By Osman Hassan
Since he left Parliamentary office in Kenya, the Honourable Farah Macalin has become a tireless passionate lone voice for the soul and revival of Somalia. Unabashedly imbued with Somalism, he bewails the continuing travails of a nation that was once strong and feared by its enemies but has now become the lowest of the low. The blame for all this, he says rightly, is not due to any ingrained irreconcilability among the Somali people to have a State.
On the contrary, he says, what stands out from the rubble of the disintegrated State after the ousting of Siyad Barre’s regime is the capacity of the Somali people to weather the dehumanizing social, economic and political upheavals to which they have been subjected to for nearly three decades at the hands of venal divisive and power-hungry clan-oriented leaders and the destabilization of meddling foreign countries. Despite all this, the wonder he says is that they still remain beholden to their nationhood apart from pockets of misguided secessionists in the north.
Flawed Federal System
The main cause of Somalia’s political malaise, says Honourable Farah Macalin, is rooted in its so-called federal system. Although there is no one-size-fits-all federal system model that can be applicable to all countries, what is common among its variants is the devolution of certain limited authorities to the regions (States) by the central government whose authority extends to all parts of its territory and at least abided by most. In contrast, Somalia’s federal version is the co-existence of a nascent “federal government” whose writ at best does not go beyond Mogadishu, and on the other hand clan-based regional States that resentfully defend their independence from Mogadishu but at the same time are ready to do the bidding for other countries – all hostile to Somalia. If there is one person who is the embodiment of foreign government lackey, undermining the federal government to function, it is the leader of Puntland.
Abdiweli Gaas- A Rogue State Leader
Abdiweli Gaas, the self-styled “president” of Puntland (as regional leaders do), is a man his country honoured him more than perhaps anyone else to become the leading light of Somalia’s elites and political class – a PhD holder, an erstwhile professor and Prime Minister of Somalia. One would have expected him to be grateful to his country for all it did for him and by way of gratitude dedicate himself to its service which it badly needs as it strives to stand on its own feet. Alas, far from doing that, he opted instead to be the consummate rogue federal State leader and misses no opportunity to routinely stab his country and its government in the back often at the behest of foreign governments.
Mr. Gaas is often in the news – as if he craves the publicity- flaunting his cavalier disregard for the national constitution, undermining willy-nilly the central government and humiliating it by openly conducting relations and illicit deals with foreign countries (notably Ethiopia and the UAE)- all behind the back of the lawful albeit weak federal government. Every now and then, he would contrive crisis and expects to have his way as if Mogadishu is subordinate to Garowe rather than the other way. For all practical purposes, Puntland under him has become increasingly indistinguishable from Somaliland vis-à-vis their respective relations with the central government except that his Puntland is nominally part of Somalia (for now) while the other declared its secession from it.
His damage to the federal government, and hence to Somalia, is not confined to his mischief from Garowe but is pervasive throughout Somalia. As former Professor and Prime Minister and now the “President” of the longest established federal State (Puntland), leaders of the other clan/regional States, some former drug barons and barely literate, look to him as their role model and guide and follow his errant ways. Other than relying on their goodwill, which often is not forthcoming, the central government remains powerless onlooker.
What prevails therefore in Somalia is not a competent federal government and its satellite State members but rival States in which the weakest is a federal government that is unable to extend its tentacles beyond the capital while the Regional clan States have sway over much of their territories and under Mr. Gaas’s perfidious guidance guard their upper hand over Mogadishu. This crippling federal system was thrust upon Somalia by foreign government and their Somali clan/regional collaborators who saw their respective interests better served by thwarting a stronger Somalia ever emerging. And as long as the clan enclaves are insubordinate and unaccountable to the centre, Somalia’s future would remain hostage to these regional/clan villains.
Gaas‘s Treacherous UAE Visit
Abdiweli Gaas is a law unto himself. His penchant for personal gain and treachery to serve his foreign government backers at the cost of the federal government, and hence Somalia, are the salient strands of his one-man rule leadership in Puntland. A good example is his recent visit to the UAE, thumbing his nose defiantly at the federal government. Such a visit comes at a time when the relations between the countries are at their lowest point. Somalia, which is on the receiving end has done everything possible to mollify the spoiled petulant oil-rich Sheikhdom but nothing, it seems, will satisfy them short of Somalia surrendering to their diktat. Few other countries would have tolerated the UAE’s brazen bullying of Somalia and more likely would have severed diplomatic relations. But poor fragile Somalia has to grit its teeth and put up with the humiliations for the different interests it has in that country.
The visit of Prime Minister Khayre to Dubai before him (in late February) was proof of Somalia’s seriousness to bend backwards to improve the soured relations between the two countries. Far from reciprocating this goodwill mission, their response was to publicly humiliate him by timing the signature of an illicit agreement on the port of Berbera between their DP World and a renegade region of Somalia while the Prime Minister was still on their soil still having talks with them in good faith. Clearly, this episode puts to rest any illusion that the UAE are interested in good relations between the two countries, based on respect for each other’s sovereignty, but only in a Somalia that toes its line, like cutting ties with Qatar. And failing that, it would go over the head of the federal government and deal directly with its unscrupulous proxies and agents in the regions and federal Parliament who have shown their readiness to do its bidding. Perhaps taking a leaf from the book of Washington, their protégé, they seem confident they can engineer regime change and have a puppet Somalia to their satisfaction.
In going to Abu Dhabi, Mr. Gaas’s intentions, clearly, was not so much to succeed where Prime Minister Khayre failed but to exploit that failure and build his own bridges with the Sheikhdom as their trusted proxy to destabilize Somalia. The sinister inimical motives of his mission is clear from his actions and utterances while in Abu Dubai or since his return. As an example, a statement of his Office on 1 May, reiterating ad nauseam the importance the “government of Puntland” attaches to good relations with the UAE without once mentioning Somalia and its government, a stance not different from what one might expect from Somaliland.
As if that was not bad enough, he went on the offensive since his return spewing out his antipathy towards Mogadishu (code word for Somalia), an affront unbecoming of any responsible person, least of all a former Prime Minister. And only yesterday, a discussion among some elites in a hotel in Garawe about the merits or otherwise of Gaas’s pursued unilateral relations with the UAE was abruptly stopped by police no doubt under his orders It all adds up to an ominous one-man rule in Puntland with no one to challenge him in his government or regional parliament.
Mr. Gaas of course does not speak for Puntlanders and if he was to face a one-man-one-vote election he would no doubt be booted out. But what he will face instead are local MPs as venal as the federal ones in Mogadishu and, worse, more docile. That, and the limitless cash from his UAE sponsor, makes his re-election unstoppable. For all Somali patriots, a second term for him, enduring his certain betrayals of the nation, is a prospect too horrible to contemplate. Farah Macalin, not mincing his words, refers to him the other day as a traitor to the Somali nation (“Khaa’in Al Wadan”) .Millions of Somalis share that judgment.
Email: Osman.hassan2 @gmail.com
Osman Hassan is a seasoned journalist and a former UN staff member. Mr Hassan is also a regular contributor to WardheerNews.
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