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Corrupted Somaliland Parliament

Somaliland Parliament—the House of Elders and the House of Representatives—constantly criticize the government for corruption, mismanagement and postponement of presidential elections, and rightly so. But their criticism would have been plausible if they themselves are clean from corruption and postponement of their own reelection. Elders and Representatives engage in corrupted practices in many ways: they legalize their corruption, they sell their votes; and they postpone their own selection/election. 

 

Legalized corruption

In August 09, 2013, Somaliland House of Representatives passed a law titled “Xeerka Maamuuksa” (meaning: “Law of Honor”) which gives both houses of the parliament the legal green light to steal taxpayers’ money. In other words, they legalize their corruption. Following are two articles in this Law. 

Article 11 states: if any representative loses his/her seat by the next election, or s/he voluntarily resigns, s/he has to be paid one-year’s salary within three-months from the Ministry of Finance. Remember, there are 82 Elders and 82 Representatives and their monthly salary is US$2000.00 each (they work part-time). This means that every elder and every representative (164 in total), who loses or resigns, will receive US$24,000.00. If all of them loose the next election, the Ministry of Finance will pay them a total sum of US$3,936,000.00 (Three-million nine-hundred and thirty-six thousand US dollars). For what? 

If it is not a legalized corruption, then what is it?

Article 12 states: if any elder or representative gets sick and the National Health Committee advices him/her to seek medical treatment outside of the country, s/he has the legal right to seek medical treatment anywhere in the world and the government will pay his/her travel expenses, medical expenses and allowances as long as s/he remains outside of the country. This means if an elder or a representative chooses to go to the US or UK, his/her round-trip ticket, medical expenses and any other expenses, while s/he remains in US or UK, will be fully paid by the government. How much would that cost? You do the math. 

Compare them to a police officer who is injured in the line of duty and isn’t entitled to receive medical treatment from abroad even if the National Health Committee certifies that he can’t be treated locally. A police officer works eighteen hours a day and his/her monthly salary is $80.00 (eighty dollars).

 

Selling votes 

Whenever the government wants from representatives to legalize an agreement that the government has signed with a foreign government or the government wants the elders to postpone presidential reelection, the elders and representatives would not do it unless the government pays them. They do not care about the negative impact that the agreement may have on their constituencies. The only thing they care about is to get paid. For instance, when the government signed the DP World agreement and the UAE military base in Ber-bera, many elders and representatives have initially rejected both agreements as soon as they hear it. But they voted in favor and legalized both agreements after they were bribed. The reason for their initial rejection was to pressure the government so that they will be paid. The elders also postponed the presidential election when they get paid. 

 

House of Elder’s selection postponement

The House of Elders was initially selected into office in 1997 and their period of office “. . . is six (6) years beginning from the date of its first meeting” as Article 58 of the Constitution stipulates. But the House repeatedly extends its own term of office: on 2001, it extended for two years; on 2005, it extended for another 143 days; on May 06, 2006, for four years; on September 07, 2010 for another 3 years and 8 months; on 6 April 2013 for another three years; and again on May 11, 2015 it extended its own term to 27 April 2018. This means that the House of Elders has never been re(s)elected; therefore, elders remain in office over 19 years, which renders them illegitimate.

Less than 15% of prominent elders, who were initially selected into office and participated in Somaliland’s peace-making, passed away. They were succeeded by their sons or wives, who inherited their seats undemocratically, without selection or election. The inheritance succession of vacated seats has become the norm in the House of Elders. This inheritance is unconstitutional but they continue to cherish it. Therefore, they are the most undemocratic and corrupt branch of the government.

One of the exclusive mandates of the House of Elders includes the mandate to extend the terms of the president, representatives and the local governments. The House repeatedly, and unconstitutionally, extends the terms of the president, representatives, and recently the local government without any apparent reason. One of the reasons they extend representatives’ term is to extend their own term in office. In 2003, a single article—Article 19—was passed by both Houses and signed by the President. This Article stipulates that the House of Elders’ term in office should expire one year after that of House of Representatives. This means that whenever the House of Elders extends the House of Representatives’ term of office, the Elders’ term is automatically extended to end a year later. This is one of the reasons they extend House of Representatives’ term. 

Representative’s election postponement 

Representatives’ term has expired two times and the corrupt House of Elders extended representatives’ term for both times. Representatives were initially elected in 2005 and they were scheduled to be reelected every five years as Somaliland’s Constitution stipulates in its Article 42: “Period of Office and Election Term.” But these representatives have been sitting in parliament for more than 12 years, without any apparent reason. According to Article 42(3) in the Constitution, the only reasons they can legally postpone their reelection, and remain in office, would be if there is a “. . . wide war, internal instability, serious natural disasters, such as earthquakes, epidemic diseases, (and) serious famines . . .” Their current extension in 2017 is the only reasonable one because of the existing “serious famines.” Their earlier extensions did not meet Article 42(3) of the Constitution. 

House of Representatives’ primary function is to form “. . . the first part of the country’s legislative, passing laws and approving and overseeing the general political situation and the direction of the country” as Article 39: General Provisions of the House stipulates. Since they were elected, they have repeatedly failed to do their job. Therefore, they are not in a position to criticize the government when they themselves are doing the same thing, if not worst. 

Somaliland House of Elders and Representatives need to practice what they preach. 

Abdi Hussein Daud

He can be reached at: abdihdaud@yahoo.com