Galkayo, Somalia Nov 6, 2012 — The information minister in Somalia's Puntland government has accused former Somali Prime Minister Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas of 'inciting instability' in the peaceful region in northern Somalia, Garowe Online reports.
Puntland Information Minister Mohamud Aideed Dirir told the BBC Somali Service during a Tuesday interview that Dr. Gaas fully supported the Puntland democratization process during his one-year term as Somali Prime Minister.
Puntland Information Minister Mohamud Aideed Dirir
"Dr. Abdiweli [Gaas] sent a TFG [Transitional Federal Government] delegation to Garowe to attend the Puntland Constitutional Conference in April 2012 and that delegation was led by TFG Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce [Abdiwahab Ugas Khalif]," said Puntland's information minister.
Minister Dirir rejected allegations made against the Puntland government highlighted in a press statement issued on Tuesday in Puntland's second largest city of Galkayo by Dr. Gaas, who is now an MP in the Somali Federal Parliament in Mogadishu.
Instead, Minister Dirir levied a barrage of counter-allegations against Dr. Gaas regarding events during the latter's term in office as Somali Prime Minister, stating that the former Somali Prime Minister's press statement aims to "incite instability" in Puntland by aiming to mislead public opinion about the political situation in Puntland.
"Dr. Abdiweli [Gaas] is responsible for blocking international assistance and donations to Puntland, including direct assistance for completion of airports in Bossaso, Garowe, and Galkayo from the Kuwait Government," said Minister Dirir.
Continuing, he said: "Dr. Abdiweli is also responsible for mismanagement of Turkish scholarships that Puntland did not receive its share and even today Puntland students are still stranded in Mogadishu."
Minister Dirir accused the former Somali Prime Minister's government of working to cancel recognition of Puntland Ministry of Education certificates that Puntland students use to get into higher education institutions in Sudan.
Dr. Gaas responds to Puntland allegations
Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas, MP of Somali Federal Parliament and former Somali Prime Minister
MP Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas responded to Puntland Information Minister Mohamud Aideed Dirir's allegations by saying that "statements have to be factual and not hearsay."
Dr. Gaas told the BBC Somali Service in a follow up interview that his press statement in Galkayo was "a collection of commentary from the public in Puntland" and that the "Puntland government should welcome criticism and I expected them [Puntland] to issue such allegations about me."
Dr. Gaas declined to answer whether or not he has political ambitions for the Puntland presidency, but stated that he enjoys good relations with Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole.
"This is not a personal thing between [President] Abdirahman and Abdiweli. I am not against democracy, but the people have told me that they lack the confidence in this administration to complete the democratization tasks, such as census, security, voter registration, and ID cards," said Dr. Gaas, adding that the current Puntland administration has "two months left in office" but failed to elaborate on the constitutional or legal basis for his political argument.
It is unclear what connections Dr. Gaas makes between his version of public opinion and the ongoing progress in democratizing the Puntland political system for the first time in 14 years.
In recent weeks, Somali media has speculated that Dr. Gaas was interesting in running for the Puntland presidency but he has been sending mixed signals during media interviews. The BBC Somali Service interviewer asked Dr. Gaas about media reports that Puntland officials ordered him to leave the port city of Bossaso.
"I wish to decline answering that question at the moment as the answer does not contribute to anything," said Dr. Gaas, adding: "I am currently in my constituency district of Galkayo as a Somali Federal MP."
Puntland democratization process
On April 18, 2012, the Puntland Constitutional Convention adopted the Puntland State Constitution in a referendum vote attended by traditional elders, Islamic scholars, provincial delegates, federal government officials, civil society, the independent media, international community representatives, and a TFG delegation from Mogadishu.
The adopted Puntland Constitution, submitted to the Puntland Parliament on June 2, 2008 prior to the election of President Farole, sets five-year terms for President and Members of Puntland Parliament.
President Farole has expressed his administration's full commitment to lead Puntland towards multiparty elections and on September 11, 2012, the independent Puntland Electoral Commission (PEC) approved legal registration of political parties in Puntland for the first time since 1998.
PEC officials say political associations will compete for seats in 2013 local elections across Puntland districts and the top three political associations shall be declared as Puntland's official three political parties that will compete in elections for seats in the Puntland parliament and the presidency.
Also on Tuesday, President Farole received a delegation from the Democratization Steering Committee (DSC) in Garowe in discussions over the democratization process. The DSC consists of seven countries in Europe and the U.S. that provide support to the ongoing democratization process in Puntland.