By Farah Mahamoud
After a long fought election campaign starting in 2008, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud (Silanyo) was finally sworn as the new president of the Somaliland Republic in July 27, 2010. The defeated president, Mr. Dahir Riyale Kahin graciously handed over the presidency to Mr. Silanyo and wished him the best of luck. Mr. Kahin also promised that he would work with the new president and asked his constituents to unite in his support. This was a rematch election after Silanyo lost his presidential bid in May 2003 to Dahir Riyale Kahin. The 2003 presidential election presented Somaliland with a difficult challenge due to the close victory margin by the former president Mr. Dahir Riyale Kahin. The margin was only 80 votes.
The Somaliland political system is not based on democratic principles from individual desire butis rather dominated by competing clan interests, and the party system is the means or vehicle to reach an outcome. Since Mr. Silanyo comes from the most dominant clan in Somaliland, the Isaqs, he naturally thought that he could win the (2003) election by a landslide. Not only does Mr. Silanyo come from the dominant clan, he is also educated, and received Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of Manchester, UK.
Compared to Silanyo’s credentials, Mr. Kahin hails from one of the non-Isaq clans in Somaliland, the Gadbursis. He also comes from humble beginnings. After he graduated from Amoud High School, he joined the Somali Army and later became a member of National Security Services (NSS) as an officer. These two mere factors (being a member of a larger tribe and better educated), Silanyo never for-gave himself and his people (Isaqis) for losing election to Dahir Riyale Kahin. Even though the margin of Mr. Kahin’s win was small and the international election observers declared the election peaceful, free and fair and conformed to the international standards; Mr. Silanyo and his supporters still claimed that the election was a fraud and accused Mr. Kahin of vote rigging; and publicly contested the outcome. The 2003 election gridlock, has almost ignited civil war if the wise Somaliland elders had not interfered and convince Mr. Silanyo to give up his claim to have won the election.
Since Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud (Silanyo) lost the election to Mr. Dahir Riyale Kahin, instead of focusing in his popularity to advance Somaliland’s cause in the international arena, he was in campaign mode for the next seven years (2003-2010) to retake the presidential throne he believed Dahir Riyale Kahin stole from him. During the year-long election campaign, as an aging man, he was extremely exhausted and had difficult in dealing with political pressures from many interest groups, mainly his supporters and different clans who were all fighting to gain advantages if Mr. Silanyo should win.
After Mr. Silanyo was finally elected, instead of following through on his election campaign promises for good governance and rule of law, he succumbed to the nasty clan politics and unholy alliances of special interest groups. One of his election promises was to assemble a small but good quality cabinet. On the contrary, his cabinet selections were poor choices and few of the selected cabinet members had any qualifications, or ever held a public office. It was a total shock to those who fought hard to place Mr. Silayo in Somaliland’s presidential palace.
The most embarrassing political appointments occurred in the Somaliland foreign ministry. More than six months after the president won the election, he was overwhelmed with local power distribution and his office failed to contact any of the Somaliland overseas representatives (ambassadors). Since all those individuals were appointed by the former president Dahir Riyale Kahin, perhaps he had no intention in dealing with them. The most awkward appointment was replacing Somaliland ambassador to Ethiopia, Mohamed Sh. Hasan Nuriya; a senior career diplomat with 40 years experience, with youth freshly graduated from Hargeisa University. The appointment went poorly with the Ethiopian Foreign Ministery and the young man’s appointment was rejected. Instead of thinking through and putting Somaliland interest first; he again faltered and appointed a retired BBC reporter who had no any diplomatic experience whatever.
A few months after President Silanyo came to power, Boqor Osman Buur-madow, an outspoken Somali elder also in Mr. Silanyo’s clan declared him a failed leader and unfit to lead Somaliland. Boqor Osman further alleged that President Silanyo was suffering from Alzheimer disease which impaired his cognitive state of mind and was incapable to govern. He further suggested the president should step down for the benefit of the nation and welfare of the people. When Boqor Osman made these accusations, he was in Abu Dhabi, The United Arab Emirates, for if he had been in Somaliland, there was no question he would have been thrown in jail.
