Better or worse: Prime Minister Farmajo first half of 100 days in office.By Mohamud Ahmed
As the year 2011 hastens, the Transitional Federal government of Somalia has its clock ticking towards the proposed end date of the TFG Administration. The TFG tenure will expire in 7 months and the prospect of an extension is very bleak. However, for the Prime Minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, the year 2011 bears an over-sized load.
Somalia's PM's office is the most insecure executive job in the world. Oftentimes its occupants last no longer than two years. Like the shifting sands of the Sahara Desert, people come and go--in and out--in Somalia's impaired government institutions. During the past decade, TFG’s top offices have changed hands more hastily than anticipated. The rationale of representative government is out of the question. The TFG has not been elected by the people, and its members have been selectively appointed to fulfill unattainable goals: completion of the reconciliation process, re-storing government institutions, holding a national election, etc. That has not materialized--at least 6 prime ministers short lived these goals, subsequently sucked after a tainted confidence vote or resigned due to pressure. Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has inherited an office with a bad reputation. He has replaced Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke who resigned from the premier post attributable to political rifts that had developed between him and president Sheekh Shariif. Farmajo predecessor was accused to had been a failure in several fronts: lacking cooperation, nontransparent, and being insensitive to insurgents' advances into government controlled area. Amazingly, long after Omar’s departure, Villa Somalia is still surrounded, only safe for now in the presence of 8,000 strong AMISOM force. In essence, it's Farmajo's turn to face the burden of the public in silent scrutiny and the same cannibalizing parliament entity. Half way to his first 100 days, the security priority the PM mentioned in his speech to the parliament, has not substantiated. As daunting as his approval might had been, It is equally difficult for Farmajo to fix the profound disagreements within the TFG, unless he unleashes a mystery wand.
Nomination and cabinet selection:
PM Farmajo was nominated on October 14, 2010 and endorsed by the parliament two months later. Albeit time was not on his side, he was quick forming his first cabinet, mainly comprising educated diaspora Somalis. 18 ministers appeared a more realistic number contrary to the massive size of the parliament. But, however efficient and small the Farmajo cabinet may appear, there are huge challenges awaiting. Several cabinet members have been accused to have close relations with the insurgents group--Ashabab. Others have their integrity questioned. Moreover, some major Somali clans have mounted opposition against Farmajo government alleging they have not been consulted with during the cabinet nominations. The leader of the semi autonomous Puntland in Somalia, Abdiraman Farole told the BBC: “we have witnessed many looted properties, but we have not known yet ministerial positions looted...these ministers do not represent us, they had held staff positions in the president’s office, ” Abdirahman farole. Thereafter, demonstrations rocked many cities in Puntland and protesters demanded prime minister’s resignation. Furthermore, the majority of the Farmajo cabinet spent an average 25 years of their life time outside Somalia, that itself is problematic in the sense that Somalia has lacked most institutional functions and the ‘technocrat’ idea may not sync with the present chaos. In general, no one expected Farmajo cabinet to prevail in a parliamentary ratification vote, but that happened in one way or another. Though many believe the ‘approval’ came after thousands of dollars were distributed to the bribe plagued TFG parliament members.
Most recently, the leaders of Alshabab and Hisbal Islam assembled in Kismayo to show their solidarity. Hisbal Islam leader Shiekh Dahir Aweys officially abrogated his Hisbal Islam, the second strongest Islamists organization in the South. He joined Alshabab forces, who control large swathes of the Southern and Central Somalia . The merger has been jointly announced by the Heads of Alshabab and the Hisbal Islam Leader, Sheikh Aweys. Together the two strongest Islamists Organizations will form a united front, controlling more than two thirds of Somalia. Indeed, since Mr. Farmajo came to power, not much has changed on the ground. The only force preventing complete take over from the extremists has been the AMISOM, who when attacked fire indiscriminately and shell civilian populated areas of Mogadishu, an infuriating act of violence against innocent civilians. In retrospect, civilian sympathizers demanded AMISOM’s withdrawal. Despite, the weak government has appealed to the African Union and the United Nations once again to expand the AMISOM from 8,000 to 12,000 strong. Unfortunately, the government ignored the chilling message which resonates amongst the Mogadishu inhabitants, and to that effect, the insurgents growing resiliency and the huge support they are drawing because of the public anger. An increase to the might of the AMISOM will be counter productive as the government faces an enemy much larger and better organized.
