Puntland democracy – Smoke and Mirrors (Article)January 27, 2013 // News in English, Warar Somaali
The dark clouds have cleared and the dust seems to have settled but the restored visibility is not revealing a pretty sight. It is official; Puntland lost its place as the darling of Somalia. Its reputation as a peaceful territory committed to the unity of the country and working hard for a central government based on a federal constitution is in tatters.
The anxiety of the international committee of turmoil in the region when all available resources are committed to deal with the threat of extremism in the south is real.
But the administration in Puntland seems unperturbed by the worries of all those inside and outside who genuinely see Puntland as a force for good and a stabilising factor in Somali politics.
In a land blighted by conflict and risk to all neighbouring countries and the wider world, intransigence specially when batting on a sticky wicket is hardly a recipe for resolving intractable problems like this one
This government however seems to have believed its own propaganda when they argue that they are introducing a shining democracy that will leave all others green with envy.
Do they believe they can fool everyone like a magician pulling a rabbit out of the hat using smoke and mirrors?
A scene of dramatic irony is being played out in Puntland where the audience know in advance the next moves of the characters including the fact that it will all end in tears.
This sham democracy produced a bizarre situation whereby three of the six political organisations now registered are government owned and financed with the resources of the state. And the remaining, fledgling and cash strapped, three groups are burdened with cumbersome regulations and artificially drawn timetables to comply with procedural hurdles. A level playing field is apparently not in the lexicon of the region leaving the possibility that all credible opposition groups will be eliminated before even a single vote is cast
There is the prospect that the long trumpeted democracy will conclude with three parties all sponsored by the government and financed with tax payers money splitting the spoils among themselves.
But what is the role of the international community in the current crisis? That is a big question. It is not easy to detect what is happening behind the scenes and what frank discussions are taking place. Government announcements that meetings with foreign diplomats always end with understanding and agreement cannot be taken at face value.
But diplomacy is a strange art of riddles and clues. A simple and apparently harmless act like not holding a joint press conference with members of the government by a visiting delegation is very significant diplomatic gesture expressing deep displeasure.
So when visiting dignitaries leave without honouring leaders with a joint press conference at the end of a meeting watch out for a government spokesman rushing to grab any available microphone to tell all and sundry that they agreed with all matters discussed. The reality is more likely that they were read the riot act. And when Puntland leaders visit other countries they wait for at least a week before being received by leaders of that country.
If visiting delegations can’t even bring themselves to stand beside local officials it would definitely be a clear sign that Puntland has lost brownie points in the eyes of the international community.
And if this becomes a trend it would indicate an unmistakable warning sign by the international community, a shot across the bow of the leadership to change their ways or there will be a price to pay.
Puntland has many enemies. It has curtailed the ambitions of warlords and secessionists alike. Many are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of this long time irritant going haywire from within.
Mogadishu in particular is not a friend of Puntland. The occupants of the highest seat of power have an unfinished business from way back in another era. One time middle ranking apparatchiks of the defunct USC guerrilla movement, they are back with a vengeance after years in search of a cunning plot to change the balance of power amongst Somali clans once and for all.
And they have Puntland in their crosshairs but they are not pulling the trigger just yet to give the demolition job currently underway a fair crack of the whip. It seems Puntland has pressed the self-destruct button. Any interference from outside is surplus to requirement as it is perfectly capable of bringing this mission to a satisfactory conclusion on its own, without outside help.
By: Ali Abdulle