Hargeisa (Comment ) — In Hargeisa, the mood is somber among supporters of President Muse Bihi Abdi, who was a Somali Air Forces colonel before defecting to join the Somali National Movement forces four decades ago. A former senior adviser of Bihi’s predecessor confided in me that “his designs to renew the Somaliland political system through presidential elections following the same old pattern has failed. His political future is in question.”
Bihi controls the electoral commission and the supreme court, two bodies that determine election outcomes in Somaliland. Bihi fielded Haglatosiye, Ataash, and Professor Ahmed Samatar, among wannabe political leaders, to sell the idea that he “is ending the mono-clan monopoly on political parties”. His goal is to relegate Waddani or UCID or both after elections to contest for retaining or gaining a party status comes to an end. This plan has had no chance in Laascaanood once controlled by Somaliland through a motley of local militias known as caaglayaal (plastic bottle carriers) commanded by Mahad Ambashe, who, until his escape from Guulwadayaal barracks on the outskirts of Laascaanood last week, was holed up in a residence in the west part of the district.
If the electoral plan of Bihi had ever come to fruition it would not change the deep structure of the system that the statesman Ismail Hurreh Buuba, the former Somalia Foreign Minister, called “a system rigged against certain clans.”
The International Community supports Somaliland institutions on the understanding that, although Somaliland is seeking to secede from Somalia, Hargeisa will honor its obligations to respect the rights of Somali citizens. It violated this basic obligation in 2021 when it forcibly displaced 1600 Somali citizens in Laascaanood. Donor countries fund Somaliland security forces currently involved in shelling Laascaanod and kidnapping citizens in Sool villages still under the control of Somaliland forces. The state-building initiative in Somalia exemplified by the decision to rule Somalia under the Chapter 7 article of the United Nations is getting discredited by the impunity shown by Somaliland leaders.
The Somaliland President has plenty of time to return from the brink of a civil war. The government President Bihi heads has damaged mutual trust when he labeled his compatriot’s terrorists. Laascaanod has a federal representation under Puntland, a Federal Member State that in principle supports the 6/2/2023 declaration issued by Laascannod Elders and Committee, and backs an autonomous authority for people living in disputed territories. The International Community allowed disputed territories’ designation to last longer unwittingly for the benefit of the Somaliland administration whose leaders accept in private that they are not a republic to secure direct aid but apply aggressive secession policies of which the Laascaanood conflict is a glaring example. Donors should not unintentionally be funding civil war in Northern Somalia. Clarity could save lives and avert a large-scale civil war in the North. President Muse Bihi Abdi is a threat to the peaceful co-existence of Somali northerners.