Protest in ISLII (Pics) in support for FARMAAJO
Somalia’s PM may resign, but scars will not stop bleeding
Somalia’s prime minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is expected to resign after Somalia’s feuding leaders, President, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Parliament Speaker, Sharif Hassan agreed to form a new government to end a political stalemate that saw an intervention from the United Nations and regional governments.
The political deadlock between the two leaders originates from a dispute over the government’s future as their term is set to end in August. To shun possible elections, both leaders had unilaterally extended their terms; the president for a year, and the speaker for three years, drawing a criticism from the International Community, the major donors of the feeble Interim Government.
In a bid to defuse the tension and discuss with the post-TFG national government, the United Nation’s Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) based in Nairobi hosted a meeting in April, attended by major Somali parties, including regional administrations. The meeting was, however, boycotted by the Somali president and his premier, but was attended by the speaker splitting the government into two rival factions. The participants agreed to hold parliamentary elections before August deadline to elect a new president and a speaker. But the outcome was rejected by the president deepening his dispute with the parliament speaker. The UN Security Council, convening in Nairobi in May, voiced anger at Somali leaders’ recurrent political disputes, sending them a very strong message to end their squabbling or face sanctions.
With no solution in sight, another meeting was held in Kampala, this week, by Somalia Contact Group, a body that had been formed in 2006 and comprises of nations from the EU, US, UN and Tanzania. At the beginning, the UN Envoy, Augustine Mahiga insisted on his initial proposal; that elections be held which had been agreed on in Nairobi meeting. But he was later forced to change his initiative after President Sharif won strong support from Ugandan President Yuweri Musevani, whose troops protect the Interim government in Mogadishu. Musevani warned that if Sharif’s term was not extended for a year, his troops would leave Somalia as the elections would “jeopardize his troops’ recent military gains against Alshabaab”, the Islamist fighters opposing the African Union peacekeepers’ presence in Somalia.
Eventually, Mahiga mediated the two Somali leaders who agreed to defer elections for a year. In return, the speaker demanded a power-sharing government with the President, which literally means, his allies will be given some ministerial posts. This demand was immediately refused by the Prime Minister. Speaking from Mogadishu on Tuesday, Mohamed Abdullahi unveiled the conditions made by the speaker during a press conference before heading to Kampala where the deliberations have continued. The PM said he would not accept the demands because “a coalition is formed by political parties not by the same party within a government”.
According to sources in Kampala, the former PM was given two options; to form a government and give half of the seats to the speaker’s allies or resign. Refusing to succumb to the pressure, Mohamed decided to step down sparking protests in Mogadishu. Both the President and Prime Minister returned to Mogadishu on Thursday, where the later was expected to announce his resignation. The Prime Minister addressed a rally made by his supporters. However, no resignation was announced until now.
Mohamed was appointed as a prime minister, after his predecessor, Omar Abdirashid resigned under the same circumstance in September last year.
Both the President and the Speaker, joined the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in 2009 after a UN backed power-sharing deal in Djibouti between the TFG and an Islamist group based in Asmara which the two leaders had belonged to. Under the deal, the parliament seats were doubled with the additional seats going to the opposition. But the political disputes within the administration have continued and former UN Envoy to Somalia, Ahmed Ould Abdallah, who was the brainchild of the Djibouti Agreement, was largely seen as a meddler rather than a mediator. He was later forced to resign after his term ended last year to be replaced by Augustine Mahiga, a veteran Tanzanian diplomat.
The recent political deadlock was the first litmus test for the leadership of the Tanzanian at a time Somalia is at a cross-road. If the International Community reckons that the prime minister’s resignation and the extension of the government’s term would solve the embattled leaders’ dispute and help them work for a common ground, they have many reasons to rethink and reflect deeply on the political landscape of Somalia. Since its formation in 2004, infighting has become a norm for the Somali government. The reason is simple; the government is based on a wild system that never exists in the world. The speaker rivals with the president and occasionally assumes some of his constitutional powers. The leadership is divided into regional lines. Each leader seeks support from the neighboring countries which their approval and support has become the only legitimacy for a Somali government.
Notably, the two feuding leaders, the president and the speaker, are politically illiterate, corrupt and always decide not to agree. If the cabinet leaders are numerically divided into two, one for each leader, then competence will be in question. Each of the two leaders will nominate their loyalists to the posts rather competent ministers. Corruption will continue, people will despair and throw their support behind Alshabaab. Today’s demonstrations in Mogadishu, and the public backing for a leader, who even does not originate from the Capital, cannot be underestimated. Next year, at this time we may be facing the same phenomenon.
In conclusion, in meddling into Somalia’s internal affairs, using his troops’ presence in Somalia as peacekeepers to gain political influence in the beleaguered nation, President Musevani of Uganda not only plays into the hands of Alshabaab, who brands his troops as occupation forces but questions the whole peace-keeping mandate in the continent. Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi may resign or not, but the scars will not stop bleeding.
By Faysal Mohamud
The writer is a Somali journalist and can be reached at email@example.com