By Hassan M. Abukar
Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a series of articles WardheerNews will be running to highlight how the Regional Administrations managed the selection of the Upper House members as part of Somalia’s 2016 elections.
The newly formed HirShabelle state is on its way to selecting members of the Upper House, and it is already providing a textbook case for how President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud will be re-elected: with loads of money.
In the beginning, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud treated Hiiraan with disrespect and heavy-handedness. He sent his boyish-looking, interior minister and federal affairs, Abdurahman Odowaa, to the region to start the formation of the new federal state combining Hiiraan and Shabelle. The young man, widely believed to be a member of Dammul-Jadid, the secretive group that controls Villa Somalia and Mogadishu’s economy, failed in his attempts to garner support from various tribal leaders. Clan elders simply ignored him and treated him as a “juvenile” and an extension of Hassan Sheikh.
Consequently, Odowaa and Mohamed Mukhtar, another cabinet minister, were sent to Beledweyne to enlist support, but that did not work either. Some of the elders simply told the duo that one of them was welcome (Mukhtar) and the other (Odowaa) was not. It took Hassan Sheikh a long time to realize that Odowaa was no longer welcome in that region.
A few clan leaders in Hiiraan and Shabelle then attempted to form a state region. They failed because the international community did not lend a helping hand and some clans boycotted the gathering. Afterward, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid came to Beledweyne and persuaded Hiiraan leaders to acquiesce in the formation of a state that combined Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle. Sharmarke admitted to the elders that the federal government had made mistakes in its dealing with the region. The elders then tentatively agreed to participate in the formation of the state.
When Hassan Sheikh heard that his premier and political rival succeeded where his young envoys failed, he decided to go to Beledweyne himself. The president did not want Sharmarke to take any credit for the successful talks.
Hiiraan verses Shabelle
The Xawadle, one of the largest clans in Hiiraan, and its elders have serious grievances with the new federal process of state formation. They are angry that Hiiraan, one of the eight original regions formed after the country gained its independence, is being lumped with Shabelle. The idea that it now has to share power with Middle Shabelle is mindboggling. As Ugaas Hassan Ugaas Khalif of Xawaadle clan succinctly put it: “Hiiraan was a region after independence when Jowhar was a mere district.” He said that Hiiraan, for instance, will not accept four seats in the Upper House when Shabelle will also have four seats.
State parliament elections
After the arm twisting of various clan elders in both Hiiraan and Shebelle, Hassan Sheikh succeeded in making Jowhar the new capital of HirShabelle. About ninety eight members were selected for the state parliament. The presidency was given to Xawaadle, the speakership to Gaal Jecel, and the vice presidency to Abgaal. Two elections, one for speaker and the other for president of the state, were first conducted this month.
Initially, the post of the speaker was supposed to be an easy choice between Abukar Hassan Ali, an educated politician with experience in government and the court system, and Sheikh Osman Barre, a traditional tribal leader. Hassan Sheikh took no chances and made sure “his people” won the selection process. He backed the traditional elder because he was someone whom he could influence. Moreover, he suspected that Abukar Hassan Ali, who had worked with the former head of the country, President Sharif Ahmed, was too independent to court. Besides, Sharif Ahmed was a rival of Hassan Sheikh and the two are currently competing for the country’s presidency.
President Hassan Sheikh sent two political operatives and Members of Parliament to buy votes in HirShabelle’s state elections: Dahir Amin Jeesow and Amina Mohamed Abdi. The two came to Jowhar with loads of money. Some sources say that they brought with them several hundred thousand dollars. The duo distributed funds to members of the state parliament to elect Hassan Sheikh’s pick, Sheikh Barre, and defeat Ali. According to reliable sources, about $6,000 was given to each state parliamentarian, who in return promised to vote for Barre. It worked. Suddenly, Barre, the dark horse in that race, won 61 votes. So, Hassan Sheikh was the ultimate winner.
Once the speaker was chosen, the president of the state was selected. Three candidates were in the running: Ali Abdullahi Osoble, Ali Mohamed Arale, and Mohamed Abdi Waare. However, Arale’s brother (Abdikarim) is married to Ossoble’s sister. Therefore, Ali Arale withdrew from the race.
Ali Ossoble, whose father served as a cabinet member in Siad Barre’s government, is a quiet man not known for political activism. His detractors say that he is the type of politician Hassan Sheikh loves to deal with; malleable, weak, and un-engaging. In political parlance, he poses no threat to Villa Somalia. Ossoble was selected as the president of HirShabelle with exactly 61 votes. What is magic about the number 61? Some believe that the $6,000 given to 61 members of the state parliament paid for votes for both the new speaker and state president; they were a package deal. In politics, these critics say, there is no coincidence.
In a BBC interview, Ossoble denied that the election was questionable. He was introduced to the international community in Mogadishu last week and then went to Beledweyne. Ugaas Hassan, who had denounced the formation of HirShabelle as an illegal entity made and manufactured elsewhere, met Ossoble. Ossoble’’s goal was to bring the chieftain with him to Jowhar so he could attend the swear-in-ceremony for the new president. It did not happen. When asked what the two had talked about, Ugaas Hassan issued a terse reply: “We only discussed about our clan.”
In the next article, I will address the selection of members of the Upper House from HirShabelle which has yet to be finalized. Sit tight and enjoy the ride.
Hassan M. Abukar
Hassan M. Abukar is a regular contributor to Wardheernews and can be reached at [email protected].
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