The West Let Rayale Off The Hook

21 November 2009 | Op-Ed
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The West Let Rayale Off The Hook; Now They Must Keep Him on a Tight Leash It is an indisputable fact that president Dahir Rayale Kahin would not have been in office today had it not been the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) brokered by western donor countries between the government and opposition parties.

Despite this, Rayale is an irrationally obstinate man who would not readily admit the fact that the western donor countries that support the democratization and electoral process in Somaliland saved him from the jaws of those who brought down the curtain on black Africa’a mightiest military junta under which Rayale served as a spy.

On the night of Friday 25th September there was a palpable climate of fear in Hargeisa. A planned armed confrontation between members of the public and police force was in the offing, the opposition parties, having reached at the end of their tether with the government, were smelling blood and aiming for the jugular, the young people mobilized themselves to pelt members of the House of Elders with rocks in a bid to force them not to grant any more extension of presidential term to Rayale, there was even a talk of setting fire to the House of Elders, and finally there was an unannounced mutiny within the ranks of the military High Command over the deployment of troops in central Hargeisa. In a nutshell, the Friday night was chilling and genuinely scary.

President Rayale was later quoted as saying, “there are forces lurking out there who want to seize power by force of arms”. He was absolutely right. The unseen forces lurking in the dark were none other than the Somaliland people who propelled him into the presidency and expected him to hold the presidential election by the scheduled date: 27 September 2009. Not only did he fail five times before to hold the presidential election but this time around he deliberately and calculatedly acted beyond the bounds of his constitutional powers by refusing to respect the Electoral Law of the country. Hence the people were ready to seize the presidential palace and parliament by any means necessary because Rayale’s mandate was about to expire on Sunday 27th September 2009 at 12.00 midnight, East African Time. For Rayale, the MOU was therefore like manna from heaven.

By early Friday morning, at least one member of the House of Elders was beaten up in the KULMIYE stronghold of Ahmed Dhagah district and had to be saved from an angry mob armed with rocks and sticks and another had to be rescued and moved out of harm’s way in the nick of time by family members. Other members spoke on the independent Radio Horyaal and explained in detail how they have received death threats by telephone and via text messages.

It was an open secret that the members of the House of Elders were poised to extend one year of president’s term of office irrespective of the peoples’ will.

However when the moment of truth came on Friday morning, the members of the House of Elders saw the writing on the wall. The Elders backed down in the face of mounting hostility from the public and the highly explosive situation in which the country remained.  That Friday session was billed “do or die” moment for the House of Elders.

The Elders ultimately accepted the will of the people by approving unanimously, with no abstentions or opposing votes, the MOU brokered by western donor countries and signed by the three main political parties instead of voting for a one-year presidential term extension to Rayale as was previously planned.

Surely, Rayale did not like the MOU sponsored by donor countries. He wanted the House of Elders to extend his presidential term of office for another year against the will of the people. He even refused to send his party representatives the day before to the House of Elders to confirm that his party will abide by the terms and conditions of the MOU even though his party agreed and signed the agreement in advance.

President Rayale attempted to repeal the Electoral Law of the country by unilaterally announcing that he would hold the then forthcoming presidential election “without voter registration list”, deployed the police to seize and shut down the democratically elected parliament of Somaliland, refused to see mediation committee comprising Somaliland citizens carefully selected for their  reputation for impartiality, brushed aside the advice of the leadership of the two Houses of Parliament, rejected the advice of the international community to reverse his “unwise” decision and almost plunged the country into a civil strife.

This is a sobering witness of the reprehensible abuse of power by Rayale’s corrupt regime and this is the sort of man that the west saved his presidency.

Until now however Rayale does not seem to have learned a lesson from this experience. For him, it is business as usual.

As soon as his presidency was saved at the eleventh hour, he was back to his old autocratic antics. For instance, he began to screen the nominees submitted by the opposition parties and the House Elders to fill in the National Electoral Commission posts vacated by seven former disgraced commissioners.

The president has only the prerogative to receive the nominees from various constitutional bodies and forward them to the parliament. Rayale however did not do that he returned the nominees submitted by the opposition parties and the House of Elders, insisting that they should be replaced when, in fact, no similar vetting or screening was done to his nominees.

In an apparent attempt to test the waters, he had deliberately exceeded the timeline set for the formation of the National Electoral Commission. And he succeeded with flying colours.

The donor countries watched these violations on the sidelines and did not lift a finger to bear pressure on Rayale to come clean. Here, you have a man who genuinely believes that he is a law unto himself when, in actual fact, he is not even a legitimate president per se. As far as the majority of the Somaliland public is concerned his presidency depends on how he honours the MOU signed by the three main parties.

It’s worth noting that the Somaliland public put their faith in the MOU and their expectation from donor countries is obviously very high.  The people expect that the donor countries will wield the big stick against Rayale if and when he deviates from what has been agreed upon.

Rayale and his henchmen will only come to their senses if they are truly threatened with a travel ban to Europe, the United States and African states friendly to the West. They should also be threatened with the freezing of all financial assets deposited in their name or in the names of their relatives throughout the world.

Surely, Rayale will, in the near future, make every endeavour to create conditions not conducive for holding the presidential election. The West should therefore monitor his actions and should not simply rely on reports from third parties with ulterior motives and hidden agenda.

The Somaliland people not only expect the Western donor countries to keep Rayale on a tight leash until the presidential Election Day but also to tighten the screws on him if and when he fails to meet his obligations under the MOU.

Failure to keep Rayale on a tight leash will mean the Somaliland people will use any means necessary to remove him from power. After all, he is not a legitimate president in the eyes of the Somaliland people. In the literal sense, he is simply a caretaker whose presidency is dependent upon how he meets his obligations under the Memorandum of Understanding. He cannot simply continue to behave like an elected president with a big mandate.
Jamal Madar

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