Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 11 November 2017

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.

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 a warning, a lame excuse to arrest Wadani party fans perhaps, to all Somalilanders “traffic lawbreakers 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 centre, deployed a 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 a door-to-door campaign for the first time in the election history of Somaliland. A more than 3000 volunteers have been reaching 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.

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. A former worker in Nigeria Abdi Bile hijacks the role of MP Kijandhe in charge of the party election campaign. The first step of a 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 food but tastes differently, and this depends on how chief cooks are professional, likewise the blueprints shaped by the intellectual capacity of its chief strategists of both parties. An opinion poll taken by an 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.

Dirye is a writer based in Hargaysa, the capital of Somaliland, @mrdirye