The government’s new communication strategy deserves praise even if it brings to the fore inequities embedded in the centralism Hargeysa champions
Innovations the incumbent Somaliland government introduced when President Muuse Bihi assumed power last year put government efforts in good light. The new administration has added ‘development’ to the name of some ministries. The Ministry of Finance has become Ministry of Financial Development; Ministry of Water boasts an upgraded name: Ministry of Water Development. The second innovation lays the emphasis on government communication with people. The Ministry of National Planning granted Somaliland journalists in Hargeysa an audience with the Minister, Mr Awale Ibrahim Shirwa. The Minister explained how the government is distributing meagre resources donors contribute to the Somaliland Development Fund. The Somaliland government funds projects based on centrally identified priorities. Although Somaliland leaders remember how centralism reduced the North to an economic backwater, they cling to a system of government that prizes inequitable distribution of development aid. Awale said the government invested 24% of Somaliland Development Fund budget in “Eastern regions”.
Data from 2015-2016 SDF allocations for Somaliland regions indicates that Eastern regions received 35% of total investment of US$ 62 million, if one counts Togdheer as an Eastern region. Sool and Sanaag the two of the regions that make up Eastern regions known as Disputed Territories had benefited from 26% of SDF budget . Those two regions evenly received 10% of SDF funding between 2013 and 2014. Disputed territories designation prevents Somaliland government from implementing infrastructure projects in those territories particularly in areas where its forces are in stand-off with Puntland forces.
Failure to demobilise Sool militias remains a stumbling-block to initiatives to make the area accessible to aid workers and implement Khatumo-Somaliland agreement. The former Somaliland Representative in Ethiopia, Adam Muuse Jibriil, argues demobilisation of militias is what distinguishes Somaliland from Somalia. If militias paid in the name of Somaliland Army call shots in the Disputed Territories, Somaliland government will retain its centrally identified and implemented development priorities mired in semantic ambiguities. The government does not use disputed territories designation although it is a party to the situation that has given rise to it. . This silence informs the low priority the government gives Sool and Sanaag. It’s high time Somalilanders urged their leaders to adopt a decentralised system of government. In 2015 Waddani MP, Saeed Warsame, criticised the Somaliland Government for not implementing a local government bill passed by the House of Representatives to release 2% subsidy for Sool to offset the impact of conflict-induced underdevelopment. The government’s new communication strategy deserves praise even if it spotlights inequities embedded in the centralism Hargeysa champions.
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