EDITORIAL: Somalia’s international partners set it up to fail

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Somalia was on Tuesday expected to be the subject of an emergency meeting at the UN Security Council, completing a curious occurrence in the past decade in which Mogadishu has featured at the UN’s top organ as an urgent topic, at least once a year.

But this happened as the term-ended President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo invited federal state leaders for another last-ditch effort to discuss the electoral impasse, the reason Mogadishu has come to a crossroads.

If FMS leaders accept Farmajo and head to Garowe, Puntland, for the meeting on February 15; there could be renewed hope that the country may finally move forward and hold acceptable elections at an agreeable time. But there are questions on his status as President and whether, having completed his constitutional four years in office, can still summon leaders for a meeting. Opposition groups have called for a discussion on transition.

In response to the Villa Somalia’s statement, Puntland said in a statement that it was not consulted about the meeting Farmajo called for in Garowe and suggested to the talks to be held in Mogadishu with the participation of all political stakeholders and the International community.

Norway has quickly welcomed news about a new round of talks in Garowe, a step that shows division among the International partners over the issuance of a joint strong-worded statement on the current situation in Somalia which was reportedly opposed by several countries, including Qatar, Ethiopia, and China.

Somalia is on the verge of becoming like Libya and Syria, where the international community is divided over how to resolve the crisis in those Arab League countries.

Farmajo’s move seemingly aimed at diverting the focus of the UN Security Council meeting on Somalia, fearing condemnations over his failure to hold timely elections in the country before his mandate expired.

Yet this debacle was always coming. For the past four years, the international community pampered the federal government, calling for timely elections while laying into opponents as spoilers or the bad guys.

At the UN Security Council on Tuesday, it was expected that the UN’s most powerful organ was going to call for dialogue, warn against spoilers and urge for consensus. You could predict the messaging going by the individual comments from representatives of the member states of the Council.
The US and the UK have been the two-permanent member of the Council most vocal on Somalia.

Their ambassadors in Mogadishu have rallied leaders to dialogue, warning against parallel or partial processes. The European Union too voiced the same. France, one of the Union’s biggest economies also sits on the Council as a permanent member.

China, another permanent member with a large influence in Africa has chosen to be silent, going by its tradition of non-interference. Russia, the last of the P-5 has been curiously quiet, but it could be understandable because the Russians have only been returning to the Horn in the past two years, having been lost in the Cold War.

In the world of politics, keeping quiet or being vocal has its shortcomings. In Somalia, the vocal West appeared to rail the opposition and some federal states as spoilers. From early on, they considered their alternative views as intent to curtail Somalia’s rise.

Some diplomats even went round warning of dire consequences if leaders did not push for certain decisions. Maybe they meant well, seeing where Somalia has come from and where it needs to go.

But Somalia has its own uniqueness. Somalis may quarrel amongst themselves, but they tend to respond to threats from foreigners by being emboldened. It is quite clear, and even Farmajo admits, that the country has been subjected to an awful to of external interference.

But Farmajo has been actively subjective in accusing some while leaving out others. From the outset, the Gulf countries including Qatar who bankrolled Farmajo’s campaigns in 2017, or the Saudi Arabians or Emiratis who backed their opponents; have used their financial muscle to get mouthpieces in Somalia for their interest.

The Western donors like the US and UK have their own security and economic interests in the country. Neighbours Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti to seek to protect their interests. And they have done that by seeking allies against others, eventually dividing the country’s polity.

So, while the international community pampered Farmajo, pledging to support his presidency and the war on terror, his indifference to his rivals did not help. And certainly, the continual underestimation of the opposition and the strength of federal states did not help either.

In the end, Farmajo’s pledges did not materialize. Somalia has no permanent constitution which could have guided a transition and a solution to a crisis like what the country faces now.

It doesn’t even have a constitutional court to help interpret what the law says or which law should work here. Sometime in September, Parliament passed a motion delaying the incumbents’ departure until new leaders are voted in.

What parliament did not clarify is how that affects the tenure of four years. In Common Law jurisdictions, Constitutions are supreme laws and precede any parliamentary Act. In Somalia? It is chaotic. Why didn’t the international community help in drafting laws without vagueness? Why didn’t the international community rail the President for signing a law that did not help a situation? They looked on as he hedged for himself, knowing that a failed election before his term will allow him in office for an indefinite period.

The UN Security Council may issue statements or disapproval for the situation. And Somalis may have themselves to blame for wasting four years sitting on their hands. But the International Community including those who fund Somalia’s recovery programs may have to look themselves in the mirror and admit fault, someday.