"In the modern world, states derive from the concept of “public.” They are defined as entities that effectively and rationally fulfill their tasks and govern public affairs. However, in Africa, states are essentially privately owned and controlled by their leaders, whereas public is defined as that which is subject to the influence of the social groups or communities from which those leaders arise. Political leaders in Africa, abusing power and status, thus work to protect the interests of the social groups to which they belong. In so doing these leaders are able to maintain their status and position"
Promoting good governance in Somaliland has drawn increasing attention from the public and the nation's Diasporas lately. This is rightly so as corruption is more widely spread than any time in the short history of the country and severely undercuts the country's long-term economic growth, development and achievement of international recognition. The current leadership in Somaliland often diverts state funds that could be used for education and investment in social services and public infrastructure. On a broader scale the citizens know very well that corruption is a challenge to political stability, hampers sustainable growth and undermines the legal and judicial systems.
Studies done in a number of African nations have shown the serious consequences that lack of good governance brings to their citizens. Those studies proved that corruption and misadministration weakens the state, lowers the enforcement of all laws good and bad and thus retards development, and growth. Furthermore lack of good governance may contribute to the very existence of poor laws.
Even petty corruption, involving lesser amounts of money has been shown to affect adversely the public in general and more so for the poor who account for the overwhelming majority in the case of Somaliland. This usually comes in the form of costly and/or restriction of public services.
The current leadership of Somaliland was elected to promote good governance and use national resources to improve the infrastructure and the development of the country as a whole. However, it seems the core problem that Somalilanders face to day is the inability of the current administration to effectively perform the fundamental task of governance. This is primarily because this administration has paid lip service to the constitution of the republic. It has failed to understand that corruption is the primary obstacle to economic progress. Instead they chose the path of enriching themselves at the expense of the people they are supposed to serve. In today's Somaliland there is no distinction acknowledged between a person and his or her office. Thus, arbitrary power and corruption by those in power have become endemic. A democratically elected government is not necessarily democratic and open government. It has often been found in history that democratically elected government can also be despotic and autocratic in practice. The current Somaliland regime could be a case in point.
Status of Other Branches of the State (Parliament and Judiciary):
One of the most important roles of the parliament and the judiciary are as bodies that exercise scrutiny and oversight over the executive. The parliamentary and judicial oversight emphasizes the separation of powers and checks and balances. Effective legislatures and independent judiciaries contribute to transparent governance by performing important functions necessary to sustain democratic societies. It is said good governance efforts depend on the strengthening of parliamentary democracy. Rick Stapenhurst of the World Bank institute asserts: “Legislative oversight of government policies and the budget process in particular, are of vital importance in ensuring governments carry out their duties efficiently, democratically, and in a fiscally responsible manner.
In today's Somaliland the parliament failed to exercise its constitutional role of oversight and promotion of accountability. The executive is a domineering structure wielding discretionary power and has for all practical purposes rendered the current parliament subservient. The parliaments prerogative over legislation is minimally exercised. It is been bypassed in policy-making and reduced to rubber-stamping deals. The Somaliland parliament is more similar to Golaha Shacbiga of the previous regime than a modern parliament, which is independent of the executive – constitutionally, financially, and in all other ways. Instead of scrutinizing and acting as a check on this corrupt regime that is in power to day, it is being used to legitimize the embezzlement of public funds and the abuse of power by the current leadership.
The link between poor governance and lack of independent judiciary is also well established. In Somaliland the judiciary branch is reduced to a subservient role of the executive branch. The current president of Somaliland has the sole power to appoint and fire judges from the lowest to the highest court of the land. This lack of independent judiciary coupled with inadequately paid civil service and hiring and promotions that are not merit based all interact and created this current climate in Somaliland where corruption flourishes.
Good governance is an extension of the principle of the rule of law. A society is said to be well governed when there is a rule of law, not a rule of man. A modern state is extensively governed by rules and regulations, by complex guidelines and instructions, by a web of regulations, restrictive, prohibitive and penal procedures. As fish starts getting rotten from the head, good governance starts sliding from the hands of the people when the top people in parliament, executive and judiciary put rules and regulations aside and start ruling by the rules of the thumb.
Remedy and the Role of the Opposition Parties:
In a modern democracy, the Government and Opposition need to work together for the good of the nation. It is very important also that there is a relationship based on dialogue between the Government and the Opposition and a constructive relationship between the Government and Civil Society. A viable opposition is crucial in any democratic society. It holds the government accountable, legitimizes the political process and provides the electorate with choices, all of which deepen the democratic consolidation.
In Somaliland the government has completely shut out the opposition parties and the civil societies from making any meaningful contribution to the political discourse of the nation. This absence of effective participation in the political process by the opposition parties and the civil society is perhaps the most serious limitation that the country faces to day. However, the hope on the way for Somaliland is the parliamentary elections that will be held in the spring of next year. This gives an opportunity to the citizens of the country to seriously change the way they are governed currently by electing a parliament with a majority members from the opposition parties.
The opposition should earn the trust of the public by presenting a set of alternative policies and programs that address issues of national importance. The number one priority for the opposition parties is to heal the sick institutions of the state. They should plan to reform and improve the capabilities of the state's institutions. Sustainable development requires that the state and its officials be held accountable for their actions. The two most important formal instruments for achieving accountability are strong judiciary and the separation of powers.
For the judiciary to be effective their independence must be restored. They should also be provided with adequate resources and instruments for enforcement. In today's Somaliland both the independence of the judiciary and enforcement are seriously compromised. The opposition should also bring forth their plans for reforming and improving the parliament as an institution. In compliance with the constitution the parliament should be independent financially and constitutionally. It should be accessible to and connect with the people. Above all the parliament should be effective in scrutinizing and acting as a check on the executive. The opposition plans should clearly outline also how they are going to strengthen the capacity and capability of the parliament in exercising its role of oversight. The state media should also be transformed into a public service broadcast agency with its own independent board of management, completely free from government interference.
Finally to achieve these modest goals the opposition parties particularly Kulmiye which has received as many votes as the party in power should encourage the citizens to vote this time strategically and elect as many opposition MPs as possible. A divided government is better than the current state of affairs. This Udub government has completely failed in bringing about any change. Udub should be defeated in the next parliamentary election. Of course, all this could happen only if we have a fair and transparent election this time.
Ahmed A. Hassan
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