On 31 October 2011 when Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo took office as Prime Minister of Somalia, there is no doubt he came to the task with enthusiasm. But, within a few months things began to fall apart. Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo must wonder why he was catapulted out of office within a mere 7 months in the job. So what went wrong
From 31 October - 12 December 2010
The job Farmajo’s government was doing the first 42 days made cause for optimism. Days before his departure to Djibouti on 12 December 2011, the successes on the battle field of Mogadishu with Al-Shabab Islamists made Farmajo declare his government’s intention to banish Al-Shabab from the capital and the regions within months.
Wind in the sail
Until that 12 December 2011 morning Farmajo had wind in his sail. Things were going his way. Why then dash to Djibouti? What could not wait? It was like a surgeon rushing out in the middle of the operation leaving the patient lying on the table before the job was done. However important his travel to Djibouti, it was never a priority. The visit should have been postponed and re-scheduled for at least after another three months.
Had he stayed on without distraction and interruption and had he not taken that flight on 12 December the outcome could have been different. It could have seen the driving of the Islamist Al-Shabab out of the capital and the regions they hold their inhabitants hostage.
A rare momentum was let slip through the fingers
Political momentums are very delicate, tricky and strangely mercurial. Like a jealous mistress a political momentum needs to be stuck with until a corner has been turned or the main road has been hit. Change anything in a momentum it could fall apart and fissile out altogether. And that is what happened in the middle of a rare momentum when Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo went on a visit to three nations beginning with Djibouti.
Meles Zenawi over Puntland and Somaliland: a big mistake
After Djibouti, Farmajo flew to Addis Ababa where he met with Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister. The formation of the two self-administering regions of Somalia (Puntland and Somaliland) is not the fault of Ethiopia but the consequences of the collapse of Somalia. There was no point Farmajo to quarrel with Meles Zenawi over their existence. His encounter with Meles Zenawi unsettled the Ethiopian leader. He saw Farmajo someone who could make matters worse between Somalia and Ethiopia. The Puntland leader Abdirahman Farole later added to Meles Zenawi’s antipathy of Farmajo.
The inconvenient truth of foreign involvement in the affairs of Somalia
The Somali reader is forgiven to wonder what made Meles Zenawi his business how and who runs Somalia? The involvement of the affairs of Somalia is an inconvenient truth of a failed state. When one’s house falls apart and its inner walls are visible from outside it becomes the business of anybody: neighbor or afar. This is a reality which does not go away by aggravating it. What is needed is to work through the undergrowth of the situation of Somalia no matter how uncomfortable.
Quarrel with the UN over air traffic control & revenue
Somalia’s overpass air-traffic control has since 1993 been in the hands of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) office in Nairobi. This office levies aviation overpass charges over the use of Somalia’s airspace which generates millions of US dollars annually which are kept by the UNDP. Many Somalis suspect that the UNDP uses statelessness Somalia as a cash machine to finance its hefty salaries. For instance the UN has not so far uttered one word of appeal for the millions of Somalis suffering not only from conflict but the worst drought in 60 years.
Farmajo was hasty to raise the air control matter with the UN which made him many enemies in that organization. Farmajo’s quarrel over the transfer of air-traffic control and its revenue before establishing security looked to the UN like someone asking for the jacket before putting the shoes on. It made them see the Speaker’s opposition to Farmajo an irresistible music to their ears.
Ahead of time (hasty) contracts with companies was a big mistake
Somalia shall one day (especially, when the security issue is resolved) probably need hundreds if not thousands of companies doing reconstruction and all sorts of things to fix the country. But that day is not any time soon. Farmajo should have known priorities of the task. In no time after taking office his government was embroiled with awarding contracts to a number of companies.
In the middle of war before establishing peace and security when a new PM signs contracts with companies it doesn’t look good. The Somali people have grown suspicious of public affairs. They relate politics with corruption because they have seen too many officials who take money from the public.
The fake allegation of “missing $300 million” put the two leaders together
The fake allegation of “missing $300 million” may well be true but there is a time and place for everything. There was no need Farmajo to dish out such accusations which only put the two leaders together and no doubt accelerated his downfall. Farmajo probably did not realize the consequences of his accusation. Before the allegations about the missing $300 million were made Sheikh Sharif and Farmajo were on the same side. The accusation gave an opening for Sharif Hassan in his failed negotiations with Sheikh Sharif. It gave him the leverage he needed to convince Sheikh Sharif.
