by Abdifatah Ismail
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Dr Mohamed Omar’s recent analysis of the upcoming elections in Somaliland and his prediction that Kulmiye will win it by a landslide victory lacks the grounding necessary for making such prophecies. Three main reasons can be cited for this.
Firstly, Dr Omar seems to model his calculation on the advanced European democracies where political parties play the games of numbers to gain support from the electorate, assuming that the same would apply in Somaliland. But experience teaches us that, in Somaliland, factors other than political programs define the destination of the ballot papers. Political parties in Hargeisa play the despicable clan cards to elicit votes from the public and Kulmiye runs at the forefront of such maneuvers. During the last presidential elections, Silanyo was publicly campaigning for his presidential bid with clan rooted impetus. UDUB too was not far behind. Surprising enough is that none of these mismatches come forth in Dr Omar’s analysis and this cannot be interpreted in any other way other than that he desires and imagines a different Somaliland where issues matter rather than clan kinships, a practice I would have also liked to prevail but in vein. Secondly, Dr Omar presents Kulmiye as a rapidly growing opposition party destined for winning the next election however this is highly questionable as parties can make gains only if their leaders are good enough to rally the nation behind them and this is not the case for Kulmiye. Apart from very few individuals, the top brass of the party lack not only the vision of what it takes to transform a nation but also the integrity to do that. The clique of colonels, in whose hand the party is presently lynched, were the same leaders who were beating the drums of war in Hargeisa and Buroa in the 1990s and many of their infamous actions are vividly fresh in the minds of the vast majority of the electorate. Silanyo’s leadership weakness is also another call for concern and the fact that a kitchen cabinet consisting of former SNM combatants hijacked his party’s decision making processes is indicative of this weakness. It is a public knowledge that non SNM members of the party are consistently and systematically sidelined. Contrary to the representation of Kulmiye as a party that has a uniquely different political agenda, evidences at hand point to the absence of any sign showing that Kulmiye is any different from the other political parties in the country. In the previous elections, Kulmiye’s political campaigns were centered on the struggle history of SNM, which was a broad based popular movement comprising of not only a faction of military colonels but rather a whole nation. Neither the colonels nor their civilian counterparts were more SNM than the women and children who parted their UN/NGO’s provided ration with those in the frontline. Hence a popular uprising of that nature, in which almost every one was part, cannot be used for narrow political ends. And thirdly, and most distractedly, Dr Omar suggests that Kulmiye should rally behind Silanyo and the only rationale given by him is that “voters are usually moved by leaders with whom they feel an emotional resonance”. But the million dollar question is whether “emotional resonance” is good enough to lead one to victory. Equally dubious is whether Silanyo really symbolizes such resonance better than the rest of his comrades in the struggle, including those in whose term of office Siad Barre was ousted. The fact of the matter is that emotional attachment to SNM memories is much less than required by the voters in Somaliland. Evidences on the ground confirm that the electorate wants reforms at political parties’ level and Kulmiye needs to respond to this public demand. Moreover, if Kulmiye is to win the upcoming presidential elections, the party has to be thoroughly reformed and the SNM colonels who proved themselves to be not any better than the likes of Sudi Yalahow of Mogadsihu and the Shatigudud of Baidoa will have to be contained in their retirement homes. Dr Omar’s contention that the party should line behind Silanyo is challenged by Kulmiye’s new breed of politicians who recognized that the party cannot continue on the same trend. One of these leaders is Dr Ahmed Hussein Isse, a senior Kulmiye politician who recently announced his candidature for the party’s presidential ticket. Reliable sources confirm that he is a forward looking individual who has what it takes to be a great leader. It is people like him and you (Dr Omar) that Somaliland needs and not a punch of retired military officers. After all why should the people elect retired former army officers over the incumbent former NSS officers? During the past parliamentary elections, I, and others, have raised the issue of transforming our political parties, suggesting that the present party chairs to resign and pave way for new faces that can put up a challenge against UDUB and its corrupt government. Our argument is still valid and if opposition parties do not rise to the occasion, the incumbent will have had to stay in power since people will have no alternative other than keeping him on the seat, rejecting old guard octogenarians with cold war mentalities. In line with our great poet, Mohamed Hashi Dhamac (Gaariye) who said “Midho daray haddaan beri duuduub ku liqi jirey doorkan waxaan hubsanayaa, dirxi inuu ku hoos jiro”, the people of Somaliland are ought to be very mindful of who their next leaders should be.
Abdifatah Ismail Cape Town, RSA