Hargeisa — Opposition leader Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud "Siilanyo" of the Peace, Unity and Development Party (Kulmiye), has been elected president of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, after he won just under 50 percent of votes cast on 26 June, in the first democratic handover in the Horn of Africa. He will be inaugurated next month.
Initially a senior minister in former Somalia President Siyad Barre's government in the 1980s, Mohamoud quit to join the then armed opposition Somali National Movement (SNM), eventually becoming its leader. After Somaliland's declaration of independence in 1991, Mohamoud held various senior ministerial positions until 2001 when he resigned from the government of the late President Muhammad Ibrahim Egal.
Mohamoud formed Kulmiye in 2002 and contested the 2003 presidential elections but lost by only 80 votes to Dahir Riyale Kalin, who won around 33 percent of the last ballot.
He spoke to IRIN a few days before the election, when he said he was "very optimistic" of victory.
What is your priority should you win?
Well, in our programme, there are a large number of issues we need to handle but I would say, first of all, we would put together a lean government with limited ministerial posts, which will also be very effective, I hope. Secondly, I will abolish emergency laws, which are unconstitutional and which have sent so many people to prison. I will release all prisoners not sentenced by a court of law, except those accused of terrorism and theft.
[According to a July 2009 report by Human Rights Watch, a key component of the criminal justice system consists of unconstitutional "security committees [which] sentence and imprison Somalilanders, including people accused of common crimes and juveniles, without any pretence of due process. They regularly sentence defendants en masse on the basis of little or no evidence after truncated hearings in which the accused are given no right to speak."]
My cabinet will be much smaller than the current one. We will also make sure that the judiciary is independent. We will also deal with the problems in Sool and Sanag East [disputed territory regions] to create peace and stability. We also aim to boost our relations with neighbouring countries to strengthen the fight against terrorism and piracy.
A campaign poster for Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Siilanyo), the newly elected President of Somaliland
What are you going to do about corruption in Somaliland?
A: That is one of our highest priorities; it is one of the main problems in this country. We will fight corruption and will deal with corrupt people and show them no mercy whatsoever. We will reform the judicial system and will introduce measures to punish corrupt people in an appropriate manner. We will set up an anti-corruption commission.
Somalia has been in crisis for more than two decades now. Do you have any ideas or suggestions how this crisis could be resolved?
Well, in terms of Somalia, first of all, we wish our brothers [in south-central Somalia] every success in achieving peace and stability because that affects us as well. We are saddened by what is happening to the people of Somalia. We have thousands of refugees here. We are going to give full support to the position of the international community to bring peace back to Somalia. We are going to support the position taken by the UN and other international organizations to restore stability and peace to Somalia. We are going to be part of the world and we are going to play a very [key] role, I hope. We will definitely study which way we can help directly, without comprising our independence.
There are thousands of people from south-central Somalia, displaced by the conflict there, who have sought refuge in Somaliland. Should you win, do you have a programme for them?
These people, who are refugees from Somalia [and] whom the international community regards as internally displaced, have been warmly welcomed here. They are our brothers and sisters. There is a very large number of people from Somalia in Somaliland at present and many of them are not in camps. They are with us; they are part of the population and they will continue to be our guests and we will ask the international community to do whatever they can for them. Also, we are going to ensure their safety. Their presence will be one of the major issues we will deal with, Inshallah [God-willing].
The number of youth leaving Somaliland to seek opportunities elsewhere, often undertaking dangerous boat journeys, is increasing. Would your government have a specific programme for them?
It is a major problem facing the country... In our programme we have very clearly stated that we are going to create all the incentives possible to discourage young people from throwing themselves in the sea and going abroad. We are going to create a normal life for them in their own country, by creating jobs for them, facilitate education for them and encourage them to stay in the country and believe in their own country and its stability. We will encourage investment in the country to create more employment and also create confidence in the country and its youth.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]