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Somalia’s Election Deadlock: a Road to No Where

By WardheerNews Editorial

It has never been easy to mediate Somalis on political matters; so did comment Rodolfo Graziani, Somalia last colonial officer in charge of putting its humpty-dumpty post trusteeship administration. Somali politics is shifty and could turn from manageable to a bleak situation with no notice. When you think you solved one problem, there emerges yet another one, a phenomena that prompted Admiral Howe, the first American General to head the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) to quip Somalis clan politics difficult to understand. 

President Farmajo

Multiple efforts on managing and seeking to hold Somalia’s 2021 presidential election thus far failed. This latest squabble over presidential election is proving to be the most challenging one. The president whose term has ended on February 8, 2021 has failed to deliver a plan of transition that is more palatable to all stakeholders.  Yet, he refuses to vacate the office. Without any mandate to lend him any more presidential legitimacy, the country’s crisis is astronomically increasing by the hour. Security is deteriorating and the binding trust among federal states is waning.

For almost more than a year, Somali politicians have been quarrelling over how to transition from the end of Farmajo’s presidency to an inclusive and procedurally equitable election. First, Farmajo promised to hold a universal election on time. But he intentionally ran the clock. Following the instalment of his own men in three of the five regional states, he intentionally wanted to structure elections that would deliver to him a second term on a silver spoon. In all these, there is a perception that he has been aided by the UN representative James Swan, the US Ambassador who seems to have slept at the wheel and the International Community.

The Dusamereb 1 through 3 talks was complicated among other things by the Gedo issue, Farmajo’s clan base. To bring his rival, President Ahmed Madobe, to his knee as he did to the presidents of Galmudug, Southwest, or Hirshabele, President Farmajo fanned an unnecessary conflict in that region. Still, he could not mute Madobe’s deviance.

In time, Madobe survived Farmajo’s unconstitutional pressures. He did so by mainly allying himself with President Deni of Puntland, the strongest federal member state, and with multiple presidential contenders and key legislators, most important the speaker of the Upper House. Hence, the birth of the Somali Salvation Forum whose intent is to deny President Farmajo any illegal usurpation of power is hatched out in Mogadishu.

On March 22, 2021, the meeting that could have opened a new chapter for an equitable election process once again did not materialize. In the fashion that is reminiscent of Mohamed Sahnoun words, Somalia’s erstwhile UN representative in the 1990s, yet another golden opportunity to come together around the election issue was “missed.”

What led the aborted meeting? First, President Farmajo is to blame for the hijack of the agenda. The plan was for the UN to draft the agenda and share a draft version with all stakeholders. However, the president took a preemptive move and released a half-baked agenda only without consultation of his adversaries.  The Somali Salvation Forum, certainly angered by the unnecessary posturing of Farmajo, boycotted today’s meeting. As a result, no one is expecting any valuable outcome from the meeting attended by the coalition of willing states or maiden regional office of Villa Somalia.

Amidst squabble, meanwhile both sides are losing esteem with the Somali people. At a time when the Horn of Africa is experiencing conflict, famine, locust infestation, destructions, and massive human rights abuses, even ethnic cleansing in Tigray of Ethiopia, one would expect Somali leaders to smell the coffee and give their constituents the product they have been keenly demanding – a clean presidential election schedule. As the late Said Samatar would have said in a day like this, both sides are modern-day Tweedledum Tweedledee.

Where to go from here?

  1. Organize a more consultative and inclusive meeting within the shortest time where all sides can agree on a timetable to hold the election before this summer and share with all stakeholders transparent benchmarks leading to a certain election time and date.
  2. Agree on limited authorities of the lame deck president particularly in matters pertaining to foreign and defense as well as key appointments in the government
  3. Empower the prime Minister’s office, in collaboration with federal member states, to be the lead actors to oversee all matters pertaining to elections.

WardheerNews Editorial
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