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Puntland is experiencing a crisis of leadership, not an electoral dispute with the Federal Government

Adam Mohamed
Thursday February 11, 2016 

File: Puntland President Abdiwali Mohamed Ali Gaas.

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A member of the diplomatic (international) community recently shared a frustration with me asserting, “We are in disbelief of President Abdiweli Gaas; the guy is indecisive. What is more appalling is his weakness to lead. We are no longer sure whom to consult with on matters pertaining to Puntland. In fact, we have asked him if it was Faroole [Former President] or Ali Haji [opposition leader] because he [Abdiweli] doesn’t exercise this responsibility”. 

Leadership can be defined in so many ways. But, for the purposes of this article, we shall settle on the concept that leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses. In other words, leaders take charge of their sworn responsibilities, admit their failures/shortcomings, and never blame others for their failures.

Ultimately, it all starts with leadership. In this short article, I will underscore why Puntland is experiencing a crisis of leadership, not an internal crisis nor a dispute with Mogadishu over the electoral process.

Over the last two years, we have followed the predicaments Puntland has faced. The first recognized Federal Member State has experienced one misfortune after another threatening its pillars of stability and progress. To note a few; the first-ever bombing in Garowe, the violence/war in Galkayo, mismanagement of public finances, declining morale of the Armed Forces, the domination of Sool region by Somaliland, weak negotiations on the electoral process, and the recent violence/protests in Bossaso. All of these problems have one common denominator— A crisis of leadership.

As John C. Maxwell, the renowned author on leadership would say, Leadership is influence. Indeed, Leadership is influence and puntland has lost that because of poor leadership. The people of Puntland are finding it very difficult to look up to a President who is proving to be incapable to lead and blaming others for his failures.

This phenomenal author also underscores that “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision”. Two years into office, the people of Puntland have not bought into the leadership of President Gaas. In fact, a significant majority mistrusts him and sees him insincere.

The current consultation in Garowe by the International Community is purely a cover-up of the failures of President Abdiweli.

If we assume that the position of President Abdiweli Gaas is that he will not accept the decision of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) on the electoral process for 2016, then isn’t is clear that the President has failed in influencing key stakeholders [to convince them] of alternative options? Instead of admitting his failures in negotiations, President Gaas has opted to confuse his constituents. He knows well that these consultations will not bare fruit for Puntland.

Experiences from the National Consultative process and other events reveal that President Gas indeed fears International partners whatever their rank. Over an over we have also noted that the President is prioritizing his campaign interests for a Federal Government Office over his current duties to Puntland. This fear and the President’s personal interests have become the grounds for countless compromises.

One compromise after another, President Gaas has taken Puntland off the negotiating table. The 4.5 formula humiliations in Kismayo and Mogadishu are just the beginning of a new chapter of these countless compromises. It is no brainer that President Abdiweli will be among the first delegations to confirm for the next Leadership Forum due in Mogadishu or at the High-Level Partnership Forum in Istanbul, Turkey to endorse the implementation plan for the 2016 elections.

Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and the country’s 3rd President (1801–1809) once said “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock”. Puntland needs to stand like a rock but it will need a change of leadership first. Tough times require great leaders. Nothing short of this will put Puntland back on the drivers’ seat of national politics.

Puntland should recognize the need to elect/re-elect a decisive leader—one who will withstand the present day challenges, exemplify courage and strength in critical times, be they internal issues or influencing national politics. For now, the case in point is that Puntland is experiencing a crisis of leadership, not an internal crisis nor a dispute with the Federal Government of Somalia over the 2016 electoral process.

The author, Mr. Adam Mohamed is a leadership expert, policy analyst and a freelance writer. He can be reached at [email protected]

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