Somalia: Puntland suspends cooperation with central Govt amid fallout
GAROWE, Somalia - Puntland issued a statement on Monday declaring it will act as an "independent" state after a fallout with Villa Somalia, in what could further trigger a political storm in Somalia, a country which is still struggling with fragility for the last three decades following a civil war.
The latest declaration approved by Said Abdullahi Deni, the outgoing leader whose popularity is increasing nosediving, maintained that the state is keenly following the crafting of the federal constitution of Somalia, which is yet to be concluded despite the inception of federalism.
In 2012, Somalia ushered in a new government after the transition, and it was anticipated that a constitutional order governing the cooperation between the Federal Member States [FMS] and the Federal Government of Somalia [FGS] would be in place. With over a decade, the constitution is yet to be completed.
Based on this argument, Puntland now argues that it will carry out its mandate without the involvement of Mogadishu, in what would ignite fresh battles between FGS and Puntland. The statement maintained that Puntland will only resume cooperation when "the constitution is completed and a referendum held".
"The state will conduct its own affairs as an independent government and state until a new constitution is agreed upon in a referendum," the statement read, noting that the state will however participate actively in state-building processes in Somalia including completion of the constitution.
Additionally, Puntland lamented that the federal government has been treating member states as "subordinates" despite the crucial roles states play in "building our national from security to development fronts". Said Abdullahi Deni had expressed reservations about the government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
Puntland attributes the latest decision to the immense contribution of the state throughout the state-building process by supporting Somalia militarily and financially. Besides the completion of the constitution, Puntland wants Somalia to expedite strategies in the fight against Al-Shabaab and IS-Somalia, curating the problem between Somaliland and the federal government along with the regional government of Puntland along with mitigating political squabbles.
Also, Garowe maintains the status of Banadir where Mogadishu sits should be defined by the government, adding that the administration of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud should immediately clarify the topical issue of revenue sharing. Until these preconditions are met, Puntland reiterated that it would evoke powers from Articles 4 and 142 of the provisional constitution to negotiate with Mogadishu on running her affairs independently.
While federal states have previously had issues with the government in Mogadishu, the friction has subsided since Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took over from Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo in June 2022. During Farmajo's government, most states were persistently in confrontation with the government particularly over delayed elections.
But with states like Galmadug, Southwest, and HirShabelle which were leaning towards Farmajo showing total cooperation with Hassan Sheikh, Puntland is now pulling behind, showing discontent through either skipping federal government functions or outrightly rejecting declarations involving FMS and FGS.
Fundamentally, the statement comes days after outgoing President Said Abdullahi Deni refused to sign parts of the recent FGS-FMS agreement on federalizing justice in Somalia. The two distinct levels of government held a meeting a fortnight ago in Mogadishu under the leadership of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
Although it's not clear whether Deni is intelligently causing sabotage in Somalia's political leadership, it is however in the public domain that he ran and lost the 2022 federal presidential elections. Before the elections, Puntland and Jubaland sided with the opposition then led by Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
Back in Garowe, Deni is facing rebellion with opposition leaders accusing him of plotting to extend his term through a backdoor. To stamp his authority in state politics, Deni is said to be sponsoring disputed registration of voters which has even targeted underage children ahead of municipal elections.
So controversial has been the matter that the opposition factions have vowed to boycott the exercise which has been stage-managed to benefit Deni's KAAH party. Analysts argue that the impending elections are premeditated, adding that participation would be equivalent to "approving fraud".
Hodan Ali, an advisor to the presidency, questioned the intentions of the statement, arguing that "federalism should not be used as political machination". "Puntland and its inherent tendencies of “we are above/better than rest” is old news. The country needs mature leadership, not bullies. Today’s announcement by Deni is classic divert/distract," she said.
Abdishakur Warsame, a member of the Lower House, threw a jibe at some state leaders, accusing them of hypocrisy on matters of democratic or universal suffrage elections, which he said they vehemently opposed when the country was pushing to have it implemented in the 2022 elections.
"The men [FMS heads] who hijacked the past parliamentary election process now saying "We'll hold 1 person, 1 vote polls," said Abdishakur as the outgoing Puntland president celebrated his 4th year in office. According to critics, Deni was at forefront of the election corruption in the just concluded polls.
The FMS and FGS leadership has been at loggerheads for some time now, with most issues revolving around sharing of the national revenue and resources. The formula for sharing the resources is yet to be implemented due to the delayed enactment of constitutional changes which were envisaged in the 2012 agreement.
Puntland is now expected to finance most of her activities from the local revenue until federalism is anchored in the new constitution, a suggestion that the state under Deni could soon start pushing for statehood like the secessionist Somaliland, which is leading a separate government domiciled in Hargeisa.