Next week, the ruling Kulmiye party will convene its national convention to choose the party’s 2017 presidential nominee. More than three presidential candidates are competing to win the nomination. So far, the front runner is Colonel Muse Bihi, Chairman of the Kulmiye party, a former freedom fighter. Trailing behind him are Abdul Aziz Samale, clergyman turned politician; the Foreign Minister, Mohamed Yonis, a Somali- Canadian retiree from the United Nations; and an unknown candidate, representative Ahmed Nur (Kijandhi). Only one of these candidates is qualified to lead the country.
But for the last few weeks, some Somaliland online news sites like Waaheen and their contributors, which propagate their sub-clans agenda, have been disseminating a daily barrage of smear campaigns to knock down Muse Bihi in order to boost the chances of his political opponents. I was troubled by this type of “knee-jerk” journalism so I decided to write this piece to set the record straight. Somaliland voters have their opinions about Muse Bihi, what he stands for and his accomplishments. And, they also do not need to be reminded about what he said two decades ago or who he said it to during a highly edited tape.
But Bihi just needs a platform to explain where he would take Somaliland. Somalilanders need to know how he would also put forward his agenda to address the most pressing issues of Somaliland: the crushing poverty in our society, our broken judicial system, basic services like water and electricity, land reforms, and equitable tax laws.
For those who do not know about Colonel Muse Bihi, he is a patriot, a decent family man, and a well-qualified public servant. In the early seventies, he graduated (top 5% of his class) from an aviation academy in Russia as a navigator for the Sukhoi bomber aircraft. He went for further leadership training at Wright Patterson Air force Base in Dayton, Ohio. He started in the Somali Air Force as Lieutenant and left the service as Colonel to join the rebel group, Somali National Movement.
In the 1980’s, when the Marxist despot Siad Barre waged war against us, imposed curfews, plundered our properties, ravaged our coasts, burnt our villages and towns, poisoned our wells, destroyed the lives of our people, and used the Somali army to complete the works of death, anguish and tyranny, Bihi and his few but brave fellow junior and senior military officers took up arms and went to the trenches and bushes to fight for the liberty that we have today.
Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, in the Declaration of Independence said, “… All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for the people of good conscience to remain silent.” Because of the sacrifice of Colonel Muse Bihi and his comrades, some of whom paid the ultimate price, tyranny was defeated and freedom prevailed in Somaliland. In fact, Bihi was wounded twice fighting for Somaliland.
While Colonel Bihi and his militias were fighting pitched battles in the narrow, bloody alleys of Hargeisa against a savage enemy, by contrast, one of his political opponents was sifting files at the Human Resources Department of the African Development Bank (ADB), and was living a comfortable life in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
And, when a pluralistic democracy was in introduced in Somaliland, in 2002, Colonel Muse Bihi used his military leadership skills to run a political party. He waged an effective campaign that helped Silanyo win the 2010 presidential election. But Silanyo and the Islamist faction (Islah and the Salafist) of the party denied Muse Bihi and other Kulmiye elders the opportunity to be part of the Silanyo administration, and they did everything in their power to marginalize Colonel Muse Bihi. Despite all of that, Bihi was patient and never quit or undermined the unity of the Kulmiye party.
However, Mohamed Yonis, who is a novice in Somaliland politics, is a good man but has been so wrong about so much on foreign policy at the expense of Somaliland. He has adopted a policy based on appeasing our enemies. He is wrong on engaging the weak Somali government when the pillar of its provisional constitution states that “Somaliland is a region of its territory,” or engaging the United Nations, which drafted and funded its constitution. He set up a multitude of new NGO offices, which were swarmed with officials, for the sole purpose of using poverty and human disasters, like the Dafur region in Sudan, to solicit cash from rich Arab Gulf countries, and the UN. His flawed policies have done great damage to the diplomatic status and the security of our country, and we need to reverse them.
For instance, Somaliland’s relationship with Ethiopia has reached its lowest point. Somaliland is isolated. Moreover, Ethiopia is harboring renegade bandits, who are causing mischief in Borama and border areas.
Somalilanders are sick and tired of smear campaigns. We are tired of weakness. We are tired of Mohamed Yonis’ deceptions, lies, and empty boasts about his career at the UN and the ADB. But there is nothing impressive or noble about being a bureaucrat for the UN or the ADB for more than three decades— these organizations have been rampant with corruption, mismanagement, and backroom deals. Somaliland does not need his experience and credentials because the UN and its various agencies, the ADB and their likes are a threat to the sovereignty, security and the organic peace of Somaliland. The UNSOM especially is already backing one faction of Somalia’s civil war, and it is highly politicized. We need a leader who can protect Somaliland and who understands its unique role in the volatile, unstable Horn of Africa region.
I know that the Kulmiye delegates would agree with me neither Yonis—a retired UN bureaucrat with a Canadian passport —nor Samaale, the head of Islah in Somaliland, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, are that leader.
Muse Bihi is the only candidate who can defeat the 2017 presumptive Wadani party presidential nominee, Speaker Cirro. The 2017 presidential election would become a contest between two divergent nominees with opposing narratives. Ultimately, voters will decide who should be the next president. But first, the selection of the delegates and nominating process of the Kulmiye party must be democratic, open and transparent. More importantly, our government ministers must not be used as a platform to help the political campaign of any candidate.
The Kulmiye delegates should judge candidate’s “…. experience, competence and historical achievement,” when selecting the party’s 2017 presidential nominee, Yonis said during a news conference upon his return from Ireland at Hargeisa airport.
If we use even Yonis’ own criteria for selecting the 2017 Kulmiye party presidential nominee, indeed, Bihi is the best candidate of all. Bihi is a national hero, and he has the character and the good judgment to lead Somaliland. With Allah’s help, he would become an excellent commander-in chief because he has a good relationship with the rank and file in the army. For too long, Somaliland has lacked energetic leadership. Bihi has been tested on pitched battles and on political battlegrounds, and he has what it takes to be a president: integrity, experience, and leadership.