Just over a week after the Somaliland Senate announced the contested extension of the term of President Muse Bihi, fresh alignments are emerging as political tension remains high.
Bihi’s crafting of his re-election plan has led him into strong headwinds with some of his key allies within and without becoming jittery working with the president whose popularity has hit an all-time low after his party’s loss in the parliamentary and municipality elections last year.
In his plan to retain the support base and divide the opposition, President Bihi, who heads the Kulmiye party, has brought in former minister in the Presidency Mohamud Hashi into his kitchen Cabinet and promised him support in his presidential bid if he backs his second term bid.
But this has not gone down well with his deputy in Kulmiye and Interior Minister Mohamed Kahin who also has been harboring an ambition to succeed the president.
According to sources, Hashi who is the head of the Kaah political association has demanded that Bihi comes out publicly to declare him his successor so as to offer him full support.
Kahin’s supporters are now grumbling within the party. The matter has further been complicated after Bihi made advances to Dr. Mohamed Abdi Gabose to make a comeback into politics.
Divide the opposition
Bihi’s plan in bringing Hashi on board was aimed at ensuring he retains the support from his sub-clan which Kahin also hails from.
And by working with Gabose, Bihi’s plan is to divide the opposition party Waddani which holds a majority in parliament.
Mohamud Hashi and Gabose, despite not being members of the president’s Kulmiye party, enjoy some political influence that the president needs to marshal support for his bid for a second term.
In last year’s elections, the opposition Waddani Party scooped most of the parliamentary and municipality seats including those of speakers, leaving the President’s Kulmiye party as the minority party.
To check the growing influence of Waddani Party and its presidential candidate Abdirahman Irro, the president approached Dr. Gabose to form a new political association ahead of the Political Party Associations vetting for qualification.
Gabose and Abdirahman Irro hail from the Garhajis subclan with 25 seats out of the 82 in Parliament, three mayors out of six regional areas including the capital Hargeisa.
Gabose, a doctor by profession, announced his retirement from politics on April 4, 2021, in order to concentrate on his Haldoor hospital.
But after being convinced by President Bihi, he, in July, launched his political comeback through the newly formed Barwaqo political association.
“Although I had already announced my retirement from politics, I have had to return to the political arena after assessing the experiences of my people and my country, and the growing public awareness and consideration of my people’s feelings,” said Gabose when he launched his party.
Splitting their vote
But the Garhajis clan see the return of Gabose into politics and his close ties with President Bihi as a well-crafted move to deny Irro an opportunity to ascend to power by splitting their vote.
It is emerging that the President through his influence within the Political Association Registration Committee is pushing for the qualification of particular political associations during the vetting process. These include: Kaah association led by Mohamud Hashi, Waaberi led by Abdirizak Atush, and Barwaqo led by Dr. Gabose.
The three will then compete with the ruling Kulmiye and opposition parties Waddani and UCID to have the final three that will front candidates for presidential elections.
Political analyst Abdullahi Mohammed says the scheme is to divide the Garhajis clan by pitting Gabose’s Barwaqo against Irro’s Waddani and ensuring they both lose out ultimately.
“With such a scheme, Bihi’s plan is to support and make sure that Kulmiye, Kaah, and Waberi emerge as the new political parties because each of these will get full support from the other clans of Somaliland,” says the analyst.
He says Kulmiye has support from Habar Awal clan, Kaah from Habar Je’lo and Waberi from Dhulbahante and Warsangeli.
“Bihi’s plan is to provide extensive support to Barwaqo so that it competes with Waddani and UCID, all of them getting support from Garhajis and therefore dividing the clan votes and all lose out eventually.”
“With that done, the president will easily win a second term,” says Mohamed.
Mohamed says the conflicts in the Sanag region which came after a visit by some Cabinet officials is aimed at distracting the Garhajis from engaging in national politics.
But Bihi’s move may become a cropper with the Garhajis sub-clan calling for a grand conference to be held in Burao, Somaliland’s second capital on October 25 to chart their political future. They believe there are plans to stifle their political muscle if the president is allowed to get his way with the manipulation of the political associations’ election.
Garhajis previously experienced political alienation when Bihi forged an alliance between Habar Awal and Habar Je’lo sub-clans during the 2017 election.
The political landscape has however changed and most of the major clans including Bihi’s sub-clan Habar Awal and Habar Je’lo have formed close ties with Garhajis after Bihi failed to deliver on his election promises.
Meanwhile, with the discovery by Gabose’s supporters that the president is working with Hashi behind the scenes and forging a new secret deal, they have now threatened to quit and work with Waddani.
“It is quite unfortunate what the president is doing. We lack sincere leadership. As things stand, we may be forced to take another political path,” a member of Barwaqo who sought anonymity said.
Gabose is now considering quitting after realizing that Bihi has another secret agreement with Hashi
Somaliland was due to hold its presidential elections on November 13, this has since been pushed to 2024 after a ruling by the senate but the opposition parties have rejected and termed it unconstitutional.
The opposition also declared that they will not recognize Bihi’s new extended term if a political agreement about the pending election is not reached.
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