Garowe ( PPM) – With one day to go before the Puntland Consultative Conference kicks off in Garowe many supporters of the conference keep asking what it takes to prevent the conference from becoming a talking-shop similar to the one organised by President Said Deni’s predecessor.
Puntland proposed and put a singular effort into federalism. However, the performance of the federal institutions built since 2004 reflect a return to authoritarianism-cum-warlordism in Mogadishu. In 2012 Puntland hastily pushed the idea to end the Transitional Federal Government in the hope that it is the way federalism could become entrenched in the Somali body politic.
The call for a consultative conference shows how Puntland State had become alienated from the federal institutions to which it dedicated a great deal of effort and resources. The influence of Puntland State has been waning since the end of the transition.
At Garowe last week the UNISOM Chief, James Swan, spoke of preventing conflict over Sool and Sanaag between Puntland and Somaliland. Puntland is partly to blame for this state of affairs. What began as a dispute between Puntland and Somaliland is now seen as a sovereignty issue between Mogadishu and Hargeisa. Somaliland has the advantage of controlling and investing in most parts of disputed territories through assistance from DFID and USAID, whereas Puntland’s role is to sustain the disputed territory status by clinging to the claim based on 1998 Charter on which Puntland was founded.
Federal representation of disputed territories does not give Puntland any leverage. Unlike Somaliland, Puntland State does not have a Special Arrangement to be able access direct assistance from development agencies. As if this was not enough, Federal Minister for National Planning, Jamal Hassan who happens to represent a constituency controlled by Puntland, has accused Puntland of not distributing resources meant for people in disputed territories.
The sticking question is: what will participants of the conference focus on? Rectifying the federal government mistakes or totally withdrawing from federal institutions or improving governance in Puntland? The International Community is pressuring Puntland to support the federal electoral process although the territorial dispute with Somaliland remains unsolved. Puntland State does not have the wherewithal to rectify federal government policies that make Somalia risk sliding into a civil war. Dependency on AMISOM has deepened against a backdrop of sham plans for elections in a country where the right of the Somali citizen is determined not by his national identity but by his/her clan’s strength.
The Federal Government of Somalia has wasted political capital over unsustainable and short-term political aims. It is not the job of Puntland to breathe life into feeble and discredited federal institutions. Puntland leaders at all levels must put efforts into putting the founding Federal Member State’s house in order.
© Puntland Post Monthly, 2020