Boqor Osman was known for his boldness and charismatic rhetoric, but his accusations of President Silanyo came too early; a time most Somalilanders were in a state of excitement and enthusiastic for the future. They believed their newly elected president, as the savior of Somaliland, and the country’s leadership finally felt in the hands of Isaq’s majority. Soon after the Boqor Osman’s powerful damning accusations hit the airwaves and Somali blogospheres, the Silanyo hardcore supporters and his Habar Jeclo clan members started hurling mud and insults toward Boqor Osman. Unfortunately, not many Somalilanders recognized the looming danger and colossal damage facing Somaliland, and the vilification of Boqor Osman continued for several months till most Somalilanders realized that they made the wrong choice.
The difference in Silanyo’s government ministers and those of former President Riyale’s administration were marginal, and soon what Boqor Osman Buur-madow accused Mr. Silanyo of concerning his questionable mental state and lack of ability to govern. In a matter of a few months, the cracks in Silanyo’s administration were manifested in every level of government. The best kept secret of Africa soon became a briar state.
At the end of 2003, Professor Iqbal Jhazbhay of University of South Africa wrote an assay called “SOMALILAND: Africa’s best kept secret, A challenge to the international community?” This essay was followed by another article called “Somaliland: Africa’s Best Kept Secret” written by Michael Torome at the end of 2007. Both these two well-written articles highlighted the immeasurable accomplishments particularly the safety and the security Somaliland achieved during the Riyale administration.
Even though the Riyale administration was far from perfect and marred by chronic corruption, lack of vision and economic stagnation, his administration implemented the democratic process that Somaliland people desired apart from Africa’s traditional dictatorial political systems.
The people of Somaliland gave Mr. Silanyo a chance to lead; even though his leadership and managerial skills record during his SNM (Somali National Movement) chairmanship proved disappointing. The promise to lead people of Somaliland to a better place was enthusiastically accepted by the majority. Unfortunately, Mr. Silanyo failed Somaliland and the colossal damage he caused is festering for years to come.
In March 29th, 2008 speech, The Chairman of KULMIYE Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Silanyo) addressed many issues affecting Somaliland (http://www.radiosomaliland.com/index.php?itemid=587). In his opening remarks, Mr. Silanyo’s speech highlighted that the “country’s freedom of expression is chocked and confronted with stiff jail sentences and he promised that freedom of expression would be restored if his party won the election.” The chairman of the Kulmiye Party also claimed that the “present government’s wall of secrecy created cynicism and distrust in the society,” and promised people of Somaliland a transparent government that will be accountable for its actions. Mr. Silanyo also accused Mr. Riyale’s administration of “bending the judiciary system to its whim,” and promised Somalilanders “an honest judiciary system that would observe due process.”
In his own words, Mr. Silanyo accused Riyale’s government of paralyzing the parliament by unilateral decisions and ignoring any reminders of constitutional violations. He promised to respect and work with all government institutions for the common good of citizens and to preserve the dignity of the country. He further claimed that the Riyale administration trampled on the constitution, and he (Silanyo) promised to uphold the constitution and guard constitutional rights. In his speech, Mr. Silanyo further so declared that the Riyale administration suffocated the media by making it illegal to open any private radio stations, and in contrast, he promised a free media for the country.
The negative election campaign containing a barrage of accusations levelled against Riyale and his administration were beyond measure and eventually caused him to lose his presidential seat. However, the infinite empty promises that Mr. Silanyo made during his seven years long election campaign, showed the irreparable cracks in his administration.
In his 2008 political speech, Mr. Silanyo concluded that the president of Somaliland was an arrogant man, who refused to speak to the citizens of his country “either to boost their confidence or alleviate any anxiety.” In contrast, he promised that he “wilfully submitted himself openly and humbly to his people.”
