It’s almost 20 years since the first local council elections were held in the Republic of Somaliland – a country that emerged out of the ruins of the war carried out by the cruel Somali National Forces under the regime of Siad Barre in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
High hopes and euphoria overwhelmed the populace who yearned for many years to cast their vote in free, fair, and peaceful elections for the first time and to elect the candidates of their choice. Note-worthily is the fact that African countries – with exception of a few – didn’t have any elections at all. Democratic elections and transitions in the continent and particularly in the Horn of Africa region are in a short supply.
In 2002, Hargeisa, a city of approximately over 1 million residents elected a council of 25 members tasked to manage the local municipality affairs in the next 5 years.
In that year, H. Mohamoud Ji’ir was elected as mayor of Hargeisa – after lengthy negotiations within the council members, bringing an end to the direct nomination process usually made by the Presidents of Somaliland for all the mayors in the country. It coincided at the time- the country adopted the multi-party system, where citizens pick out their favorite political parties and leaders.
The excitement and hope of the people of Hargeisa were short-lived – as in-fights between elected mayor and Councillors contested for power and the meager resources of the weak institution. Corruption, land grab, nepotism, internal division, and neglect of public social services have surfaced in their tenure.
Alas, it took until 2012 to replace old Councillors and elect new members. Sadly, the elected Councillors become even worse than their predecessors – as lack of leadership resulted institutional decay of the local government, leading protests of some districts in Hargeisa city calling the mayor to step down as he failed to deliver his responsibilities.
Nevertheless, as the third local council election approaches, this article will briefly look at the pressing issues and challenges the upcoming mayor and council needs to overcome, in order to win the hearts and minds of the local residents.
Time to fix the broken Institution
Institutions play a greater role in economic and social development and local governments are not an exception. It is argued that well‐functioning institutions can promote growth and reduce poverty by providing a conducive environment for the implementation of sustainable development programmes.
For many reasons, Hargeisa local government is weak and ineffective as corruption, mismanagement and lack of leadership hinder its work. The upcoming mayor and the city Councillors need to come up with new plans to fix this broken institution and remove corrupted elements within the system. The institution needs a massive facelift and review of its organizational structure to de-centralize the service delivery and smooth implementation of the local government projects. Organizationally, Hargeisa local government consists of 8 districts, and it requires to empower these district commissioners by delegating certain tasks. This allows the mayor to strategically think and have time for dealing with broader and more challenging issues.
The districts can further engage and establish extended local community structures which can additionally support the local government in community mobilization campaigns. As an old adage says: Charity begins at home, the upcoming local Councillors should focus on putting the house in order before they embark on drafting projects and programmes which could fail unless there are policies and strategies that would direct and guide its implementations.
As the local government is tasked with many of the multi-sector functions– education, social services, construction of city infrastructure, and tax collection, for example, it’s paramount to curb and fight corruption elements in all departments. The new leadership should have anti-corruption mechanisms and a clear accountability system to their citizens for providing these services and this is the only way the meager resources of the institution can be utilized optimally.
State of Hargeisa roads
Roads are the inter-spatial places that enable cities: they provide a system for all of the dynamic social, economic, and physical activities that make cities an important human environment. By strategy, roads channel and convey floodwater, providing a network along which all the rain that falls on the city can be routed. unfortunately, Hargeisa city is a disaster when it rains – as there is no drainage system that could remove the water from the city. Each year, street floods take lives and precious properties are damaged. This needs immediate strategy from the upcoming mayor and local Councillors. Concerted efforts are required to manage the debilitating situation of the city roads and the management of rainwater.
The new leadership has a huge task in improving the state of roads in the capital.
City waste management
It’s undeniable that the state of waste management in Hargeisa city is a disaster too. During the rainy season, garbage, trash, and litter materials discarded by people, usually due to lack of waste management system are seen on streets floating like marine birds. Although, there are private companies that are tasked to collect the garbage from the local residents on weekly basis at their own costs. However, this delegation of responsibility to private companies is not enough and must be reviewed immediately.
Removing animal from the city
In the last few years, as the city has expanded tremendously in all directions – many people from the rural areas affected by climate change and droughts brought their animals into the city. Now, Hargeisa became a city co-inhabited peacefully by people and animals without any sort of conflict. These animals are at risk of dying in the streets as they eat litter thrown out into the streets like plastic bags, which is very harmful to animals and the environment as well. The local government and the upcoming Councillors are expected to plan on how to take these animals from the city in a sustainable manner.
Closure of street garages
As thousands of used cars are imported each year from gulf states, especially Dubai, UAE – these cars end up in the streets for maintenance and repairs. In the last couple of years, streets become open garages and mechanic workshops, where hundreds of cars are left at the roadside for repairs. Others dismantle cars when they are of no use because of heavy accidents. In order for the city to be clean and environmentally healthy, the local government needs to take a strong stance in removing cars from the streets and closing all garages that are not in a secure and safe place. Anyone who services cars in the streets, for example changing oil should be penalized as this behavior endangers the environment as well as the lives of local residents.
It’s very true that these listed actions are not the only pressing issues for the upcoming mayor and Councillors, there are many challenges to overcome. However, these are visible and manageable problems currently all local residents encounter every day in their lives.
Lastly, Hargeisa needs a strong leadership able to amicably plan strategies and execute them accordingly. As Rome was not built in a day, Hargeisa residents should support all the efforts of the expected major, as it’s the only way – the city can recuperate from the mismanagement and corruption of current leadership.
About the Author
Mohamed Yassin is a management specialist, development practitioner, and researcher. Mohamed works as a blogger and writes extensively about Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa. The article originally appeared on Mohamed’s Blog and is republished with permission.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints of the Somaliland Chronicle, and its staff.
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