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Comment & analysis

Islamist radicals abusing Somaliland’s democracy

Abdirahman M. Dirye

2012-11-21, Issue 607

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Having failed to forcibly impose a radical theocracy in Somaliland, militants have now turned to funding political parties to pursue their agenda.

For not less than 12 years, Somalilanders were chanting ‘Democracy’ without a deep understanding. Some said it was ‘the Sharia Law’ of the West; others thought of it as ‘imperial culture’ which simply replaced the colonialism of maintaining armies in foreign countries to retain sway over large territories of oil and minerals without bloodshed. Pro-western majority of the society was adamant that introduction of the multi-party system would be the panacea for social ills in Somaliland from recognition to reconstruction of infrastructure. But so far the socioeconomic and security situations are worryingly deteriorating. Democracy and the peace dividend have not materialized.

Besides, the increased participation of fanatics in the on-going democratization process coincided with Al-Shabab’s utter military defeat in Mogadishu. Therefore, legions of extremists scared by the deadly drone attacks are chasing Somaliland parties after their efforts to turn Somaliland into little Afghanistan were rebuffed. Far worse, Islamists are the official sponsors of the new political parties which the incumbent president, Mr Silanyo, recently allowed to distract attention from his government’s inaction in the country: shortage of water, and dilapidated roads in the capital. A party needs finance, and terrorists want legitimation.

The fact that our society and national parties are based on tribal identities is quite alarming. This loophole has given terrorists easy access to political parties. Furthermore, democracy in Somaliland has turned to political maneuvering and empty slogans totally irrelevant to real life, worse than ‘Sharia law’ that sparked the most disastrous famine in Somalia’s history. Municipal elections which are only weeks away will produce 24 corrupted councillors stealing the country’s meager resources — unless fundamental reform is made.

The extremists bankroll the parties when militancy failed, to take advantage of the seemingly ill-fated democracy and the abject poverty in the country. The fanatics linked with global Jihadist networks are campaigning for political parties throughout the day, an unprecedented phenomenon in Somaliland. The unregulated democracy is giving birth to a criminal theocracy and may lead to devastation as wealthy radicals overwhelm the budding democracy in ‘Africa’s most disputed region,’ to borrow David Shinn’s words.

There are chains of cafes, restaurants and Madrasas or alien schools in Somaliland run by the adherents of the Islamic Wahabi school of thought that generate millions of dollars a month. But the staff are underfed and underpaid. What the huge income is spent on is yet unclear and no institution has authority to audit.

Neither Somaliland’s intelligence nor the parliament heads off this systematic infiltration into parties. Is the International Republican Institute (IRI), which is supposed to advance democracy worldwide, serious about keeping power out of the hands of clerical thugs? Some widely known dangerous faces finance parties only with friendly attitude towards Jihad who condone and justify terrorism as the weapon of the poor against the strong. Their ill-gotten gains from ‘leaderless’ Jihad are funded in adverts and campaign commercials in return for decriminalization.

Multiparty politics developed into a destructive force! We are heading towards sham democracy unless National Election Commission is given an ultimatum to change the direction; our democracy won’t be on the right track. Radicals use Somaliland’s democracy for their own advantage.

* Abdirahman M. Dirye is Somaliland activist and volunteer. His email: [email protected]

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