The newly liberated state of Somaliland has chosen to experiment conflation of modern representative democracy with its long-standing traditional tribal customs for 30-plus years. The new republic practiced a unique hybrid governing system.
This new system resulted in the most prolonged peace and stability. If conflicts flare up, this new governing system effectively deals with any issue before it gets out of hand. So, this period of tranquility continued for generations. Have you ever heard of the “Oasis of peace and stability in the Horn of Africa”?
This hybrid democracy weathered economic turmoil, social unrest, and terrorism. It withstood multi-dimensional social ills, including unemployment, global pandemic, literacy, Lack of skill training or quality education, and poor infrastructure. Most of these issues require massive social investment. Resources that are currently unavailable. But could have been obtainable with the right, visionary and exemplary leadership. After all, this country is rich in natural resources.
Nevertheless, this Hybrid democracy experiment has always been susceptible to one thing; tribal rivalry. Since perceived unequal access to the country’s meager resources created resentment, it is sometimes easy for politicians to exploit the inter-clan grievances.
The perception is that some clans take advantage of their geographic proximity to the seat of power, fleece the treasury, and dominate civil service jobs. Whether correct or not, the feeling is that certain clans depend on the government, become entitled, and feel more important or superior than other citizens.
Until this period, however, politicians rarely attempted to exploit this inequality. If they did, it would have horrified the collective sanity of the people. Yes, the clan is part of daily life. But, given the joint pain Somilanders endured in the hands of the last dictatorship government, anything undermining their commitment to each other was considered a blatant attempt to destroy the nation.
The bitter election campaign of 2017 changed that common belief. It was the catalyst that sparked today’s political reality. The slow succession buildup of this tribal inequality and resentment fueled by media provocation from unhappy politicians cracked the common thread Somalilanders share. It reached almost a point that weakened the fragile nation-state and threatened the sole of the country itself.
Who took the wrecking ball and cracked the unity of the people, you asked? Politicians, all of them, period!
In a democracy, opposition parties have the right to hold any governing party accountable. They can criticize any unsound decision that affects the public. And most importantly, be the safeguard against any mismanagement of the limited resources this emerging nation scrapes together to provide essential public services and security.
They also have a more significant responsibility; to defend the country from enemies, domestic and foreign. One of their primary responsibilities is to know where to draw the line or at least keep the fine line between criticizing the government and undermining their country’s sovereignty by avoiding the use of poisonous clan tropes. Both opposition parties of Wadani and UCID failed here to uphold their sacred responsibility.
For instance, contrary to Somaliland’s old customs and tolerant traditions, the opposition parties’ willingness to seed clan hatred to motivate their base supporters divided communities. Disrupting the daily lives of poor laborers was an intolerable and cruel act. Calling for violent demonstrations is another madness that shows their natural pugnacity.
Both opposition parties don’t share the fault on the same level. Wadani should have been more measured, reasonable, and self-controlled as it enjoyed the support of many communities around the country in the last presidential election.
That support didn’t come from only one clan base but was diverse. It would have propelled Wadani to win the upcoming elections if it had cultivated it right. They needed to behave as if they were ready to lead the nation. To be presidential!
The mild-mannered ex-chairman was the party’s standard-bearer with a gift to display a welcoming demeanor that is always smiling, soft-spoken, and experienced. The former chairman has tirelessly transformed the party from a new political organization to a national party with a popular following that came very close to winning the presidency.
The dream to reach that office was reasonably closer before he yielded his responsibility to a bunch of disruptors that seemed to be savoring constant chaos.
Things fell apart after the election. Wadani didn’t gracefully accept the outcome of that election, congratulate the winner, move on to reassess their shortcomings, and plan to attract more supporters. But the party has been stuck in this election denial loop for almost two years. They forced the new President to defend himself constantly and crippled any chances for him to govern the nation effectively.
This Wadani strategy to solely focus on the last election has continued to energize its base supporters. But in the long run, it has alienated the coalition of communities that initially supported the party. The same communities are necessary for any party to win nationwide elections.
Worst of all, Wadani incorporated former government officials led by Hersi Ali Haji Hassan into its leadership. Hersi and his team abandoned earlier their lucrative government positions. They tried in vain to destroy their own Kulmiye ruling party; just because Muse Biihi became their nominee. as they have indicated numerous times, this group will not allow him to govern effectively now that he is the President.
They found the platform they were looking for in which they could quickly attack him, undermine his rule, and frustrate his supporters.
Bringing this bloodthirsty team to the party was the first unforgiven mischief that cost Wadani its popularity and helped it lose credibility with its long-term supporters.
