A. Mohamed Ali Xaashi "Dhimbiil", Dhimbiil@lycos.com
First let me congratulate you sir on being the very first citizen of this country to be elected President of this Republic through the ballot box. This is a victory for the forces of democracy and the rule of law in the Horn of Africa in particular and Africa in general.
Your election and subsequent confirmation by the Supreme Court of the country brings to closure the dispute process that we the people signed on to in the ratification of the constitution of Somaliland. The legitimacy and legality of this election is beyond question, the political process in this country, to say the least, has been secured and the beginnings of democracy in Somaliland is clear for all to see.
Sir, the people of Somaliland now have the right to demand from their President and their government to pursue the agenda of reformation in order to change their political and economic conditions. They have waited for over a decade to create a political system that would secure their rights to a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The people of Somaliland know that the odds are staked against them; they have been scorned and joked about in their attempts to prove that they have the capacity for self-government and the ability to struggle for a democratic dispensation in their country.
Many believed that a multi-party system, in a society deeply characterized by the symbols of tradition and clan families, not only was invalid, indeed, it was a fictitious system, a structure that would be unable to embrace the divisive forces of tradition. Moreover, it was predicted that violence and chaos would be created by the adoption of a constitution and multi-party politics. Some of our most esteemed poets, administrators, intellectuals, and many in the elite in Somaliland warned against the multi-party system.
As you yourself know, you were asked to delay the elections because many did not believe, to put it simply, in the people. Your commitment to prepare the country for an election is now in the record book and ought to be applauded. This philosophy, this idea that Somaliland is only a congloromation of clans brought together by the water wells of yesteryear, has been permanently discredited, totally abandoned, and toppled by the idea of citizenship as the basis of a state. The victory of the people of Somaliland over this philosophy must be stated for the record, for it opens up a new book to be written in the handwriting of the people themselves. This is the highest form of political education: the right of the people to choose their representatives through the ballot.
The people of Somaliland it must be remembered have time and again accomplished great feats of sacrifice, time and again they have held their peace; time and again they have done whatever that has been asked of them. In fact, the people of Somaliland have been more that patient in their attempts to build a political structure and in their endeavour to solve the conundrum of politics. The presidency is a bully pulpit to advance the agenda of these struggling people. This agenda must be about the people, where they live, work, and raise their families. This agenda must be about the people of Somaliland whose needs make our collective souls weep in the privacy of our thoughts. We must defeat poverty in Somaliland; we must defeat ignorance; we must lift women from the second-class position in our society; we must focus on our children and their future; we have a long line of issues that we must defeat in order to meet the responsibilities bestowed on us by the people of Somaliland.
We must do this by establishing the political, social and economic philosophy of meeting the basic needs of the people of Somaliland.
In the next five years of your mandate we can make great headway into delivering this agenda to the people of Somaliland. It starts Mr. President by appointing the right people to the right places. If there is one thing I know it is this: the people of Somaliland have produced individuals of incredibly high integrity, education and wisdom who are leaders in their own right. Sir, make a list of these people who live around the world and in Somaliland irrespective of their political orientation and in spite of their political opinions. This is a very important point. If you appoint "yes" men and women to the executive, they will lie to you and send your administration into a bungling disaster.
- These appointees must have a proper salary - even though we are poor- and must be able to conduct their departments free from financial worry. Most of these technocrats command high salaries in western industrialized countries and do not see the need of leaving their lucrative jobs - even for a year or two or even three - in order to work under difficult and intolerable conditions. If we appeal to their sense of patriotism and duty and ask them to present a clear vision they will come. If they do their work free from political interference, they will come. In short if we build it they will come.
- This means that we must have lean ministries that work; ministries that are staffed with senior and junior officers who will do the bulk of the work; and headed by competent directors and director-generals who will supervise and implement the policies of the government. We do not need so many ministries only those work well.
- We must have Ministers who are technocrats and can build the ministries we have from scratch, because that is what they are now. Your cabinet must be a "whose who" of Somaliland, the best and brightest. You know them they live in Somaliland and outside Somaliland, appoint them and pay them well. The people of Somaliland expect you to appoint this cabinet irrespective of their political leanings. They are not asking for so called "coalition government" as we do not have a West Minister type parliamentarian system, contrary to conventional wisdom, but rather an executive system of "first across the post".
