Somaliland politics and party campaigning has taken an alarming turn to the worse these past few weeks.
For the first time in the history of the fledgling, internationally yet-to-be-recognized republic of Somaliland and its nascent democracy, national political parties are openly exhorting masses to support them based on where they are, who they are talking to and the demands of the moment.
As Somali societies are generally aligned to respective clan allegiances, a certain douse of magnanimity and tolerance can be used to accept some of the words used, especially when the orators, themselves, hail from different clans and geographical locations.
What is not acceptable – and totally alien to the scene – is a combination of two seemingly disassociated strategies that, together, project a very disturbing image of the upcoming presidential elections and how contending parties are either ready or not ready to accept ballot results.
One of the two stronger parties -Waddani – seems to have perfected a plan where, on the one hand, its leader exclusively uses his clan masses, youth, women, traditional and political leaders and businessmen to reach out to other clans speaking on clan terms, projecting the national party as the sole property of their clan. A large delegation, among which were Boqor Raabbi, Ambassador Hotel owner, Khadar, Kaah businesses owner, Osman Kahin, Ex-minister Duur, Ex-minister Saed Sulub, and two dozen more, all belonging to one sub-phylum of a major Somaliland clan, traveled to Borama, Awdal, recently, where they stayed for weeks to meet with traditional leaders, business people and other prominent members of the dominant clan in the region.
They especially targeted Ex-President Rayale and Sultan Wabar’s sub-clan. Their pitch was that their clan was going to the polls to be elected to the presidency as opposed to one Abdirahman M Abdullahi “Irro’ – the Waddani party flagbearer: two totally contradicting phenomena.
During the meetings, it has been leaked out, that some of the speakers fired veiled threats in which they made it clear that their clan was going to violently contest the results if Waddani did not win, thus trying to blackmail others to submission on fear of proxy wars. Some of them quoted the profits they made and how they were ready to sacrifice them in order to take the top Somaliland seat one way or the other. Others recalled how other clans opposed them in 1993-1995 at the point of the gun, Awdal clans included, when the first President of Somaliland went over to Mogadishu, Somalia, calling his clan to reject the Somaliland sovereignty cause since he was not re-elected to a second term.
Other major business firms, including one of the leading telecom companies, are said to be openly involved in this clan-laced thrust believing that their interests were better served by a Waddani ticket -regardless of the colors it is publicly revealing of itself presently.
By taking this step, they exposed Waddani as a ‘clan’ party as opposed to a ‘national’ party and that Mr. Irro was using other so-called politicians from other Somaliland clans as an expendable stepping stone to be cast aside once Waddani and its clan attained own goals.
A parallel strategy, on the other hand, which Mr. Irro exploited is to send members of his party who all belonged to the presidential candidate of the ruling party, and the incumbent president’s brainchild, to Burao, to woo President Siilanyo’s clan to abandon the party’s flagbearer, who belonged to their clan, too. Their argument was that as politicians who hailed from Muse Behi’s support base (clan), they rejected him as a viable option – that he did not deserve their support anymore. They, too, especially, Abib Tima’ad, gunned ill-veiled threats at the meetings they held with East-of-Burao elders pointing out that ‘high-rise’ buildings will be ‘no more’ if Waddani did not win the elections.
The government of Somaliland was quick to point out that elections were going to be held and decided peacefully, and not as Abib predicted.
What is very clear, however, in both strategies being put, simultaneously, to practice in the field is a predictable head-on clash in the offing. It is also very obvious that the two are irreconcilable as they are divisive, ominous preachers of doom for democracy in Somaliland.
Other rumors are also surfacing which indicate that duplicate ballot papers are being processed by Mogadishu to be strewn on the streets in major Somaliland cities to discredit results if Waddani did not emerge the winner. Somalia has been oft accused of providing tacit support to Waddani seeing it as an ally for its federalism quest.
It remains to be seen how the international community would react to Waddani’s self-destruct course, its hijack of democratic precepts by its clan standards and the unconcealed threats to peace and stability in Somaliland and the region, in general.
By Daud Al Husseini