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Farmajo’s election victory, the high hopes and what’s in store
By: Abdullahi Hassan
On the 8th Feb 2017, when the current Somalia president Mohamed Farmaajo was elected to office, an atmosphere of political transformation and optimism swept the hearts and minds of the Somali population across the world.
Characterized by landslide euphoria of jubilations and festivities in many parts of the world and gunfire renting the air at the capital city of Somalia.
Apparently at the time, I was in Eastleigh, the famous little Mogadishu, as Kenyans call it, where a large Somali community of business people, refugees and asylum seekers reside.
That day, all Somali dissidents in Eastleigh and in other parts of Nairobi have ecstatically poured onto the streets, engaging the eyes of the Kenyans and other nationals.
The takeover of President Farmaajo meant a lot to the Somali people, I included, who most of their time spent life in exile for more than two decades.
It inferred an opportunity of its time and energy imbedded with prudency to save a nation that has long lost its core definition.
Perspectivley, the newly elected President Mohammed Abdullah Farmaajo was not a stranger to the political platform of the country. He served 8 months as a prime minister in 2010.
This, too has synergized his campaign journey to become the “savior-thought” for many of the 275 voters and the Somalis at large.
Metaphorically, many likened him to be dynamical, charismatic and most importantly a political reader of the Somali context.
I was personally hopeful that he would put his excellent art of negotiating for peaceful Somalia at fore. Unlike other aspirants, he was reckoned to be the savior who could revive the lost dignity, embody optimism and integrity and most importantly re-claim the lost distinctiveness of Somalia among African nations.
In 1960, as African nations struggled for independence, Somalis were famously known as the “Lions of Africa.”
Additionally, Mohammed Farmaajo was believed to have had the drive of impetus to incarnate hope and recuperate confidence in the minds of the Somali people at a time when the Somali youth population amounts to 75% of the Somali populace were engaged in dangerous journeys, drowning into the Mediterranean Sea with the hope of reaching Europe and America.
In nutshell, there was no reason for any Somali native to be cynical about the course of the incoming Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces at Villa Somalia.
Upon his inauguration for presidency and under the heavyh burden of what lie ahead among them countering violent extremism, averting the nuisance of political entrepreneurs at regional and federal level, ending corruption, ammending the constitution and re-framing the judiciary to uphold justice; President Mohamed Farmaajo appointed his first machinery to affect his drills; the appointment of the Prime Minster.
Dispelling the obvious mainstream phenomena of yielding to the 4.5 threshold political mantra – whether major or minor in the Somali context and definitions; on the 23rd February 2018, President Farmaajo announced Hassan Ali Khayre as his new Prime Minister on Twitter against all controversies and past political orientations.
The appointment of Mr. Hassan Ali Khayre, a long-serving humanitarian staff as the Prime Minster caught many by surprise given his political popularity and background, just like was the triumph of his boss, President Mohammed Farmaajo.
Momentarily, Mr. Khayre was unanimously voted by 231 MPs on 1st March.
Subsequently, the bromance of President Farmaajo and Prime Minister Khayre was alike termed fortuitous; detached from the conventional design of the Somali political organogram.
Many Somali hopefuls welcomed the move by the new president.
Equally, some political analysts including the renowned political commentator and author Abukir Arman grilled the new political marriage of President Farmaajo and Prime Minister Khayre.
In his article titled “circling the square in Somalia”Abukar cited Khayre involvement with Soma Oil and Gas as dangerous reality amounting to conflict of interest and overall economic highway robbery.
The Bromance Factor of President Mohamed Farmaajo and PM Khayre
Twenty three months of political outplay; the reflections of the current Somali government brand-named as #NabadiyoNolol thrives on popularity despite having hurdles and badmouthing.
First and foremost, irrespective of all the maunderings by political opposition leaders, analysts, regional state officials and even powerful nations; the bromance between Prime Minister Khayre and President Farmajo, unlike in any past regimes in the history, proved many wrong and is evidently flourishing day after day.
In regard, a number of citizens have applauded this government as the only, where the Prime Minister is exclusively left to exercise his powers within the space of his jurisdictions.
Notably, their bromance resonates to the emergence of long awaited hierarchical governance demanded by the citizens of this belligerent nation.
Nonetheless, though this political phenomena is a breakthrough and forms the bulwark of the current positives of the governance, many argue that the president’s leniency and quietness to keep the Prime minister in office constitutes the emerging hubristic nature of Prime Minister Khayre who in essence leads the nation by benefit of a crown-like looking monarchy and monocracy.
In less than a year, the current government had engaged herself in major political blunders. In Aug 2017, in what seemed like a coordinated operation between the office of the Prime Minster and the Ethiopian embassy, an ONLF commander and a Somali citizen Mr. Abdikarem alias Qalbidhagax was extradited to Ethiopia as an alien.
Later, in a press release read by then the minister for information Mr. Yarisow characterized the extradition act as appropriate summing the exiled character dangerous to national and regional security.
This was a strategic political plunder which the current government began to lose its credibility among the Somali population.
In Dec 2017, a former presidential aspirant and a senior political figure; Abdirahman Abdishakur was arrested and his house raided by the government in what looked like a targeted crackdown of opposition members.
A number of his security guards were killed, and unfortunately till today no one is held accountable for what transpired.
Above all, as the international community and other interested parties condemned this act by the government, many Somalis still trust the government justified.
Government’s bragging style and rhetorics as Somalis fall short of expectations
Almost in every event, Prime Minister Khayre through his stunning and compelling speeches proved to be an icon of hope for many people, revitalizing the decaying sense of nationhood and moved many minds with optimism to discover the potential opportunity of the country’s edge onn geography, resources and youthfulness. He claimst the government is for the people and by the people.
