Tuesday, 02 March 2021

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How will Somalia get out of current political uncertainty?




Somalia’s political uncertainty seems to be rolling over into 2021 as the country fights the aftermath of missed electoral deadlines, most of which were self-imposed.

So far, President Mohamed Farmaajo’s term is due to expire on February 8. But it is unknown what will happen after his term expires. According to Article 91 of the Provisional Constitution of Somalia, the term of office of a federal president lasts for four years, right from the day he takes oath. Farmaajo took power on February 16, 2017 after then President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud handed him the presidential instruments in a ceremony heavily guarded by the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).


Technically speaking, it means Farmaajo’s actual four-year term will end on February 16. But the big question has been whether the country will be in vacuum or if leaders could agree on a tentative solution.


So far, it has been acrimonious. The Union of Presidential candidates, a lobby of opposition contenders led by former President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed have demanded a disbandment of polling teams appointed last year, arguing they are composed of loyalists to the incumbent. The leaders have also disagreed with the composition of a special electoral team to oversee election of representatives from the breakaway region of Somaliland, which is due to be held in Mogadishu.


Jubaland Federal State has also demanded withdrawal of Somali National Army forces from Gedo region before elections can proceed. Concerns raised by Jubaland, and Puntland, over the electoral mode may seem like the periphery sabotaging the centre.


But Somalia is a unique country. Running on a Provisional Constitution since 2012, it gives federal states powers to utilise their local constitutions


Article 142(2) says “Existing Federal Member States must be consulted in the decision-making process regarding the federal system, and security arrangements” which means that they have a big say on issues that affect the political destiny of their regions.


On December 29, the country missed yet another electoral deadline after leaders disagreed on the mode elections. After a failed mediation effort by South West President Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed ‘Laftagareen’, Somalia’s Prime Minister announced a controversial decision of holding elections partially in areas that have not raised opposition to the electoral programme.


Hussein Sheikh-Ali, Chairman of Mogadishu’s think-tank Hiraal Institute warned such a move could bring more chaos to Somalia.


“It is tantamount to a ‘coup attempt’,” he said.


“If not intervened urgently the two possible catastrophic scenarios are: Full-blown violence and the Somali people will be at the mercy of terrorists and clan militias (or) Limited violence with reduced future government legitimacy.”


The opposition candidates under the Union of Presidential Candidates warned Farmaajo could bear responsibility if the country plunges in chaos. While other leaders yearning for power said partial elections are unlikely to be recognised by the international community.


Under a special arrangement known as the Dhusamareb Agreement (named after the venue of the meeting in Galmudug state) of September 17 2020, the federal elections are supposed to be held in 11 centres, two each in every of the five federal states and Benadir region.


Yet implementing the agreement itself has proven problematic.


“We in the UN urge all of Somalia’s leaders to make every effort to engage in dialogue in a collegial spirit to ensure that the national elections are held, based on broad consensus, rooted in the 17 September Agreement, and that these elections are underpinned by transparency, fairness and inclusivity,” James Swan, the head of the UN in Somalia (UNSOM) said this week in Baidoa, South West state, after meeting with President Laftagareen.


So what is the remedy? The Federal Parliament of Somalia already announced it would continue existing until a new one is sworn in. Actually, in law, MPs continue to be legislators until a new parliament is sworn in.


As it is, it appears Somalia’s lack of clarity in law could offer the incumbent a chance to continue serving. But that is if the federal parliament passes a motion extending his term. Legally, there are no term limits for a Federal President of Somalia. But each of their terms must last only four years from the moment they are sworn in.


Under the electoral laws of Somalia, however, the federal parliament may extend the term of a sitting President. It has happened before. In 2011, the Transitional Federal Government under Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was extended after MPs extended their term to continue serving. At the time though, Somalia was lagging behind on a provisional constitution which would have made the FTG illegal. Of course the aftermath of that delay saw then Prime Minister Farmaajo deposed after a controversial Kampala Accord required him to resign.


Stakeholders think an extension can be given. But they can’t agree on whether it should be a caretaker government or one led by Farmaajo. Still, others say the leader of a caretaker government shall not be eligible to run when elections come.


We urge Somalia’s top political stakeholders to demonstrate leadership in the interest of the nation and to quickly resolve outstanding issues of implementation through dialogue and compromise, so that a credible electoral process can proceed as soon as possible,” donors said this week in a joint statement.


“This would be in line with the agreed commitment from the Somali Partnership Forum. Partners would welcome an accelerated effort to resolve, as a matter of urgency, remaining issues and conclude such understandings in the coming days, so that elections could begin later this month.


The donors included Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Ethiopia, European Union, France, Germany, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Italy, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the United Nations also endorsed the statement.









Arlaadi is an independent Somali News site owned by Arlaadi Media Group We provide you with the latest breaking news and videos straight from the Horn of Africa.


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