Silanyo’s Predicament - This Time It’s The Presidency or Perish


Ahmed Mahmoud - alias Silanyo, the chairman of Kulmiye, is a figure who has been in politics for the last four decades and has held several political posts during that period. He is a man who has always wanted to be in the limelight of Somali politics and whenever one curtain at a stage falls he has always managed to bounce back at another stage and under another title.

When he left Siad Barre’s regime in the early 1980’s he joined the SNM rebel group and became its chairman. It is said that he never got over the fact that he was not the chairman of the SNM when liberation dawned in 1991 and thus missed the opportunity of becoming Somaliland’s first president.

But he remained in politics and became a member of Somaliland’s first clan-based parliament and later became Egal’s finance minister. Had Egal been alive during the presidential elections of 2003 Silanyo would have never competed against Egal who was more popular, charismatic and competent than Silanyo. It is therefore that Silanyo created his opposition party only after the death of Egal and it is a fact that Kulmiye was the last opposition party to be registered. The death of Egal opened a window of oppurtunity for Silanyo to aim for the presidency and as the Somali saying goes, "Geeriyay maxaad tartaa? Nin meel waayay ayaan meel u baneeyaa." - "Oh death, what do you accomplish? I make way for the one who has no place."

During the presidential elections of 2003 Silanyo made a big miscalculation by thinking that having been a well known political figure for so long and having been the chairman of the SNM alone would give him an edge over the little-known Rayaale. But it was precisely on those two points that he had been so wrong on. The people of Somaliland, when given the chance of direct election showed that they did not want the old politicians that they already knew all too well.

In this context Silanyo was a man whom they already knew had only hollow rhetoric to offer and had a past record of being incompetent and divisive. That is why the people of Somaliland chose the quiet and humble Dahir Rayale Kahin who within the spate of only 10 months in power as an interim president delivered on his biggest promise to hold Somaliland’s first ever municipal and presidential elections.

Once again Somaliland holds its second presidential elections in April of next year. The run up to the upcoming presidential elections have shown just how Silanyo is hell bent on becoming president and there are several reasons that make him even more desperate this time around.

1. On the party level
Chairman Silanyo ceded the post of party chairman to Musa Bihi in exchange for being allowed to be the party’s sole presidential candidate and conceded to Musa Bihi’s demand to be appointed as minister of interior in the scenario of Silanyo winning the presidency. Relinquishing the post of party chairman was no easy deal for the authoritarian Silanyo but he was forced to concede or face the threat of Muse Bihi as an aspirant for the party’s presidential candidate.

In fact Silanyo gambled away his chairmanship of the party because if he loses the presidential elections he has in effect no political position left. But this is no surprise taking into consideration that the septuagenarian Silanyo’s last chance of sitting on the seat of presidency, a post that he has always coveted, is during these elections which means that he could at last fulfill his dream of being called president at last.

On the other hand Silanyo knows that the post of party chairman in the face of an election defeat would be of no use to him because he is old and frail and does not have the energy to remain as opposition leader for another five years. Therefore, he chose the more lucrative prize of the party’s presidential candidate because for him, at such an age, it is now or never.

2. On the clan level
Mr. Silanyo, who is a master at clan manipulation ever since his days as the chairman of the SNM, has made a lot of efforts behind the scenes in order to obtain the support of the majority of his clan. Silanyo was one of the main catalysts in both initiating and facilitating the Gar-adag clan conference and he himself participated at that meeting and in an interview with the BBC’s Somali service he advocated for what he called the ‘’clan’s right to self determination.'’

Listening to that interview one would have easily thought that it was the clan-conference’s spokesman speaking and not the chairman of a political party. However, Silanyo’s real and hidden agenda within the framework of this clan gathering was to win the maximum support of his clan during the upcoming elections. A reliable witness at this conference confirmed to me that Silanyo’s lobbyists and henchmen at the conference pursued this objective through a two-fold persuasion argument:

a). That this time around "we" (the east-Burao based clan) deserve the post of presidency more than any other tribe since the other two other major Isak clans and even the Samaroon tribe have had their turn. Their argument was that Somaliland’s democracy is just pure whitewash, that we are still a tribal based society and that the east-Burao clan’s best interest was to vote for Silanyo and the Kulmiye party. They also laid forward their grandiose plan that the east-Burao clan with it’s already several notable merchants would become the most powerful clan in Somaliland if it achieves to hold both the economical and highest power of office at the same time.

b). That the ageing Silanyo should be supported by his tribe in his last ever possible attempt at the post of presidency. Silanyo’s spindoctors played the pity card and whined that the nearly 80 year old man or ‘’odayga'’ should be given ‘’hiil iyo hooba'’ in other words full backing in his run for the presidency and that the clan elders should campaign on his behalf during the upcoming elections in order to get the maximum number of pro-Kulmiye voters on the grassroots level or in this case the "clan-roots level." The clan elders were also entrusted with the task of raising funds for Silanyo’s presidential campaign by getting in the necessary financial support from all businessmen who hail from the east-Burao clan.

Convincing these businessmen is said to be a crucial point due to the fact that most of them are not so enthusiastic about offering Silanyo funds since they had already done so in the last election and incurred losses. However, the ever deceitful and nepotistic Silanyo is reported to be offering them kickbacks in the form of huge tax reductions in the event of seizing the post of presidency.

It is reported that Silanyo ultimately succeeded in getting a pledge of support from most of the prominent members of his clan that were present at this conference and this explains his enthusiasm for the conference during the BBC interview. The existence of such an understanding is evident from the fact that the communiqué issued at the end of this clan conference stated that several of the agreements reached were not to be made public because they dealt with what was called "the clan’s internal affairs." It is worth pointing out that this is the first time in Somaliland’s history that a tribal gathering has shrouded with secrecy a whole section regarding the points reached at their conference.

Silanyo’s descent from a party leader to clan-based and tribal minded politician exposed his true colors and showed just how low this man would stoop in order to gain the presidency. His agitation of his own clan has made ordinary Somalilanders asking themselves how such a man can be relied on to lead a democracy when he himself is subverting democracy by practicing clan politics. Furthermore, Silanyo’s dictatorial attitudes at the recent Kulmiye conference in Burao have undermined whatever little credibility he had left and made it clear that he does not possess the competence or the caliber to rule a party let alone a country.

However, all these unscrupulous actions on the part of Silanyo are an indication of his ever growing desperation to become president at all costs. It is quite obvious that he will cry foul if he loses the election just like he did the last time but with vengeance this time around. Sources close to the ageing Silanyo say that he has even gone as far as promising different politicians ministerial portfolios in his ‘’first cabinet’’ provided that they campaign on his behalf.

But this tactic has backfired when it turned out that a couple of candidates found out that one or another candidate had been offered the same ministry by wannabe-president Silanyo. But what is more alarming is what these Kulmiye insiders reveal: that Silanyo has given a clear hint that he will not concede defeat even if he loses the election. Taking into consideration Silanyo’s past deeds, power-hungry nature and deviousness it is not hard to believe his threat because for the aging Silanyo this is his last battle for a seat that he has always coveted, for him it is do or die, the presidency or perish.



By Faisal Haji Noor Abdalla

Strasbourg, France