Puntland President, Said Abdullahi Deni, is juggling several balls. Security reform remains a top priority for the administration that celebrated its first anniversary in January 2020.
Representatives from the EU met a Puntland committee tasked with the security reform. Biometric identification the administration has introduced eliminates ghost soldiers on Puntland Government payroll. His predecessor, Dr Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, failed to persuade commanders of Puntland Defence Forces to agree to a headcount to stamp out corruption in the security forces. Successful security reform will bring to an end periodic mutinies organised by disgruntled commanders. Deni assumed power at a time relations between the Federal Government and Puntland were strained. In 2019 he organised a summit for Federal Member States and the Federal Government. The summit ended in a deadlock. The collective leadership mechanism modeled on the Leadership Forum has been rebuffed by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.
The second challenge President Deni faces in his second year is the 2021 elections upon which Federal Member States have to agree. The electoral model proposed by the Federal Government has hit a snag. The International Community led by UNSOM Chief and US Ambassador to Somalia held separate meetings in Nairobi with the Presidents of Federal Member States to forge a national consensus on the planned one person, one vote elections. How Deni responds to the Federal Government’s demand to agree to the electoral modalities will determine the standing of Puntland State in Federal Somalia.
Under the 2016 electoral agreement Puntland federally represents some constituencies in the ex-British Somaliland. The territory Puntland claims is mostly under the jurisdiction of Somaliland Administration. The British Government funds development projects in Sool and Sanaag through Somaliland Development Fund. The disputed designation territory is having less impact on Sool and Sanaag. Without clarity on how the territorial dispute will be solved Puntland will lose political status should it agree to the renewal of federal but token representation of constituencies in the disputed territories.
There is an emerging consensus that North-South dialogue between Mogadishu and Hargeisa is the way forward. This puts Puntland in the Southern sphere of influence as opposed to its self-image as a rival of Somaliland. This year, 2020, is President Deni’s political moment of truth. His administration has made concessions to Somaliland whose Ministers regularly visit their area of origin claimed by Puntland on the basis of 1998 Puntland Charter. President Deni has his work cut out. His pragmatism may pay off.
© Puntland Post Monthly, 2020