President Silanyo’s visit was fuelled by the momentum his administration achieved from the mediation between his administration and the new government of Somalia hosted by the Turkish government in in Ankara, Turkey.
Acknowledging Somaliland as an equal partner in the negotiation at Ankara by Hassan Sh. Mohamud, the current president of Somalia, who himself has achieved a warm welcome from the world powers as the legitimate head of the new government of Somalia, was in fact a positive step forward for Silanyo’s administration toward its goals of breaking away from the rest of Somalia. What was equally important was how Mr. Hassan Sh. Mohamud conceded to the demands of Silanyo by not including into the negotiating team those northerners stakeholder who stand for the union and who stood for the last twenty years in the way of secession.
What is strange about the Ankara conference and its associated dialogue is the question of identifying the real stakeholders in the issue: who is representing the communities from that portion of Northern Somalia that has been voicing their opposition to the Somaliland’s secession from the rest of Somalia? What is even stranger is the lack of any meaningful consultation with those communities either from Hassan Sh. Mahmoud or from Silanyo’s administration. Not only does this smell an elites view but it certainly denotes the total absence of any appreciation of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s camp of the weight of the issues and the clan complexity of the unity versus secession. In short, this approach which the government so far employed is not only dangerous but in the end may not produce any meaningful result. Thus, apart from photo ops, the conference seems another missed opportunity and ill-fated advice to address the core issue of Somaliland and south Somalia and the continuation of the status quo.
The aim of this article however is not to discuss the policies of Somaliland or the current F.G of Somalia but to highlight few observations that made me wonder about the competency of the President of Somaliland Mr. Ahmed M. Silanyo in his recent visit to Washington. I have watched a video of Mr. Silanyo in a conference organized by Peter Pham from the Ansari Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC.
Mr. Silanyo, a seasoned Politician with tremendous experience in government affairs, has surprised many including this author on his conduct while trying to make an impression on the International community. As is evident in this video, Mr. Silanyo as the president of Somaliland and the leading official of the delegation to Washington has outsourced all of his responsibilities to his relatively new and young foreign minister otherwise a capable individual, Mr. Mohamed Omer.
The foreign minister has done a super job in articulating the policies that his boss failed to communicate. However, it was indeed an embarrassing and painful episode to watch. The head of the delegation, the president of Somaliland, Mr. Silanyo sat there idle as a spectator not as an engaging, articulate and the head of the delegation. He relegated all his responsibilities to his Foreign Minster to engage the audience and answer questions.
Though the questions were addressed to him as the head of the delegation, Mr. Silanyo kept saying in Somali to his foreign minister Mr. Mohamed Omer “Maxamadow soco , Maxamadow soco”. “go ahead Mohamed, you go ahead and answer….”
Mr. Silanyo was certainly missing but present only in form. There were countless direct questions that were asked to him such as the reason for his visit to Washington, questions about policies toward secession plans, questions concerning other Northern communities that share land and are against the separation of their land from Somalia Proper and many more critical questions that required the weight and prestige of presidential response, which Mr. Silanyo failed to deliver for reasons that appear to have something to do with his full comprehension of them. Mr. Silanyo appeared uncomfortable and uninterested to be there, or at times unaware of his surroundings appearing asleep at the wheel.
There was one incident where Mr. Silanyo was asked about the dialogue with Mogadishu and his relationship with Puntland, Mr. Silanyo looked at Mohamed Omer, and the minster said in Somali “ Maxaan idhaa ” “ how do I respond?”
Silanyo didn’t respond indicating to Mohamed to answer; say whatever you want Mohamed, whatever you want Mohamed, giving the minister the green light to answer as he wished!
Another strange incident was when Mr. Silanyo was asked about women representation in his cabinet and could not recall once again seeking the aid of his foreign minister.
So who is running Somaliland?
Whether this fiasco is as a result of fatigue from jet lag or naturally aging mind, President Silanyo’s handlers failed to anticipate such public relation mess, putting the president in front of the world without any meaningful preparations for the international stage to articulate his administration’s policies.
These same concerns come from the home front in Somaliland where Silanyo is alleged to not running the day-to-day operations of his administration. There are reports stating that Mr. Hirsi, a former Dahabshiil /Somtel staff who is also tribally related to Silanyo, is indeed at the epicenter of Somaliland’s power. Mr. Hirsi was initially accorded to the position of Chief of Staff, but later elevated to a cabinet position, minister of precedency providing him a room to exert his executive power to other ministers, elders and parliamentarians.
Many including this author have been at the forefront of writing about the alleged corruptions and mismanagement of the former Somaliland administration headed by Rayale, but no one has ever accused Mr. Rayale of not managing his administration. Furthermore, Mr. Riyale was never accused of nepotism at the levels this administration is alleged to. Mr. Silanyo’s administration is currently managed by his kinfolk completely weeding out competent individuals with experience, and much biter understanding of moving Somaliland forward.
What we have witnessed in Washington D.C. and the concerns coming from home front don’t provide space for Silanyo to remain in power but to save his face and legacy he can follow the experience of many leaders who left office when the time has arrived.
Call it a curse on the Horn of Africa that Somalia as country was never blessed with great leadership. Most so called leaders are visionless, greedy and often run the country to a hole leaving the citizenry to fend off for themselves. But in the case of Silanyo, the issue is not only that he is a leader with no vision, but also that he may have lost his ability to govern and this may lead to dangerous decisions that are unnecessary and lethal.
Abdelkarim A. Hassan