Hargeisa has spoken, and with the clear and decisive voice of more than 26,000 votes, has elected Mr. Abdikarim Ahmed Moge. This high tally is a clear indication of a city that wanted to and has thus successfully rid itself of its former Mayor Mr. SOLTELCO. This is the prevalent theory and the feel-good story for the masses, but in reality, a lot more has happened in the background for Mr. Moge to clinch the race for Mayor of Hargeisa.

Mr. Moge’s path to becoming a mayor, even with the most votes for the mayoral candidate which eclipsed his nearest competitor, was less than perfect in that he faced multiple hurdles from his own party of Waddani. Waddani leadership pursued potentially backing another candidate for Mayor of Hargeisa, and even worse; facing SOLTELCO in a council vote (and possibly losing to someone willing to do anything and pay whatever it cost from the public coffers to remain a Mayor).

Although described by those that know him very well as incorruptible and as someone with a rigid moral code who rarely compromises and has in the past walked away from a cabinet position, Mr. Moge is showing early signs of political savvy by involving the President to intervene to shore up and solidify his position. The President, sensing an opportunity to correct his past mistake of passing on Mr. Moge to run as a Kulmiye candidate and score a major political score has, with enthusiasm, taken up the issue raised by Mr. Moge and met him on several occasions and even went as far getting Mr. SOLTELCO to stand aside essentially paving the way for Mr. Moge to become the next Mayor of Hargeisa.

Despite harsh campaign rhetoric, Mayor Moge has been rather kind and conciliatory towards the outgoing Mayor and has even stated that he will rely on his expertise to run the city. While we all hope he has not sold his soul to the devil to gain the President and SOLTELCO’s support, this is not an ironclad agreement and nothing compels Mayor Moge to maintain a close working relationship with the man who left Hargeisa as an oozing cesspool and possibly ignores the massive corruption by his predecessor, lets hope that his conciliatory tone to the outgoing Mayor is a simple gesture to help SOLTELCO save face.

Mr. Moge’s true litmus test is yet to come and soon the focus of an inpatient public whose needs have been long neglected will move from SOLTELCO onto him. This is a fork in the road for Mayor Moge, where one leads to a bright political future and possibly a future presidential run, and the other to one that repeats the massive failures that will confine him to the same trash bin of history currently occupied by Mr. SOLTELCO and his acolytes.

For Mayor Moge to be successful, he will need an aggressive plan to reevaluate and overhaul the various functions of the local government. Efficient tax collection alone would not suffice but needs to be complemented by a solid plan and nerves of steel to combat the deep-rooted and pervasive culture of corruption that plagues the city. This would for example include the removal of dozens of bogus advisors who bled the city dry for years as a part of a network of complicit grifters.

The new Mayor must start with a clean slate, and understand what kind of institution he is taking over. He will need to have a deep understanding of the types of corruption he’s facing (open, hidden, and both pervasive) and more importantly; what functions were outsourced and the true cost of these non-compete tenders.

Another important change the new Mayor will need to institute is total transparency and honesty with the public. To make a sincere effort to keep the public informed of exactly how much money is in the local government’s coffers, and what kind of debt is being left behind by the former Mayor SOLTELCO. This can be only achieved by the deployment of independent auditors to properly assess the financial wellbeing of Hargeisa’s local government and sharing the results of the audit with the public.

The corruption that took place under the former Mayor SOLTELCO was rather imaginative, but the most harmful version are the ones designed to enrich SOLTELCO and his friends long after he leaves office (which is a common practice of the political elite in Somaliland). These include outsourcing of major functions of local government such as refuse collection, the Land Registry to GEOSOL, and placing of the local-government-owned construction equipment in the Berbera Corridor project under a privately owned company.

Many of these outsourced programs including the Land Registry to GEOSOL deprive the city of Hargeisa of millions of dollars of revenue which is the primary reason why Hargeisa remained a disaster zone under Mayor SOLTELCO and it is these resources that Mayor Moge’s success or failure will depend on.

How aggressively Mayor Moge pursues the massive trail of corruption left for him by SOLTELCO over choosing political expediency and delivering for the 26,000 voters who placed their hopes and confidence in him will make tell us everything we need to know about who we’ve entrusted Hargeisa with for the coming five years.

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