By Faisal A. Roble
The flight blockade placed on Jubaland by the Somali Federal Government on August 28, 2019, is yet another sign of a multiple political fissures that are mushrooming in Somalia since Mohamed A. Farmajo decidedly embarked on an ill-advised journey to undo the federal system. Such a move is irresponsible and infantile disorder.
Jubaland has been subjected to a significant and life-altering hardship. The health of hundreds of sick people, mainly diabetic patients, have been compromised due to a shortage of medicine. IDPs are already feeling the pinch of the blockade. A huge section of the region’s commercial activities is soon about to come to a halt. Even the security sector of Jubaland and the entire South-Central Somalis is precarious thanks to Mr. Farmajo’s decision often rendered in tantrums.
Background to the Conflict
All this started when Mr. Farmajo decided to illegally remove several regional presidents, including President Ahmed Madobe. He started in vain to influence the election of Puntland a year ago. To his dismay, President Said Deni won that election. Prior to that defeating humiliation in Puntland, he spent a fortune, and succeed to install a hitherto unknown figure in Southwest state. Besides money, about 30 innocent civilians have been killed, and that case remains as one of the criminal charges awaiting Farmajo after he vacates the office.
In the case of President Madobe, Mr. Farmajo miscalculated and underestimated the reality on the ground in Jubaland. He tried to install one of his ministers from Jubaland. When he failed to do so, he started a never-seen politics of confrontation. He funded over ten candidates[fr1] some with no chance at all. In Galmudug, a complex region, Mr. Farmajo s far spent a fortune, and the jury is still out. As things stand now though, Galmudug may even backfire on him.
To get the true picture of Mr. Farmajo’s obsession with Mr. Madobe, one must go back to the beginning of this year (February 2019), when Mr. Farmajo reportedly met with the clan elders from Jubaland and asked them to field a presidential candidate anyone “except Mr. Madobe.” In response, the elders from Mr. Madobe’s side unanimously rejected what they called a “silly and irrational request.” As if that was not enough of infantile behavior, Mr. Farmajo reportedly told IC mediators (between him and Madobe) that he will accept Mr. Ahmed Madobe only “over my dead body!”
Whereas Mr. Farmajo closed the doors for mediations, Mr. Madobe gave ample grounds for potential and meaningful talks but to no avail. Now that Mr. Madobe’s patience worn out, gloves are off! Following was this past Wednesday’s tough language in Mr. Madobe’s press conference where the battle tested resilient and tenacious warier charted his road to move on and get ready for the worst.
The Ideal International Community
The elephant in the house in this matter is the International Community, particularly the United Nations. It appears that the IC and UN are watching while Mr. Farmajo is weaponizing international aid. During Villa Somalia and Jubaland row, several projects earmarked for Galmudug, Puntland, and Southwest regions have been recently finalized. Somaliland, which does not even recognize the sovereignty of Farmajo and his government, is being handsomely rewarded with infrastructural projects to the tune of millions of dollars.
While investing in all these regions is positive, one is baffled by Mr. Farmajo’s recklessness in weaponizing international aid when political disagreements surface. More baffling is the UN office in Mogadishu acquiescing or at least tacitly approving the weaponization of aid against the people of Jubaland. How else can one evaluate the unilateral decision of Farmajo suspending all projects and aid, including food aid to the IDPs in Jubaland.
Such punitive measures, whether the UN implicitly or explicitly, agrees with Villa Somalia is only and only one thing – a criminal enterprise whose responsibility can equally be traced back to the decision-making corridors of Villa Somalia and the complex and the self-sustaining town of Halane camp that houses Mr. James Swan and the International Community, including the United States Embassy.
Why am I blaming the International Community in this matter? Just look at the duplicity of how Jubaland is treated compared to Somaliland. Mr. Farmajo accused Jubaland of an “imperfect” election (Farmajo himself was accused of buying votes to the tune of $20K per vote in 2017). But Somaliland has declared a “unilateral secession.” Yet, Somaliland generously gets its share of International aid, a measure I don’t oppose. To the contrary, Jubaland which submits to the suzerainty of Villa Somalia, is harmed, abused and undermined. The rationale of this in the context of a federal Somalia defies logic.
The difference is not so much what Mr. Farmajo does as much as silence of the International Community in the face of its aid being weaponized. Decisions pertaining to Somaliland are primarily done by the International Community and as such it is untouchable by Villa Somalia. Otherwise, given his narrow approach to Somali politics, Mr. Farmajo would have vindictively punished Somaliland harsher than he did Jubaland. It is in that context that I am at ease that Farmajo does not have the chance to hurt the people of Somaliland as he is doing to those in Jubaland.