President Farmaajo and PM Khayre brags of their achievements by reminding citizens of the 27 years wasted by past regimes. And yet again in many fronts, the current government thrives on what was achieved by previous governments.
Hypothetically, the 23 months scoreboard of president Farmajo’s government is impressive and depressive as expected to the belligerent nation of Somalia.
Regionally, President Farmaajo forged a more proactive diplomatic relationship with other nations thus gained a more strategic re-alignment making him an important, regionally and globally.
As a result, Kenya had eased travel restrictions for Somali citizens and in 3 decades flights from Mogadishu to Nairobi resumed.
The so-called diplomatic breakthrough between Somali, Ethiopia and Eretria is gaining momentum where expectedly goods and services from the trio nations will be traded, as port owners are partly contracted for businesses forming a trading blocs in the horn of Africa.
Analytically, as these flights begin again from Nairobi to Mogadishu and Somalia seeks to broaden her geographical investment portfolio with Ethiopia and Eretria; President Farmaajo took an airplane to Marka city, which is 100 KM southwest of his palace.
The President is seen waving residents from his armored vehicle and in hours he was at villa Somalia for other important issues. Ridiculously, roads leading to the very near villages of the capital city of Mogadishu are inaccessible due to threats from Al-Shabaab militants and a few meters from the presidential palace are Internally Displaced Persons camps living in shattered shelters without proper food, water and housing.
Interestingly, another milestone in the rhetorics include the management of the airspace from Mogadishu and the night-shift drills of the Mogadishu International Airport (MIA) unveiled for 24 hours operations.
This translates to revenue portfolio increment, unlike Al-Shabaab Militants who levied tax on existing premises in Mogadishu including play grounds.
And in Oct 2018, more than 500 civilians were killed and a score maimed in one of the worst bombast by the Islamist group.
The government only erected a sign post at Zobe incident site to commemorate the affected populations.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Somali government brags on building the face of nation at International level. In honor, not only neighboring nations are vying for partnerships but also far-reaching foreign nations started to compete for closer ties and craved for renewed friendship with Somalia.
For the first time in decades, Somalia was able to maintain her sovereign position and pride in regard to political freedom of associations as was evident in the gulf crises as it emerged and deepened.
As this happens, The Somali government is failing locally and within her boundaries. Due to various reasons, the federal member states (FMS) have in the recent-past strained their relationships with the current government owing to controversies on pertinent issues on security, finances and constitution.
This strained relationship between the FMS and FGS prompted negative political developments making both parties to act swiftly to counter threats. Such approaches proved counterproductive thereby creating more political impasse as in the case of South West regional state.
In previous administrations, many Somali citizens believed that there was rampant corruption scandals in all of the prior government offices unlike the current government which brags on dwelling re-structured financial management systems and accountability. Often as claimed by the finance ministry, the view is that corruption was engaged with, maintained and put into a halt in our today’s government.
In December contrary to this interpretation, the Somali Finance Committees of the legislative arm of the government have recently disclosed of an unaccounted cash worth 42 Million USD. This disclosure has raised eyebrows over the fight of corruption as claimed and further caused controversies leading to the disbandment of the finance committees under the directives of one of the two deputies in absentia of the speaker of the parliament.
The political impasse, the future and the hope for Somalia
The post-era of Mursal’s predecessor and former Speaker Mohamed Jawaari who left position due to power struggles with the current regime has seen the manifestations of the political impasses gaining momentum, as today relationships sour between the speaker of the parliament Hon Mursal, President Mohamed Farmaajo and the Prime Minster Khayre owing to issues surrounding the disbandment of the finance committees for unveiling the 42 Million scandal and the recent arrest of South West presidential candidate Shieh Muqtar Robow who is held unfit for office due past crimes against humanity and his involvement with Al-Shabaab. On a different note, the 13th December move to arrest Al-Mansur Roboow by the federal government using the Ethiopian troops has itself turns and twists, leaving many questions unanswered.
On the 9th Dec, 92 Member of Parliament from the opposition bloc submitted an impeachment motion against President Mohamed Farmaajo. The impeachment move is reportedly valid as claimed by the speaker of the parliament Mr. Mursal in his recent briefings. As this happens, the FGS is also faced by revolts from members of the South West regional state, who are supporting the detained Abu- Mansur Robow. Casualties due to confrontations between armed forces and protesting civilians include the killing of a prominent SW Member of Parliament and other fatalities. In the foreseeable future, these political deadlocks will only grow complex if not attended carefully as other regional states ( Puntland and Jubbaland ) walk into electioneering period and the FGS continues to impose own approach to interfere local politics . I guess, the SW approach was enough to call for an approach review plan.
Finally, delinking this script from the political realisms; one Somali citizen will be critical of the hopeful time on the 8th Feb Euphoria in the realization of a recharged Somali nation. While I too, understand that the Somali’s political revival may continue to be bleak due to changing dynamics by political entrepreneur but a tactical twist by President Mohamed Farmaajo may work, paving way to tackle the following most demanding issues: the pursuit of justice for the case of Abass Siraji, embracing inclusive governance, security and justice reforms, offer space to people’s choice at regional state elections, uphold genuine accountability, trail challenges at local level, demand Prime Minister Khayre to publicaly decry his position on ONLF, disclose the shoddy deals to the people of Somalia and finally regain conscious where you lost it; compensate Gen. Abdikarem Qalbidhagax over his extradition to Ethiopia.