The overnight raid on the parliament: A kissing death to accountability in Puntland government

It was 9:00 PM on a Thursday night, November 7th 2019 in the normally quiet town of Garowe- the capital of the autonomous Puntland State in Somalia. Most people were in bed getting ready for a good night’s sleep when, all of a sudden, the quiet atmosphere of the town was disrupted by the sound of machine guns and semi-automatic small weapons. People rushed to their phones to call friends and family members to check their safety, and to know “what the heck was happening in the town”.

The information of the mysterious gun-fight spread quickly through social media platforms: The president has ordered troops from the presidential guard forces to attack and capture the parliament building which is guarded by members of the police force! The raid ended after 30 minutes of intense gun battle that killed 3 people including 1 combatant from each side, and a well-respected local businessman who owned a shop next to the target building.

Earlier on the same day, the parliament went on a three-day recess.

On the other side of the town, the minister of finance has just finished distributing cash to 53 MPs from the chamber of 66 members who reported to his house for the cash handouts. Credible sources confirm that each member was handed 20,000 US dollars, more than 1 million dollars in total! The money was a reward for each MP who would sign, on the spot, a motion of no confidence against their own speaker Mr. Abdihakim (Dhobo). The motion was handcrafted by the state president Mr. Said Deni.

The next morning, the parliament was ordered to convene a quick session to announce the removal of their speaker.

Why would the president order a raid on the legislative body of his administration and forcefully remove the speaker? Well, the answer is quite simple- given the severely dysfunctional and corrupt nature of politics in Somalia: The president intends to subordinate the legislative branch and make it in-effective, akin to how dictators operate in many parts of Africa.

Mr. Abdihakim Dhobo was seen as a man of integrity who was determined to keep the parliament independent from the executive and ensure accountability among different branchs of the administration. His forceful removal is seen as “the kiss of death” to accountability within Mr. Deni’s government. It is believed that- through his removal- Mr. Deni wants to clear the way for predatory contracts between his government and companies from the United Arab Emirates and China. The proposed deals include concessions of key infrastructure facilities including Bosaso airport as well as mining operations in Bari and Sanaag regions. Such deals are expected to disproportionately benefit the foreign companies and fill the pockets of very few individuals in the president’s inner circle.

On the other hand, the removal of the speaker has angered his constituency in Sanaag and Bari regions and might lead to fresh conflicts in the area similar to what had happened in during President Adde Muse’s regime in late 2000s.

By: Abdi Isse
isseabdi@aol.com

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