Last week, to everyone’s surprise, parliamentarians representing Awdal succeeded for the first time in getting their bill to reopen the Somaliland constitution approved by the breakaway Somali region’s House of Representatives.
Awdal which is one of the 5 of the regions recognized by Somaliland constitution has long complained of being left behind in program funding, infrastructure and notably political representation.
Prior the vote at the parliament, Awdal MPs met with the media and read out their grievance and shared their exasperation of not being heard by the clan that dominates Somaliland.
What are these grievances
Awdal grievance, or at least how MPs put it, was detailed in the communique read by MP Mohamed Omar Maydhane on September 30. The main points are:
1. a newly revised constitution should clearly stipulates how power is shared by the communities that make up Somaliland. The current constitution, passed by referendum in 2000, in which Awdal mostly voted no and some districts in the Sool and Sanaag regions did not participate, is exclusionist and therefore polarizing.
2. an agreement on a fair share within the judiciary, the executive and development programs. Being outside Somaliland’s decision-making circle, Awdal does not benefit from development aid programs. Dilapidated roads are just one example.
3. The number of constituencies in Awdal should be expanded, as has been done in other regions.
4. Elections should be won by a simple majority. The current proportionality voting system only cement the false rational that Awdal has less population that other regions inhabited by the “central clan”.
The lead up to this vote
On August, a sub-clan with the central clan that monopolized Somaliland power proposed an initiative that will reconcile their clan’s only hitherto official parties on the upcoming elections. The only issue was that proposal widely accepted within that clan politicians excluded political associations which were preparing for the elections.
Professor Ahmed Ismail Samatar, an academic and politician from Awdal, rejected this clan-based solution that disregard established laws and institutions but also dashed his only hope to run for the president seat.
On September 3, while diaspora leaders were meeting in Ottawa, Canada to form a movement vying to liberate Awdal from Somaliland, Somaliland MP Mohamed Abib, also from Awdal, made a press conference in Hargeisa in which he eloquently and vociferously criticized Somaliland authorities and the ‘central clan” for the ills of the breakaway “republic”.
Other Awdal politicians also met with the media in Hargeisa and emphasized that Awdal is out of patience with Hargeisa politics and something has to change if Somaliland wanted to exist longer as an autonomous region from Somalia.
What is different now
Since Somaliland inception, Awdal has not had enough seats, meaning it has not had enough votes to make a dent in Hargeisa’s “one clan takes all” politics. In fact, the population of Awdal is reduced to the status of a marginal minority group. Whether its representatives are present or absent in parliament, a quorum is reached and deliberations and the adoption of laws can continue.
Their only power or privilege was to be there and lobby for their cause Isaaq saw as a challenge or complications. Anything they could get was also given to other Isaaq sub-clans. They were told they should be satisfied of this power to campaign within the corridor of power in Hargeisa.
Ultimately, Awdal’s parliamentarians were forced to sell their votes to the dominant party and thus earn some pocket money. It must be said that the value of the Gadabursi vote in parliament is even lower than that of a member of an Isaaq sub-clan.
This ease in indulging in corruption has become the hallmark of Awdal politicians and has created a chasm between them and the people they were supposed to represent.
How Las Anod liberation change the deal
It must be said that the defeat of Somaliland against the unionist forces of SSC-Khaatumo triggered many hushed voices in Awdal to show courage. Second, general weariness with Musa Bihi’s increasingly authoritarian and corrupt regime among residents of the Somaliland-ruled territory has encouraged Awdal politicians to publicly air their grievances.
Finally, the current weakness of the Somaliland forces, exhausted by the unfortunate Las Anod offensive and grappling with armed rebellions within the “central clan”, means that more and more the people of Awdal are talking openly about an autonomous state. of a Somaliland that never considered them.
The Awdal deputies want to capitalize on these challenges and the risk of possible unrest in their region which would further fragment the separatist region. Seizing the opportunity, these representatives showed boldness and a united front to confidently push for their demands for more power and funding for Awdal to be met.
What is the foreseeable outcome
As MP Mohamed Maydhane said in his triumphant reply to a journalist, it is now up to President Musa Bihi to approve the resolution.
In fact, no one has any illusions. The Issaq leaders have repeatedly shown that they do not want to cede anything to the “peripheral clans” of Somaliland. Only a die-hard optimist would believe that things will be different this time.
Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, another stakeholder in Somaliland, won’t accept Gadabursis, whose land and resources he covets, obtain concessions from Hargeisa including more control over their territory and its resources or even a say in Somaliland affairs.
Ultimately, it is up to President Musa Bihi and the Senate President to approve the reopening of the constitution or shelve it as in 2005. It is their decision to make Somaliland’s existence shorter or longer.
Rise of the Awdal State Movement
The exuberance of these politicians who are congratulating themselves even as the adoption of their resolution will not change the fact that many in Awdal are fed up with Hargeisa’s shenanigans.
But some of these MPs, the least optimistic, are preparing for a scenario similar to that of 2005, when their representatives were assured that the next parliament and the next president would revise the constitution. We can already see their tacit support for the Awdal State Movement, which is growing day by day.
Indeed, the after-Somaliland is being prepared right now as to speak. For the first time, Awdal representatives in Mogadishu, the Ugaas and the Diaspora showed their commitment to do away with the secessionists, not some kind of patch-up that will keep Awdal under Hargeisa and Djibouti thumb.
Finally, those who accustomed to Hargeisa’s bribery and other mercenaries know that they cannot, for the first time, divide the Awdal community and beg Hargeisa to grant them some concessions which they will bring in Borama as a trophy of their hard work.