Somalia: Unpaid Puntland soldiers' salaries, still dragon in Deni's government

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GAROWE, Somalia - For almost a year, current Puntland leadership has failed to pay the salaries of the security forces and civil servants, leading to frequent protests and mutiny in the capital Garowe and other key towns, including Galkayo, Mudug regional headquarters. 

The recurring incidents have often been condemned, with analysts terming the government's approach as "poor and misadvised". The downing of tools by the soldiers often affects the security situation in Puntland, which is at times considered the most secure of all five Federal states.

On Monday, reports indicate, the soldiers downed their tools as they blocked roads in Garowe, to the southern city of Galkayo. The Federal state is also grappling with an electoral dispute in which Deni's KAAH political party is accused of rigging municipality elections.

Trucks carrying food and other humanitarian goods remained stranded in Harfo District in Mudug region with lorries destined for Bosaso also denied passage by the soldiers. The soldiers have gone without pay for the last several months, with the government doing little to solve the quagmire.

A few weeks ago, soldiers stationed in Golis mountains, the notorious base of ISIS branch in Somalia militants, abandoned theory frontlines as they retreated to block the main highway to Bosaso, Puntland's commercial capital. The troops, witnesses said, also blocked Bosaso port in the process.

In response, the state swiftly addressed the grievances by disbursing the salaries owed to the protesting forces. The frequency of protests has increased in recent weeks with the government hardly managing to clear debts owed to soldiers and civil servants, some of whom have since resigned.

Instead of solving current outstanding issues, President Said Abdullahi Deni has only shifted his focus towards changing the constitution perhaps to allow him to extend his term in office, with just four months to expiry of his mandate, critics argue. Already, regional lawmakers have resolutely supported the bid to change the constitution.

Opposition groups have recently accused Said Abdullahi Deni of being busy with an election campaign to retain power, adding that his strategy is meant to undermine constitutional provisions. The opposition has further claimed that Deni wants to cement his stay in power against the will of the people.

But while celebrating Puntland's 25th anniversary, Deni maintained that he had no business to retain power, adding that he is ready to face his opponents, sentiments which the opposition dismiss as "lipstick talk". Security teams in the state accuse Deni of "stealing taxpayers' money" meant to pay them for services rendered.

GAROWE ONLINE

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