Sunday, May 16, 2021
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Somalia: Political Season and Personal Ambitions

By Faisal A. Roble

Somali politics is Machiavellian in that office seekers place extreme emphasis not on the people’s electoral experience but on the use of money and manipulation to victory. In such a Machiavellian scheme, personal rule has always been and is a prominent feature of Somali politics.

In the seminal book coauthored by Robert H. Jackson and Carl G. Rosberg, “Personal Rule in Black Africa,” Somali politics in the era of the late dictator was prominently featured. Similarly, in the 2021 presidential race, one must expect a heightened personality role along with foreign monies—a tool that enable personal ambitions to materialize.

Fancy diplomatic pouches full of US dollars regularly come through the Aden Adde International Airport primarily from Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the Kingdom of Saud Arabia. Camouflaged as aid packages, crisp dollars flood Somalia’s political theater during this election seasons.

Not immune to this corrupt system are Western countries such as Norway, some of the Scandinavian countries, the US government, the United Nations offices in Mogadishu, and clandestine groups straddled all over the Middle East all of which has tangible role in the Machiavellian Somali political theater.  

Exertion of military power to influence political outcome as well comes from AMISON, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya.  In particular, Eritrea has pivoted as the main destabilizer of Somalia by sending arms through a web of clandestine network.

The sitting president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, whose 4-year term is soon to conclude with no meaningful programmatic gains , is the main client of said foreign interference. The tinny Petro-dollar, yet filthy rich and bold principality of Qatar holds president Farmajo on sway. Through the maverick head of Somalia’s security arm (NISA), Fahad Yasin is widely believed to be the conduit through which Qatar’s money is channeled. Such a scheme gives him an unprecedented sway over Mr. Farmajo.

Unlike other foreign forces, Qatar is aggressive with an appetite for exacting havoc on those who oppose its political client, thus ready to liquidate those who fail to fall in line with its client. It often uses terror, killing opposition personalities, and intimidations through the National Intelligence Agency (NISA) which Qatar bankrolls. A Somali diplomat who declines to speak on the record says that Qatar plays hard ball more than any other forces in the Somali political theater.

 After a Break to Run Somalia, Back at His Cubicle.
Mr. Mohamed at his cubicle in Buffalo working again for New York State government. Credit…Doug Benz for The New York Times (source- New York Times)

The use of Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers to intimidate, if need be to kill, opposition forces is a well-pronounced tool in Farmajo’s reelection calculus. In 2017, Mr. Farmajo authorized the illegal handing over of a Somali national, colonel Qalbidhagax, to Ethiopia – a move that breached both national and international instruments. In June 2018, Prime Minister of Ethiopia released Qalbidhagax from prison partly as a goodwill gesture to the ONLF in exchange for its acceptance of a peace deal Ethiopia. Even, AMISOM is used for political gains by Mr. Farmajo – mainly to intimidate  the masses.

Moreover, in 2019, Mr. Farmajo authorized Ethiopian soldiers in the Southwest regional state to use a consequential force that resulted in the death of over 30 innocent civilians.

As potent as it could be, Mr. Farmajo’s new toolbox in this election season is to include the art of muzzling the electorate of Dir-Waqooyi. By taking advantage of the lack of access by this constituency to Hargeisa or any other site in Somaliland, Mogadishu is decided to be their venue to select its delegates. And this decision, as argued by many Dir-Waqooyi leaders, exposes their electorate to a significant manipulation and exploitation by Mr. Farmajo.

As the most trust individual by Mr. Farmajo, the current Deputy Prime Minister, Khadar Guuleed, whose political signature is inaptitude reading of the region’s history and out-of-the cuffs lectures, is working hard to undermine the integrity of the Dir-Waqooyi’s electorate portion. Instead of using known and credible clan leaders, Mr. Guuleed is busy picking up hitherto unknow 101 individuals to deliver delegates that would vote for Farmajo. Already some have complained to the UN and US embassy. So far, all that they received is deaf ears – an affirmation of how foreign entities are part of the corrupting factors of Somali politics.

A no lesser role is to be played [in this election] is by the deposed Prime Minister, Mr. Hassan Khayre whose financiers allegedly include the country of Norway, from where he holds citizenship and England, which houses Som Oil and Gas. At the time of nominating Mr. Khayre, not only was he on the payroll of this giant oil company, but he was both an investor and Director of SomOil – It is like if Somalis don’t give a damn about conflict of interest!

Hassan Kheire while working for NRC

Benefited from his days of managing the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), where oversight over funds was intentionally lax, Mr. Khayre has used Norwegian funds to employ many Somali technocrats and thus created a web of a network of Somali NGO worker that remain loyal to him. Such network, a cross clan in nature, spans throughout the Somali regions, which gave him a broad-based name recognition.

However, his irresponsible sabotage of Puntland by agitating youngsters in Galkayo and create a political wedge in the most peaceful region will certainly hunt him.

To erase bad past transgressions with regional states, he is currently flirtating with and/or employing Omar Abdi Rashid, who undeservedly enjoys a royalty status in Puntland.

If successful, Mr. Khayre wants to weaponize the brand name of the Sharmarke lineage in search of votes from Puntland and Jubbaland.  As of this week, Mr. Sharmarke arranged for Khayre a one-on-one meeting with Ogaden leaders in Kenya after which Mr. Khayre reportedly agreed to mend broken fences.

Also, to counter Mr. Farmajo’s cozy but subservient relationship with strongman Isais Afwerki, Mr. Khayre banded with the more credible sister country of Djibouti, a country that has more respect in Somalia than erratic Eretria.  For all these reasons, plus his deep pocket with cash, his solid relationship with some Western countries, in addition to his nuanced communication with bosses based in Halane camp may serve Mr. Khayre well during this upcoming election. In short, he is a tough candidate to watch out for in the 2021 race.

As a negative stain on these former allies, there is a four-year record of do-nothing that both leaders cannot run away from. Their project of “Nabad iyo Nolol” (life and peace), markedly lacking vision, extraordinarily corrupt, and never having to have delivered on security or services to the only city the Federal government controls. are inescapable markers of failure.

Their demeaning and abrupt break up where Prime Minister Khayre was fired in a matter of minutes showed all of us how disheveled of leader they have been all along. Such a poor record may dampen their prospect to win the 2021 race.   

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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