Mogadishu (PP Editorial) — Somalia will (re)elect a president on 15 May 2022. Judging by the stated political programmes of candidates (some may revise their previous positions) and the number of presidential candidates, MPs and Senators will struggle to distinguish between politicians who mean substantive change and politicians who plan to replicate or maintain status quo. An incumbent President, two former Presidents, a former Prime Minister, a President of a Federal Member State and other thirty plus presidential candidates vie for Villa Somalia.
In the presidential election, candidates with past political experience stand a better chance to present a political programme based either on advocating a change or maintaining progress. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed came up with an election theme isbeddel doonka socda, a Somali phrase that can be translated as (1) an ongoing reform or (2) a reform in the offing. Change is rarely associated with an incumbent leader. The semantic confusion that electoral themes will create deepens if some candidates share similar political programmes. President Farmajo shares with his rival Hassan Ali Khaire credit for security reform, progress towards debt relief, as well any criticisms for politicised and less inclusive army, among other foibles.
Former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud calls for “finalising incomplete tasks (Qabyo qofkeedaa dhammaystira), whereas former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s low-key, but personality-based campaigning contrasts with the political programme of Puntland State President Said Abdullahi Deni. Reform of the army to make it less politicised and more inclusive, a restrained and accountable use of political and economic powers of the Federal Government, and supporting a bicameral legislature independent of the executive branch are key aspects of Deni’s political programme. MPs and Senators will eagerly listen to Deni’s speech to discern any change of his past political stances on how to use the executive power.
Somalia does not have an inclusive army, and yet the last two federal governments lobbied for lifting of arms embargo. No proper audit has been made on arms acquired by the federal government troops. Both President Farmajo and his predecessor failed to make the army less vulnerable to factionalism. In 1991 when armed groups ousted the military regime, weapons fell into hands of clan-based militias. The controlled chaos under the military regime metamorphosed into uncontrolled chaos after the collapse of the state.
President Deni will use his achievements — security reform, managing the dire economic and political legacies of his predecessor — in Puntland to impress upon MPs and Senators the changes he envisages if they elect him a President on Sunday.
As far back as 2019 President Deni foresaw the risk of the executive branch controlling the Upper House and Lower House. The outcome has been the signing of an illegal production-sharing agreement with Coastline Exploration. Like the TFG under President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the Federal Government of Somalia under President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed allowed a Minister to sign an illegal agreement involving Somali seas, the latter agreement was signed despite a presidential moratorium on signing government agreements during the transition being in place. How will President Deni present his vision of the federal system? How will he strike a balance between federal government policies and the policies he espoused as Puntland President whereby the Federal Members States will have the privilege to sign infrastructure agreements with foreign companies?
As the only presidential candidate campaigning on distinct pro-change policies, President Deni should use his speech tomorrow as an opportunity to explain why he thinks the federal project risks being replaced by a centralised but more impractical and ahistorical political system that fosters disunity and more dependency on foreign peacekeeping forces.
© Puntland Post, 2022.