HARGEISA – Last week’s presidential debate on October 19th was the first time in Somaliland history that presidential candidates were given an opportunity to outline their policy positions and face off head-head in a televised debate.
The three presidential candidates, Musa Bihi Abdi (Kulmiye), Faisal Ali Waraabe (UCID) and Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Irro (Waddani), answered a series of questions regarding their views on issues such as democratic reform, healthcare, education, judicial reform.
The presidential debate, which lasted for roughly more than two hours, and was split into two parts, and was conducted in Somali, limiting the audience to only those who can comprehend Somali.
The National has spent a considerable amount of time into summarizing and translating the responses of the candidates on the issues that were discussed during the debate.
It is interesting to point out that, energy and climate change, which are two key issues in Somaliland, and the root causes of the devastating droughts that have plagued the country within the past couple years, were not on the debate agenda.
Although many followers of the election were hoping to see the candidates discuss their stances on energy and climate change, many agree that the issues that were on the agenda were indeed pressing issues and that the debate’s organizing committee did a great job of organizing Somaliland’s first-ever presidential debate.
Below, are the issues that were discussed during the debate, and the translated summaries of the responses from each candidate.
DEMOCRACY (Term Extensions and Delayed Elections)
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro promises that if he is elected President, there will no be term extensions or delayed elections during his Presidency, no matter what event arises. Irro says that his government will create a calendar for elections in advance, and will adhere to the dates on the election calendar.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi pledges to make sure that his yearly budgets fund timely elections. Abdi says he will do everything in his power to make sure elections are held on time, if an event of force majeure doesn’t arise.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe says that he is strongly against term extensions and will not allow a term extension, if he becomes President. Waraabe also says that if the term of Somaliland’s parliament expires under his presidency, he will not allow a parliamentary term extension and dissolve the parliament.
Waraabe also pledges, if he wins the election, to organize a National Conference in February 2018 to discuss the state of Somaliland’s democracy and constitutional reform.
DEMOCRACY (Influence of Clan Politics)
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro says that he will gradually limit the influence of tribal leaders in Somaliland politics. Irro did not mention the pledge he made last month, promising to raise the salaries of traditional leaders by 200%.
Irro also says that he will listen to the grievances of Somaliland’s far-eastern regions (Sanaag, Badhan, Sool, Buhoodle) and far-western region (Awdal), when reforming Somaliland’s current democratic system.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi says that the people of Somaliland need more democratic awareness and education on what it means to be a democratic country. Abdi says his government will make this a priority, because the role of clans in currently deeply rooted in Somaliland’s society.
Abdi says he also plans to create more civic education programs to teach the people of Somaliland about their role in the country’s democratic process.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe says the first thing he would do as President, is to ban clan-based politics and clan conferences in Somaliland. Waraabe says he will also ban public statements regarding clans and tribes. He also pledges to make sure ministers appointed to serve in his cabinet, are appointed based on competence and not for tribal reasons.
Waraabe says he will strengthen nationalism to curb the influence of clan politics.
DEMOCRACY (National Unity)
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro pledges to an equal share of government posts for all of Somaliland’s clans to strengthen national unity.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi also pledges to listen to the grievances of all of Somaliland’s regions to strengthen national unity, and promises to implement regional power-sharing.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe pledges to implement decentralization, down to the rural level to strengthen national unity. Waraabe says that he will give government positions based on competence, rather than regional balance, as the other two candidates proposed. Waraabe says that implementing national empowerment from the grassroots, will strengthen national unity in Somaliland.
DEMOCRACY (Size of Government)
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro promises to form a competent government, and will take the concerns of regions into account when forming his government.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi promises a small and effective government consisting of qualified and competent technocrats.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe promises to form a government of 13-16 cabinet ministers, that would be appointed based on competence, and not on tribal or regional balance. Waraabe says that he will not submit to any pressure from regions when forming his government and that he will impose his policies on citizens to emphasize his leadership.
DEMOCRACY (Human Rights and Press Freedom)
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro pledges equal rights for every citizen, in accordance with the constitution.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi pledges equal rights for every citizen, in accordance with Islam and lists three areas that he pledges to work on, if elected President.
Abdi pledges to:
- Ensure that minority clans such as the Gabooye clan, are given equal rights in Somaliland, and are not subject to any type of discrimination.
