Garowe ( PPM) ⁠— In February Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni called for a consultative conference for Puntland stakeholders. The conference to take place mid March will have almost all the characteristics of the 1998 conference out of which an autonomous administration emerged. The founding President of Puntland Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed envisioned a Puntland that would pioneer federalism for a Somalia that was still a country with no government. Twenty one years after that conference Somalia has a Federal Government but its writ does not run throughout Somalia. It is dependent on African peacekeepers.

Who should take the blame for apparent failure federalism in Somalia? Should one equate this political failure with possible relapse into state failure?

President Deni made the right call to hold a consultative conference. Puntland has been staunch supporter of  federal institutions since the end of the transition. Puntland political class deluded themselves into thinking that ending the transition is a sure way to institutionalise federalism. The absurdity of this line of thinking is better reflected by how the Federal Governments under President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed turned out to be a more destabilising entity than its predecessor.

The centralismg goals of the incumbent Federal Government has had consequences for the relations between Mogadishu and Federal Member States. Puntland is a key member of the Federal Institutions but its forces are not a part of the clan militias known as the Somali National Army. This exclusion means Puntland forces do not get training similar to the one clan militias in Mogadishu and nearby regions undergo under the name of the Somali National Army.

The President of the Federal Government interfered  in Puntland politics  when, in an interview, he urged President Deni “to respect wishes of the people”.

President Said A. Deni: Puntaland is at a cross-roads

Other challenges  facing Deni’s administration range from the legacy agreement with DP World-owned company that runs Bosaso Port. The administration of Dr Abdiweli Mohamed Ali saddled Puntland  with contractual obligation that can cost Puntland its image as a destination for investment should Puntland government terminate  the Bosaso Port agreement, which has had a severe impact on the economy of Puntland. Bosaso business community remains sceptical what DP World can do to make Bosaso as thriving a port town as it was before  Deni’s predecessor inked the deal with P &O.  

On several occasions Puntland State distanced itself from legislations  passed by the Federal Parliament and the Upper House. One such law is the electoral law. Described as impractical by the United States, the Somali electoral law got passed without the endorsement of all Federal Member States. With the surrender of Ahlu Sunna Al Jama’a the Federal Government  has  a reason to believe the wind  is in its sails:  three Federal Member States  – Galmudug, Hirshabelle, and South West State – are in its fold in addition to Mogadishu whose status beyond capital city has yet to be agreed.

Puntland has agreed the 2016 electoral agreement that gives Puntland State federal representation  of disputed territories without  seeking a just solution to the territorial dispute. The new electoral law places disputed territories within Somaliland, meaning Puntland will lose to represent constituencies  in  disputed territories.

 Signing up  to a new electoral model  will commit Puntand State to working with the Federal Government, which  exploits Puntland weaknesses   and in the process damages trust. The Federal Projects has turned out to become a centralism movement that on one hand plays a nationalist card and  subscribes to  US-driven  the Horn of Africa Economic Integration agenda on the other – all at the expense of genuine political reconciliation promised by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed  when he vowed he would act like an “elder sitting  under a tree” to talk to everyone.

“The Announcement of Puntland Consultative Conference is a step in the right direction” says Ismail Haji Warsame, an influential blogger and writer. The Federal Government will  try to send to Garowe spoilers. Did it ever occur to ardent Puntland federalists that federalism would produce a President fanning dissent in the  Mother of Federalism in Somalia, as many people call Puntland? At the end of the consultative conference the direction Puntland will be going will be clearer.

 © Puntland Post Monthly, 2020

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