We learned yesterday that PM Farmajo resigned all of a sudden despite wide popular support, and the evidence of growing parliamentary support as well. His resignation was entirely unexpected and must come as a shock to all those who displayed their support in public demonstrations inside the country and outside it, the latest of which was the public demonstration that was held in London yesterday. The news leaking from Villa Somalia states that he was given in the presence of Sheikh Sharief, the President, a one-hour ultimatum by the general commanding AMISOM troops to which the PM had no option but to comply. Deputy Prime Minister Abdulweli, a friend, was appointed as PM ad interim. With an impeccable background Abdulweli will, I am sure, equate himself of the tasks entrusted to him. But this should be a dark day for Somalia, for what happened represents the triumph of power over principle, of treachery over nationalism, and of personal rule of constitutional rule.
Despite the repeated reaffirmation of the UN Security Council of Somalia’s sovereignty, political unity and territorial integrity we are confronted today with the stark, ugly and shocking reality that the country’s sovereignty is only nominal and the old gunboat diplomacy is alive and well. That kind of diplomacy was the modus operandi of imperialist powers in ages past. But, since the rise of a liberal world order following the Atlantic Charter, the formation of the United Nations Organization, and improvements in transport and communication between different parts of the world, the demise of imperialism was hastened and gunboat diplomacy has been condemned, discarded and relegated to that dark age in which nations were bullying one another. Nevertheless, there are instances such as the one we witnessed in Mogadishu today where it evinces some signs of life.
Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda, flew to Mogadishu the other day to salvage the Kampala Accord which had been signed under his auspices a few days before and which was now teetering on the brink of collapse in consequence of widespread rejection. He of course has boots on the ground in Somalia and can influence, if not dictate, the decisions of the TFG. Obviously, his country has an interest in the restoration of peace to Somalia owing to the fact that it has more than five thousand of its uniform-bearing sons fighting the Shabab on Somali soil. I have no doubt that they want to go back home as soon as possible instead of being maimed and killed on a foreign soil and for a cause which is not really their own. I am sure we should all be grateful that the AU and President Museveni in particular are trying to prevent the country from falling into the hands of the Shabab.
However, there is a world of difference between helping a sister country fight an internal insurgency in order to restore peace and order and preventing the natural growth of its political institutions. President Museveni is apparently confusing helping Somalia militarily – a much needed help, no doubt – and helping Sheikh Sharief politically against his own people: the former is laudable; the latter despicable. But we have to understand President Museveni did not come to power through the ballot box but by ‘other means’ (to use the language of Bismarck who said that “war is diplomacy by other means). To his everlasting credit President Museveni saved his country from ruin and disintegration, but I am not sure whether this should entitle him to be its life-president. He has been in power for twenty-five years, which would not have been possible without extending his term of office whenever it expired. He does not therefore see anything wrong with Sheikh Sharief’s clamor for extension. Likewise, he cannot understand why Farmajo should be so ‘impudent’ as to go over and above his President to Parliament, or why Parliament should have a say in an agreement that was negotiated and signed by its Speaker and the Head of State. It seems that Mr. Museveni took Farmajo’s attempt to stay in office by making recourse to Parliament as a personal affront to him, which required a retaliatory response. According to the news coming out of Mogadishu that response, delivered by the Commander of the Ugandan troops to Prime Minister Farmajo in the presence of Sheikh Sharief, came in the form of an ultimatum, which stated that Farmajo would lose Ugandan protection of his personal security unless he tendered his resignation in writing within an hour. Facing this threat to his life Prime Minister Farmajo had no option but to resign without further ado.
This desperate and dishonorable act was also taken to pre-empt any action on the part of Parliament to annul the Kampala Accord and confirm Farmajo in office. Parliament had been paralyzed, for it was not allowed to meet for the last four months in spite of motions that accumulated and petitions by the parliamentarians to the Speaker. This morning about one hundred and fifty members of Parliament assembled to meet in the hall where Parliament generally meets, but a Deputy Speaker locked the facility and walked away with the keys, mirabile dictu
All this is plain thuggery and shows that a President and a Speaker who take the law into their own hands and feel answerable to no one have destroyed the democratic institutions, which the internal community spent so much time, effort and resources to build, with foreign connivance. However, sooner or later Parliament will have to assemble and it is up to it to save the Nation from the shariefs and their ilk.
The presence of foreign troops in a country reduces the sovereignty of the host country. It is easy to invite foreign troops, but it is difficult to get rid of them when they prove counterproductive or to give them instructions when they deviate from their original mission. What the Somalis are experiencing under the Ugandans is exactly the same as what they were experiencing under the Ethiopians; it is the same also as what the Lebanese were undergoing under the Syrian army and what the Egyptians suffered when the British forces where occupying the canal zone. As a matter of fact a classic example of gunboat diplomacy happened in Egypt in the late 1930s and early 1940s when the British Ambassador, Sir Miles Lampson, used to tell the monarch what to do, whom to dismiss as prime minister and whom to appoint in his place, as well as whom to appoint as minister and to what portfolio. In 1940 Lampson asked the King to sack PM Ali Mahar who was reported to have pro-Italian leanings which incensed the ambassador even though the latter’s own wife was Italian. Though King Farouk resisted at first he had to comply in the end. In 1942 Lampson told the King to appoint Nahas (an arch-enemy of the King himself) as Prime Minister. He in fact sent the King an ultimatum to the King saying that unless Nahas was invited to form a government by six o’clock that evening the King should either abdicate or he would be deposed. Just compare this with what happened in Mogadishu today.