[SW Country] ( Ali A. Jama) Comments to ICG Africa Briefing No 64 - Somalia: The Trouble with Puntland : Posted on 15 Aug 2009


Comments to Comments to ICG Africa Briefing No 64 - Somalia: The Trouble with Puntland



By Ali A. Jama ( , 15 August 2009




I do not speak for Puntland State of Somalia, and I am hoping the official response to ICG Africa Briefing No 64 of 12 August 2009 (ICG Briefing 64) shall be given by the competent authority in Puntland. But as interested observer to the Somali scene and a private citizen, I am recording a brief account of my comments to the ICG Briefing 64.


ICG Briefing 64 is troubling by its lack of proportionality and objectivity.


 Lack of Proportionality of ICG Briefing 64


ICG Briefing 64 is a flawed piece of work when one considers the political and social context of the subject matter - Somalia. It lacks proportionality by its very critical nature of Puntland State of Somalia at a time when hardly there is any other good news coming out of Somalia. It is inconceivable why Puntland, arguably, the bright spot now in the Somali body politics, should be the subject of fierce attack, while there is plenty of bad news coming out of Somalia that could have made more sensible material for criticism.


On the principle of proportionality, Puntland would score very high in the context of overall Somali body politics. I would argue that in the general scheme of things in Somalia now, Puntland deserves a pat on the shoulder for its grassroots efforts to better the lives of its citizens and the thousands of IDP’s from war-torn South and Central part of the country. So one can only conclude that the Think Tank ICG has some ulterior motives in the publication of ICG Briefing 64.

Surely, Puntland has problems and the tasks ahead are not easy, but this report will not contribute positively to the solution of its problems. The few positive elements in the Report, I believe, are intended to sugar coat the sinister intentions discussed widely in the ICG Briefing 64.


ICG’s Credibility on Somali Affairs

ICG’s work on Somalia is well documented. It has been intrusive, biased, and often get thing wrong. A good example is their Africa Report N°147 of 23 December 2008 - Somalia: To Move (Somalia) Beyond the Failed State  in which they campaigned vigorously to discredit and the TFG structure, then led by President Abdullahi Yusuf.

These are some of what the ICG recommended in Report 147:

·         “The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has failed in four years to create a broad-based government and now is non-functional, existing almost only in name. President Abdillahi Yusuf has marginalised large parts of the population and exacerbated divisions. The latest confrontation with parliament and the prime minister has underlined that Yusuf hampers any progress on peace, has become a liability for the country’s survival and should be encouraged to resign”

·         “…..if additional parties can be persuaded to join the Djibouti reconciliation talks, and local and international actors – including the U.S. and Ethiopia – accept that room must be found for much of the Islamist insurgency in that process and ultimately in a new government dispensation…”

Now we know! , ICG’s two above-mentioned recommendation has been granted. -  President Abdllahi Yusuf resigned on 27th Dec 2008, the new “government dispensation” set up in Djibouti included the insurgency. But far from the rosy picture that ICG was predicting in their Report, the net results of their recommendations have been more bloodshed, more displaced people, more insurgent groups, more foreign extremists, and more violence in South and Central Somalia than any time in the recent history of the country. 

Given this gross misjudgment just eight months ago, and the disastrous results for Somalia as a whole, is there any credibility to this Think Tank group now?  I will leave the answer for the readers to decide.

Instead of apologizing to the Somali people for their disastrous past actions, here comes ICG Briefing 64, damning the performance of one of the few functioning structures in country – Puntland. The analogy of this ICG Report would be the school teacher who foolishly reprimands and punishes his best class student for the poor performance of the rest of his students. This defies logic! To me ICG Briefing 64 is an indicative of ill-intentions and dark motives.

Some Specifics of ICG Briefing 64

I have chosen 3 specific areas where the ICG Briefing 64 was critical of Puntland State and give short comments on each:

Puntland Relationship with TFG.

ICG would like to see that Puntland takes the risk of subordinating its hard-earned functioning institutions to the shaky dysfunctional TFG system. What ICG does not acknowledge is that Puntland was and still is the backbone of the TFG structure. No region or group in the country has done more to sustain the TFG than Puntland. Public officials from the President down have been reiterating time and again their commitment to the basic principles of Federal Somalia, but understandably, are not willing to take risk of subordinating their institutions yet. Both Pres. Sheik Sharif and Prime Min Omar Abdirashid have acknowledged Puntland’s place in Somalia on their congratulatory notes on  1st of August 2009, the 11th anniversary celebrations of Puntland. In his message Sheik Sharif characterized Puntland as the “Mother of Somalia”, which I believe is a fair characterization of Puntland, given all the sacrifices it is doing for the greater cause of the Somali Nation.

But Puntland has also made it clear that it will develop its resources in a manner that it sees fit to address its current needs. It made it clear also that limits of authorities between the Federal and the State structures needs to be negotiated in a calibrated manner when reliable Federal structures emerge. This, in my opinion is a fair game. Both Puntland and TFG have responsibilities to iron out any differences that may exist now. The onus is however, on the TFG side and I hope it makes the right moves to re-assure Puntland that it means no harm.

Instead to trying to understand the Puntland logic, the ICG Briefing 64 resorts to baseless fear mongering, that Puntland’s “traditional unionist position officially adopted in 1998” is shifting towards secessionist path. This in my opinion is a load of crab!

The new Puntland Constitution

The thrust of the message contained in ICG Briefing 64 seems to have been triggered by the new Puntland Constitution. Somehow this document got into the nerves of the Author(s). ICG wants to “suspend the implementation of the new constitution”, “redraft it in a more inclusive process”, and use experts to help “meet international standards”. The report states also that the “constitution was crafted in secrecy, without input from civil society and key clan constituents”. “Non-Majerten apprehensions were reinforced when the council of ministers quietly adopted the draft in June 2008 (2009), immediately followed by the legislature”.

Personally, I am not an expert on constitutions, nor am I privy to the consultative processes that went into the Puntland constitution, but I remember there was a fair amount of debate in the legislature. Was that enough? Perhaps competent Puntland authorities can comment on this. But what is clear from the ICG Briefing 64 is the following:

·       An attempt to incite trouble and clan discord in Puntland.

Collapse of Puntland State

The ICG Briefing 64 is sounding the doomsday alarm with such a passion that one gets the impression very soon Puntland system will not be there any more! It makes the outlandish statements of “collapse of inter-clan cohesion”, “collapse of pan-Darood solidarity that led to creation in 1998”, “violent breakup of Puntland as rival clans seeking autonomy from Growe carve out their own enclaves” and many others.

Well, I hope and believe ICG’s wish will not be granted and Puntland will not collapse any time soon! And I hope the Puntland authority would check the facts and respond to these outlandish statements, not necessarily to ICG per se, but with action on the ground to discredit the fear-mongering-good-for-nothing monsters, the likes of ICG, that make their living on the sorry plight of the downtrodden.

Concluding Remarks

·         ICG Briefing 64 contains serious allegations on individuals in Puntland Authority, and I decided not to comment on these points.

·         This Report, despite its obvious shortcomings, some of which I discussed above, can serve useful purpose. I hope Puntland Authority will screen it carefully and follow up the elements that can add value to the State institutions.

·         And last but not least, the existing Authority seems to be heading in the right direction. Puntland voices are louder and gaining momentum. Ku dayo Puntland song has been an instant hit, albeit dampened by the recent unfortunate events in Galkayo. I hope Puntland can steer the ship back on course again.




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