following Thursday.
The individuals were said to have told the Speaker that if he attempted to take a vote of the parliamentarians on amending the constitution on Thursday, the Speaker would have a problem. The Speaker did not like those words and saw the statement as a threat. He responded that no one can threaten him, and as a matter of fact, he would bring that topic to the parliament the next day to see what those individuals can do.
On Tuesday morning, the seemingly angry Speaker showed up in the parliament and informed the parliamentarians that the topic for the day would be reconsidering changing the constitution. One of the parliamentarians, whose talk was circulated on social media the following day, warned the Speaker that it was not appropriate to discuss that topic on Tuesday when it was scheduled for Thursday. At the time, the parliamentarian did not know what had taken place the night before between the Speaker and those individuals.
The amendment to the constitution was voted on, and fighting erupted in front of the parliament, where more than 30 mostly innocent civilians died due to personal grievances between the Speaker and a few people. The President of Puntland, Said Abdullahi Deni, has not yet spoken about that incident.
President Deni’s intentions unveiled
President Deni has sought to change the constitution so he can remain in power. He took advantage of the people who did not sense his intentions early on, and he made it seem like he was following the constitution. First, President Deni accused anyone who opposed the way he was managing the process of democratization of being individuals who wanted to maintain the old system and who were probably financed by the federal government of Somalia, with which the president had severed the relationship.
President Deni and his team argued, in the beginning of his campaign of democratization, that in the new system, the only stakeholders with whom the president needed to deal with were those who were members of the nine associations competing to be the first three associations to become the permanent parties of Puntland for the next ten years, as stated in the Puntland constitution.
The president and his team stated that if those individuals wanted to be part of the process, they should join one of the nine recognized associations. The aim was to show Puntlanders that the government was ready to negotiate and compromise with those who were the new stakeholders of the new system, mainly political parties. Many Puntlanders agreed with the president’s argument, but those who knew President Deni knew otherwise.
Within a few months, it became clear that the president was not telling the truth, and that the government was not ready to discuss the process of the election, let alone consider a compromise. In mid-March, two of the associations, Horseed and the Youth Party, sensed that the government was tilting the playing field to ensure its reelection. The government did not have time to consider the concerns of those two parties because the election was scheduled to take place on May 25, 2023, and it moved forward with its plan.
Again, the government team accused those two parties of being the ones whose leaders thought that this was their time to lead Puntland and the government claimed that they wanted to maintain the old system. Again, Puntlanders believed the version offered by the government team and still supported the government, thinking that the government and the last seven associations were united in the new process, and that no one else needed to sit down with the government to discuss the process of the election.
A bleak future?
The next few events that took place showed the real intention of President Deni, which was to either request an extension or to reelect himself under a system that had not been not agreed upon, thus undermining the legitimacy of his power after January 8, 2024. President Deni and his team changed the constitution of Puntland to what they thought would serve their interests. Both the Mideye and Sincad parties which were the first and second leading parties in the local election opposed the constitutional amendment, believing that the change could not affect the election that had already taken place, and that they were the winning parties.
The president and his team realized that it would be hard for them to accuse any wrong doing with these two parties and instead ignored the calls of these two parties and tried to focus attention on the idea that the traditional leaders had no place in the new democratization system. The question is, when will the Puntlanders realize that the system that only President Deni is dictating would not produce a government with a mandate for the next five years? And that everyone else, including political parties, traditional leaders, and other politicians, would have no say in the process of the new election proposed by the government?
A call for consensus
How long would President Deni be able to hide his agenda by accusing others of wanting the old system while he is trying to dictate the new process? Puntland has been successful for the last 24 years because there was a constitution agreed upon by all stakeholders. If a new system, which is much better than the old system, is to be moved to, then the new system should also be something that is agreed upon by all stakeholders.
Many Puntlanders still support President Deni, and all he would need is to call a meeting where all stakeholders attend to discuss the process of moving forward. Once a system is agreed upon by all stakeholders, the winner of that system, whether it is President Deni or anyone else, would have a legitimate mandate for the next term.
However, because it is clear now that the president will not stop for anyone having a say in the process of the election, and because more and more Puntlanders are seeing President Deni’s true colors, the only possible option forward is for the constitution court to rule the amendment of the constitution void and ask the government to return to the old system that was agreed upon, or to implement a new system that is agreed upon by most of the stakeholders, in which every candidate has an opportunity to win or lose.
By: Mohamed Abdiqafar Haji Hussein
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