02 August, 2012

Opposition, What Opposition?

Opposition, What Opposition?

Dayeer Diaries appear regularly @ hargeisatribune.com. Ahmed M.I. Egal has particular interest in Somali affairs about which he has written extensively, as well as issues concerning African political economy and international politics.

When Kulmiye was in opposition during the tenure of the Rayalle government, it was a very effective opposition party which countered the government at every opportunity and kept at its role of opposing the government’s program and policies relentlessly. Indeed, one may go so far as to say that Kulmiye was much better at getting its message across than the government on many occasions. Certainly, Kulmiye mounted a far superior propaganda campaign during the 2010 Presidential elections than the Rayalle administration was able to muster, and this is to their credit and is one of the key reasons that Kulmiye won by such a wide margin.

Once in office, the Silanyo government set about the task of neutralising and effectively gutting the opposition parties. The first target of this campaign was its erstwhile partner in opposition, the UCID party of Faisal Ali Warabe, which presented a ‘softer’ target in view of its disastrous showing in the elections, which undermined the position of Faisal as leader. It is now widely known that although Abdirahman Mohamed Abdillahi (Cirro), the Speaker of the lower house of Parliament, needed little or no encouragement to challenge Faisal for leadership of UCID, that he was supported in his leadership bid by the Silanyo government both politically as well as materially. In fairness to Cirro, it must be said that Faisal had actually brought the challenge on himself by his ill-timed public announcement during the Presidential election campaign that he would not run in any future Presidential campaign in the event he lost the current one. The result of Cirro’s challenge for the leadership of UCID was the fracturing of the party and the birth of WADANI as Cirro and his supporters left UCID to form this new political party.

The case of UDUB is altogether different. Having witnessed the carefully orchestrated dismantling of UCID, the UDUB party leaders decided not to wait for the government to craft their party’s demise, but to deliver said demise themselves. Through a series of inexplicable actions that beggar belief, the leaders of UDUB managed to destroy the party that had governed the country for eight years more effectively than any plan the government may have dreamed up. In the process, they also managed to besmirch the reputation and public standing of UDUB and themselves to the extent that party supporters left in droves to join the new parties that were springing up. The Kulmiye government could only watch in amazement and disbelief at their good fortune, as their strongest, organised opposition party obligingly engaged in slow motion political suicide characterised by leadership challenges, personal animosity, ego-driven aggrandizement, legal wrangling and mass defections to other parties, all in full public view.

Thus, the situation that prevails now in the country is a Kulmiye government that has no effective, organised political opposition even as it has lost much of the public trust and support with which it came into power on a landslide. The policies of this government have generated a great deal of misapprehension among the public with respect to fundamental issues related to Somaliland’s future as an independent nation, not to mention with respect to the direction in which the country is heading in relation to widespread corruption, increasing executive autocracy and disregard for the law. Yet, there is no organised, political opposition to mount an effective challenge to these policies and give voice to the widespread and palpable concerns of the public. This is a very perilous situation indeed for Somaliland. It is an axiom of politics that lack of an effective, organised, political opposition under the law inevitably results in autocratic government and the effective disenfranchisement of the people. This is what Somaliland faces today, and the immaturity, venality and personal ambitions of the current crop of political leaders of the opposition parties is as much to blame as the clever manipulations of the government.

We have the unedifying spectacle of these leaders shopping their allegiance around the political marketplace in pursuit of position, much as market women market their vegetables in the market. However, what is admirable as business savvy and initiative among these hard working mothers and wives is distasteful and ugly when applied to political principle and personal integrity. National politics has degenerated into the naked pursuit of power and position devoid of philosophical principles, ideals for the nation and the people or any notion of public service, the common good and a legacy of advancement and development for future generations. Truly, these would-be emperors have no clothes and their stark and deformed political nudity is terrible to contemplate. Unless something dramatic and fundamental happens to change this situation, it is a sad, but all too credible, likelihood that we may be watching the beginning of the debasement of our democracy into an ugly caricature of representative government.

There are only two potential agents of the change that have the capability to engineer and effect the transformation necessary to rescue genuine democracy in Somaliland. These are the youth, imbued with idealism as youth so often is, seeking a brighter and more just future for themselves and their country; and, in the final analysis, the collective wisdom of the people which has always saved us from the wrong paths down which our political leaders have often sought to lead us. Nevertheless, the fact remains that we are experiencing the darkest episode in the history of our unique and remarkable journey towards self-determination, political maturity and national self-realisation. However, I, for one, remain a determined (some would say stupid) optimist and am convinced that the dream of Somaliland as an indigenous, representative and vibrant democracy will prevail.

After all, in 1960 we cheerfully surrendered our sovereignty in pursuit of the freedom of our colonised brothers and sisters, only to discover that we had delivered ourselves into subjugation. We continued to persevere in this dream until the very brothers we sacrificed our freedom for began to ethnically cleanse us. We then took up arms to regain our freedom and self-determination, and having succeeded in this historic endeavour after a bitter, decade-long war, promptly set upon a process of national reconciliation, peace-making and building a representative, democratic government ensuring the rights of all. It would be a very unwise person indeed, who would bet against the collective wisdom and perseverance of such a nation.


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