Somali Federal System Hinders Another Government’s Ability to Hold Elections on Time

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo has been engaged in talks with five federal member states leaders over the upcoming elections which is yet to be agreed on. (Photo credit: Villa Somalia)

Somalia’s election impasse is botched unconstitutional power grab, designed by foreign entities executed by Somalis mainstream politicians, argues Ahmed.

As usual, after every four years, the Somali nation is going for an election without a clear roadmap. This is not an unprecedented scenario. We were there before and we will definitely encounter a similar scenario in the coming years if we, the Somali nation doesn’t change our immature polity. But the question lingering every rational Somali citizen is How did we get here and where do we go from here?

Various factors can be attributed to the current stalemate that we are facing; these include but are not limited, myopic leadership, International community dual-track policy, federalism, and foreign interference. 

How did we get here?

Somali politics is a textbook definition of Machiavellianism. The politicians will do anything to pursue their self-interest. The leadership has chosen their interest over rebuilding the Somali state and improving the lives of millions of Somalis that are languishing in poverty. This zero-sum mentality has created a deep schism between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and Federal Member States (FMS) leaders, making all the effort to rebuild the country’s institution nearly impossible. 

Failure to reach consensus on the election roadmap seems designed by several foreign actors in collaboration with some federal member states. The idea was to make the incumbent redundant because before September 2020, there was a lacuna in the constitution and they wanted to exploit that and unseat the President. Fortunately, they forgot that the federal parliament has given Farmajo’s administration a blank cheque to run the country until the election is held. 

This might not go well with the oppositions but there can be no power vacuum in the country. This is the philosophy behind the parliament resolution. The renegade Federal Member States and opposition should come to terms that holding elections is in everyone’s best interest and the earlier they understand this reality, the better. The current crisis is nothing but a messed up unconstitutional power grab strategy drafted by foreign entities. 

Sahan research group ran an editorial piece which was a prelude to the grand strategy to grab the power through unconstitutional means. They proposed that after President Farmajo’s mandate expires with no election road map in place, creation of a National Transition Council to hold elections. This was the strategy that some politicians and FMS leaders that was sanctioned by foreign countries were pursuing all along. Still, they have underestimated the power of parliamentary resolution that was passed by both houses. 

The International Community (IC) double standards couldn’t be clearer in the entire episode. They were simultaneously funding dual processes that were completely opposite to each other. For over four years, they were investing in the Somali National Electoral Body to implement a one-person-one-vote electoral model. On the other side, they contracted Nairobi-based infamous Think Tank, Sahan research group to design an indirect electoral model. In fact, according to Halima Yarey, it was Sahan think tank in collaboration with Puntland and Jubaland that proposed the reduction of the number of delegates from 301 that was agreed in Dhusamesrab 3 to 101 delegates. 

This awkward endeavor that IC undertook raises more questions than answers. It questions the whole concept of “investing in Somalia’s future’ and state building process. They see the whole country as a never-ending project and not people with dreams, aspirations, future and dignity. This mindset of ‘’humanitarianism’’ whereby the Halane based groups in Mogadishu want to exploit the plights of the downtrodden by creating crisis after crisis to perpetually cash-in their suffering is barbarism at best. 

This same dual-track policy is the exact reason why there’s incessant political squabbling between the centre and periphery. The IC failed to understand and conveniently ignored that you cannot have two centres of powers in one state. To some extent, the failure to achieve a consensus can be attributed to the Halane group who empowers the rogue FMs and funds foreign entities to create a fake narrative to fundraise.

The FGS-FMS constant political squabbling was the obstacle to this election and the previous election. We had a similar scenario where Puntland and Jubaland rejected everything that FGS proposed in 2016. Here is the funny part about the disingenuity of the FMS, especially Puntland. In 2016 they fought the Former President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamed’s administration because they were against indirect elections and demanded direct elections. They went ahead to ask the IC to broker the deal which compels adoption of their proposal and seek the commitment of the FGS to commit itself to hold one-person-one-vote in the 2020/2021 elections. This time they shifted the goal post and again, for the sake of unity, the FGS has accepted their new model. One will ask, what do Garowe politicians want? Is it sustainable to have two parallel powers in a frail state like Somalia? Where does the solution lie? The constitution? Is there a lesson or two that we can learn from these failures?

There are many solutions to avoid this kind of manufactured election impasse that we face every four years. These solutions are subject to political goodwill, patriotism, among other things. This includes, completion of the constitution with emphasis on clear separation of powers—this is where the lesson learnt in this challenging time becomes handy — especially when it comes to elections both Federal and sub national levels and conducting plebiscite on federalism. This will curtail the influence of foreign forces using their proxies. Secondly, the international community should stop their destructive dual track policies that are creating multiple centres of power. 

Thirdly, empowering the national institutions. It was quite disappointing to see the federal institutions being sacrificed for political expediency. This should not in any democratic country under any circumstance. 

Where do we go from here?

The Somali leadership should first understand that zero-sum game strategy is a game for failures and they should stop chasing their own mirage. At least for the sake of the country, they should swallow their ego and pride and stop holding the country hostage.

The bone of contention in the implementation of the September 17 agreement seems to be only two issues. How to conduct elections in the Gedo region and Somaliland. The Federal Indirect Election Team (FIET) composition and sub national level team are comprehensively captured in the agreement and should be followed to the letter. 

The Gedo issue is simple, President Farmajo should hand over the venue of the elections to Jubaland and Ahmed Madobe should stop the militancy demand of removing the Somalia National Army from the region until there is a reconciliation of the Jubaland stakeholders. This should be followed by or go hand-in-hand with the reconciliation process between Jubaland stakeholders before his (Madobe’s) interim term ends in August 2021.

The Somaliland issue is simple. Abdi Hashi, the speaker of the senate, has no role under the September 17th agreement. The FGS, however, should give the speaker a limited role in implementation as a fait accompli in a show of respect. The Speaker ought to have asked for a seat in the table during the Dhusamareb meetings if he wants to run the election process for Somaliland.

Finally, the FGS-FMS leadership should return to the table in good faith and salvage the country’s hard-won gains that were achieved in the last decade. Somalis need a bright future, not your stupid fight. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect Horn Dispatch editorial stand.


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