Today, “Africa’s best kept secret” is at the cross roads. None of the promises President Silanyo made have been implemented. He had not even been in power for six months when he jailed a respected elder and community leader Boqor Raabi Yuusuf Cabdilaahi. After Boqor Osman Buurmadow criticized him and called for his resignation, Mr. Silanyo dispatched his spy chief, Mohamud Muse Nur (a.k.a Guuto-liqe) to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to convince the Kingdom to arrest Boqor Osman. The administration was successful and Boqor Osman was jailed in the UAE for almost two months but eventually was released when Amnesty International intervened and the UAE government failed to find any proof of what Boqor Osman was accused of.
Since Mr. Silanyo came to power, arbitrary arrest of citizens grew three-fold. Most of these arrests took place in major cities such as Borama, Berbera, Hargeisa, Burao, Las Anod and Gebiley. The judicial system he accused Riyale’s government of abusing took a worse turn when he took office and the constitution he promised to uphold, protect and defend, just became a matter of convenience.
The freedom of expression and free press Mr. Silanyo promised is a thing of the past. He forbade any private radio stations, suffocated the private media and jailed those who criticized the government. He jailed the highest number of journalists in one day in Somaliland history. On January 15, 2012, he jailed more that 20 journalists mostly working for Horn Cable TV, and on February 20th, another two journalists working for Ogaal and Ramaas News were detained as well.
On March 10th, 2012, three senior government officials were detained and accused of corruption. These officials were Mr. Ahmed Omar H Abdilahi “Hamarje” the Maroodi Jeeh-Hargeisa regional governor, Ahmed Elmi Bile Director General at the ministry of resettlement and Osman Saeed Jama a senior advisor to the Vice President. Several days later after these official were detained; Boqor Osman arrived in Hargeisa and was arrested at Egal International Airport. None of these detainees could afford to defend themselves in a court of law. The man who promised an “honest judiciary system that will observe due process,” was bending the judiciary system to his whim.
During his seven years of long election campaigns, Mr. Silanyo promised to seek lasting solutions in the peripheral regions of Awdal, Sool and Sanag. He pledged to work with the leaders of these regions and create an environment conducive to peace and harmony. Unfortunately, since Mr. Silanyo came to power, fragile peace and stability in the peripheral regions was lost. Not only did he fail to deliver his promises of lasting peace, his incursions and militaristic adventures of Kalshale, Buhodle were an immeasurable mistake and revealed to be unwise. Mr. Silanyo shed unnecessary blood, and the peace and the social harmony he promised was a campaign gimmick.
It is also worth mentioning the many leadership failures of President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud (Silanyo), particularly, the recent cold-blooded murder of three innocent Somaliland citizens, which took place near Baki township (Seemaal) in the Awdal Region. The murderers of these innocent men are walking around free with blood on their hands and the government has failed to bring these criminals to court. There are many similar incidents for which the government was unable to find a solution, and the grievances of these communities are enormous and incalculable.
Today, Somaliland is a wounded nation; its society polarized by conflict, poverty, uncertainty and hopelessness. For those jubilant crowds who flocked to the polling stations on June 26, 2010 and idolized Mr. Silanyo as the savior of Somaliland, they are now having difficulty in reconciling what went wrong, licking their wounds now in dismay.
To conclude all these political failures, many Somalilanders still believe that President Silanyo is a decent man; and never has been guilty of corruption, nepotism or personal gain. However, his ability to govern skilfully proved disastrous in the short term he was in office. He surrounded himself with former Kulmiye Party supporters of which their most significant qualification was their loyalty to him. Apart from their ignorance and lack of managerial skills, some of the cabinet members, particularly those close to the president behave like juvenile delinquents, and the damage and they have caused Somaliland is incalculable for years to come.
Event though the future seems bleak, history has proven time and again that the people of Somaliland are resilient with a capacity and courage that can overcome this fiasco created by an inept administration. As the great Martin Luther King, Jr once said ‘the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moment of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ While we are disappointed with the current administration, we must look to the future and encourage our people to be hopeful and work toward the common good.
Farah Mohamoud - Washington, DC
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Dillapress.com editorial policy.