Much has been argued that the TFG powers in particular the president’s and the PM’s are inseparable. However the constitution has clear definitions and an unequivocal separation of powers. According to the TFG charter: “There shall be a President of the Somali Republic, who shall be The Head of State, commander - in - Chief of the Armed Forces..and Symbol of National Unity.” “The President shall appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister and/or dismiss the government if it fails to obtain the required vote of confidence from Parliament,” TFG Charter. Evidently, TFG’s incessant problems have nothing to do with the separation of powers, but rather has to do with President Sharif’ lack of experience and competence to lead his country. President Sharif has no known political resume except his days with the Islamic Courts Union 2006 Mogadishu takeover from the warlords. During that campaign, confederation of Islamist groups engaged a fierce battle against Mogadishu warlords in which they succeeded. At that time President Sharif was a despised leader under Shiekh Dahir Aweys, then the ICU Ruling Shura (Committee) Supreme Chairman. When Sheekh Sharif agreed to negotiate with the old TFG in Djibouti, that angered Aweys which resulted the two to split. Meanwhile, Sheekh Sharif relied on external advisers since he could not make his own decisions. The president functions more as a foreign affairs minister than head of state--he spends a lot of time traveling to Middle Eastern and neighboring states instead of dealing with the problems at home. Former Prime Minister, Omar Sharmarke had difficult time working with the president. For that reason, Sharif advisers all along pushed to look for someone who will follow his leadership style, and Omar Sharmarke did not fit to that profile. Prime Minister Farmajo has been chosen over many experienced, more agile candidates because of his ‘follower’ attitude. Well! President Sharif wanted that kind of PM, but in reality there is nothing to follow. The Prime Minister has no choice--President Sharif could neither lead nor he will let the PM lead. The stalemate cannot be solved unless Sharif is replaced with better leader.
TFG mandate expires August, 2011:
The current Sharif government was formulated in Djibouti in January 2009 through a consensus arranged between Abdullahi Yusuf TFG and ARS-D function which was led by Sheekh Sharif, after the original ARS (Allience for Re-liberation of Somalia) had split into two functions: ARS-Djibouti under Sheekh Sharif and ARS-Asmara under Shiekh Aweys. President Abdullahi Yusuf resigned December 2008 after a long bloody war in which he was accused of authorizing Ethiopians to invade Somalia. At that time many people held the notion that the 6 months, short lived Islamic Courts Union would have ended Mogadishu mayhem, had the Ethiopian Army not invaded Somalia and swept Islamists’ forces out of the country. Many believed it was indeed a missed opportunity and that led U.S and others to take a different political course such as installing Sheekh Sharif a.k.a Moderate, to become the next TFG President. Under the Djibouti agreements the two sides: previous TFG parliament of 275 and a new 275 Sharif parliament, inflated to 550 body, merged to form the current Sharif led Transitional Government. Sharif was installed by America and Djibouti and Omar Abdirashid was selected as his prime minister. Evidently, the Americans capture of Sheekh Sharif in the Somali-Kenyan border after the ICU defeat by the Ethiopians, was the first pre-meditated plan by the Americans to create a ‘moderate’ leadership within the Somali Islamists world. According to the U.S Embassy Cable reports, recently published on Wickyleaks.net, Sharif was interrogated in the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi where he took the oath to remain ‘moderate.’ Based on that amnesty, the Americans and their allies hoped that Sheekh Sharif would deliver a heavy plow to the insurgents by damaging their alliances and will be in a better position to infiltrate Alshabab intelligence. Unfortunately, after nearly two years, Sheekh Sharif has not gained an inch of land from insurgents; he failed to apprehend even a single known Alshabab/Hisbal leader; instead, insurgents made huge advances and now encircle territories surrounding Villa Somalia, the Presidential Place.
U.S. Dual-track policy and the international community:
In June 2010, a group of TFG parliamentarians and government officials were invited to Washington D.C., to report on the ‘state of the moderate’ Sharif government. The 8 member delegation spent almost two weeks and had pre-arranged meetings with Senators: Rep. Donald Payne, Rep. Feigngold, Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Dept., of State officials. Regrettably, the meetings were not bilateral type, but rather a typical U.S House hearings. To their disappointments, Somali Parliamentarians and other TFG officials were subjected to heated interrogations and at times Senators reprimanded desperate Somalis in a hard tuned voice. Later, Senators: Feingold and Payne issued what they called Final U.S., House Resolution for Somalia. The proposed resolution conveyed new ideas supposedly based on the Somali delegations inputs. Members of that Somali delegation recommended to the U.S., to re-evaluate her policies towards Somalia. Some suggested the U.S., to shift focus in Somalia and engage a multi-track approach--bottom up approach in order to involve more clans, traditional leaders, parents, women and youth in the decision making process. On the contrary however, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Africa, Johny Carson, few months later, announced a modified strategy: ‘a dual track policy,’ aimed to engage on the one hand with Puntland and Somaliland (relatively Somalia’s stable parts,) the other hand with the TFG, the later’s relationship would depend on the progress it makes against the growing influence of the Alshabab extremist group. The U.S., announced that as the TFG was going through a difficult time.