In the final analysis, we learn from these comparative cases of Somaliland and Jubaland that International Community and donor countries that are busy in Somalia don’t recognize the full sovereignty of Mogadishu over Somaliland, while the opposite is true in the case of Jubaland. It is because of this very reason that Somaliland remains untouchable despite its decision to delink itself from Somalia.
In the last two and a half years, President Farmajo has abused his authority as the president of the Somali Federal Government (SFG) in an unprecedented way. Several diplomats in Nairobi and elsewhere have confirmed that Farmajo wants to erode the federal arrangement. That is worrisome not only for Jubaland but for the rest of the member states.
A word of Advice: As we know, the International Community brags about the sustenance it gives to the fragile state of Somalia. If that is true, it must listen, with the help of the ever-growing interpreters and translation experts, this song: “Dhul aan Ceel Lahayn” or “A Land without a Water well.” The song is an allegory of the conflict in Somaliland during the military rule. Two ladies, both top-line singers, are featured: the late Sado Ali, whom I compared to Rosa Luxemburg of the 1920s, and the inimitable Khadra Dahir. The duo sings about the Somaliland conflict in Barre era. The gist of the song is the zero-sum game and the mutual destruction that both are inextricably involved.
One side is a rebel and the other is a status quo. But both sides need each other. They both recognize their common tragedy but still fail to safeguard it. In the end, they mutually destroyed each other.
Suppose, Barre, upon hearing what I elsewhere called a national cry for help, right away set up a national commission and deal with the demands of both sides. I believe Somalia could have been saved from its self-inflicted destruction of 1990. Among other issues, Barre must be blamed for ignoring a national cry for help. Likewise, Farmajo is doing the same thing. He is ignoring a national cry.
Is the IC, particularly James Swan, ignoring the national cry and he remains oblivious to the looming conflict between the Fed and member states? It appears so. I hope one of his translators – and let us hope that one would a person with a good command of both the languages and the context – will give Mr. Swan both the right historical background and the linguistic meaning of the song. It is my utmost hope that IC and Swan will not play ignorant of the impending danger Somalia is facing as Mr. Farmajo unilaterally undo the federal arrangement.
Coming back to the substantive issue of flight blockade, in defiance of Villa Somalia, on September 13, 2019, flights have resumed in Jubaland. And this was done after leaders in Jubaland assessed the situation and made critical findings on safety and public welfare. If they have not done so, they would have been derelict of their duty. To the contrary, Villa Somalia has not issued any legal or constitutional advice, written or otherwise, pertaining to its extraterritorial and illegitimate action.
There are no credible findings legal or otherwise on safety and public welfare to justify Villa Somalia’s air blockade against Jubaland. All we know is that the Somali Federal Government’s action is due to the erratic and infantile behavior of Mr. Farmajo and that will not stand the smell test in both constitutional and safety terms.
As thing stand now, we are at a stalemate only because of Mr. Farmajo violation of the aviation rights of Jubaland. In the absence of mutual agreement, Jubaland has decided to discharge its responsibility so that its residents would have access to medicine, consumer goods, and even food items by air as well as receiving logistics to safeguard its stability in the face of Alshabab terrorists.
Mr. Farmajo’s misuse of the concept of sovereignty when justifying the ill-advised blockade placed on the people of Jubaland is untenable. The sovereignty of Somalia should never be practiced in a manner inconsistent with the federal constitution and for the objective to hurt certain sections of the community. That had happened in the past under the previous military regime and should not be repeated under any circumstances.
No doubt Somalia is sovereign as a nation, but only so as far as it does not violate the autonomy of a member state and the sovereign rights of any citizen for a free movement and free access to livelihood and medication to the extent available. When one’s sovereign state violates one’s citizenship rights, that citizen recaptures those rights by any means necessary. In other words, the citizen has the right to delegitimize his/her own sovereign state. For example, when the military regime of Sayyad Barre violated the rights of Somalis across the nation, the call went out to declare citizen’s autonomy and repeal the state’s sovereignty given to Villa Somalia. Different citizens reacted differently. The result is a divided Somalia.
The current stalemate between Jubaland and Villa Somalia is nothing short of a national crisis. It is a crisis of the sovereignty of the country and the autonomy of the member states. Mr. Farmajo is inadvertently weakening the sovereignty of Somalia by provoking citizens to take extreme measures. If this provocation continues, plus a new sea blockade Mr. Farmajo is believed to be planning, the elasticity of the nation’s sovereign status over the entire country will shrink more than it had already. In the case of Jubaland, it would be tantamount to a declaration of war.
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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