By Faisal A. Roble
The highly touted parliamentary and presidential elections supposed to conclude by February 8, 2021 are and will likely be delayed. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) seized a narrative that puts the blame on Puntland and Jubbaland – he spews this narrative to unsuspecting yet gullible populous. He deviously avoids his responsibility for what had transpired in the last four years.
However, the real reason why elections have not taken place thus far can easily be attributed to presidential incompetence and autocratic objectives which the President harbors.
The narrative of who is responsible for the deadly delay may not be as important as the intention of the sitting president is. Many argue that the President is determined to come back at minimum by corrupting the elections and at best by using autocratic tactics including but not limited to intimidation of oppositions as well as weaponizing the willing coalition of three hand-picked regional presidents of Galmudug, Hirshabelle, and Southwest. The outcome of these factors is a self-inflicted delay to the elections.
Even if Mr. Farmajo’s mismanagement of the elections ends up putting Somalia in harm’s way, he is not to be dissuaded from his grandiose goal of ruling Somalia until he “fixes” its ills. According to people who know him well, Mr. Farmajo is a populist who came to politics with a silver spoon in his mouth. His political philosophy hinges on the adage that the “means justifies the end.” Therefore, he is determined to come back no matter what the cost to the nation is. And that is why he remains oblivious to the impending danger and the peril faced by the country.
Consequences of Delayed Election
Corruption is endemic in Somalia. As of 2019, the corruption perception or corruption rank index of 180 countries places Somalia last. Between 2016 and 2019, Somalia inched towards a more corrupt country. In terms of democratization, freedom house 2020 gives Somalia the lowest and disheartening score of 7% compared to 41% for Somaliland. With a few more improvements, Somaliland with its separate trajectory, can easily top 50% soon and graduate from moderately to a full democratic region even though it is not a recognized country.
Man creates corruption and good governance or the lack thereof. The leaders of Somalia created a cesspool of corruption enterprise pampered by the International community that may have its own design towards Somalia. On the other hand, Hargeisa may have lessons for Villa Somalia.
Elections are not immune to corruption and the machination of the absence of good governance. The negative impacts for a country like Somalia not to have free and fair elections are far reaching.
Kenya, for example, lost about 2,700 innocent lives in 2017 because of an unsubstantiated suspicion that foul play was involved in the first round of electing President Uhuru. Despite that he was elected by a healthy margin of 54%, widespread suspicion was difficult to avert. A second upheaval was averted only when both sides agreed on a repeat of the election as prescribed by the Constitutional court of the country.
At least in the case of Kenya, a robust and institutionalized constitutional court was instrumental in arbitration of the Uhuru-Odinga fit. Somalia does not have a functioning independent constitutional court to deliver a fair and judicious decision if and when the nation needs an unbiased arbiter. Because of that, things could get ugly!
Amid national suspicion of the President’s agenda, Villa Somalia including the newly seated Prime Minister, are circulating false narrative as to whom to blame for the delayed elections. Unsuspecting Somali masses who are hungry and desperate to see a functioning federal government have become Farmajo’s audience for the consumption of a false narrative; he falsely puts the blame on Puntland and Jubbaland. He laments that he could not do his job because of these two regions and Mogadishu-based opposition groups. And that is the fake narrative Villa Somalia invested in.
Framajo’s Wrong Ideology
At first glance, it would be outlandish to associate Farmajo’s ruthless and populist tactics to the Trump administration. However, Mr. Farmajo is an avowed student of Trump and his adoption and then weaponize social media is straight from the playbook of Trump’s inner circle.
To reach a wider audience, Mr. Farmajo had employed the Breitbart tactics of spreading false narrative through thousands of under-educated young people directed by NISA to flood social media. The message is simple: Farmajo is a saint and other politicians are sinners. Venomous trolls are his vanguard for his comeback who never stop harassing people with opposing views. And if Farmajo’s tactics are left unchecked, it could submerge Somalia into a new quagmire that has never seen before.
One can attribute Farmajo’s success in selling false albeit populist narrative to his link with Michael Caputo and the far-right Buffalo Republican establishment. Not only was Mr. Farmajo a registered conservative in the US, but his mentors are shady personalities who are affiliates of Mr. Donald Trump. His hired lobbyist in Washington DC is none other than Michael Caputo, a convicted criminal who served in Trumps White House. Mr. Caputo “represents the Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C., and his longtime relationship with President Mohamed A. Mohamed helped get him the job.”
As if that was not enough insult to Somalis, to Black Live Matters, a movement that gave home to Somali Americans, and to the entire democratic establishment of the United States, the Somali representative at the UN, Abukar Dahir Osman, Somalia’s ambassador said this about Caputo’s service for Farmajo: “It helps that he has a good relationship with the administration,” and “we also think he can help us navigate the issues.”
Nothing will stop President Farmajo from corrupting the politics of Somalia as nothing stopped his mentors of the right wing in the United States. One can argue that Farmajo could be to Somalia what Trump has been to America – a visionless populist devouring on the vulnerable Somalis.
Due to incompetency in the past four years, to date the parliament exists only by virtue of what Somalis call “xeer-jajab,” or informal understanding. There is also a vain and conceited memo drafted by the parliament that justifies its existence beyond the official date. The memo is not supported by sound findings to justify why the parliament whose time has elapsed still exists.
Constitutional Oath Abused
Per the Somali constitution, Article 91, “The President of the Federal Republic of Somalia shall hold office for a term of four (4) years, starting from the day he takes the oath of the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia.” That term will expire come February 8, 2021.
Unless political understanding is reached by all sides and stakeholders, things could fall apart. Also, if President Farmajo tries to hold an election participated by his willing coalition representing three regions whose leaders are handpicked by Villa Somalia, the country could face a consequential peril.
Corrupting the election process will also undermine the oath of office by which the President is supposed to abide. In accordance with Article 96, on February 16, 2017, Mr. Farmajo placed his left hand on the Holy Quran, raised high his right hand and declared: “I swear in the name of Allah that I will perform my duties honestly and in the best interest of the Nation, People and Religion, and that I will abide by the Constitution and the other Laws of the Country.”
Whether he lived up to the solemn oath is not bore by the reality on the ground. In addition, the euphoric Populus that welcomed him with no reservations at that night will certainly ask what had happened to the oath!
Unmanaged mass anger could lead to destruction and mayhem as they did elsewhere. And that will be a loss to all. To avert such an outcome, the following or similar measures could help:
1. President Farmajo needs to have a direct talk with President Madobe through a mediation expert to resolve the Gedo issue in an amicable manner. At minimum, Jubbaland election centers should be treated the same way as other regional election posts. Concessions on both sides should not be ruled out.
2. President Framajo must show the coalition of opposition groups a transparent and realistic timetable of election with benchmarks and a process with tangible transparency.
3. A three-way inclusive conference to be participated by all stakeholders to get the buy-in for the agreements thus far reached in item 1 and 2 must be organized in Mogadishu.
President Farmajo came to office knowing that his top priority was to hold elections. So far, he disappointed both Somalis and the International Community that served his cash teller for four years but nothing to show for it.
If Mr. Farmajo wins a second term fairly and in a free election, he will have time to build infrastructure for the 2025 ever elusive one-man-one-vote elections. And that would require of him to mend fences with Puntland and Jubbaland and all his rivals. However, if he loses, he can at least exonerate himself, pass the baton peacefully and dispel the roamers that he harbors autocratic dreams. Not to mention that the 2017 oath is staring him in the eyes.
Faisal A. Roble
Email: [email protected]
Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.
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