In Puntland, it is difficult to realize development and stability without working and productive plans by persons in positions of authority, henceforth is Puntland ready for real governance? Is President Gaas firmly in charge? And is the new government delivering on its promises at the height of the region's tightly contested presidential elections?-In the week's focus, Garowe Online takes a closer look at how people of Puntland have expressed displeasure over President who has been in office just for over six months.
Puntland is preparing to celebrate 16 years of statehood but far-daunting task looms for government that has inherited state in festive period on 8th of January 2014 when former President Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed Farole demonstrated statesmanship by at the same time proving Puntland's democratic credentials, an exemplary move that must be emulated by the rest of incoming Somali leaders.
President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas-the former premier who headed transitional government which was hemmed into pockets and economist by profession-narrowly came to power, unseating Farole. The outcome of the election was immediately hailed as a step on the long road ahead by international observers including representatives from EU, AU, IGAD and the US.
Meanwhile Somalis saluted former President Farole who gracefully accepted defeat while failed politicians and diasporans in quagmire, largely in Qardo and Galkayo voiced support for Abdiweli Gaas.
Growing Public Frustration
At public places such as teashops, dissidents of former administration say "had Farole won the election, prevailing matters with economic hardship at the forefront would have been faded," nevertheless Farole waved goodbye to Puntland people by addressing them on the scale of challenges ahead with the new leader, Gaas present at Puntland State House where even Farole's vocal opponent and ex-president Gen. Mohamud Musse Hirsi (Adde Musse) said something very special of success achieved by his successor.
Adde Musse played a pivotal role in sabotaging Puntland's first-ever democratic elections in July 2013 after his armed clan militias set equipments meant for polling stations to fire in Qardo.
Hundreds took to the social networking sides, with mainstream citizens hailing from Puntland protesting against government's mishandling of economy, security and purported reconciliation process.
Unless underlying issue of unpaid salaries is addressed, Puntland's founding day on 1st of August will not sound well, posted ordinary residents on their walls.
Army stages mutiny as Al Shabaab hones operation
On 5th of July, Puntland troops went on strike over salary in military base in the outskirts of the state capital of Garowe where Presidency, parliament and ministries complex maintain presence to carry out day-to-day activities, making the first outrage to be reported in years.
Angry soldiers set fire on tyres and chanted for their right to show off their frustration with President Gaas' government which campaigned on platform of prosperous Puntland.
Worse even, Al Shabaab militants honed attacks on military targets in Bari region, with broad day light operation leading to the death of the commander of Puntland Defence Force (PDF) division operating in Galgala area late Col. Jama Afagudud on March 17.
Puntland government was not quick to send condolence to bereaved families and members of the public on the loss of man, widely regarded as patriot. The killing of Jama Afgudud became a testament to the extent of Al Shabaab threat and the only way forward for the government to deter terrorism.
By now, well known Islamic scholars do not pray in mosques in the port city of Bossaso and Garowe without armed security unit, exposing domestic threats and how the government is dramatically failing to firmly direct security apparatus, needless to say Puntland People acknowledge security lapse and severe frailty.
Puntland versus Somaliland
"Somaliland is creating conflict in the region. Somaliland cannot give land to foreign companies to explore oil when the land does not belong to Somaliland," said the then President Farole during a keynote address at Puntland State House on August 1, 2013 when Puntland celebrated its 15th anniversary.
Somaliland has been perpetrating extreme incursion into the disputed regions of Sool and Sanaag. On April 15, heavily armed Somaliland soldiers in fighting vehicles poured into Sool region town of Taleh, 90km northwest of Garowe following brief gun battle with Khaatumo militia, prompting condemnation from Puntland's Minister for Information Abdiweli Hirsi Abdulle (Indho Guran).
"Puntland Government strongly condemns the apparent violation by Somaliland administration and warns Siilaanyo [Somaliland President] administration against the grim outcome of this provocation," said Indho Guran.
On April 16, Somaliland forces withdrew from historic town of Taleh after international pressure mounted on the separatist administration over military maneuver that flushed local militiamen out of the town.
On April 25, Somaliland troops took control of Holhol village in Sool, with units within the forces seizing strategic oil-rich targets.
UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea warned in 2013 confidential report that Western commercial oil exploration may spark new conflict in Somalia: "These inconsistencies, unless resolved, may lead to increased political conflict between federal and regional governments that risk exacerbating clan divisions and therefore threaten peace and security," the UN report noted.
In a piece published in Wall Street Journal in late May , UN monitors unveiled that Somaliland is planning the formation of oil-field protection unit, a trend exposing international concern on arms embargo and the proliferation of private companies in Sool region.
In a bold response to Puntland Government's trivial policy towards Sool, Sanaag and Ayn, Taleh, the headquarters of the self-declared mini state of Khaatumo came under siege after at least 40 armored vehicles moved in. At the time, khaatumo convention was dismantled and Federal MP as well as Khaatumo founder Ali Khalif Galeyr was granted safe passage out of Taleh.
As of now, locals discuss how barbaric diplomacy and condemnation triggered extreme aggression that was pulled off against residents in dilemma about whether their leaders are ready for self reliance.
Deadlock over the disputed regions of Sool, Sanaag and Ayn is exacerbated by administrative drawbacks emanating from largely inept inner circle with unclear goal.
Is Dam Jadid faction external threat?
Ahead of Puntland Presidential election in January 2014, heavyweight leader and Federalist Farole was adamant about the influence of Mogadishu-based Dam Jadid Faction, a group that engaged in political battle with Farole. Reports of manipulation by Dam Jadid were emerging as some accounts disclosed their keenness in lobbying for soft contender who could have garnered support for a government propped up by over 20,000 strong forces from Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Burundi.
Dam Jadid 'The New Blood' members who co-manage political activities with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud at the heavily fortified compound of Villa Somalia are organized, strong politically and more influential in politics, however Puntland people are in doubt if some secretly made allegiance to them!!!
On December 8, 2013, Garowe Online editorialized regarding Puntland presidential candidates 2014:"... the "fowdo" (chaos) presidential candidates emerged - playing the Dam Jadid Manifesto - and hoping for a Barre Hirale-style move: declare the 2014 election illegitimate, declare "multiple presidents of Puntland", and declare allegiance to Dam Jadid's political sabotage of federalism, undermining of Puntland and Jubaland, and get support to fight against any legitimate authority in Puntland..".
Among presidential contenders was Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas, the current President of Puntland, a man who wrapped up his campaign with public appearance across Puntland and economist who slammed Dr. Farole for ineffectiveness in job:"Economy is in shambles, Puntland should be transcended from the current status to where it deserves," slogans repeatedly written and broadcasted on news sites and channels respectively.
He is familiar with the menace far and away unleashed on Puntland by anti federalism elements in Mogadishu where Puntland government officials regularly pay visits without prior notice. So as to at least keep the menace at bay, your Excellency President Gaas don't turn you back on the people of Puntland.
Members of the public are keen to closely follow President Gaas' policies towards federalization process and Puntland's ties with Dam Jadid faction, given that you alongside your team will be held accountable for political mishaps being undertaken and oncoming steps, if any.
We are indelible when it comes to Dam Jadid faction threats. Minister of Education Ali Haji Warsame more recently accused Mogadishu-based Federal government of imposing blockade on certificates of Puntland Secondary School students.
In Puntland, it is difficult to realize development and stability without working and productive plans by persons in positions of authority, henceforth Puntland President is expected to brace up for challenges ahead and confront both domestic and external threats.