Continuity or Aggressive Reform: First 100 Days of President Muse Bihi Abdi (By M. A. Ali)

  1. The Establishment of Democracy

Somaliland had inherited societal structure which had survived through the colonial era and into the independence period, this culture remained intact during and after the war between Somali National Movement (SNM) and Siad Barre’s regime. Since 1991, when Somaliland declared independence from the rest of Somalia, the country went through different stages of transformation, starting from grassroot tribal reconciliation, disarmament of clan militia groups, peacebuilding and laying the foundation of systematic procedure of shifting from traditional Charter to hybrid system of democratic state, where citizens elect government officials with a ballot paper.

In May 1993, President Egal was elected to replace President Abdirahman Tuur, the last SNM chairman and the founding President of Somaliland during the Borama Grand Conference, President Egal brought a new momentum of state-building with a clear and precise blueprint. His priority was militia disarmament and seizing the control of the main government sources of revenue, including the major ports, airports and border customs which were at the time controlled by various clan militias. Subsequently, President Egal started the democratization cornerstone and succeeded to draft the first Constitution, which was endorsed by the people of Somaliland in a countrywide referendum on 31st May 2001.

As a result, the country shifted from the clan representation charter to fully democratic constitution with multiparty system. Despite the limited means of communication of that time, Mr. Egal’s unique rhetoric in public speeches engaged people about the ongoing reforms and the philosophy of his regime, which made him widely popular. This robust direct form of communication with the people helped his government survive in the midst of harsh political turbulences.

After Egal’s death in South Africa on May 3rd, 2002, his successor President Dahir Rayale Kahin maintained the mission of holding free and fair elections according to the constitution endorsed by majority of Somaliland people. These milestones were well received by the vast majority of communities in urban regions, as well as the traditional elders who were engaged in the process from the beginning. Eventually President Dahir Rayale Kahin achieved cementing the democratization process, as he held numerous elections, (Local Council elections in 2002, Parliamentary elections in 2005, and Presidential election in 2010) and ultimately peaceful transfer of power to an elected opposition leader.

In July 2010, Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Siilaanyo) who was the Chairman of SNM between 1984-1990, become the 4thPresident since Somaliland re-claimed independence from Somalia in 1991. Silaanyo defeated the incumbent President and his ruling party in landslide election results that paved a trajectory that connects the historical freedom fighting and the aftermath state building and democratization processes in Somaliland.

During his term, among his many achievements, President Silaanyo succeeded in increasing the annual budget by close to 300% where the government tax collection skyrocketed in the period spanning 2014-2017. His administration also started major development projects including the Dila – Borama Road, and the Burao – Erigavo Road, while attracting donor countries to pool funds (SDF3 ) for development interventions across the country. Despite the economic growth and reforms he accomplished during his term, his administration was marked as the most corrupted in the history of Somaliland.

Due to prolonged droughts and unjustified political tactics President Silaanyo’s administration delayed the election for almost two and half years after his term had ended. On the 13th of November 2017 the people of Somaliland elected the 5th President, H.E. Musa Bihi Abdi in organized and peaceful elections. This election process gained the praise of the majority of the European Union member states and the US government for showing maturity and coordination, and were seen as holding an example worth following…

Read here full article by M. A. Ali, University of Hargeisa, LLB and MA in International Relations and Diplomacy.