Thursday, May 19, 2022
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Notes to Somalia’s Nasty Elections: A Personal View

By Faisal A. Roble

Somalia’s elections are nasty, eccentric, and notoriously corrupt, often dominated by conniving politicians who exhibit no commitment to meaningful politics.  For 30 years, the people of this otherwise resilient nation have been condemned to a system of election where legislators are not accountable to its citizens but only to about five regional bosses who hand pick cronies to  elect a president. As years pass, politics becomes lucrative and the process of getting a seat has become more corrupt at the local level. There is a national consensus that 1p1v is the only way to end this corrupt process.

Meanwhile, the political class of Somalia is destined to play politics of personal vendetta against each other at the risk of losing the confidence of its citizens, a political commodity that can only be earned by working for the people; such a coomodity has yet to be earned by politicians.

When it comes to the nation’s business, neither the President nor the bosses that command a forbiddingly total sway on who joins the parliament have  so far succeeded in finding a common ground, thus prolonging the suffering of the nation’s largely destitute citizens.

Alas, the single common threat that binds Somalia’s political class is its lack of agenda that centers the needs of the average citizen.  With the exception of a handful politicians, this cohort’s ambition doesn’t pass beyond whom to seat on the coveted yet bountiful presidential pedestal. And that is why after 30 years, presidential and parliamentary elections have no tangile improvements to show off.

Even though Somali elections are notoriously corrupt, the 2022 elections could come to a conclusion following the end of the blessed month of Ramadan.

Besides atonement and prayers during this month,, the entire nation is mesmerized by the Gedo electoral location question. Given the importance of the Gedo region vis-a-vis Jubbaland state, the debate lies whether the controversy over the legitimacy of the location of election will hinder the process or not. It is recalled that Jubbaland has been the most troublesome region in Somalia since the 1980s and it remains so in 2022.

The September 17, 2021 agreement in Dhuusamareeb intended to commit the highest leadership to stability, inclusivity, and accentuation of indirect election should have aligned Jubbaland’s election pace with the rest of the country.

According to the Rift Valley’s Somalia Dialogue Platform Briefing which memorialized the agreements reached in Dhusamareb on September 17, known as Dhuusamareeb I, each Federal Member State (FMS) agreed to  designate two sites as voting locations.  For Jubbaland, Kismanyo and Garbaharey were duly selected and sealed. That agreement became a cliffhanger for the Famajo-Madobe saga and their never ending animosity.  From the get  go, Ahmed Islan was discomforted with the designation of Garbaharey as a possible site. His early on rejections were noted, but no one dared to amend the location agreement.

On his part, President Ahmed Islan never received the loyalty he wanted from some quarters of Gedo, and therefore wanted to always ensure that the second location besides Kismanyo to be a site that is less hostile to him. 

On the other hand, Mohamed Abdullahin Farmajo believed that Kismanyo is Ahmed’s turf whereas Garbaharey is his hope of getting a credible number from the Jubbaland electorate body. This difference in opinion about voting location made these two rough and tumble players eternal political enemies.

For Farmajo, how many votes of the 16 seats he gets toward his presidential election seemed to depend on Garbahaarey remaining the venue as stipulated in the Dhuusamareeb agreement of September 17, 2021. But that ran contrary to Ahmed Islan’s political calculus. For Ahmed, accepting Garbaharey as the second venue became tantamount to giving Farmjao a breathing room for a comeback. And that is a death blow to him and to many opposition leaders. As such, the Garbaharey issue became the red line on the sand.

The draggy and dreary wranglings over Garbaharey was finally decided by Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble in March of 2022. Prime Minister Roble honored Ahmed Islan’s wish to move the election location to El-Wak. Ahmed Islan’s alibi that Garbaharey was insecure for him to preside over his state’s electorate struck a chord with Prime Minister Roble. 

After all goes Roble’s reasoning, Ahmed Islan is the sitting President of Jubaland state and as such he gets the benefit of the doubt. In political parlance, this is nothing more than one member of the establishment relenting to the demands of another. In real politik, the status quo mostly wins. 

That rationale, obviously for a number of reasons, does not bode well for the pro-Famarjo group who deviantly held its parallel election in Garbharay only one day after the Prime Minister’s sanctioned  El-Wak election concluded.

Different people may cite different reasons as to why Roble sided with Ahmed Islan’s demands. Some say Roble is [mis]using his office to side with Ahmed Islan. Others may argue that Ahmed Islan’s concers over the security of his team is a sufficient legitimate reason for the Prime Minister to move the election from Garbeharay to El-Wak, which is still within the jurisdiction of Jubbaland. As a background one need not ignore that Ahmed Islan never secured loyalty and indeed legitimacy from a large section of the residents of Gedo. This was so even before Farmajo came to the scene. Jubbaland has yet to internally reconcile with itself, or else it may not be able to exist as a FMS.

No matter what Roble does, there is no doubt that Somalia’s elite is so divided at this time over its reading of the Gedo question, and that each corner would adamantly push its version of reasoning on this vexing matter.

What is obvious to the naked eye though is that Farmajo eroded his political muscle on the election management when he conceded to the proposal of Roble as the trustee of the election process. Moreover, he further crippled any say he would have had after he ruined his relationship with his own Prime Minister. 

From all indications, it appears two electorates – one from each location –  would descend to Mogadishu for certification in the coming days. Although it is likely that the El-Wak electorate would end up receiving certification, the Gedo issu will linger and not die easily. 

The question is whether the Gedo wrinkle can undermine both the process and the expedited schedule of the election set out by the Prime Minister. If the speed at which the election schedule is being expedited is any indication, one can safely stipulate that the election would go forward unabated as scheduled. 

For example, April 27, 2022 (this coming Wednesday) is the day to watch – the leadership of both houses will be seated. Between then and the time the presidential election is scheduled, the nation will witness the usual turf-tussle game; the International Community will expectedly try to contain the proliferation of parallel elections in Gedo.

Nonetheless it is plausible to argue that the Gedo issue would be addressed for potential resolution once the leadership of the two houses are seated. When and how it will be resolved will entirely depend on the emergent leadership of the two houses. 

So far, over 220 legislators have been certified. That is enough number for a quorum that Roble needs to conclude this saga of Somalia’s notoriously nasty and proverbially corrupt and meandering election process.  

If all goes well, it is planned that a new president would be elected and seated most likely after the Eid Alfitri of Hijra 1443/1444. Whether the Gedo controversy would remain an election footnote is anyone’s guess.

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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