The international community in particular the United Nations has not been serious enough to extend support to the weak TFG administration. The issue of piracy has been on top of its list, and more important than Somalia’s beleaguered nation. The Secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon in June 2008, authorized the navies of 22 nations to police Somalia’s unguarded waters. The price tag for such an expensive operation would cost more than $40 million per year. Conversely, the UN has mere presence inside Somalia: the office of the Under Secretary for UN to Somalia is operated from Nairobi, Kenya. Likewise, the UNDP limited operations go through networks of dishonest sub-contractors. Most NGOs also have their bases in Nairobi. So far, no party has committed resources to leverage TFG’s ability to bring the badly needed security for the country. European Union, Council of Arab Nations, and more able nations excused themselves from any involvement, leaving Somalia under the mercy of the African Union and IGAD. However, in a letter PM Farmajo addressed to Secretary Mahiga, UN Under Secretary for Somalia, indicated his government’s inability to attain security goals because of the expiring mandate of the TFG in August 2011. He further reiterated the need for expansion of the UNISOM forces, whilst according to him creation of a functioning Somali Army is far reaching goal.
Issues of national interest and Memorandum of Understanding:
In his letter to Secretary Mahiga, PM Farmajo expressed his commitment for one unified Somalia, restoration of the rule of law, rebuilding of national institutions, fighting piracy, and improving the private sector. Unfortunately, he did not mention the issue pertaining to the protection of Somali waters. Earlier, the PM has been contacted by Somalitalk.com, the website that investigated Kenya-TFG Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) deal, a foiled annexation scheme to dispute Somalia’s Continental Shelf, the PM has not responded to their request. In fact, the MOU was between Sharmarke administration acted on behalf of Sheekh Sharif, and Kenyan government. It’s intended goal was to create unwarranted water dispute within the Somalia’s waters. Kenya invested a lot of money to promote its hidden agendas with the help of Norway. However, the deal provoked Somalis every where on the planet, and caused a quick reaction from the parliament. As a result, the Somali Parliament voted unanimously against MOU agreement,and the UN Agency for Oceanic Affairs followed suite and ruled in favor of Somalia acknowledging Somalia’s Territorial Sea and Ports Statute, signed to law in 10 September 1972. Despite, Kenya has pursued another avenues to dispute Somalia’s Waters again. Kenya’s recent plea to the Commonwealth of Nations has been primarily to get support for its illegitimate claim to incorporate part of Somalia’s unprotected wealth into her parcel. In fact, Kenya already occupies NFD (North Frontier Province) Somali territory, annexed to Kenya by the British before Somalia attained its Independence from its European colonisers. PM Farmajo has been in mute situation and has so far ignored the issue. The questions that come to mind are many: why he is not stepping in to defend Somalia’s Waters? Why ponder on the pirate issues, whilst our sea is under constant threat? Perhaps, the PM will come forward to answer these questions and many other inquiries sent to him before. Meanwhile, the Somali people are desperately waiting his response.
PM Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has joined the TFG at a critical juncture. As the first half of 100 days have elapsed for his government with no considerable achievements, given the odds, there is still a slim chance for succeeding. To sum, the TFG has never been a viable solution for Somalia. It was anyway an IGAD prescription to keep Somalia on a live support. I am convinced, the TFG lack of crank is to blame, in particular Sheekh Sharif who has failed to achieve anything. Prime Minister Farmajo has been the new hopeful to change the course--the international communities’ do nothing strategy, AMISOM’s ineffective peacekeeping mission, and building Somali-born security apparatus.
As it seems, the TFG rifts have further deepened and it’s more than likely doomed to fail all at once unless a miracle safes it. That said, the clock is however ticking for Sharif and the newly appointed cabinet, as their mandate is due to expire in 7 months. Worse, the corrupted parliament has been further divided and subdivided, therefore nothing stands the way to prevent a total TFG collapse.
Mohamud Ahmed is political analyst and contributor to Terror Free Somalia Foundation.