To make the matter worst, Wadani appointed a fire-breathing, Somalia apologist, inexperienced general secretary for their party. The new secretary, with no guardrails and self-censorship capacity, was defiant and hellbent on destroying the nation’s soul. He constantly propagated violence that dominated the airwaves.
His Trump-style take no prisoners attack exacerbated the reputation of an already declining party. Common sense electors ditch the party even further—Wadani’s national standing diminished rapidly in the public’s eyes.
The new scorch of the political earth strike championed by this Kulmiye renegade group has become a daily reality. With its fake news and foul language, this normalized disruption has gained some traction among the party’s most extreme factions.
These supporters repeat emotional, provocative, offensive, divisive, damaging, unpatriotic, and violent messages tenfold in social media. Anti-Somaliland elements then pick up from here to amplify with more made-up harmful content with the sole intent of showing the world exaggerated bad images of Somaliland.
This once promising party that honestly had the potential to be a better alternative to the ruling Kulmiye party diminished its stature. Wadani may never recover from their self-inflicted killer wounds. Could it or would it participate in the upcoming race to become one of the three national constitutional parties again? If it does, would it gain the ground it lost? Time will tell.
In contrast, Muse Biihi dismissed the daily barrage of media assaults initially. As time passed, he became irritated by what he had considered a sore-loser reaction to the election. It ultimately has managed to get under his skin. He saw this assault as an attempt to delegitimize him and his presidency.
Despite the constant advice from his advisors urging him to ignore the noises, he became defensive. He started to counterattack blindly without any political strategy.
Muse was known not to have the basic essential abilities to unify people. Or the capacity to reach out to his rivals to build national consensus. The main ingredients are necessary to govern comprehensively diverse and polarized communities.
So, his natural tendency to fight back with fire kicked in. Since he had never possessed any quality to calm things down, he shut all the back door communications. Using the state’s power and weight, he has done more damage than the opposition.
Historically, the back channels have always protected Somaliland from overzealous politicians. Self-appointed mediators, traditional elders, members of the business community, and various stakeholders would usually become the envoys at the 11th hour and go between political rivals. This tradition has continuously strengthened Somaliland’s democracy and made her distinct from others in the region. But angry Muse wouldn’t have it.
The Lack of communication has fostered a culture of mistrust. Muse Biihi further isolated and surrounded himself with loyal individuals. He lost interest in broadening his appeal and forgot that he was duly elected, the President for the whole people, not only for the people on his side.
He boxed himself in his villa and couldn’t see anything beyond Hargeisa. He earned the nickname “Muse local.” This name carried dual characteristics of Muse’s arrogant personality and Lack of vision to achieve any meaningful national reconciliation.
Consequently, the nation suffered. The gap between political camps widened and, as a result, allowed Somaliland’s enemies to exploit these differences.
Luckily, Muse Biihi came to his senses to finally heed the warning that the current political discourse would disintegrate the country. The signs were on the wall that he would be known to be the man whose leadership dismantled the nation until his government took drastic measures to change course.
So, to change the trajectory, Muse announced opening new political organizations. To pave the way for citizens to have the opportunity to choose their leaders, perhaps new blood in the country’s future political leadership.
Allowing other aspiring politicians to enter the political field has also somewhat broken the gridlock and the never-ending impasse.
This action was supposed to break the fever, except the opposition parties still refused to come to terms. As expected, this has made them even mad. Why wouldn’t it? Their job is no longer safe. However, the public seems overwhelmingly supportive of the President’s decision.
Here we are today! Ten new, fresh, vibrant organizations are roaring in the race to become official national parties. The existing trio should have seen their waning influence as we approach December 26, 2022, the deadline to dissolve their current national party status. Their relevance will even be less after that date.
We are all aware that democracy is a messy business everywhere. It is uncomfortable because of it is nature of belonging to the masses. In the Somaliland version, it is loud, very unknown, scary, developing, and unstable. It is also delicate because it is in the middle of a region ruled by tyrants, demagogues, dictators, and the worst ones selected by corruption in tents.
So, let us sigh a collective relief now that the country has emerged from another deliberately made political crisis.
There is no doubt greedy politicians will push the limit. Perhaps even take us to the brink. Bravely, Somaliland citizens will continue to stand up for any political tyranny.
So, what is the lesson learned? Make sure the citizens eliminate career politicians. Don’t allow a single one or group of politicians to gamble the lives of innocent, struggling laborers and the dreams of millions.
It is time to rebuild the country and protect the hard-earned freedom, peace, and stability. It is high time to reenergize our goal to have the Somaliland flag among other nations of this planet.
About the Author
Magan ibrahim is a Somaliland political analyst. He is available on Twitter (@magannews).
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints of Somaliland Chronicle, and its staff.
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