- Protect the rights of women, and to increase the representation of women in politics and in the private sector
- Protect the rights of Somaliland’s disabled citizens.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe pledges equal rights for every Somaliland citizen, in accordance with Islam. Waraabe says that Somaliland is a democratic country, but is not a liberal democracy that allows liberal beliefs such as same-sex marriage.
On press freedom, Waraabe says that his government will review the background of every journalist before issuing a journalists’ license.
Waraabe also pledges to create special state-run universities and colleges for journalists and media professionals to teach them media ethics. Waraabe also pledges to introduce a defamation law to protect both citizens and journalists. Waraabe also pledges to enforce ‘rule of law’.
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro pledges to bolster the independence of the judiciary. Irro also pledges to conduct a public survey on the performance of the judiciary, to ensure accountability. Irro says that he will also form a committee to review every legal case. Irro also says that he will make sure every Supreme Court judge receives parliamentary approval before sitting on the bench.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi promises to strengthen the independence of the judiciary without a public survey, because he already knows what is wrong with the current judicial system.
Abdi pledges these five policies to reform Somaliland’s judiciary:
- To introduce more judicial education programs for Somaliland’s security sector and national police force, because they are the first officials that deal with cases before the courts.
- To introduce more judicial training and impartiality training for lawyers and judges
- Mandatory judicial education for Somaliland’s traditional leaders
- Pensions for lawyers and judges
- Increase security protection for lawyers and judges, so that they won’t be afraid to practice their profession honestly.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe says that he believes Somaliland’s judiciary is the mirror of the country and that he will make sure all existing and future lawyers and judges in Somaliland are qualified for their positions.
Waraabe also pledges to bring a series of changes to Somaliland’s judiciary system. Waraabe promises to:
- Form a special budget for the judiciary sector and to increase the salaries of judges and lawyers.
- Establish a special committee to monitor the performances of lawyers case-by-case
- Ban judges from speaking at public events
- Term limits for Supreme Court judges (5-6 years). Waraabe says SC judges could be appointed to another term if they had no problems during their initial term.
- Merge the Justice Ministry with the Religious Affairs Ministry
- Ban clan leaders from interfering with the judicial system
- Create a legal aid system for poor citizens that can not afford a lawyer
ECONOMY (Value of Somaliland Shilling and Inflation)
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro says that he will first strengthen the powers of the central bank to tackle the decreasing value of Somaliland’s shilling and the rising inflation rate. Irro also pledges to create a state-run commercial bank, because he says that majority of Somaliland’s citizens do not bank with the central bank.
Irro also promises to lower inflation within the first 100 days of his presidency, if he is elected.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi says that he will solely focus on strengthening the powers of the central bank and cooperation between the Ministry of Finance and the central bank to tackle inflation.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe says he will first expand the use of the Somaliland Shilling to the far-eastern regions of Sool, Buhoodle and Badhan, where the old Somali Shilling is still being used.
Waraabe says that diversifying Somaliland’s economy, becoming an export-oriented society, encouraging Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and giving government assistance to small and medium-size businesses will also help lower the inflation rate.
Waraabe says in addition to strengthening the powers of the central bank, he will open a state-run commercial bank and encourage international banks to open branches in Somaliland.
Waraabe says that he will also establish a ‘middle-class’ in Somaliland to lower the rising inflation rate.
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro says that he will encourage domestic and foreign investment to fight against unemployment. Irro says that he will also encourage domestic production in the agricultural and livestock sectors and the opening of factories in eastern Somaliland (Erigavo)..
Irro also promises to establish a pension program for civil servants, so that they could retire upon becoming senior citizens and allow younger workers to take their positions.
Irro also pledges to create 15,000 jobs if he is elected.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi says that the first thing he would do as President to tackle unemployment, would be to establish compulsory national service for all high-school and university graduates.
In addition to that, Abdi says that he would also bring more investment projects to rural areas, to stimulate rural employment.
Abdi says he will also build more trade schools, because not every citizen needs to go to university.
Abdi says he will also open employment training centres, to teach citizens how to be model employees and reduce conflicts between employees and employers.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe pledges to bring more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Somaliland, and says that he will establish a ‘Somaliland National Investment Board’ and an ‘Investor Protection Act’ to aid that pledge.
Waraabe also pledges to develop ports across all of Somaliland’s coastal towns, from Elanyo, Sanaag region to Zeila, Salal region.
Waraabe also pledges more government intervention in the economy, and less reliance on the private sector to tackle unemployment, as in accordance with his social democrat values.
