In 2019 Puntland celebrated its 21st anniversary. The federal member state founded as an autonomous administration in August 1998 chose a middle path between secession proclaimed in Burao in 1991 and the perpetual strife Southern parts of Somalia were undergoing during the 1990s. This policy choice reflects how Puntland articulated a vision of a new Somalia based on federalism. President Said Abdullahi Deni is the sixth President of Puntland State.
In January 2019 when he won Puntland Presidency against an incumbent, Dr Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Deni had no illusions about the enormity of challenges his administration is facing partly because of the outmoded system of governance Puntland has been utilising since 1998. Pragmatism is the path Deni has taken to show the mettle to face myriad challenges ranging from a politically hostile, Mogadishu- based Federal Government, a threat of war from Somaliland administration insisting on the sanctity of colonial borders to threats of ISIS and Al-shabaab in mountainous areas in Puntland.
President Deni adopted a policy different from his predecessors’.
He extended an olive branch to Somaliland Administration by not questioning the right of Somaliland Ministers to visit their district of origin in Sool. Deni understands better that Somaliland’s sovereignty claim does not amount to a break-up of Somalia. Since Somalia is still one country in the eyes of the United Nations President, President Deni’s policy has the potential to become a conflict resolution example to be followed by other Somali political actors.
President Deni has reiterated he is committed to rectifying governance flaws without blaming his predecessors. He took upon himself the responsibility to conduct a pilot local elections in Puntland. This gradualist approach is in sharp contrast with the policy to introduce political parties in a society where clan identity, rather than ideas, matters. If locals have the right to elect their representatives, they will be able hold their representatives at state and federal levels accountable for not honouring their campaign promises. The second advantage local elections will have lies in reducing the powers of the executive. In essence, President Deni seeks to cede more powers for the sake of accountability at all levels in Puntland.
The Federal Government of Somalia spent a lot of political capital to undermine Puntland by denying the Federal Member State its share in training for the army despite President Deni heading a new administration that has committed itself to security reforms to address common security challenges posed by transnational terrorists and their allies.
As a former Minister of the Federal Ministry of Planning under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President Deni is aware that collaboration between Federal Member States and the Federal Government is a key aspect of maintaining the progress made towards reconstituting the Somali state. His focus on genuine accountability and conflict resolution are bedrocks of the strategy that his administration seeks to operationalise in bid to revitalise Puntland State of Somalia. Deni has praised Somalis from the Southwest State for their entrepreneurship and active citizenship to contribute to the economy of Puntland. Our choice for 2019 Person of the Year falls on President Said Abdullahi Deni of Puntland State of Somalia.
© 2020 Puntland Post Monthly