Puntland is a state twenty years old with people as old as the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, but have no strategic plan towards Somalia or how to deal with the rest of Somalia. An Amazing story to tell, you would say. Puntland successive governments had never thought of its urgent need and constitutional mandate to work out a permanent state strategic plan good for the thinking and operations of every Puntlander in Somalia and worldwide to follow and keep in mind for generations to come: be it a member of the Federal Institutions or Puntland officials attached to a foreign or international entities or an individual living or working in a global village. It is really a common sense to do so if she cares about the well-being and progress of the state, her people and position in Somalia and beyond.
Do the federal officials and MPs representing Puntland in Mogadishu have a strategic plan to follow on Somalia and Puntland issues? How does Puntland government expect them to operate, under which guidelines other than the constitutions and their individual gut feelings do they carry out their mission, tasks and responsibilities?
“Sending Puntland Representatives to Mogadishu without a plan of action, thinking or guidelines is like sending Puntland Football Team to Mogadishu without a coach”, to use my friend Abdi’s football analogy. “It is like sending a team of untrained Puntland camel boys to play ball in Mogadishu”.
Moreover, Puntland State is also a mother having kids there, who has properties and interests in other regional states of Somalia. How would our representatives in Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baydhaba and Dusa-Mareb takle with issues of common and Puntland interest? What are the Puntland channels of communication with those supposed to be looking after her interests in those regions? Is Puntland operating blindly in the dark, or she has no idea of what I am talking about?
On the internal affairs, you would say, there is nothing wrong with Puntland State except it is caught up and locked in bad governance that prevents her from moving foward in building strong state institutions, not to mention about her playing a leading role in Somalia’s reconstruction efforts.
That is good as long as you think that good governance includes elimination of corruption and changing the permanent perception by some of its constituent regions that it is a state dominated by a few privileged clans, doing away its persisting vulnerability to insecurity and lack of economic expansion and business investment, low and poor quality of education and skills training, absence of constructive engagement with the leaders of fedgling Federal Government.
Reasonable Puntlanders are OK with this thinking. But, is that all Puntland State and her people could do to build a bright future for her next generations?
I would say with confidence that Puntland State is frozen in time and space. Let me give you some examples. Puntland Government has the same salary scale for its personnel as we started 20 years ago. Puntland Government uses the same clan/regional power-sharing arrangements for the selection of members of the House of Representatives as we launched it 20 years ago. Puntland Government fell back to rely on clan militia forces for its security, which we had moved away 20 years ago. 20 years ago Puntland had an independent judiciary, independent parliament, independent auditor-general and independent accountant-general. None of above Puntland institutions of government are independent today. It is a big deal and alarming facts to ignore. This is a critical factor, among many, that Puntland President has absolute executive powers in the absence of checks and balance (Madax-ka-Nool).
What to do about the situation? Good question! Let us debate objectively without any attempt to spin. Let me start with my take of things here with a by-line from Garowe. First of all, let us find out areas we can begin work right away:
1. To fight corruption and maintain law and order, restore the independence of those institutions cited above.
2. Have a competent, transparent and independent public service commission right away.
3. Establish state strategic advisory board or commission that act as government think tank or experts on working out strategic plan for Puntland.
4. Puntland regional clan power-sharing arrangements for indirect selection/election had hit dead-end. Let us begin democratization process right away, starting.with local elections first.
5. Streamline state departments to eliminate redundancy, duplications and inefficiency. Make a smaller government by cutting down cumbersome bureaucracy.
6. Know that the Finance and security sectors are the Achelles Heels of Puntland State.
The current Administration of President Said Abdullahi Deni is on the spot and hot seat to deliver on his election promises to avoid the bad legacy of his predecessor. People of Puntland have no alternative but to rise up against corruption and mal-administration of their public affairs. They have to meet the challenges of the moment.
Finally, it was said by others before us, who too had been there that people get the leaders they deserve. This insight and wisdom is still true as it was then. People may give their leaders initially the benefit of the doubt, but not a free hand to a politician to do whatever he wishes to without making sure that he or she must be held accountable to the people individually and collectively.
One good thing about the people of Puntland is that they never give a 2nd chance to their leader, let alone a bad one. If President Said Abdullahi Deni wants to come back to power in Puntland, he could so by popular vote through democratization process starting right now.
By Ismail Haji Warsame
Former Chief of Staff
Puntland State of Somalia