[dehai-news] Garoweonline.com: Somalia: Puntland's Peaceful Transfer of Power

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Jan 16 2009 - 11:03:49 EST

Somalia: Puntland's Peaceful Transfer of Power
: Jan 16, 2009 - 2:58:13 AM

Report Drafted By:
Dr. Michael A. Weinstein

As south and central Somalia continued its downward spiral into political
fragmentation during the first two weeks of January, the provisionally
autonomous Puntland State in Somalia that takes up the northeast of
post-independence Somalia conducted an electoral process that culminated in
the selection by the sub-state's parliament of a new president, Dr.
Abdirahman Mohamed "Farole," who replaced incumbent candidate Mohamed "Adde"
Muse Hirsi in a peaceful transfer of power on January 8.

Puntland, which declared autonomy in 1998 under the leadership of Abdullahi
Yusuf Ahmed, who was its first president and, in 2004, became president of
Somalia, was brought into existence as a means of insulating the northern
Darod clan family from the troubles to the south. That strategy has proven,
in the main to be successful; Puntland has not experienced the endemic
conflicts characteristic of the central and southern regions of Somalia, did
not undergo the Islamic Courts revolution of 2006 and the Ethiopian
occupation that followed, and has remained relatively peaceful. Yet the
sub-state has also faced an array of problems, including government
corruption; hyper-inflation caused by massive printing of counterfeit
currency; disputes over contracts made by Muse with foreign companies on
petroleum exploration, livestock exportation, and infrastructure
development; nonpayment of security forces and civil servants; territorial
conflicts with its neighbor to the west, the self-declared independent
Republic of Somaliland; and more recently an upsurge in organized criminal
activity, including kidnapping, people smuggling and piracy, the latter
being the only thing about Puntland that has captured the world's attention
and, even then, the "international community" and international media barely
mention Puntland when they address piracy.

During Muse's four-year presidential term, Puntland appeared to be sinking
into instability, leading to Somaliland's successful initiative to re-take
some of the disputed territory, which is inhabited by Darod sub-clans,
thereby weakening Muse even further and adding to his growing unpopularity.
By the fall of 2008, the few analysts who pay attention to Puntland were
warning that the sub-state was in danger of collapse and of being drawn into
the witches brew of clan rivalry, warlordism, external manipulation and
Islamism. On November 21, Rashid Abdi, an analyst for the International
Crisis Group, was expelled from Puntland for his judgment that "the state is
actually at risk of collapsing and is at risk of the criminal network taking
over." At that point, it became clear that Puntland's prospects for
regaining a modicum of stability hinged on the 2009 presidential election,
which nearly all observers and many Puntlanders believed would be
manipulated or rigged by Muse to his advantage, leading to the sub-state's
devolution into sub-clan fragmentation and its resultant vulnerability to
external forces. That the electoral process eventuated in the opposite
result - the defeat of Muse and institutional renewal - is testimony to the
viability of Puntland's political system and to its social foundation in
traditional Somali practices of dispute resolution, the latter of which
works in favor of the argument that modernizing indigenous practices is more
effective than the imposition of external models.

Puntland's Electoral Drama

Although Puntland's political class, including Farole, has consistently
promised to devise a constitution that would implement the Western model
of multi-party democracy, it was the sub-state's traditional model of
sub-clan and regional representation, which is neither democratic nor
authoritarian in the modern Western senses, that allowed the sub-state to
unseat an unpopular and ineffective leader peacefully. In Puntland's
political system, the 66 seats in the unicameral legislature are allocated
to sub-clans, with members of parliament requiring the signed consent of the
traditional leaders of their sub-clans (issims) in order to take office. For
the purpose of selecting a president, the M.P.s become the electors,
completing the process of indirect representation. An eight-member
Commission for Ratification and Settlement (electoral commission), with one
member from each of Puntland's seven regions and a chairman, arbitrates the
process, validating candidates and resolving disputes.

The run-up to the presidential election did not begin auspiciously. On
November 3, Puntland's security minister, Gen. Abdullahi Said Samatar, froze
withdrawals from the state bank after complaints from opposition
presidential candidates (numbering fifteen or more, depending on the count)
that Muse was planning to use government funds to finance his campaign by
paying off sub-clan leaders. On Nov 8, the conflict began in earnest when
Muse announced that the government would appoint the electoral commission,
promising that he would organize "peaceful elections." Immediately, six of
the opposition candidates drafted a communique requesting seats on the
commission, warning against the incitement of "hostilities" that would delay
the election, and demanding that government funds not be used to finance
campaigns. On Nov 13, Farole, the leading opposition candidate, arrived in
Garowe, Puntland's political capital, from Australia and said that he would
not oppose Muse's move to name the electoral commission. Nonetheless,
apprehension persisted among other candidates that Muse would choose the
members of the commission from his administration.

