By: Abdirahman Mohamed Gablax
Puntland—a key region in Somalia—has once again found itself at a critical crossroads in it’s pursuit for a fair and inclusive political environment. As a long-time advocate of democratic principles and a former presidential candidate in Puntland, I address the current state of affairs with deep concern and would like to underscore the pressing need for constitutional amendments that safeguard and uphold the rights of all residents of Puntland.
The recent local elections in Puntland, which marked a historic milestone for being the first-ever organized in Somalia since late 1960s and hailed by the international community, presents a significant opportunity that we must capitalize on to further strengthen our political system in Puntland.
This encouraging achievement has firmly established Puntland’s standing as a democratic Federal Member State in Somalia on a global scale. My call couldn’t have come at a more ideal time for our beloved region.
In 2012, I joined other politicians in opposing unilateral constitutional amendments in Puntland. We recognized then, as we do now, that any changes to the Constitution should arise from inclusive dialogue and consensus among the various stakeholders. That unilateral decision undermined the cherished democratic principles and deepened societal divisions.
Surprisingly a decade later, we are still forewarning that this topsy-turvy road cannot lead us to our desired destinations. Our pursuit of democratic and prosperous Puntland has never faded and, as an elder, I strongly continue to support the growing call for the elimination of limited number of political parties and the adoption of the open-list model as vital constitutional amendments. Half measured electoral system will not be worth of the effort spent in amending the constitution.
Those necessary changes will play an essential role in ensuring the participation of independent candidates in elections, which is of utmost importance. Nothing short of full participation in politics and non-restricted multiparty system will suffice the residents of this state.
Our focus should be on establishing a framework that guarantees equal rights and opportunities for all citizens—regardless of their backgrounds or affiliations— to engage in the democratic process in Puntland. Only by ensuring that every individual’s voice is heard that we can genuinely assert that our government truly represents the collective will of the people.The existing political framework is inadequate and does not represents the interests and aspirations of the people. So, It is high time that we rectify this and make the necessary changes by enshrining equal rights for all citizens in Puntland’s constitution.
Moreover, Puntland must actively work towards building a society that values transparency, accountability and inclusivity. Democratic governance flourishes when ideas are exchanged openly, honestly whereindividuals can express their opinions without fear of reprisal.
Having said that, we must acknowledge that the path to democratic governance is not without challenges. However, by embracing the principles of fairness, justice, and equal representation we can overcome these obstacles and pave the way for a brighter future which is desperately needed.
The forthcoming elections in Puntland presents a critical opportunity for change. It is therefore important that we adopt universal suffrage for both presidential election and Members of the House of Representatives where Puntland residents are allowed to exercise their democratic rights.
The current system where selected Members of Parliament elect the President and Vice President, perpetuates a status quo that hinders an inclusive and accountable government and encourages vote-buying as evidenced by the previous elections. By allowing all eligible residents to vote, we lay the groundwork for a more representative and transparent leadership.
Puntland has the potential to become a role model for democratic governance, not only within Somalia but also across the wider region. When we prioritize constitutional amendments and embrace universal suffrage, we send a strong message about our unwavering commitment to democracy. Such a proactive approach will not only foster trust and unity among our people but it will also attract positive attention and respect from the international community who continue to stand by Puntland and Somalia through this critical period of State building.
Amnesty International lauds Kulan Post for "holding those in power accountable." pic.twitter.com/qlT01jMZy5
— Kulan Post (@kulanpost) May 22, 2023
Finally, I call upon all stakeholders in Puntland to recognize the critical importance of constitutional amendments and the benefits of universal suffrage. Together, we must build a political structure that empowers every resident and safeguards their fundamental rights. Through these joint efforts, we will not only reinforce our democracy but also ensure a prosperous future for the people of Puntland and the wider nation of Somalia. So, let us be the catalysts for change, leading the way towards a more inclusive and democratic society.
Abdirahman Sh. Mohamed Gablax is a Former Puntland Presidential Candidate.