New Puntland Council of Ministers, but No Change In Sight

Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni. [File Photo]
Garowe–(Puntland Mirror) The recently elected President of Puntland State, Mr Said Abdullahi Deni, has announced his Council of Ministers around midnight on Monday 11 February 2019.    The new Council of Ministers comprises of 18 Ministers, 21 Vice Ministers and 9 State Ministers, making the total number 48 cabinet members.  It took him 35 days from the day he took the oath of office to form his government, the longest time for any president in Puntland history. 

Mr Deni has failed in the first appraisal of his appointments for some of the prestigious portfolios in his cabinet such as Ministers of Internal Affairs, Security, Finance, Planning and the Environment.  The president’s appointments for these senior positions fell short of the high expectations of Puntland people and cast question marks on his leadership and credibility.   The inclusion of some individuals with inglorious record of corruption and others without competence does not bode well for the future of Puntland.

The situation is depicted as “from the frying pan into the fire” after the president entrenched himself with complaisant and supplicant individuals, people similar to the ones who crippled previous governments and led to the feelings of delusion grandeur of former presidents.

The president’s announcement was received with a widespread disapproval and disappointment.  Many people regarded the president as perceptive and sagacious leader who could analyse the socio-economic situation in Puntland and appoint a cabinet smaller in size and higher calibre than the previous governments.  It is undeniably clear that most of the current ministries are vital to run the business of Puntland government, which became more complicated over the last 10 years. On the other hand, nobody can reasonably dispute the fact that senior government positions should only be filled with individuals with leadership qualities, appropriate qualifications, competence and integrity; people who not only can deliver but who could be seen as excellent role models for the society in terms of accountability, transparency and high standard of conduct.

Puntland Mirror has asked some of the political analysts in Puntland to share their thoughts on the new government.

“Looking into two aspects of the president’s new Council of Ministers, I cannot see any changes or improvements”, said Mr Abdirahman Mohamed Ali. “We were very hopeful that the president’s new appointments would reflect changes in the direction and strategy of at least the three core ministries of Finance, Security and Interior Affairs &Federalism. When you consider their qualifications and experiences on public finance, security reforms, local government, decentralisation, democratisation and federalism, the individuals nominated for these core ministries do not seem to be capable of making any significant improvements or changes in their respective ministries”.

The analysts concurred that the president has not chosen his new Council of Minister on merit but based his selection on mutual interest, friendship and family relations. 

“Two of the new ministers were close to the president during the election campaign, and were poised to become ministers”, commented by Mr Said Farah, political analyst based in Garowe.

President Deni’s choice of Mr Hasan Shire Abgaal as Minister of Finance was widely anticipated due to his apparent unwavering campaigning for the president.  Mr Hasan has served as the director of the department of administration and accounting of the Ministries of Health and Livestock for the last 10 years. He has never held any senior position in government and has no experience and track record in public finance management, planning, fiscal and economic strategy policy formulation.

The fight against corruption and cronyisms has repeatedly featured in President Deni’s campaign speeches. He has flaunted his skill and experience as a successful businessman to create the suitable conditions for economic growth and development. His choice for the Ministry of Finance does not match his promises but time will tell whether it will undermine his determination to deliver his campaign pledges and his intentions on effectiveness, transparency and accountability.

Mohamed Ali, an analyst based in Garowe, summarises the impact of this portfolio on the President Deni’s leadership, credibility and his economic reform agenda in the next few years. Mohamed said, “The post requires an academically qualified person with fiscal acumen and personal integrity, a proven track record of expertise and successful career in public finance and economic restructuring. The allocation of this very highly prominent and coveted position might show the first sign of Mr Deni leadership vulnerabilities. The economic consequences and the loss of credibility could be so great that the president may not recover from that initial shock”.

Similarly, Mr Deni’s choice of Mr Abdisamad Mohamed Gallan, as Minister of Security raised questions and concerns of his suitability and competency for this position. Mr Gallan served as the governor of Bari region in Faroole’s government. When he was removed from office by president Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas, he waged armed clan rebellion against the government which was later resolved through peaceful negotiation.

President Denni has appointed Mr Mohamed Abdirahman Dhabancad as Minister of Interior & Federalism. Puntland political and governance experts suggest that Mr Mohamed is a political novice, and has never held a senior public office.  Although he has worked with humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in various capacities, he does not possess any public office experience nor has he got any expertise to manage the complex tasks of the Ministry of Interior ranging from local government decentralization, capacity building and development of district councils, planning of cities and towns, supporting the livelihood of rural communities, democratization, policing reform and promoting and strengthening federalism in Somalia.

Most Puntlanders concur that 2019 elections should close an era in the State history of tribal elder’s selection of the members of the House of Representatives.  The leadership and policy direction of the Minister of Interior in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, will have profound impact on the future judicial, socio-political and governance structures of Puntland. A genuine drastic reform is needed to realize an effective, independent and fair judicial system for Puntland. A practical move will involve the reorganization and transformation of Puntland High Court to ensure the independence of the judiciary as well as to adjudicate over any disputes among the emerging democratic system of government.  These two portfolio are in the vanguard of promoting and strengthening Somalia’s Federal system of government and the genuine realization of the rule of law in Puntland

Analysts voiced their concern on the heated debate which is raging in Puntland about the allocation of four prestigious positions (Ministries of Finance, Interior, Security and Planning) for individuals from the same sub-clan which is a new phenomenon and the first incident in the history of the State. Experts warn that the nominations of these four posts could harm the unity, coexistence, cooperation and confidence of the Puntland communities in president Deni’s government. 

During his election campaign president Deni repeatedly made firm pledges to tackle insecurity and rampant corruption which have hindered development in Puntland since it was founded in 1998. Analysts suggest that the president has still got chance to make good on his pledges of democratization and free and fair elections, security sector reforms and fight against corruption.

Another area that president Deni has failed to grasp is the need for change to realise gender balance in his new cabinet. He has allocated only one female in his 18-member Ministers, another failure and disregard for his election campaign promises.

The president’s amalgamation of the two important ministries of environment and agriculture is seen as another misjudgement.  Mr Hussien Haji Yusuf, an environmentalist based in Garowe, commented on this merger. “I believe that the president’s decision to merge the ministries of the environment and agriculture is wide of the mark. The environmental problems we face today are complex and are not only threats to trees and rangeland but threat to our ecosystem as a whole. We need a separate dedicated ministry which can protect the environment and develop programmes to mitigate environmental problems”.   

Inside sources confirm to Puntland Mirror that the president has faced difficulties in the nominations of his Council of Ministers after he met unrelenting pressure from individuals and clan leaders who wanted him to consider their proposals. The perceived wavering resolve of President Deni can damage public confidence and trust in him and his newly formed cabinet.

Despite these concerns, many people believe that Deni’s leadership and the success of his government will be assessed against fulfilling his election promises and reforms in security, economy and governance in Puntland in the coming months.

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