Ever since Said Abdullahi Deni won Puntland presidency in January 2019, he has been mired in one crisis after another, and so I wonder who is actually in charge. Some would answer: Aaran Jaan is in charge!
With just two votes, his victory was one of the slimmest election victories in Puntland history. This lack of decisive and sizable victory against Asad Diano, a young newcomer, was the first thing to dampen Deni’s grand ego to have Puntland under his full control. This shortfall also paved the way for the political challenges that followed soon after. Needless to say, this was the first wakeup call to warn Deni not to mess up with the widely accepted Puntland way of governance.
First crisis resulted in bloodshed that caused several deaths at the Puntland Parliament, when Deni ordered security apparatus loyal to him to remove by the barrel of the gun, the speaker of Parliament at the time, and to add insult to injury, ordered MPs to name a replacement even before the deceased were given proper burial services, so that the relatives of the deceased could mourn the loss of their loved ones, and get closure to deal with their grief. This was definitely the first major political loss installment.
The second crisis relates to the intrigues and intricacies of working out a workable Federal election modality with the Federal government. Here, I need not list all the communiques and press releases that came out of Dhusamareb, Mogadishu, and Baidoa meetings, but I just want to shed light on the bipolar approaches that Mr Deni uses to achieve his goals and the ease at which he changes his views on positions that he once supported, without giving any valid reason.
Mr. Deni, was initially happy to help draft the election modality agreement that was eventually agreed and signed by all at Dhusamareb I, II, III, but later changed his mind and opposed all previous agreements that he supported, again without any valid reason. That was definitely another Political Loss installment.
The third crisis was the result of illegally removing eight MPs from their Parliamentary seats, just because they questioned some of Deni’s policies, especially, the UAE deal to take over the Bosaaso port, against the approval of the majority of the MPs and also of the people in Puntland. Here he used a carrot and stick strategy. First, he threatened any dissenting MPs with similar fate as the eight MPs just expelled from the parliament and then offered monetary reward to those who vote for his UAE /Bosaaso port plan. This was a major loss for the people of Puntland but perhaps a financial win for Deni and his Aaran Jaan team.
The latest and the most dangerous crisis that Deni is in the midst of currently is the one involving the removal of Mohamud Abdullahi Osman Diano as the Director General of Puntland Security Forces (PSF) and nomination of another person to lead the PSF. The outcome of this crisis is hard to predict because of the inherent clan involved as well as other complicated factors:
- First, this PSF crisis is really between the Deni family and the Diano family, both of whom are also closely related by Somali tribal hierarchy and belonging to the same Osman Mohamud Saleban clan. So, it is basically a family feud and family feuds are not easy to reconcile.
- Second, the PSF has always been somewhat independent and not involved in Puntland politics, but Deni wants to involve them into Puntland’s zero-sum political game in order to use them ath his political advantage.
- Third, the U.S. which heavily invested in training the PSF to fight against Al-shabab/Al-qaida affiliated branches based in Puntland would be the biggest loser should Deni succeed in taking over the PSF because the PSF will lose its independence and the quick decision-making abilities to act against Al-shabab and other threats, rendering all U.S. investment in this force a waste.
- Finally, the main reason Deni wants to take over the PSF is to turn it into his own band of soldiers to use against political rivalries in Puntland and neighboring Galmudug region, so he can remain the undisputed candidate for Somalia’s upcoming Federal election.
Also, given the fact that Deni always had an ambition to run for Somalia’s presidency and the fact that he had been busy the last few years planning a winning strategy to entice enough Federal MPs to propel him to the throne while also creating formidable and vocal opposition against Farmajo.
Some days when he is of the thought that he had garnered enough votes, he would be upbeat and supportive of the election process. But on other days when reality hits, and the doom and gloom appear before him, he mocks the whole election process that he had been in support of previously and rejects all proposal to move the election forward.
His disdain for the incumbent president, the disarray within the opposition camp, the lack of an honest, reputable, uncorrupted, and uncompromised candidate to run against the incumbent president, and his fear of the inevitable loss if he runs against Farmajo had made Deni mad, erratic, and unsuitable to become the next president of Somalia. This is the biggest fear that Deni has and so he doesn’t want to let go Puntland but he also wants to run president. In other words, he wants to have his cake and eat it too!
Somalia needs a president who can unite the nation, heal the wounds, who can achieve political stability and genuine reconciliation. It needs a president who puts all his time, effort, not on stealing from the coffers of the public to enrich himself but, someone who uses the resources of the nation to rebuild it through justice and development.
Somalia does not need a power-hungry character like Deni as president who’s only way to resolve conflicts and even minor disagreement is to use deadly force.
As Chairman Mao Zedong of China once said: “political power grows of the barrel of a gun.”
Finally, unless Deni learns the art of compromise and how to become pragmatic it would be hard for him to be suitable to be elected for Federal office of any capacity in Somalia?
If he can’t change his stubborn attitude it is better for him to remain with his elk and pass the baton!