ECONOMY (Encouraging Domestic Production of Livestock, Fish, Agricultural and Natural Resources)
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro pledges to find another export market for Somaliland’s livestock market, and will not rely on the current GCC Market. Irro also promises to modernize agricultural production.
Irro says that if he is elected, he will begin oil production by 2019.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi says that strengthening Somaliland’s internal security is the first thing he would do to strengthen livestock trade. Abdi says that strengthening security would be his first priority because, in order to boost Somaliland’s livestock market, he would have to reallocate land for Somaliland’s livestock traders first.
Abdi says that he also intends to teach Somalilanders the benefits of eating chicken and fish, rather than just eating goat and camel meat, to find a domestic market for Somaliland’s livestock traders.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe pledges to create a state-owned development bank that caters to businesses involved in the production of Somaliland’s domestic resources.
Waraabe says that he will also create other export markets for Somaliland’s resources, and will not rely on the current market for GCC countries. Waraabe pledges to find markets for Somaliland’s camel meat in Europe and America.
Waraabe also pledges to build roads along Somaliland’s coastal areas to ease the transportation of resources and encourage the growth of more businesses in this field.
Waraabe also promises to lower the tax rate for businesses exporting Somaliland’s resources.
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro says that he will strengthen Somaliland’s Quality Control Commission to prevent expired medication from being sold in Somaliland’s hospitals and pharmacies.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi says that improving the administration of Somaliland’s hospitals is one of his main issues on his healthcare reform agenda. Abdi says that Somaliland has ‘enough’ doctors but needs to improve the management of its hospitals in order to provide adequate healthcare services for its citizens.
Abdi pledges to give healthcare professionals more administration and management training, and more training on dealing with medical equipment.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe pledges to create a universal healthcare system for all Somalilanders, but didn’t say when it will be introduced, if he is elected President.
Waraabe is also promising to send Somalilander doctors abroad to undergo specialist training, so that Somaliland has more healthscare specialists, which is currently a rarity in the country.
Waraabe also pledges to create a national mobile healthcare unit that will travel around Somaliland’s rural areas to provide free healthcare to the country’s nomadic population.
Waraabe is also pledging to allocate 15% of his yearly government budgets to the country’s healthcare system.
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro promises to introduce free primary schooling across Somaliland, increase salaries of public school teachers by 100%, to fund 15% of tuition fees for every university student in Somaliland and to increase the number of trade schools nationwide.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi says that he plans to make primary schooling free nationwide, build more trade schools nationwide and nationalize all schools for the mentally and physically disabled.
Abdi also pledges to create a special budget to offer financial assistance to intermediate and post-secondary female students from poor households.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe says education is one of the top two priorities on his campaign agenda, and will be one of the top two priorities for his government, if he is elected President.
Waraabe pledges to:
- Raise the salaries of public school teachers, and make their salaries higher than his cabinet ministers
- Make primary and intermediate schooling compulsory for every child in Somaliland
- Make 75% of new schools built under his presidency account for trade schools
- Create a state-owned university
- Give free laptops to every primary, intermediate and post-secondary student in Somaliland
- Give $10-15 monthly allowances for students from poor households
FOREIGN POLICY (International Recognition)
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro says that he has a three point plan that will help Somaliland’s chances of achieving international recognition.
Irro’s three point plan for achieving international recognition:
- Fixing Domestic issues such as improving Somaliland’s record on human rights and press freedom will attract more support from the International Community
- Encouraging the African Union to send another fact-finding mission to Somaliland, as they’ve done previously in 2005
- Strengthening relations with African countries – as the case of Somaliland recognition lies within Africa, he points out.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi says that he will hire experts on foreign affairs to work with Somaliland’s Foreign Ministry on achieving international recognition. Abdi says he will also lobby certain countries in Africa that he believes could aid Somaliland’s argument for international recognition.
Abdi also says that he will place a focus on improving Somaliland’s domestic affairs, such as, fighting against corruption, strengthening good governance, improving national security.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe says he will achieve international recognition by first focusing on, fixing the image of Somaliland’s domestic affairs, effectively portraying Somaliland’s national unity and creating an inclusive government.
Waraabe says that if he is elected President, he will lobby Socialists International, a worldwide association of social democratic political parties, that his party, UCID is apart of. Waraabe says that he will hold a Socialists International convention in Hargeisa, Somaliland in 2019, and put forward a resolution calling for the international recognition of Somaliland.
