Much like the late President Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal, the current President Muse Bihi does not enjoy favor with the media and vocal factions in Somaliland. However, it's important to note that the prevailing sentiments and underlying causes differ significantly.
Kulmiye1 and Somaliland sovereignty
During their tenure in government, former Kulmiye member Hirsi Ali xaaji and his group, known as Kulmiye1, temporarily halted the pursuit of Somaliland's international recognition. This information has been corroborated by an insider and a close ally of Somaliland on the international stage. President Bihi, however, has reversed seven years of self-imposed isolation and reaffirmed Somaliland's sovereignty by establishing new diplomatic relations. Furthermore, Bihi has taken decisive action to counteract Farmajo's aggressive attempts to undermine Somaliland's sovereignty.
Intellectuals and populism
While there are a few intellectuals within the Kulmiye party, unfortunately, their contributions have not been prominently showcased. Louder voices emphasizing tribal affiliations exert a more significant influence. Consequently, Bihi's election campaign strategy was primarily centered around tribal alliances, leading to the suppression of emerging leaders with progressive ideas, such as the new mayor of Hargeysa and others who were subsequently imprisoned. Consequently, it can be argued that Kulmiye operates as a populist party. Ministerial appointments are made based on sub-clan affiliations rather than qualifications, resulting in the current cabinet including individuals who have engaged in dubious dealings with a fictitious Chinese bank, sought to be part of Sri Leone's internet domain (.SL), and associated themselves with a fictitious entity called the Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain.
Recommendations: From tribes to principles
It is widely acknowledged that Kulmiye is in dire need of reform to avoid a fate similar to that of the disbanded UDUB party. The more challenging question is how to effect this change. In my view, it is time for Kulmiye to embrace and advocate for a set of core principles. These principles align with Muse Bihi's recent actions, including the assertion of Somaliland sovereignty, anti-corruption measures, progressive taxation, opposition to fundamentalism, and a broader commitment to social liberalism. These ideas can resonate with every household and transcend familial divisions. They stand in contrast to the alleged practice of jeeganism (tribal alliances).
Bihi and Egal
In contrast to Egal, Bihi is often perceived as a populist. Egal staunchly adhered to his core principles and was not swayed by the pursuit of votes or the fear of impeachment. The reason for comparing Egal to Bihi is their shared experience of facing strong opposition rooted in tribal divisions. In this context, tribal distinctions are illusory. While tribes may have cultural significance, politically, the same set of principles can benefit everyone regardless of their tribal background. This generation requires leaders who focus on our given names rather than our extended family/tribe name.
It may seem too late for Bihi to relinquish his reliance on tribal affiliations. However, he could explore new paradigms and potentially face short-term electoral setbacks, which is a normal part of genuine democracy. Parties built on principles may lose elections but continue to exist, whereas individuals and tribal rhetoric eventually fade away. Egal may have passed away, but his ideas endure and have contributed to making Somaliland the only democracy in the Horn of Africa. Therefore, with or without a second term, President Bihi should consider how people will remember him in 20 years rather than focusing solely on the next election.
As a first step, he could appoint a cabinet comprising +30% women to counterbalance the male-dominated parliament.