Somalia. The Horn of Africa next crisis?
The postponement of elections, the fragmentation of political actors and the interference of various foreign powers are putting Somalia’s fragile federal government at risk. The risks of the political confrontation turning into a military confrontation are very high. A situation that could aggravate the regional situation already compromised by the civil war in Ethiopia. E.U. and the US are pushing for a compromise agreement between all Somali political actors. The alternative is the resumption of the civil war and decades of violence, horrors and bloodbaths.
After decades of civil wars with two foreign military interventions, Somalia first federal government was born in 2012, as result of an agreement between President Sharif Ahmed, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, President of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. In February 2017, Parliament elected Maxamed Cabdullaahi Maxamed (known as Farmaajo) as President, former Ambassador to the United States (1985–1989) and former Prime Minister (October 2010 — June 2011).
Farmaajo’s government follows the fate of its predecessor Sharif Ahmed. A weak government, hostage to the various Somali political currents based on clan affiliation, unable to strengthen institutions and forced to entrust national security to the African armies of the AMISOM mission. In December 2018, 92 parliamentarians presented an impeachment motion against President Farmaajo: according to his detractors, he secretly entered into international treaties with Ethiopia and Eritrea regarding access to ports and cooperation, as well as in areas reserved by the Constitution for competence of the federal states. The motion is rejected, however, but creates a gap between the weak federal government and the opposition of the various Somali clans.
In February 2020 Farmaajo launches a new electoral law to introduce universal suffrage. The principle one person, one vote was to replace the election of the President by the various Somali clans through their representatives in Parliament. The opposition rises as universal suffrage would destroy their power to influence the political and economic life of the country.
The refusal of the opposition forces Farmaajo into a mess. In place of the one-person model, a complex system of indirect elections is adopted which involves the delegates chosen by the elders of the clan who elect the legislators who will elect the President. The elections were set in December 2020. In May 2020, the federal government announces a postponement of the election date to February 2021 due to the COVID19 pandemic, the famine caused by the invasion of desert locusts and the war against Al-Shabaab terrorists. In January, the elections are still postponed (we are now talking about September) while Farmaajo’s presidential term expired on 8 February. The various clans opposed organizing anti-government protests, repressed in blood. They do not recognize the extension of the presidential term, demanding immediate elections.
On Thursday 18 March a new political alliance was formed by those who oppose President Farmaajo. Members include the 15-member Coalition of Presidential Candidates, the presidents of the states of Jubbaland and Puntland, two of the five federal member states. The group chose Senate President Abdi Hashi Abdullahi to lead the association, with the help of former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Jubbaland President Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe and Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni. President Abdullahi, who hails from Somaliland, is an ardent trade unionist and tough opponent of Farmaajo whose term expired on February 8, but remains at Villa Somalia after the failed elections. The tension is very high. The risk is that Farmaajo or the opposing clans decide to resolve and how the country is governed. Above all, everyone imagines Somalia’s future differently and, at times, behaves as independent states.
Instead of working to increase collaboration and trust between the different political actors in the country, President Farmaajo has pursued populist policies aimed at further centralizing the power of the central government, following the example of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali. With the help of his former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre, Farmaajo has removed many of his rivals from power both regionally and nationally over the past four years.
Furthermore, instead of working to strengthen Somalia’s political consensus and implement practical policies to protect the state from future political turmoil, Kheyre and Farmaajo have focused their efforts on expanding their support base through advertising stunts. They have spent a lot of energy and resources creating images, photo-ops, slogans, symbolism and social media campaigns, but have failed to take any effective steps to bring the highly polarized nation together.
The risk of the political crisis rekindling the civil war is high and intolerable. A Somalia again in the grip of the Warlords would fit into the context of civil war in Ethiopia, and the latent regional conflicts between Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. The return of the civil war would favor the terrorist group Al-Shabaab and the DAESH, leading the country to collapse.
However, it is not too late to avoid disaster according to Afyare Abdi Elmi. “The political polarization and the many conflicts of the past require the mediation of a neutral third party of the international community, capable of listening to the concerns, requests and grievances of all Somali political actors in order to find possible ways out of the current impasse. To keep the peace and keep Somalia’s fragile democracy alive, the federal government, opposition leaders and various clans must be ready and willing to compromise. Only through dialogue and the establishment of carefully thought-out power-sharing mechanisms can they keep Somalia’s people safe and the country’s democratic development underway. Only a pragmatic approach can bring Somalia out of its current crisis ”. explains Afyare Abdi Elmi.
According to diplomatic sources, the European Union, the United States and Great Britain are pushing for a compromise solution, considering it as a fundamental ingredient of a final solution that can pave the way for free elections and the formation of a new administration recognized by the people in the coming months. The alternative is the resumption of the civil war and decades of violence, horrors and bloodbaths.