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Somaliland: How tribalism endangers an African democracy

By Abdirahman M Dirye

From South Sudan, Somaliland, to Ethiopia, ethnic conflicts brew to tear apart these countries and weaken institutions but this time nepotism and clan-loyalty regenerated in Somaliland like never before. Siilanyo the outgoing president of Somaliland planted time bomb in the society to keep them divided on bloodlines to get his defenders no matter what corruption he commits. The new presidential candidate Muse Bihi took it to the next level: well aware of his notoriety and unable to play the political games with his political rivals, he introduced dangerous game of accusing Wadani of being “pro-Somalia unity”, a declaration of war by other means.  To give credence to the baseless allegation, the government asked the international reporter at the ITV Rageh Omaar to pen PR article about the warlord Mujahid Muse Bihi Abdi following his bankruptcy of the creative ideas to attract voters, he resorted tribal card and divide and rule game.

Tribalism Destroyed Somaliland

As Somaliland’s government tries it can to undermine the opposition Wadani party, it hired Rageh Omaar to give credence to the baseless rumor against Wadani party of having links with Somalia, a national treason in Somaliland if proved. Ironically, the former Somaliland foreign minister Abdilahi Omar who initiated Somaliland-Somalia talks flew from Mogadishu and joined the ruling party without charges even though he shared Somaliland secret strategy to exit Somalia with Mogadishu but faced nothing of punishment but a hero welcome.

International reporter Rageh Omaar whose name became household name from his specular reporting from Iraq War penned an article alleging Wadani opposition party having links with Somalia “Wadani party support from Somaliland undermined its popularity… and Kulmiye ruling party said to win” in the November 13 presidential election, neither he referred to credible opinion polls taken by an independent think tank nor elaborated how. The article which appeared in ITV website where he works as international editor masqueraded as advocacy for democracy and election coverage but it was PR, an exercise in futility, for the notorious ex-Mujahid aka warlord with guerilla mentality, a man with this caliber can’t be expected to degenerate into tribalism and takes sides with his cousin. In this year, he also reported famine from Somaliland only thus his colleague Jamal Osman of the BBC Channel Four felt upset about ignoring the plight of Southern Somalia.

Tribalism has been the cancer and the obstacle to justice and development in Somaliland for centuries and always led to social chaos undermining the unity of the people in this region in early 1960s. The ruling party is accused of, tribalism, corruption and bribery “food for Voter IDs, collecting voters IDs from certain areas deem that the opposition is in the upper hand devalues the Somaliland’s presidential election and undermines stability and democracy.

Somaliland National Election Commission summoned all Imams, tycoons, war profiteers, and school principals to share its concerns towards the national security since Muse Bihi the ruling party’s presidential candidate may take the laws into his own hands if declared the loser in the election.

Despite the ruling party’s constant crackdown of the fourth estate of the private media, its smear campaign, and character assignation against the main opposition party Wadani, on October 23, not less than a million supporters of Wadani party flooded to major cities’ public venues in Somaliland disappointing the military presidential candidate Muse B. Abdi of Kulmiye ruling party the agitated successor of the bedridden president Silanyo. The law enforcement agencies sent warning, a lame excuse to arrest Wadani party fans perhaps, to all Somalilanders “traffic law breakers would languish in Mandhera of Mexican-style dungeon” says Fadal Police Chief on the state TV.  However, this election this time the stakes are high.

With the vivid memory of hundreds of innocent people perished in the terror attack in Mogadishu’s Sobe junction, dozens missing, at the least another hundreds fatally wounded weeks ago, and the fear the ruling party.

Wadani’s Road to the Palace

In this commentary, I predicted the winning party based on their past performances for the last weeks of unrelenting campaigning and given on the strategies of both Kulmiye’s, and Waddani parties have exhibited. The success comes out not from shoving book of party manifestos to voters, but doing the party campaign smartly by hiring professionals and experts in the field. ;

So far, Waddani party innovated the old campaign system with a game changer: they established a call center, deployed team of volunteers, who have been calling to the voters, and asking the people to vote for Waddani candidates for the upcoming presidential election.

Also, Waddani’s volunteers introduced door-to-door campaign for the first time in the election history of Somaliland. A more than 3000 volunteers having been carrying out of door-to-door campaign of every household in Somaliland, asking to vote for Waddani, as well as, distributing party manifesto.  When it comes to Africa, it’s a difficult to find in Africa such type of innovative campaign, but Waddani introduced it in the young democratic country which is lacking international recognition.

Iro of the opposition Wadani party leader’s journey to politics has been successful starting from his MP in his constituency in Sahil region of being the most voted MPs to parliament chairmanship where three people ferociously contested but Iro won it. Muse of the Kulmiye ruling party unlike Iro’s political career that spanned 40 years in diplomacy, has been rough road of which led mass ministerial resignations and narrowly toppled the entire government.

For the Kulmiye (ruling party) unable to understand the Waddani’s state of-the-art strategies; the sophisticated tools they employ during the campaign, Kulmiye party spokesperson Hassan Gafadhi has accused WADDANI National Party of stealing voters’ data. Waddani’s Campaign Manager and Chief Strategist Hamse Khaire told to the press, that there is no any data in regard to the voters received from NEC or any other entity, but they try techniques of a great creativity from the pooling roster of Western educated people, amends to fit the local context, and reapplies them to get votes for the people.

On the other hand, Kulmiye ruling party monopolizes the state media to make outreach. Former worker in Nigeria Abdi Bile hijacks the role of MP Kijandhe in charge of the party election campaign. The first step of door to door mission backfired when they knocked the door of the houses of government employees with overdue wages from the government. Then, they distributed leaflets to possible voters in Somaliland. Kijaandhe Kulmiye’s campaign manager never outlined his plan about what to do to counter Waddani’s brutal campaign spearheaded by Hamse Khaire. Many voters confirmed the sale of their voters IDs to unknown persons alleged by the ruling party.

Restaurants serve foods but tastes differently, and this depends how chief cooks are professional, likewise the blueprints shaped by the intellectual capacity of its chief strategists of both parties. Opinion poll taken by independent statistician and researcher Ereg said “ for Wadani 53%, Kulmiye ruling party 42%,  5%” Wadani party will win with landslide victory hopefully unless the result rigged.

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Abdirahman Mohamed Dirye

Mr. Dirye is Somaliland Activist and Political Commentator, and Senior Editor at Africa's Desk of Democracy Chronicles, whose works appear in Jerusalem Post, African Review, Big News Network, Toronto Telegraph, New York Statesman, Austin Global, Sudan tribune, Middle East Online, and International Policy Digest.

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