Despite the lack of formal recognition as an independent state, the Republic of Somaliland has achieved significant advances. The advances of Somaliland and Somalilanders, to include international financial agreements and strong trading partners, are especially stark when compared with many of its neighbors or similar countries that are fully recognized by the international state system. However, despite the young country’s progress, Somaliland’s hard-won democracy and stability are relatively fragile. This is, in part, because of Somaliland’s geopolitical situation and location, characterized by frequent political crises and regional instability. This tough neighborhood means that the country’s significant progress has surpassed all regional and international expectations in terms of safety and security, having outdone many older and more established countries that were viewed as safe until recently. These include Kenya, Egypt and many other sub-Saharan African countries. Yet, changes in the regional climate present both increased risks and significant opportunities and therefore require a delicate balance of diplomacy and military deterrence to ensure Somaliland’s survival and prosperity. This often unpredictable, fast-changing geopolitical environment requires a suitable and appropriate government and leadership, one that will actively protect the Republic’s borders as well as its hard-earned peace and stability.

Somaliland is currently facing an unheralded prevalence of corruption and an accompanying upsurge of nouveaux riche elites, particularly among governmental officials. This has exacerbated instances of tribalism and resulted in vast income disparities pitting the haves against the have nots. Abuse of laws and regulations are significantly at an all-time high. Evidence compiled via political analysis has proven time and time again that the above-stated three issues are critical factors and determinants in the destruction of many governments and the cause of civil conflict. Additionally, from the war in Yemen to the new military base at Berbera to the ever-present and evolving threat from al-Shabaab and periodic spats with Puntland, the country currently needs a strong, selfless and committed Commander-in-Chief to maneuver the country through these chopping and uncharted waters. It is both essential and crucial that Somalilanders elect a president with international, regional and national experience as well as a track record of bringing the different clans of the country together. Such a leader must also have the experiences and the guts to secure the country’s security and safety. Most importantly, he must have the discipline and commitment to fight the corrupt practices that are the cause of significant disparities and ill will among Somalilanders.

A political analysis and study of the backgrounds and qualifications of the three candidates vying for the presidency of Somaliland indicates Muse Bihi Abdi, the Kulmiya presidential candidate, is the only candidate with the required qualifications. This is because Muse Bihi has consistently demonstrated the capabilities and characteristics of a leader. Crucially, he also possesses the willpower to stand up to corrupt politicians and Somaliland’s external enemies as well as the politicians and chiefs who thrive financially on illicit deal making along clan lines.

Muse Bihi is qualified to lead Somaliland in these trying but exciting times because significant research indicates that politicians with military backgrounds make better leaders and presidents. Military leadership qualities are developed through progressive, carefully planned training and education in addition to first-hand experience of life and death situations and the critical decisions that must be made in the field. It is also said that leaders with a military background also make better CEOs and are less likely to commit fraud or participate in corrupt practices.

People with military leadership background are known to display clear, independent judgment and strategic decision-making, based on laws, regulations and measurable, achievable outcomes. In addition, they are not easily influenced by lobbies and interest groups that often deleteriously influence and may even dictate the actions of many politicians. In past few years, Somaliland chiefs, politicians and the business industry developed self-interested lobbying groups which, in many cases, hijacked development projects, rejected international investment, lobbied against industry regulation and privatized national programs, resources and land. These practices diminished the rule of law and established the unethical, unfair distribution of wealth. These actions and decisions directly caused the public to lose faith in the system.

Muse Bihi, is well decorated army veteran who received military training and education in Russia (Gargarin Air Force Base) and the United States of America (West Point Academy). He has extensive experiences as a military commander and played a decisive role in the defeat of Siyad Bare’s supreme army. His military experiences and strategic war skills were proven during the Ethiopian-Somali War. As a commander in one of the largest armies for the SNM, Muse Bihi was also instrumental in overseeing and prosecuting the strategic war policies that ousted the dictator Siyad Bare. In the process, Somaliland’s full sovereignty was restored.

It is well-documented that the peace-loving leaders are military leaders and former soldiers as they possess first-hand experience of the destruction of war and therefore tend to avoid beating the drums of war until all diplomatic options are exhausted. It is worth noting that in times of peace Muse Bihi has proven an able diplomatic leader and played a key role in creating a lasting peace among the Somaliland clans. He also took a lead role in the disarmament of the SNM freedom fighter and was the focal person in the reconciliation process of Somaliland clans in Burao, Berbera, Sheikh and Borama. Yet despite his peace credentials, Somalilanders and outsiders should remember that should war or conflict be unavoidable, the education, training, experiences and the sharp skills of a leader with a military background such as Muse Bihi becomes critical. Indeed, in times of war these leaders have a significant advantage in ensuring the victory or survival of their nation. Furthermore, the simple fact of having such credentials serves as a credible deterrent to Somaliland’s enemies.

Muse Bihi is also a highly-experienced and erudite leader. As part of his continues commitment to peace and reconciliation, he sought to further his own knowledge, experience and skills in peace building with postgraduate education, obtaining a second Master’s Degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution at the University of Hargeisa[BC1] . In this regard, Muse was one of the first senior Somaliland politicians to continue his education while praising as well as promoting the Somaliland education system. Muse also has more governmental management experience and local knowledge than both of his two rivals. In the early years of Somaliland’s birth, he held key governmental positions and served as the Minister of Internal Affairs and as Minister of Finance. He laid the foundation and developed a robust system for both ministries during his tenure. Before his tenure at the Ministry of the Interior, the young nation was inflicted with diminished safety and insecurity. Muse was able to turn this around within short period and in fact, became the sole person entrusted with the security of the country in this period. These traits are also a must for the new president of Somaliland, as the country embarks in developmental and investment projects that require considerable public administration experiences and the ensuring of adequate stability and security.

Because Somaliland is surrounded by countries at war or countries with political instability, its security is uncertain and thus requires a strong, committed government and a selfless, dynamic and experienced commander-in-chief. The country also needs political reconciliation at the local and national level in order to reduce tribalism and revitalize nationalism. As importantly, Somaliland needs firm and decisive leadership to root out systematic corruption by governmental officials. Without the strengthening of the nation’s security, the elimination of corruption and the inclusivity of all Somalilanders, the much-needed development and international investment will vanish and Somaliland may become a failed state. Muse is well known for his sharp-shooting communication style and strong unbiased decision-making approach. This is particularly important to roll back the corrupt practices of the current government officials which at times had a number of self-serving officials deciding on national issues that were reserved only for the president.

Based on these current Somaliland needs, Muse Bihi is the only candidate with the knowledge, experiences, commitment and willpower to move Somaliland forward. In addition, Muse is the only candidate with direct public administration experience and local expertise, enabling him to better understand the needs and desires of the Somaliland people. Muse Bihi is understandably seen as a Somaliland nationalist and as one of their own by the majority of Somalilanders. This is in stark contrast to the other two candidates who are considered diaspora Somalilanders and therefore out of touch with the needs and desires of the Somaliland community. As such, it is in the Republic’s best interests and long-term stability and development to elect Musa Bihi as the next President of the Republic of Somaliland.

Hussein Haji Ahmed

Hargeisa, Somaliland