A disagreement has erupted within the government of Puntland, in Somalia’s northeast, during Thursday’s regular weekly Cabinet meeting, inside sources told Garowe Online.
Gen. Adde Muse, the Puntland leader, chaired the meeting in the port city of Bossaso, where issues including security, finances, exploration agreements and an extradition program to Ethiopia were heatedly discussed.
Vice President Hassan Dahir Afqura left his office in Garowe, the region’s administrative capital, to participate at the Cabinet meeting.
President Muse offered a brief review of his nearly two-month-long trip aboard, where he visited the capitals of the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.
The Puntland leader told his Cabinet that, while in Addis Ababa, he signed an agreement with Ethiopian government officials to « hand over » any individual who is a « threat » to Ethiopia’s national security.
The Cabinet meeting erupted in discord immediately after President Muse’s revelation, with many Puntland government ministers expressing their opposition to the extradition program, a Cabinet source who did not want to be named in print told Garowe Online.
Since April 22, a handful of Somalis have been arrested by Puntland security forces and extradited to neighboring Ethiopia, a country that human rights groups accuse of torturing domestic dissidents.
Further, Cabinet ministers discussed the nonpayment of the regional government’s civil servants and members of the security forces. According to the Ministry of Finance, Puntland government employees have not received their regular salary for the past five months.
President Muse announced that he had appointed a committee to investigate the Ministry of Finance and the continued lack of payment for government employees, a development that reportedly angered Finance Minister Mohamed « Gaagaab » Ali.
Mr. Gaagaab defended himself by arguing that 80% of revenue managed by the Ministry of Finance was used directly by President Muse and Vice President Afqura, « for operations or other purposes. »
However, the Finance Minister did not detail exactly how those funds were allegedly used by the President and his deputy, according to our sources.
People familiar with President Muse’s governing style told Garowe Online that the Puntland leader’s announced investigation into the Ministry of Finance is nothing more than lip service, adding that such bold statements are aimed at regaining public confidence.
During the Cabinet meeting, the Puntland leader was specifically asked how money donated by foreign exploration companies was used.
At one point during the heated debate, a Cabinet minister accused President Muse of spending public funds « like a store he personally owns. »
The comment angered the Puntland leader, to which he replied by threatening to « fire » Cabinet ministers, although he did not mention any specific names.
When Garowe Online asked one of our Cabinet sources why Puntland government ministers are now bold enough to question Muse, he replied: « Less than one year remains for this government, so there is no fear. »