By Mohamed Mulla
Monday January 7, 2019
Lawmakers will elect a new president Tuesday in the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland, which is battling factions of al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
More than 20 candidates are taking part in the vote, including Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas, 53, who has ruled the Horn of Africa region since 2014. Ali is seeking a second term and has pledged to develop infrastructure, improve security and the management of public finances.
Situated on the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea, Puntland became semi-autonomous in 1998 and had escaped the worst of Somalia’s civil war. It’s now tackling an insurgency by al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked group that’s inflicted mass casualties in southern Somalia, as well as a breakaway faction that swore allegiance to Islamic State and has been targeted by U.S. airstrikes.
Ali’s main rivals in the contest include Said Abdullahi Deni, a former minister of planning in Somalia, General Said Mohamed Hersi, a former head of Puntland’s army who has commanded the offensive against Islamist militants, and Ali Isse Abdi, an economist with a background in accounting and finance.
Puntland has oil concessions that have been awarded to companies including DNO International ASA of Norway, Vancouver-based Africa Energy Corp. and RAK Gas LLC of the United Arab Emirates.