This past week, Somalia was concluding the much delayed polls by awarding elected legislators their certificates of victory. Then three things happened to upset the seemingly quiet political period.
One, a key member of the federal government, the South West state, distanced itself from the electoral programme, accusing Prime Minister Hussein Roble of undercutting federal regions; two, the national spy agency, National Intelligence and Security Agency (Nisa), warned of an imminent attack on both the PM and President Mohamed Farmaajo; and three, the PM and president disagreed in public on whether to expel an envoy of the African Union or not.
These three issues, observers told The EastAfrican, are just a summary of the chaos in Somalia, and also indicate the working relations between key government agencies.
A scene of a bomb explosion blamed on Al-Shabaab militants during an attack on a police station on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia, on February 16, 2022. There has been an increase in insecurity in Somalia. PHOTO | HASSAN ALI ELMI | AFP
On Tuesday, South West state criticised the handling of election affairs by PM Roble, with the state’s presidency accusing him of abuse of power, following a number of changes he made to the members of Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT), the organ assigned to manage the national elections.
“The South West State will by no means agree to the wild ambition of PM Roble who has been undermining the independence of the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT),” the South West State’s statement said.
The state was reacting to PM Roble’s decision to dismiss from the FEIT Mohamed Hassan Irro (former FEIT chairman) whom he replaced with Irshad Mohamoud Sheikh Dahir; as well sacking of Abdirahim Abdiaziz Adam who has been replaced with Hassan Ali Yusuf.
Also, earlier in the week PM Roble accepted a list of over 300 legislators and senators elected minus the three MPs elected in the South West State and one elected in the Hirshabelle State.
The exempted four legislators include Fahad Yasin Haji Dahir, the ex-director of Nisa who happens to be Farmaajo’s current Security Advisor.
Roble congratulated the FEIT and approved, except the questioned four MPs, signalling the rest are given their certificates and identities.
South West and Hirshabelle have condemned and rejected the actions of PM Roble and those of the FEIT leadership, especially its chairman Muse Guelleh.
Both states protested the exclusion of the four MPs from the approved list, citing that the elected legislators had gone through all the necessary electoral processes including dispute resolution committees before they were declared MPs.
Although federal state leaders handpick candidates in a delicate clan balancing act, the FEIT is supposed to certify them. In South West, there has been a lack of clarity after the state wanted to certify its list.
“It has become quite difficult to complete the process since the procedural guidelines were violated in all states hence the delay and contestations,” said Abdimalik Abdullahi, a Somali political researcher. “The election outcomes were entirely dictated by the regional leaders who are also aligned with the political divide,” he told The EastAfrican.
Mistrust between agencies, leaders
Even before the day was over, on the same Tuesday, Nisa said the country’s top leaders, President Farmaajo and PM Roble, were facing an imminent threat from militants al-Shabaab, raising the spectre of danger from the terror group. The alert came after a series of pronouncements from the PM on security threats facing prominent personalities in the country.
At 4am, Nisa tweeted; “We have shared with the leaders of the country about a plan being orchestrated by the militant group, al-Shabaab, aiming to target the president and the prime minister of the nation.”
“Mohamed Mahir, a top al-Shabaab operative is leading the plan.”
Al-Shabaab quickly refuted the claim saying they have no such agent in their ranks.
The public release of such intel was itself an indicator of mistrust. Omar Sharmarke, who was prime minister in the regime of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, speculated that there was a likelihood authorities were plotting something dangerous to derail the elections.
“Be that as it may, the last twitter alert from Nisa only indicates N&N’s panic mood towards the conduct of the elections,” he said referring to Farmaajo’s campaign platform known as Nabad iyo Nolol (N&N) or peace and life. “If no adequate measures are introduced to contain Nisa’s hierarchy, the agency will be the theatre of planning sinister activities that will endanger the election,” said Sharmarke, a prospective presidential candidate.
But Nisa said that it was against such sinister moves. But other presidential hopefuls countered that the agency was playing politics. Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a former president and contender in the presidential election said his Facebook page, “It is lamentable that our spy agency which is assigned to ensure our protection is promoting a notorious terrorist group that exists to frighten our nation,” said Ahmed.
Abdikarim Hussein Guled argued that “Looking through political and security lenses, Nisa’s message displays nothing but an attempt to overthrow state institutions.”
PM Roble has not publicly responded to Nisa’s threat but some commentators said the alert was itself a pointer to a further delayed election process.
“Roble is not bold enough to articulate his plan to conclude the elections,” argued Adam Aw Hirsi, a political analyst. “And there are forces lurking out there designed to intimidate him or anyone else deemed a threat to the status quo. Nisa tweeting at 4am about security threats on him, is one of those forces,” he told The EastAfrican.
But the mistrust in Somalia is not just between agencies. It also touches on relations with foreign entities.
This week, President Farmaajo cancelled the PM’s decision to expel the Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson for Somalia Francisco Madeira for misconduct.
Roble had notified the African Union Commission chairperson that the Somali government had declared the Mozambican diplomat persona non grata “for engaging in acts that are incompatible with his status” as representative of the African Union Commission and is ordered to leave Somalia within 48 hours.
No details of the alleged acts have been given by the PM’s letter. But it came five months after Madeira’s deputy and Ugandan diplomat Simon Mulongo was also shown the door last year accused of similar acts.
Instead, President Farmaajo insisted that the African Union is strong partner of Somalia, especially in the fight against terrorists, and rejected Roble’s decision was made without powers.
“Madeira and other ambassadors in Somalia present their credentials to the President of the Republic who is the guardian of the independence of the country,” the president’s statement underlined.
“There is no authentication by the President of the Republic in regards acts against Ambassador Madeira,” adding that the Somalia’s ministry of Foreign Affairs has not submitted reports indicating that Madeira opposed the independence of the country.”
Roble is the head of government, but Somalia’s laws are such that it is the president who receives foreign envoys. Villa Somalia has in the past expelled UN representatives. This was a first for the PM, although some argue the president’s mandate during election time is doubtful. Farmaajo said his PM lacks powers to expel diplomats.
The AU was expected to restructure the leadership of ATMIS. But it was unclear whether Madeira’s departure would make the continental body make changes sooner.
But there is fear that delayed elections could jeopardise Somalia’s eligibility for IMF debt relief. Mogadishu promised good governance, through free and fair elections as a condition for relief. It has until May.
By AGGREY MUTAMBO and By ABDULKADIR KHALIF
The East African