Somalia: Mudug Region’s New District Councils

DSC001941Mudug Region (April-May, 2014): PDRC partnered with the Ministry of Interior and district council selections and election commissions to ensure the success of local council reforms in Mudug region, in April and May of 2014. Multi disciplinary teams from PDRC conducted community mobilization, civic education and peace building efforts. The PDRC teams were a central pivot to the restructuring process in the districts of Galkayo, Harfo, Jariban and Galdogob.

Mudug region’s synonymy with conflict is gradually wearing off if the recent wave of inclusive reforms in the selection and election of local councils in its 4 districts is anything to go by. During the elections Mudug region constituents were spirited and active in the process. The participatory formulation of the new structures has given local constituencies a sense of local ownership for the new local council structures.  Post elections conflict was seen in one district but was contained by peace builders from PDRC through initiating dialogue platforms for conflict actors in the early stages of the conflict.

Executive Commitment

The President of Puntland, Abdiweli Ali Gaas and the Minister for Interior, local government and rural development, Mr. Ahmed Osman Elmi initiated the reforms through conducting wide consultations with the constituencies to inform the restructuring process. PDRC facilitated platforms for dialogue between the constituencies and the executive delegation led by the Puntland president in every district. Communities in Mudug region demonstrated the willingness to speak up and address the issues that had been hampering local ownership and cognizance of previous district administrative and political structures.

The president–led consultations revealed the people’s dissatisfaction with the dilapidated districts’ state and the mismanagement of public office and finances in the past. On the 22nd of April 2014 the Puntland president, acknowledging the legitimate claims of the public, ordered the institution of new district councils for Galkayo and Harfo districts. Furthermore, the President dissolved the councils of Galdogob and Jariban for poor performance and ordered the formation of new councils.  The Puntland President nominated a vetting committee for selection of councilors through set criteria.

The Process

In the early stage, constituency representatives made submissions of their nominee candidates to the elections and vetting commissions for verification and approval. The commissions were tasked to review nominee candidates against a qualification criteria set for local councilors vying for local council selections and elections in Puntland districts in 2014. Conflicts arising from constituencies’ competition for the council seats were diffused by peace builders from PDRC and the district commissions. The value of traditional chiefs’ initiative and commitment to engage in peaceful dialogue to resolve constituencies’ dissension with seat allocations and results cannot be overstated. After a tedious cycle of advocacy, deliberations and negotiations with constituencies there was consensus on allocation and selection of district councilors.

Newly elected councilors were immediately tasked to vote for the election of the mayor and deputy mayor in every district. The mayor and deputy mayor candidacy was open only to selected and confirmed councilors. All the districts in Mudug region, selected qualified and young mayors, a pattern that was very unlike previous leadership trends in the region. This may be attributed to the joint advocacy of the Puntland Presidency, cabinet officials and PDRC’ GSO  and MAVU for constituencies to elect youthful and educated representatives. The advocates also called upon communities to establish an equitable leadership structure that granted marginalized constituencies and women their political rights.

The New District Councils

The council of Galkayo district elected Abdi Aziz Jama Guled for Mayor after he secured 15 votes out of the 27 votes while Hassan Mohamed Khalif was declared deputy mayor after securing 11votes.

The council of Harfo district elected the mayor took place at the headquarters of the Centre for United Harfo Women in Harfo on May 1st May 2014. Fourteen councilors were present to elect the Mayor. The contestants were Abdifitah Dahir Omar and Bashir Moalin Dahir. Each of the two presented their work plan.  After votes were casted, the result was that Abdifatah Dahir Omar 29 years old defeated Bashir Moalin Dahir with one vote.

The council of Galdogob district was reinstituted on May 9th, through the event of electing the chairmanship with 22 council members in attendance, 12 voted for Hassan Farah Mohamed as chairman, and the Mayor of the district, against his contender Mohamed Sheikh Ismail.  Mr. Abdirsak Farah Tohyare – the only candidate vying for the position – won as an absolute candidate who was elected without contest.

The council of Jariban district elected 25 year old Abdullahi Ali Yusuf as their new Mayor after he secured 13 of the votes beating contender Tahlil Jama who managed to secure only 4 votes. Meanwhile, Abdulkadir Abshir Mohamed – 31 years old – was the only candidate for the deputy mayor position. He received all the votes casted except one dismissed ballot and so was declared the deputy mayor of Jariban district.

Women’s Representation in Local Government Structures

However, the new local councils in Mudug have not improved women’s political representation according to the decreed 30% quota. Women are supposed to have 26 out of the 89 seats in Mudug regions districts according to the 30% quota provided by the 2005 presidential decree. Of the 86 district council seats in Mudug region only 8 have been allocated to women. None of the 8 positions allocated are Mayoral or that of a district chairperson’s. This continued limited representation at the local council level impedes women’s progression towards elected positions at the state and national levels.

The issue of women representation drew controversy in Galdogob district where some men were very much irritated of women getting even 1 representative in the council. Sheikhs in some Mosques in Galdogob town came against the idea of women participating in local council and politics, and publicly condemned and warned locals of being easily influenced by, or even sympathetic to what they referred to as anti-Islam and anti-social practices that were just emerging in the Galdogob district.

Building Capacities for the New District Councils

The inter-ministerial selection committee members repetitively commended PDRC’s role and support in the restructuring process.

I want to thank PDRC for their continued support and collaboration. They were with us all the time everywhere while we (the government committees in charge of local councils reestablishment) were working on building the councils all the way through  the districts we have worked in , said the Minister. “PDRC was kind enough to provide us with the relevant support we needed to reinstate the local councils for Puntland districts”, he concluded.

Acting upon a request from the Puntland government; the PDRC field teams working from their renewed operational base – the PDRC Galkayo Satellite Office (GSO) – conducted induction for the newly established district councils of Mudug region. The inductions were also platforms for participatory district planning transpiring between constituents and the newly formed councils.

In conclusion, Mudug region has been conflict prone mainly due to the regions geographical placement and proximity to the unstable regions of southern and south central Somalia. However, the participatory formulation of local governance structure garners support for local ownership of the established structures. This relatively new leadership approach has worked effectively in a number of post conflict settings and maybe a recipe for local governance viability and improved security in Mudug region.

PDRC Communications Unit