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Why Puntland is Faring Poorly under President Gaas’s leadership

Said Faaid
Sunday January 31, 2016


File Puntland President Abdiwali Mohamed Ali Gaas.

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As starting point, states are often assessed against universally agreed indicators - like GDP per capita income, UNDP Human Development Index, Transparent International’s Corruption Perception Index, and Freedom House’s Freedom of the World Report.

 However, these indicators are not pertinent to the status of Puntland. This is simply because Puntland does not belong to the league of nation-states.  It’s a subnational entity within the failed state of Somalia.

Having said that, I will try to critically highlight what President Gaas is getting wrong based on his pre-election pledge. In other words I will basically give you a large and lucid view.

According to his election “manifesto”, President Gaas promised to reform the judiciary; overhaul the security and public sectors; and expand the reach and quality of Puntland’s physical infrastructures.

At this point, there are several questions that beg answers. First, is the erudite economist living up to his promise? What has he achieved so far?

Is he, for example, setting the foundation for the credible political institutions he promised? Or in other words, is he executing his reform programme in the judiciary, public and security sectors? More importantly, is Puntland heading to the right direction under his watch? I could hear a pin drop – total silence – when I asked these damning questions.

Let me give you the bottom line upfront. Two years ago, when Dr Gaas was elected President, political reform seemed inevitable and progress unstoppable. His unparalleled academic credentials and experience as Prime Minister gave hope to many of his supporters.  

However, two years down the line, there is not much for Puntland people to cheer about. Indeed, things have arguably regressed from bad to worse. I can hear rambling noise of discontent from all corners. Public confidence in President’s ability to steer institutional reforms have all but vanished.

Believe you me, at the end of his term, people of Puntland will once more give up their destiny back to the mercy of clan elders.  I suspect the economist has fallen asleep at the switch.

If you believe that is a bit unfair to President, let me give you a thumbnail sketch of history.

At first, Dr Gaas started off with a great promise. He briefly accommodated his political rivals to his bloated cabinet, a good posture of bringing all on-board. . He then appointed various taskforces to overhaul the economic, judicial, public and security sectors. And he declared “institutions first”.

 I even wrote an article entitled “Why President Gaas is a game-changer…”.  In that article, I trustingly argued President Gaas will set the foundation for reliable political institutions.

The core emphasis of my argument was “Institutions”. At that time, I honestly believed Dr Gaas, as a development economist, has faith in the conception that “institutions rule”. Meaning - institutions are prerequisite for economic growth and good governance.   

That was then. This is now.

The state of inaction that followed recommendations suggested by the various taskforces turned to be the first setback to the expectation of Puntland people.

During Farole’s kleptocracy, people of Puntland wished for change, and there was one. But I now believe it was not for the better.

By any measurement, the economist performed below average.   This is the bitter truth - no single signature project or reform agenda has got its wheels turning to his credit. The man takes pride ribbon-cutting projects conceived long before his reign.

Worse still, his inept administration is not wary of engaging one scandal after another.  Due to unprecedented grand corruption and mismanagement, his regime even failed to afford paying basic wages. Some of the unpaid public servants, particularly those from the office of the president, turned to men wolves.  They circle around looking for easy preys. They solicit bribe and kickbacks from anyone who crosses their way.  Warton plundering has become the order of the day.  This is an embarrassment.

One may legitimately ask – is President complicit and working in cahoots with these criminal gangs?

That is not all, there’s more.  rned to maentratese nt.

President Gaas honoured the central principles of the rule of the law in the breach. He undermined independence of the Parliament, subverted the credibility of the Judiciary, turning institutions of checks and balances into little more than a rubber stamp.

Driven by interpersonal enmity, state machineries were used to victimise a subset of the citizens allegedly to be hostile to the administration. He harassed civil society, took issues with NGOs and NGO workers, targeted specific journalists and showed no tolerance for dissenters.

I believe these Siyad Barre like authoritarianisms are primarily meant to intimidate and silence dissenting voices. This is a global phenomenon. Dictators the world over intimidate and silence their citizens because criminality and corruption thrive in a republic of fear where no one dares to talk back to the “king” and his cronies.  It is not a long distance from Puntland to the absolute monarchies of our Arab brethren.

But in Africa, ruler-led oppressions and abuse of power tend to give rise to violent resistance. We have been there before. Dr Gaas understands better why the history of African strong men is littered with violation of people’s basic rights.

Unlawful acts perpetrated in the name of the state provoke a countervailing reaction. Then chaos rules the world.  That is how Siyad Bare’s brutal regime fell off the cliff. I hope the economist is not suffering from historical amnesia.

By: Said Faaid

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