On November 16, Muse announced the commission's membership, naming as its
chair his policy adviser, Barkhad Ali Salah. Responding quickly, four
candidates in Garowe and two in Puntland's economic capital, Bossasso, held
joint press conferences denouncing Muse's selections. Farole changed his
position, rejecting the commission on the grounds that it was composed of
government employees,

close relatives of officials, and campaign managers. Ahmed Said O'Nur, who
later dropped out of the race, added that the selection process for the
commission should have been based on a consultative process between the
government, traditional sub-clan leaders, and opposition candidates.
Reformist candidate Nuradin Adan Diriye expressed "surprise" that a
presidential candidate - Muse - would "single-handedly appoint the

On November 17, Puntland's vice-president, Hassan Dahir Afqura, responded to
the opposition, claiming that the electoral commission was "lawful" and that
it would check the "legality" of the prospective M.P.s proposed by the
sub-clans. On November 20, Muse issued a decree banning presidential
candidates from campaigning with armed support in order to halt their
practice of taking their sub-clan militias with them for protection against
possible government interference.

With tensions rising, Abdullahi Yusuf, still considered by many to be
Puntland's power broker, arrived in the sub-state on November 30 to meet
with the presidential candidates. Once Muse's opponent, Yusuf had become his
ally and defended Muse's electoral commission. The opposition rejected
Yusuf's position, counter-proposing that a new commission be formed that
would be named by the issims and calling for an "all-Puntland force" to
provide security rather than government forces, which they distrusted and
which had impelled them to resort to their sub-clan militias for protection.

Into early December, Yusuf persisted in his position that "the government
has the right to appoint the election commission," which, he said, had no
power to reject any M.P. who was supported by clan elders and was not a
"criminal or terrorist." Yusuf promised to support any leader who would
"work for the unity of Puntland," but responded equivocally when asked about
the possibility of Muse using public funds for his campaign. The chair of
the electoral commission, Salah, assured Puntlanders that plans for the
election were "proceeding well."

While the government and Yusuf were jousting with the opposition candidates
over the electoral commission's selection process and composition, the
issims began meeting on December 5 and concluded their deliberations on
December 15, when they issued a statement that mainly affirmed the positions
of the opposition candidates and called for the formation of an all-Puntland
security force under government control until December 31, when authority
would be transferred to the issims, who would hand the force over to the new
president after his election was confirmed on January 8. The issims also
demanded that no public funds be used to finance Muse's campaign and that
the electoral commission be reformed with seven members - Salah would remain
the chair and represent the Bari region; members representing the Nugal,
Mudug, and Ayn regions would be chosen by the opposition; and members
representing the Sool, Sanaag, and Karkar regions would be named by the

Speaking for the opposition on December 16, Farole welcomed the issims'
statement, adding that the candidates accepted a government majority on the
electoral commission and noting that the issims are "the elders for the
leadership." Farole said that the opposition candidates had asked the issims
to "render a judgment" and that they had the constitutional authority "to
make a final decision on all disagreements." There was no response from Muse
to the issims' decision.

The intervention of the issims was the decisive moment in Puntland's
electoral process and showed the underlying strength of its traditional
political system. Had it not been for the incorporation of traditional
authority into that system as a safety net, the process would have been
vulnerable to fractious partisanship, sub-clan rivalry, and possible descent
into armed confrontation or the success of Muse's attempts to stack the
process in his favor. The persistence and viability of institutionalized
tradition provided the means for peaceful conflict resolution.

The fruits of the issims' intervention became manifest on December 20, when
an agreement on a reformed electoral commission was announced after
negotiations led by Puntland's minister of family affairs, Asha Gele. The
agreement represented a second compromise of the opposition candidates'
demands, allowing

Muse to select four members of the commission and the issims three. In
addition, the formation of an all-Puntland security force was not addressed.
Nonetheless, the opposition had won a victory; Muse had been constrained to
concede control over the electoral process and, from then on, his fortunes
fell and the road to a fair election had been opened, with normal political
bargaining replacing disputes over process.

Security concerns, however, persisted, and, on December 25, the new police
chief of Garowe, Eydarus Haji Hersi, chaired a meeting on security for
community leaders and presidential candidates, warning them that the streets
of the city were choked with government forces and militias guarding
candidates, creating the conditions for a breakdown of order. Yet through
the week before the electoral commission ratified the membership of
parliament on December 31, the actors maintained restraint and a security
problem did not surface.

The ratification of parliament brought praise for the electoral commission
from Farole, who commented that "everything was done on time." Yusuf, who
had just arrived in Puntland after resigning as Somalia's president under
pressure from the "international community," addressed the new parliament
and promised the opposition candidates that he would be a "neutral
statesman." In short order,

parliament unanimously elected Abdirashid Mohamed Hirsi as speaker and, on
January 7, the electoral commission issued a list of nine authorized
presidential candidates, the field having been narrowed down by negotiations
within sub-clans.