Why the international community did not come to Farmajo’s aid
The International Community cannot side with anyone in a feud of any government. In the TFG feud eventually they were convinced Farmajo whom they saw the source of the conflict to go in order the TFG to exist for another year. Another issue which made Farmajo enemies within the UN was his disagreement with them to see the transfer of Somalia’s air traffic control from the UNDP to his government.
He should not have resigned: some argue
Many Somalis who are disappointed with Farmajo over his handling of his resignation argue that he should not have resigned. When you say he could have been sent to prison; they argue it would have kept the cause alive.
Was the award Farmajo accepted an honor or an insult: some wonder
There are awards with a twist and some believe the award Farmajo accepted was an insult. Many Somalis argue Farmajo should not have accepted award from the leaders who humiliated him and threw him out. They argue it was an insult. One observer told me it was similar to in 1979 when some officials among them Omar Arteh during the Somali Socialist Party conference set out to trick President Siad Barre to accept a “Field Marshall” title. President Barre was shroud more than them lot who were behind the trick. He smelt treachery in the form of ridicule. He said thanks but no thanks and turned it down. He understood it as an insult. Shouldn’t Farmajo done same?
You have to work with the present to reform the future
One can only work through the prevalent conditions and circumstances of any situation. The tribally-based 4.5 ‘system’ is unfair and wrong for Somalia but it was what brought Farmajo to take power. Attacking the 4.5 itself does not solve the problem. One needs to get on with the task in order to create the environment which makes 4.5 obsolete.
What can be the biggest lesson for Farmajo: Avoid crisis at the top at any cost
If you are head of any office invite or fuel any crisis at your peril. Allegations of any nature should wait one day to be investigated and verified.
Always when things are going well the detractors of any government keep their heads down. Until the 12 December 2011 morning when Farmajo flew to Djibouti any opposition to his government was muted. Al-Shabab, the nemesis of Somalia too was on the run at least in the capital. They were losing ground to the national army and to AMISOM troops.
Before the $300 million corruption fake accusations were made Sheikh Sharif and Farmajo were on the same side and Sharif Hassan who sought the ousting of Farmajo was scratching his head. It was these allegations which he used to convince Sheikh Sharif to side with him against Farmajo.
During his short reign as Prime Minister of Somalia Farmajo made many enemies including leaders such as Meles Zenawi, Yoweri Museveni, UN representative Mahiga, President Sheikh Sharif, Speaker Sharif Hassan, Puntland President Abdirahman Farole and a number of former Ministers who turned against him for one reason or another. One of the reasons for Mahiga’s animosity towards Farmajo could be his hasty insistence to transfer Somalia’s air traffic control and revenue to the TFG.
One must never rush things. One must also always finish first what is at hand, especially when an issue as important as the security of a nation is at stake. Responding to an invitation he received from President Ismail Omar Gheelle through his newly appointed Ambassador to Somalia, on 12 December 2011 morning Farmajo travelled to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. After his return from his travel nothing was ever the same.
Having given his enemies the opening they need, by February 2011 the knives were out. By then, Farmajo had made many enemies within the TFG, the neighbors and the UN. Had he stayed the course and first saw the clearing of at least the capital from the Islamist menace the leaders of Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya he flew to meet in their capitals could have themselves come to visit Somalia.
Farmajo was given a rare opportunity to fix his broken homeland. Such opportunities rarely come twice. Farmajo had a number of positive points such as goodwill and single-mindedness but among his short-comings was haste and not to tread carefully.
The affairs of a failed nation are a political vipers’ nest. And there is a need for its leaders to arm themselves for the challenges of the task which would include the widening of scope of human resources in order to acquire the tools needed to do the job. It is never enough to surround with persons of acquaintance and friendship. It needs all the good men and women one can find to erect a nation in dire situation as Somalia.
The regional and international involvement in the affairs of Somalia is an inconvenient truth which Farmajo should have known. The new PM Dr. Abdiwali Mohamed Ali, who takes over after him should know the issues and tread carefully. It is a case of sailing the boat through the waters it finds itself in no matter how troubled. The first task of the new PM is obviously to appoint his cabinet. He will need the support of all the Somali people. He should be careful not to commit the mistakes of his predecessor which saw his exit.
Abdi Mohamed Ali
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