Guled Hagi Hersi
Barely 18 rocky months into his four-year term, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo’s presidency is all but doomed. And it is largely due to a self-inflicted damage emanating from his catastrophic performance in virtually all facets of governance, including security, economy, reconciliation, institution-building and foreign policy.
Beyond the façade that Farmaajo’s pay-per-post social media battalion regurgitate on Facebook and Twitter, the facts on the ground depict an administration ravaged by corruption, paranoia and low self-esteem. This article will assess each of the key governance metrics, using publicly available information.
On security, Farmaajo is in the middle of fundamentally transforming the security of apparatus of the country. He has created two, illegal institutions known as “Xasilinta” (stabilization) and “People’s Defense Forces” (PDF). In addition to being parallel entities to the police and military, respectively, the militias report directly to him and PM Hassan Ali Khaire. Their greatest achievement thus far has been killing bodyguards of opposition politicians, intimidating rivals and the virtual blockade of Mogadishu, leading pregnant mothers to give birth on streets and bringing the city’s economy to its knees. They failed to stop suicide bombings.
By creating his own militia, Farmaajo has deliberately weakened the legal security agencies. The intelligence agency (NISA) is in chaos after two deputies were removed unceremoniously, and their offices ransacked by Farmaajo’s militia. Today, NISA is effectively run by two relatives of Farmaajo. Zakaria Ismail Hersi, the former Al Shabaab spy chief and Abdullahi Aden Kulane, a substitute teacher from Minnesota.
No wonder, then, that Farmaajo’s reign has been the bloodiest for Mogadishu residents. In addition to the October 14 truck bomb, which killed over 600 people, the city has seen a spade of assassinations which peaked in Ramadan. Most killings were gruesomely captured on videos. Many people, including western agencies, are beginning to wonder whether these were inside jobs.
A key measure of economic activity is the prevalence of supply and demand which instigates vibrancy of the markets. Farmaajo’s administration has turned Mogadishu into a ghost town by closing virtually all major arteries. They even blocked neighborhood alleyways on security grounds. However, Farmaajo’s real objective is to put Mogadishu businesspeople out of commission, for they have been a strong and often influential lobby group. Farmaajo’s contempt for Mogadishu businesspeople has a long history, as reflected in his 2009 master’s thesis. He hopes to destroy their livelihoods so that they become supplicants of his administration.
Having outlived innumerable calamities, Mogadishu’s resilient residents appear to be waking up to Farmaajo’s nefarious agenda. That feeling was succinctly and humorously expressed last week by the former Benadir Mayor, Adde Gabow.
One of the most important tasks for any Somali government is to advance the cause of reconciliation—both political and societal. Farmaajo’s administration has exasperated tribal conflicts all across the country, including in Tukarraq. In Jubbaland, he is fanning internecine conflicts to undermine President Ahmed Madoobe, and to advance long-term tribal goals. Over the past year, Farmaajo has been heavily arming tribal militias in the Gedo region in an attempt to destabilize Jubbaland. However, that only strengthened Madoobe’s base across Somalia and beyond. That’s why Farmaajo’s honeymoon inKenya is over, thanks to successful lobbying by Jubbaland leaders and community. Nairobi views Farmaajo as a spoiler intent on dismantling Jubbaland and destabilizing its NFD regions.
In Galmudug, Farmaajo is also fanning internal conflicts with one objective: to weaken the dominant tribe there all the while strengthening his and the PM’s tribe who have now forged an unlikely alliance.
Institution-building and good governance
Perhaps the most glaring failure of the Farmaajo administration is how he’s slowly but surely destroying state institutions by placing juvenile loyalists in key departments. Take the Supreme Court for a good example. Even Mercy Corps, to which the current Chief Justice used to work for as an inventory officer, was gobsmacked by the unusual appointment. However, that pales in comparison to the new Defense Minister. Fittingly known as “Amar Alle”, the 30-something-old minister is, effectively, illiterate. His only experience in life was selling used clothes in South Sudan. It’s so bad out in the “Nabad & Nolol” camp that even the flamboyant Abdulaziz “Xildhibaan”—the former spokesman of the security ministry, resigned from what he described as a “Facebook outfit” in a recent post. (Though he left his ‘unpaid’ job, he’s still carrying the five smart phones he loves to show off as part of his self-aggrandizing posture).
On the good governance barometer, Farmaajo is exhibit A for corruption and nepotism. As unearthed by the highly respected journalist, Harun Maruf in a recent investigative program, the administration doled out $5,000 in cold cash to their loyalist MPs in Ramadan, as a reward for ousting Jawaari and installing a poodle named Mohamed Mursal. It’s also well documented that both the “Xasilinta” and “PDF” militia are cash cows for Farmaajo, Khaire, Fahad and their underlings. Take the PDF for example. It’s constituted and ran by Abduqadir Baqdaadi, an MP and former religious affairs minister. He has neither the required training nor the experience to dabble in military affairs. Yet he’s leading this project because his father is Farmaajo’s sheikh, and he happens to hail from a tiny subclan in Somalia’s complex tribal system—two qualities that appeal to the low-esteemed Farmaajo and Khaire.
But the worst example of largesse is Somali Airlines. The national carrier is expected to be reconstituted under the leadership of Siyad Mohamud Shire, another henchman of Fahad. Not only is it economically unwise for the government to be in private business, but it is often a window of eternal cash for corrupt leaders.
Nations, irrespective of their size or power, place their foreign policy agenda squarely around their pure interests. Chief among those interests are economic and trade relations. Farmaajo, on the other hand, has put his foreign policy posture around two mutually reinforcing objectives: personal financial gain and power play. In the Gulf crises, Farmaajo has sided with Qatar at the expense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), UAE and Egypt. In addition to the historical political and cultural ties that link us to those three countries, UAE is the largest trading partner with Somalia. Fully 99% of all Hawalas (remittance) goes via the UAE. Qatar, on the other hand, has one important relationship with Somalia: Fahad Yassin. In the eyes of Farmaajo, Fahad is more valuable than the 10 million he leads.
However, the Gulf giants are now showing Farmaajo realpolitik. Over the past month, the UAE and KSA have orchestrated the most transformative change in the Horn of Africa. They cajoled the new Ethiopian PM, Abiy Ahmed, to reconcile with Eritrea in exchange for hefty economic assistance and an untethered access to Eritrea’s ports. This renders Farmaajo’s sale of four ports to Ethiopia immaterial, and shifts center of gravity to Eritrea, at the expense of Somalia.
More importantly, however, KSA and UAE are also putting the foundational elements to encircle Farmaajo in the region politically and economically by establishing a strong Ethio-Eritrean alliance in the Horn. Left to his own devises, Farmaajo will undoubtedly limb toward the end of his term—just two short years away—unloved by his own people and isolated in the region. Which is why I’m predicting his unpreventable doom.
Guled Hagi Hersi is an economist by training and management consultant by trade.
–The rise and fall of Farmaajo By Guled Hagi Hersi
–Farmajo one year review part I By various authors
–Farmajo one year review part II By various authors
–Farmajo: The saga of missed opportunity By Faisal Roble
–How Farmajo fragmented his fragile state By WardheerNews
–Farmajo’s farce By Hassan Abukor
–Fahad the fuddy duddy By Abdi I Dalal
–The first year of President Farmaajo and Prime Minister Kheyre By Dr. Ahmed I.
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