The stage was set for the presidential poll, which took place according to
schedule and which was won in the third round of voting by Farole, who
gained a margin of 49-7 over his remaining rival Gen. Abdullahi Ahmed
Ilkajir; Muse had been eliminated in the first round. Puntland had survived
a serious challenge and its institutions had prevailed.

Policy Issues

Although the strength of institutionalized tradition was the key to the
success of Puntland's electoral process, of almost equal importance was the
policy consensus among the candidates that reflected a broader consensus in
the sub-state's society. Much of the opposition candidates' campaigns was
focused on Muse's abuses of power - alleged misappropriation of funds,
failure to pay civil servants and security forces, making deals with foreign
companies without consultation, permitting organized crime to flourish,
allowing Somaliland to seize territories, and allowing or authorizing the
printing of counterfeit currency. On the positive side, candidates touted
their abilities to rectify those abuses, their leadership backgrounds and
professional qualifications, and their commitment to defend Puntland's
integrity and to further its economic development.

A mentality of reform pervaded the opposition campaigns, rather than a
disposition to present divisive ideological alternatives. Islamism was off
the table, as was independence or surrender of autonomy. There was a
division between old-guard and new-guard candidates, but that did not rise
to the level of substantive policy differences. In part, the predominant
reformist temper was due to a broad agreement in Puntland's society that
preserving the sub-state's autonomy was its overriding vital interest, which
was identified with the deeper social interest in preserving the security
and economic advancement of the northern Darod sub-clans against pressure
from Somaliland and instability to the south. The protective interest in
Puntland's society should not be discounted when arguments are advanced that
Puntland might or should serve as a model for the rest of post-independence
Somalia, where particular circumstances are not the same.

As a former finance minister and planning minister in Muse's administration,
who broke with the former president in 2006 over the latter's resource deals
with foreign companies, Farole is a member of the old guard who has a long
track record and is considered to be a moderate reformer, reflecting
Puntland's social consensus. With experience in finance and banking, Farole
has promised to develop the economy by both nurturing the free market and
improving public services. His first stated priority is to enhance security
and diminish the power of criminal networks. He has advanced a harder line
than Muse on

Somaliland, promising to re-take the disputed territories, but has also said
that no moves would be made without a "strategic plan founded on

Nonetheless, Farole's stance on the disputed territories has already evoked
a response from Somaliland, whose foreign minister, Abdullahi Mohamed Du'ale
said that Farole's remarks were a "new development" and that "governance
cannot be built on clans."

On the largest issues of state structure, Farole has affirmed a commitment
"never to allow anyone to violate the federal system" in any emergent
government for Somalia, going so far as to recommend that the northern and
central regions to the south form regional governments on Puntland's model
as a prelude to a "national unity government." He has also stated that a
central government for Somalia cannot manage resource policy exclusively.
Finally, Farole has promised that Puntland will have a new constitution and
a multi-party political system before the end of his four-year term.


It remains to be seen how successful Farole will be in implementing his
program. Corruption has become endemic in Puntland's government, criminal
enterprises have become rooted in the society and have support in sub-clans
and within the business community, and economic development is unlikely to
take off quickly due to Muse's legacy. Indeed, Muse announced on December 12
that he had decided not to return to his home in Canada, but instead would
open an office in Bossasso, where he would continue his efforts to gain
support for petroleum exploration, adding that Farole should honor the deals
that the former president had signed.

In response, Farole, said that Muse would be made a "special adviser on
development issues."

In the sphere of external relations, it is unlikely that Farole will push
against Somaliland in the short term, due to the higher priority of
rehabilitating Puntland's security forces and restoring the sub-state's
finances. There is also the question of what role, if any, Yusuf will play
in Puntland's politics now that he has been excluded from influence in the

It is likely that the decline of Darod influence in the south will reinforce
the commitment to "federalism" and will forestall Puntland's participation
should a problematic "unity government," which is being pushed by the
"international community," gain traction. On the issue of constitutional
change, Farole might do well to remember that his victory was facilitated by
Puntland's present tradition-based system.

The moderate reformer has the advantage of not awakening fear and determined
resistance in society, and the disadvantage of being unable to act boldly to
change existing patterns of behavior. When faced with having to clean up the
mess made by his predecessor, the moderate reformer is doubly challenged; in
this sense, Farole is in a similar situation to that of the new president of
the United States, Barack Obama, who will also be constrained to delay his
reforms in order to concentrate on damage control.

However much Farole may accomplish, Puntland has gained by having effected a
peaceful transfer of power within its established institutions. After a
period of looming collapse, it has come out stronger and less vulnerable -
more capable to defending its perceived interests.

Report Drafted By:
Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University
 <mailto:weinstem@purdue.edu> weinstem@purdue.edu


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