Waraabe says that this is most logical way of achieving international recognition, because 17 African social democratic parties are members of Socialists International.
Waraabe also pledges to fix the Somaliland-Somalia sovereignty dispute by 2019.
FOREIGN POLICY (Relations with Neighbouring Countries – Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia)
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro pledges to strengthen existing ties with Ethiopia and Djibouti, if elected President. Irro says he will do so, by sticking to Berbera Corridor agreement signed between Somaliland and Ethiopia in 2015 and easing Ethiopia’s access of Berbera Port.
Irro also says that he will make sure that Somaliland has a balanced relationship with Djibouti, based on mutual respect, and that one country doesn’t assert dominance over the other.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi says that equal status with neighbouring countries is key to maintaining sound and fruitful relations. Abdi promises to enter more agreements with Djibouti and Ethiopia to protect the interests of Somaliland and both countries, and strengthen relations even more.
Abdi also pledges to assert Somaliland’s commitment to regional security, to make neighbouring countries feel safe and confident in Somaliland’s national security.
Abdi also says that Somaliland and Somalia can have peaceful relations only when Somalia recognizes Somaliland as an independent and sovereign country.
Abdi also pledges to form a regional economic partnership with Djibouti and Ethiopia during his term, if elected president.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe pledges to enter trade agreements with Djibouti and Ethiopia, to boost relations with the two countries. Waraabe also believes that both countries should treat Somaliland as an equal partner and show mutual respect.
Waraabe says that he is currently not happy with the state of Somaliland’s relations with Djibouti and Ethiopia, and will do all he can to make sure that both countries treat Somaliland as an equal partner, and do not show dominance when dealing with Somaliland.
FOREIGN POLICY (Somaliland-Somalia talks)
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro pledges, if he is elected President, to form a committee consisting of technocrats and foreign affairs experts, to review the state of the talks, and decide on whether it is feasible or not to continue.
Irro says if the committee unanimously decides that it is in Somaliland’s interest to continue the peace talks with Somalia, the only agenda on the table will be: recognition of Somaliland’s independence.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi says that he supports the continuation of peace talks between Somaliland and Somalia, and a finding a lasting solution to the sovereignty dispute between the two countries.
Abdi says that he believes the previous talks that were held in the UK, Turkey and Djibouti, were a complete failure and simply ‘for show’.
Abdi pledges to to enter talks with Somalia, on the condition that that talks are mediated by several countries and are not only led by Turkey. Abdi says he will also enter the talks if another international venue is agreed on.
Abdi says he is not worried about Somaliland’s receiving an unfair judgement if the talks are mediated by several countries and that he believes the talks will be more effective.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe says that if he is elected President, he will enter the talks with only one option on the table: recognizing Somaliland’s independence.
Waraabe says that believes Somalia give into his demands for international recognition if he hosts a reconciliation conference for all of Somalia’s warring regional states and rival factions and works on building peace in Somalia, just like Djibouti has done on several occasions.
Waraabe says that Somaliland will never get recognition from Somalia by using ‘hostile methods’. Waraabe says his method of building a united government in Somalia, based on pre-July 1960 borders (Italian Somaliland) – will gain more supporters of Somaliland recognition within Somalia,
Waraabe also suggested to change Somaliland’s name to ‘Shankaroon-land’, to distinguish the country from Somalia.
FOREIGN POLICY (Airspace Control)
ABDIRAHMAN IRRO: Irro says that any deal between Somaliland and Somalia on joint-airspace control should be brought before parliament, if it benefits Somaliland. Irro also says that the International Community should deal with Somaliland and Somalia as two separate entities on this issue.
MUSA BIHI ABDI: Abdi says that previous negotiations on airspace control between Somaliland and Somalia haven’t formed a clear solution.
Abdi also says that if he his government can’t reach an agreement with Somalila, Abdi pledges to take a tough stance with the International Community and will not negotiate Somaliland’s airspace sovereignty.
Abdi says he believes the International Community will listen to Somaliland’s concerns if he applies that approach.
Abdi also says that if no viable solution comes out of the talks, both countries would manage their own airspace as two separate countries.
FAISAL ALI WARAABE: Waraabe pledges to pressure Somalia to accept prior agreements signed between Somaliland and Somalia in London and Turkey.
Waraabe says that if Somalia denies to accept the previous agreements signed in Turkey and Djibouti, he will cancel airspace negotiations with Somalia and deal with International Community directly on Somaliland’s airspace.