Leadership crisis freezes state-building efforts in Somalia

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Somalia is mired in out of control political and security situation created by broken electoral promises, egregious abuses, and foreign policy blunders committed by the federal government of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

The Gulf crisis, the moratorium of the Federal Member States (FMS), and the surrender to the manipulations of divide and rule of Ethiopia have elevated public pessimism and stoked intense acrimony between federal and state leaders, which have exacerbated Somalia’s vulnerability and relapse into chaos. Federal Government could soon be isolated for directionless.

In his fierce speech in South Sudan, President Farmajo accepted the fact that the FMS are responsible for the provision of security, justice, development, political elections, social services, and humanitarian assistance to the local population but he sidestepped to add that those responsibilities are associated with or bring along powers, political clouts, and resources – external and domestic. 75% of the federal government responsibilities fall under the FMS. Complete understanding of the federal governance system could have prevented the leadership crisis that has caused freeze of statebuilding efforts in Somalia.

For the past two years, the administration of President Farmajo failed to dedicate serious efforts to the highest priority of all priorities which is the completion of the Constitution, the blueprint for permanent political structure of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Instead, the administration has been obsessively focused on the recreation of security forces, court judges, foreign diplomats, civil servants, and new presidents of the FMS. The all-out campaign to either bring under or remove the incumbent presidents of the FMS through corrupt schemes has discredited the legitimate argument of holding free and fair elections on schedule.

The “do nothing” federal parliament, the uncalled for attacks against the FMS leaders and the politicization of the security forces and justice have dramatically made impossible the already arduous task of building democratic state in Somalia. The high casualties and destruction caused by the Al Shabab attacks since 2017 with no hope of relief in sight as well as by the misuse of federal state power and resources have squandered public dependence on the federal government.

The justification for federal democratic state is quoted in the “study on decentralized political structures for Somalia: Menu of Options,” published in August 1995. The authors of the study argued, “Amongst Somalis there appears to be widespread enthusiasm to avoid the creation of any overly powerful central government, like that of former dictatorship.” Therefore, Somalis went along with the choice of experimenting a federal system aimed at distributing the sovereignty and powers of the Federal Republic of Somalia between different levels of state entities. While haggling on the federal road, the administration of President Farmajo chose to scuttle the federal democratic process that vested a counterbalancing power in the FMS.

The toe to toe relation in the federal system sparked the ongoing tussle between the Federal Government and FMS which could end up with the return to authoritarian system or with the triumph of rule based democratic system of governance. The practice and promotion of democracy is frustrating but it is the only political system that can mitigate abuses of power, clan rivalries, and people’s deep seated distrust in government.

The administration of President Farmajo has been using unfair tactics to gain political advantages. First, the President and his team feed misinformation to some international powers to gain support for wrong actions against targeted leaders, social groups, critics, and political opponents.

Second, President Farmajo and his team have replaced viciously former parliament speaker with their ally, have populated the Council of Ministers with members of federal parliament, and hushed other MPs with bribe. Similarly, they have packed the courts with un-vetted loyal judges. Those actions have annulled the scope and significance of oversight and accountability functions of the federal parliament and the independence and impartiality of the judiciary branch.


Third, the President and his team display contempt against international partners concerned on their political follies under the misuse of “no interference in the internal affairs.” Recently, in response to press statement of the International Community on the unfolding crisis in Southwest State, the security advisor of President Farmajo said in twitter, “Do not interfere in the internal affairs of Somalia… this attitude is unwelcome!” This belies the obligations of mutual accountability framework between the federal government and the international community as stakeholder.

Fourth, the President and his team create political crisis by fomenting internal rebellion against leaders who refuse to resign on their request. The created crisis generate the erroneous narrative of sacrificing the wrongly targeted leader for being less important.

These unfair tactics are inspired and sustained by the reliance of President Farmajo and his team on the backing of Ethiopia, the regional hegemon. In reality, the federal government of President Farmajo has surrendered itself early on to Ethiopia. It extradited Somali citizen without due process to Ethiopia. It accepts free entry of Ethiopian security and intelligence forces into Somalia. It agreed with Ethiopia the joint investment in four Somali ports followed by open border and immigration.

The surprise rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, after 20 years of military hostilities, quickly morphed into tripartite coalition of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia that marginalized all other IGAD member states – Djibouti, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan. That disruptive initiative shows lack of genuine vision for peace and progress in the region. The unresolved territorial dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea has serious implications for the domestic politics of Somalia.

The premature decision of President Farmajo to join the phony club of Ethiopia and Eritrea is fueling eeriness and agitation among the Somali people. For reasons well documented, Somalia is not yet ready for regional integration. Its short and medium priority is to unify the country and build state institutions at central and local levels capable of managing the affairs of the country, including the complex geopolitics issues. In the current global struggle for hegemony, Somalia can’t afford foreign policy blunders and useless efforts.

Persistent stories are telling that Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are behind the establishment of Ethiopian naval base and the deployment of 20,000 Eritrean military forces in Somalia. According to unconfirmed intelligence prognostication, both plans are in advanced preparation and activation.

On the other hand, Turkey has been supporting the establishment of the Somali National Army (SNA), while Qatar and Sudan have taken over the intelligence and security agency (NISA) headed by Fahad Yassin –Qatar point man, powerful boss. European countries and United Nations are supporting the police force. US Government trains and manages Special Forces intended for the fight against Al Shabab but sometimes used by the federal government for political purposes. Forces from Uganda, Kenya, and Burundi and other African countries are in Somalia under African Union Mission (AMISOM). The presence of these rival countries in Somalia without responsible Somali Government is highly worrisome.

Prominent Kenyan leaders have encouraged President Farmajo to withdraw the case on the maritime dispute between Somalia and Kenya from the International Court. This was interpreted as a conditional move for reining in H.E. Ahmed Mohamud Islam, President of Jubbaland State. The maritime case is on the Somali people’s radar.

National leaders, responsible parliamentarians, traditional leaders, politicians, academicians, women groups, civil society, religious leaders, business community, and free media, should campaign against the pivot, exit from the path for democratic system of governance. The repeal of the constitutional articles 59 (E) and 97 (3) allowing the appointment of members of the federal parliament to Cabinet positions should be one of the prime goals for restoring separation of powers between branches of government for accountability and transparency.

Dr. Mohamud M Uluso  [email protected]