I ask this question because when people become allergic to a food or a medicine, they tend to avoid that food or medicine in order not to have the unpleasant or sometimes serious reaction that such consumption might provoke. Physicians and other health care providers advise their clients to avoid things they are allergic to as much as possible. And that works for most of the time. Other allergens (substances that cause an allergy) are of environmental nature and include grass, pollen, trees, and so on. But these environmental substances are so ubiquitous in nature, it is very difficult to avoid them. Fortunately, there are anti-allergy medications people can take before they get exposed to such allergens. And that works too.
But when a head of state is suspected of being allergic to a large and important segment of his people and their environment, how do you (a) confirm such diagnosis and (b) find a suitable remedy for such ailment? In the following few paragraphs, I will try to answer these two questions as much as I can and as fair as I can be.
It is well known that the president of FRS, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has not made any serious effort to establish a good working relationship with Puntland State of Somalia. Since he took office in August of 2012, he visited Puntland only once and that was back in April of 2013. But even then, it was a short one and a stopover on his way to the London Conference in May of that year. In fact, many in the area believe that it was just a mere photo opportunity from the part of the president so that he could be seen that he even consulted with the leaders of Puntland before he went to the conference. So, from here we can sense the president’s personal avoidance of this area and its people by limiting his contact with them to a minimum.
In March of 2013, then Prime Minister (PM) Abdi Farah Shirdon paid an official visit to Puntland that lasted for several days. At the end of his visit, the Prime Minister and then the president of Puntland, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, signed some important agreements that, if implemented, would have improved and strengthened the working relationship between the state government and that of the federal. None of these agreements were implemented. And we know what happened to Prime Minister Shirdon in December of 2013. President Hassan and his colleagues in the parliament forced him out of office after a vote of no confidence against his government was passed by the parliament.
In October of 2014, PM Abdiwali Sheikh Ahmed visited Puntland. He was accompanied by members of his cabinet as well as others from the parliament of the FRS in order to solve a crisis created by the president when he tried to form a central federal state out of Mudug and Galgadud regions (read The Forming of the Central Federal Member State(s) and their Constitutionality).
The PM and his entourage have calmed the nerves of the Puntland leaders and those of the people of Puntland by visiting them, talking to them, and listening to their concerns. They have also reached and signed agreements with the president of Puntland, Abdiwali Mohamed Ali Gas), and his administration that, if implemented, may pave the way for solving the many issues the Puntland governments, past and present, have been complaining about against the federal government. These issues include, but are not limited to, lack of revenue sharing, changes made to the constitution unilaterally by Mogadishu, creating obstacles in the way of exploring natural resources by federal member states like Puntland, mismanaging educational scholarships donated by other countries, and so on.
And even though the president has endorsed himself these agreements, like he did the one between PM Shirdon and Puntland, many believe that these agreements will have the same fate as those with PM Shirdon in 2013. Like Shirdon, PM Abdiwali is now fighting to keep his PM position now that the president is trying to get rid of him. In the case of Shirdon, the president accused him of not fulfilling his duties as a PM even though, as everybody knew then, it was the president who usurped the powers of the PM. In the case of PM Abdiwali, he is a victim of fulfilling his duties. He is accused of reshuffling some members of his cabinet, a power invested in him by the constitution. But the president did not see it that way because he thinks that those powers belong to him. When you get blamed both when you fulfill your duties and when you do not, we say in Somali parlance, “waa af salax ku dhag.”No way out.
The common denominator the two PMs have in common, where one has already lost his job and the other is about to, is their reaching out to the people of Puntland and their leaders. So, for some strange reasons, the president feels that he is not only allergic to Puntland but he is also allergic to any of his top officials who deals in a positive way with this region, and therefore has to distance himself from them also. By the way, unlike the common cold, allergic reactions are not contagious. Anyway, the diagnosis is confirmed, even though a bizarre one. Let us see if we can find some remedy for it.
Again going back to the medical field, when one is allergic to a drug (usually an antibiotic) and either there is no alternative drug available or the alternative is expensive, the patient might opt for what is known as desensitization program. In this program, the patient is initially exposed to very small concentrations of the drug he/she is allergic to, which is gradually rendered more concentrated as patient tolerates, until patient is no longer allergic to that drug. And this works most of the time, especially if the allergy type is not that serious.
Similarly, there is no alternative to Puntland and therefore cannot be merely avoided or ignored. There are roughly three million people who call it home out of the estimated ten million Somali population. Even though I have used a simple analogy of an allergic reaction and how to manage it in comparing the president’s perceived problems with Puntland, these issues with Puntland are real and here to stay until he chooses to address them. He can solve most of these issues by:
(a) Visiting them more often than he did so far; sharing with them his views, plans, hopes for their future and that of the nation; listening to their views, plans, and concerns;
(b) Genuinely reaching out to them and their leaders in dealing with the myriad problems facing the nation and how to solve them;
(c) Showing genuine interest in solving their local problems when possible; and when not possible due to lack of or limited resources, facilitating for them ways to solve these problems on their own without placing any more obstacles on their way;
(d) Setting an example for the rest of the nation by abiding the Constitution and the other laws of land.
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