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Endangered Legacy: President Bihi’s Slipping Opportunity to Make a Lasting Impact

President of the Republic of Somaliland His Excellency Muse Bihi Abdi was sworn in on November 2017 after winning the election and although his predecessor’s government, also from the same party, was arguably the most corrupt in Somaliland’s history he has successfully convinced a clear majority of voters that he will do things differently and will be particularly harsh on corruption.

Fresh from victory and seemingly energized, President Bihi has made superficial changes to the government structure by creating some almost useless portfolios such as the Ministry of Investment and abolishing problematic powerhouses such as that of the Presidency and tacked the word “development” to every other ministry’s name, but besides that, President Bihi has kept many officials from his predecessor’s administration.

During the campaign, President Bihi has made many election promises and unsurprisingly has spectacularly failed to keep most of them, most notably to put an end to systemic corruption that has smothered Somaliland’s development which although not as visible as President Silanyo’s administration but there clear signs of government officials being emboldened to line their own pockets and reports of officials building or purchasing mansions in Turkey.

Former President of Somaliland HE Ahmed Mohamoud Siilaanyo

You see, if you expected something different from President Bihi, you should be disappointed but in reality there is nothing wrong with President Bihi’s government, it just happens to be the same as his predecessor, President Ahmed Mohamoud Siilaanyo. It may be a touch more sensitive to criticism.

There are exceptions, where President Bihi appointed new faces, not on merit of expertise on many cases but out of obligation for their loyalty to him during his time as a Kulmiye priah and possibly how loudly they campaigned for him or switched parties at the last minute.

And the rest? an incredibly inexperienced cast of idiots who seem to aimlessly wonder from one seminar and project to another with no guidance, supervision and zero metric to evaluate them.

Perhaps this is why President decided to keep people like SOLTELCO, the Mayor of Hargeisa untouched and thriving.

If you are wondering what happened to rest of President Siilaanyo’s cabinet? some of the most recognizable faces are serving as President Bihi’s personal aids and advisers.

President Bihi’s two years in office is littered with missed opportunities, opportunities to implement a bold agenda and chart a new course and perhaps make a real and a lasting impact but instead he opted to play it safe, perhaps safer than any other President before him by religiously sticking to the 4.5 and only picking those that would offer him the least amount of challenge.

Hire Smart People and Let Them Tell You What To Do — Just Like ...

Case in point, the Foreign Affairs, under President Bihi things are looking a lot less rosy and no new paths have been charted and in fact even old ones seem to be withering and closing up. What ever happen to Somaliland passport and the United Arab Emirates? What about the 19% share of Berbera Port given to Ethiopia? so many things swept under the rug.

What would happen if the President tapped Mr. Ahmed Ismail Samatar to lead our Foreign Affairs? We don’t know but we are certain he would be much more assertive than the NGO creatures that currently saturate this space.

On the health portfolio, the President is well aware of the state of health care of the country and the proliferation of private hospitals, and at a time the country is bracing for a deadly pandemic which is undoubtedly claiming more lives than the Ministry of Health knows or admits, the President is sticking to his choice for Health Minister, an academic with zero knowledge of public health and has never managed a kiosk let alone a colossal and dysfunctional system that needs a fresh bold ideas. Once again, we do know know what would happen if the President were to pick Dr. Gaboose as a health minister, instead of bickering with him on television.

What about the Ministry of Finance and Dr. Shire who is a little more than a glorified cashier and has yet to institute any meaningful reform of public finance to curb widespread corruption? Imagine if the President were to seek out Mr. Mohamed Hashi Elmi once more for this job?

Instead of seeking out not just talent but people that can challenge him, the President has a history of taking the easy way out and finding the most demure of public servants who would offer the least amount of resistance and ideas.

The slightest whiff of impropriety from those around you or choose to serve the nation should bother you. Those who police social media and arrest citizens for expressing their opinion should bother you even more. A hungry child who goes to public school should bother you. A person dying few meters away from the Presidency for lack of oxygen in the Hospital should bother you. A family loosing a son in El-Afweyn should bother you. This is the job you wanted when you ran for President.

You have two and half years left in office and with your current lackluster performance a re-election is far from guaranteed. What is ticking is not just time but your lifetime opportunity to make a lasting impact in Somaliland and leave it better than you found it.

Put your fist down for a sec, your legacy as a freedom fighter is no more stellar than your predecessor’s, yet you know well how tattered his image was when he left office. Do not put those who ruined President Siilaanyo’s legacy in charge of your own and the fate of the nation.

Mr. President, it is time to stop celebrating mediocrity and try a different approach with less yes-men and un-clinch your fist and reach out to your toughest critics and listen to them. Be bold, be what those who elected you thought you were.

Somaliland Chronicle is responsible for the content of this editorial.

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