- Somaliland must have an independent Agency of Somalilandís Port and Airports Authority, run by our experts to manage one of the few income generating structures that we have. This port authority must be studied fully and enacted to do business as an independent government corporation. This will greatly improve and streamline our tax generating collectibles.
- The practise of appointing party henchmen and corrupt Ministers must be left in the dustbin of Somalilandís history. The people of Somaliland demand an accountable, transparent, and competent government. These tasks represent the basic building blocks of our government.
I strongly believe that you should appoint a truth commission to investigate the human right abuses of Somalilanders committed in Somaliland during Barreís dictatorship as well as document the reasons why justice has yet to be done. No one has the mandate or the right to forgive any one except the victims themselves. I strongly believe that we must not live a lie and that Somaliland must be built on truth. I strongly believe that the truth should come out because it is the truth that shall set the people free. Without an accounting of what happened to ordinary people in this country, future governments will be rocked by allegations of wrongdoing in the past. We need to build the institutions that begin to explore the pain and suffering of these periods and how to record them and deal with them in a national way.
As you are well aware, the parliament of Somaliland is the central representative institution in the country. It is the heartbeat of the country. Without an elected parliament we are one step away from a dictatorship. The parliament of Somaliland is un-elected, un-representative, and an ugly affront to the constitution. The recent extension of the life of the parliament of Somaliland is a regressive and anti-democratic situation and it must be stated for the record. The people of Somaliland have consistently voted for a divided opposition. My political party UDUB has benefited from this division in the opposition. However, if the trends remain the same, then the opposition in Somaliland will constitute a slight majority in the house in it next life. We must hasten the process of electing parliament not withstanding the preparations of constituency laws and the staggering budget needed to commit to this exercise. Two years is just too long. UDUB will benefit from the vote if those who want to reform it lead the party.
Sir appoint a commission with a mandate of 100 days to study this issue and report back on the feasibility of holding parliamentary elections within 365 days of the report. If there is clear budgetary and legal infrastructural problems, a summit between the two opposition parties and the government must held to organize a tripartite agreement on the road map to the next elections. Somaliland is represented by UDUB, Kulmiye, & UCID and not by this un-elected parliament. We must do the right thing here.
Opposition Parties and the Election:
Sir, you should appoint opposition parties to your cabinet until such time the house of parliament rises as an elected parliament. As you know, there was no clear mandate in the recent elections, and there is no opposition in the parliament to call the government into account. Without an opposition, the country will be lost. Therefore, the government must, as a matter of political principal, ask the opposition to join your cabinet in a show of unity. The governmentís recent funding of political parties is to be applauded. Sir, make it a custom to hold regular meetings with the head of the opposition parties as well as calling on them on matters of national importance when the need arises. I do not have to tell you of the calibre and history of our opposition leaders. They are second to none.
The elections were marred by problems at the Electoral Commission level and the infrastructural level. The Electoral Commission must be professionalized and a secretariat must be inaugurated with reference to understanding the problems we have encountered in this our first election.
An entire report can be written about the things that need to be done and the obstacles that need to be overcome. The first hundred days will send a message to the people of Somaliland on your intensions. Your election Sir is another example to the people in the Horn Africa, that democracy, legitimacy, and the rule of law is sine qua non in the achievement of political stability and national wellness. We must remember that right here in our neighbourhood a dictatorship has raised from the ashes of the Eritrean liberation. Oppression and dictatorship are the new rulers of Eritrea.
We must be ever watchful and vigilant of our rights and our commitment to the idea of democracy. In this time of political triumph, we must remember that this country was liberated by young men and women who believed that they could live a life that was more genuine than the life they lived under the dictatorship. Somaliland is the crystallization of that dream; we are witness to their struggle and to their courage. As men and women of good will we must recognize this and always tell their stories of courage. It matters not what clan they came from. What matters is that they liberated us from our own fearfulness. It is important to honour the Somali National Movement (SNM) for they paid with their lives so that I may write about my country and freely express my views without insult or malice to any. Somaliland is about the human condition and about the idea of the pursuit of fairness, consent and progress. These are the pillars of my country, a country that is poor in resources but rich in character and in dignity.
Mr. President do not let your country down, we expect everything!