Bossaso — The president of Somalia's Puntland government has celebrated his 4th year in office in a ceremony held at the state house in Bossaso, Puntland's commercial city, Garowe Online reports.
The event began at 4pm local time on Tuesday and continued until 10:30pm in the night. Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole was joined by key government officials at the ceremony, including Deputy Parliament Speaker Salad Hared, Security Minister Khalif Issa Mudan, Finance Minister Farah Ali Jama, Ports Minister Said Mohamed Rage, along with other Cabinet officials, agency directors, police officials and military commanders.
A cross-section of Puntland civil society was also present, consisting of traditional elders (Issimo), religious clergy, academics, businesspeople, Diaspora people, youth and women’s groups, poets and singers, and representatives from registered political associations of Puntland.
The event's speakers included five traditional elders ( Issimo), business leaders, Islamic clergy, women's activists, and government leaders concluding with a speech by President Farole.
All the speakers reinforced support for strengthening peace and security in Puntland, whilst underlining the importance of preserving Puntland's constitution and laws.
Some speakers sent their appreciations for the government's efforts and highlighted suggestions for areas of improvement.
President Farole said the first two years – 2009 and 2010 – the administration spent most effort in reorganizing the security forces, such as the police.
"When we inherited this administration, Puntland's security forces were disorganized, unpaid and large cities like Bossaso were under the threat of terrorist attacks," said President Farole, adding: "We sacrificed our time, efforts and resources to reorganize the security forces, provide salaries and logistical support and to build the morale of our security forces."
Puntland women at Bossaso event (Jan. 8, 2013)
President Farole said that, in 2010, Puntland government forces launched a three-month military offensive on the Galgala Mountains after Al Shabaab extremists hiding out in the mountains attacked Puntland government forces.
"Puntland government forces have the strengthen to defend against Al Shabaab terrorist attacks. Praise be to Allah, today our security is improving and we are moving in the right direction towards democratizing the political system in Puntland," said President Farole.
The Puntland leader said that the government's plan is to continue on the trajectory of democratizing the state towards multiparty elections.
President Farole highlighted the milestones of the ongoing democratization process, mentioning dates when important developments occurred in the democratization process.
"We achieved the adoption of Puntland Constitution on April 18, 2012, by a Constituent Assembly in a transparent manner. We are in office because the constitution permits a five-year term for the president and parliament of Puntland," said President Farole.
Continuing, President Farole said: "We came to power through a transparent vote and we will leave power after elections. We are not a dictatorship. In 2013, there will be Local Elections followed by Parliamentary Elections, and a Presidential Election one year from today, on January 8, 2014."
President Farole welcomed the achievements of the democratization process, while noting that the government "only recognizes registered political associations as legitimate opposition in Puntland."
Speaking about anti-democracy groups in Puntland, President Farole said: "Puntland has an adopted constitution and is transitioning towards multiparty elections. Those who want Puntland to be stuck in the clan system are the same people who appear on interviews on Al Shabaab radio stations."
Earlier this week, Somali media reported that two Puntland politicians, Gen. Abdullahi Said Samatar and Mr. Abdirahman Mohamed Gablah, were interviewed on Al Shabaab radio stations and the audio interview was posted on websites affiliated to Al Shabaab. Gen. Samatar and Mr. Gablah, both of whom have rejected the democratization process in Puntland and refused to registered political associations with the Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission, have denied the media reports as "propaganda".
President Farole said that the government has done its best since 2009 to balance the economy and to use the approved budget. However, he highlighted that in December 2011, the Somali Shilling currency deflated thereby causing price shifts across markets in Somalia.
He explained that in recent months the government has struggled with salary payments, in large part due to this sudden shift in the local economy.
"In some cases, the government was paying an additional 33% on all salary costs, due to the deflation of the Shilling currency. This additional costs burdens our budget," said President Farole, while adding that the government has made plans to fix the economic situation in Puntland.
"A delegation consisting of Puntland government officials and businesspeople will be traveling to Jigjiga city to promote trade and investment between Puntland and Somali Regional State of Ethiopia," said President Farole, who visited Jigjiga in May 2012.
Continuing, President Farole said: "Bossaso International Airport will be completed this year, with contribution from the government, the private sector, and donation from Italian Government. We extend our appreciations to Italy."
On oil issues, the Puntland leader indicated that the oil exploration activities conducted in Dharoor valley of Puntland in 2012 "would continue in 2013 and beyond", saying: "The whole world was surprised that, in a country ridden with conflict, an oil rig is conducting exploration operations. The oil exploration proved again that Puntland government is capable of managing massive operations, that we have our security under control. We say the oil rig will return to Puntland and oil exploration will continue, inshallah."
On media issues, President Farole said that "some media promotes clan agendas at the expense of peace and security", while noting that Puntland was pursuing proper channels of addressing concerns about some media organizations. Puntland government has previously complained about Voice of America (VOA) Somali Section for propagating false news.
The president also noted that the government would soon complete radio station facilities, with shortwave capacity, and a new government website will be inaugurated soon.
President Farole remarked that Puntland "played an instrumental role" in finalizing the Somali Federal Constitution, saying that Puntland government "hosted Somali leaders in Garowe I, Garowe II and Galkayo conferences, with important discussions on the Somali federal constitution."
Puntland's leader sent words of warning to the new leaders of the Somali Federal Government, saying: "We now hear reports that [Somali] President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud wants to make changes to the Federal Constitution. Let us be mindful that some issues are exclusively within the powers of the federated states to decide, such as power distribution, revenue-sharing, and natural resources."
Continuing, President Farole said: "The Federal Government is expected to assist the formation of new federated states. Jubaland people are complaining about interference by the federal government and this must stop so the local people [of Jubaland] can establish their own state without interference."
President Farole said: "Let us not take Somalia backwards. Let us not reignite new political disputes in Somalia. I call upon the Somali Federal Government to respect and adhere to the Federal Constitution, under which federal leaders were elected."
The 4th anniversary celebration event in Bossaso was broadcasted live on Somali satellite televisions Universal TV and Somali Channel, marking the first live satellite TV broadcast from Bossaso in history.
AllAfrica editors' note: Story revised since first publication.