Originally published by Peoples Dispatch.
The repeatedly delayed election for Somalia’s lower house of parliament, the House of People, will be concluded by February 25. The agreement on the date was reached on Sunday, January 9, after a week of meetings of the National Consultative Council (NCC), chaired by Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and attended by the leaders of Somalia’s regional States.
This election will not be held on the basis of one-person-one-vote, for which a landmark law was signed by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, aka Farmaajo, in February 2020. The prospect of holding an election on the basis of universal suffrage for the first time since 1969 has been derailed. Once again, delegates chosen by clan leaders will vote to elect members to the parliament, who will in turn elect the president.
“It is not really an election. It is a nomination by an aristocratic class. Those with money can buy the vote of the delegates in the name of their clans without even consulting the majority of the clan members. It is the easy way of ruling Somalia and looting its resources,” Mohamed Hassan, historian and former diplomat, told Peoples Dispatch in an interview hours before the election date was agreed upon.
This controversial election will be held amid an escalating conflict between President Farmaajo and PM Roble, which resulted in a tense stand-off in Mogadishu between the soldiers loyal to them.
Radio Dalsan reported that the “NCC also agreed to deploy AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] to the most fortified presidential palace so as to quell tension in the area where rival forces supporting both President Farmaajo and PM Roble continue to occupy rival positions in the rooftops of Villa Somalia.”
“The imperialist forces,” who “felt threatened” by the law for one-person-one-vote President Farmaajo signed, see him “as an obstacle because he is a popular leader. So they are using the prime minister as a Trojan horse against Farmaajo,” said Hassan, who is also an advisor to the president of Ethiopia’s Somali regional State, on the border with Somalia.
Earlier, on January 7, Roble also sought to normalize diplomatic relations with UAE, which was severed by President Farmaajo in 2018 on allegations that it was trying to destabilize Somalia. “That is his purpose – to bring the UAE back into Somalia,” Hassan said, claiming that it is the UAE which has been sponsoring the bombings in Mogadishu and labeling the militant group Al Shabaab as responsible.
The threat of Al Shabaab is often stated in the international media as the reason why Somalia is not ripe for an election on the basis of one-person-one-vote. However, Hassan argues, its mass base, which was formed as a result of Ethiopia’s invasion in 2006 “at the insistence of the US,” has eroded.
Al Shabaab has now “become a ghost invoked by external forces to prevent the Somali people from exercising their democratic rights. All these so-called experts from the International Crisis Group are magnifying Al Shabaab as the greatest threat to the region. But it is not true anymore,” he said.
In the international media narrative, Al Shabaab has become synonymous with Somalia. In Feb 2020, when the law for universal adult suffrage was passed, analysts were quoted in international media as saying that amid the war with Al Shabaab, Somalia cannot afford an election on one-person-one-vote basis. Now, the analysts appear to be saying that by not going along with the clan-based election, President Farmaajo is jeopardizing the war against Al Shabaab. How significant a threat is Al Shabaab?
Al Shabaab has become a ghost invoked by external forces to prevent the Somali people from exercising their democratic rights. All these so-called experts from the International Crisis Group are magnifying Al Shabaab as the greatest threat to the region. It is not true anymore.
Al Shabaab, which translates as ‘The Youth,’ used to be a relatively small organization in alliance with the Islamist Council which in 2006 managed to kick out the warlords and take control over most parts of Somalia. Then, when at the insistence of the US, Ethiopia’s then ruler from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Meles Zenawi, invaded Somalia, Al Shabaab splintered from this council. Youth at the time flocked to this group mainly to resist the invasion. It then joined Al-Qaeda and became a threat. However, over time, with the rise of a national civil consciousness across the country, its base has completely eroded. Even if it controls pockets in the country, it can be recaptured by the Somali National Armed Forces anytime it decides to. Al Shabaab’s capabilities have seriously diminished today.
Al Shabaab today is only a pretext to keep Somalia as it is and to prevent the emergence of a democratic state on the basis of one-person-one-vote.
As soon as Roble became the PM, he visited the UAE and the imperialist forces became happy that they found the man to weaken Farmaajo. But Farmaajo has been able to hold out because he has the support of the masses.
When Roble was appointed as the PM in September 2020, the main responsibility he was tasked with was to facilitate the elections before the terms expired. But this failed and the term of the parliament as well as the president’s government expired before the election could be held.
In April 2021, when the lower house voted to extend the president’s term for up to two years until an election could be held, a huge controversy ensued. Somalia’s regional State heads objected. The US, UK and the EU threatened to cut off aid and even impose sanctions. Tension between the president and the PM has been escalating ever since, and eventually resulted in December in a standoff in Mogadishu between the soldiers loyal to the president and those loyal to the PM. How did things escalate so far?
A lot of money was pumped into the country for this escalation, mainly to derail the prospects of a democratic election. The western powers don’t want the Somali people to exert their independent will because of their experience with Somalia in the past. You should remember that in the 1960s, when Somalia became independent, it was the first African country to recognize the People’s Republic of China. Somali ships and flags were confiscated while supplying weapons from the Soviet Union to Vietnam to resist American invasion. Inside the African continent, also Somalia’s role was very progressive. It had supported all the anti-colonial movements including that of Samora Michel in Mozambique. US imperialism keeps records of this behavior of the Somali state when it was independent. Once Somalia re-establishes its independence, I am sure it will join China’s Belt Road Initiative, like Eritrea and other African countries. The western powers want to thwart this.
Particularly because of its geo-strategic position along the Indian Ocean, they want to control its coastline. So all this pressure the US, UK and EU are exerting on Farmaajo, purportedly to bring about an election, is merely a pretext to intervene in order to exert control over Somalia and prevent the emergence of an independent democratic nation state. Roble is merely a pawn in their hands.
Throughout this week, the Roble has been chairing the National Consultative Council (NCC) meeting with the regional State heads to forge a way forward towards the election. Opposition leaders and even foreign diplomats are also in attendance, but not the president. Why is this so?
There is nothing national about this council. It is in fact a council subsidized by the UAE and the western countries to demobilize the national consciousness of the Somali people. Its purpose is to legitimize Roble, who is merely their stooge with no support from the masses. The president, of course, is not a part of this. He is the enemy they want to overthrow.
Amid these meetings, Roble re-established diplomatic relations with the UAE.
That is his purpose – to bring the UAE back into Somalia. The UAE destroyed Yemen. They supported Islamists and jihadists in Syria and in Libya. It has participated in the destruction of Somalia. Since Farmaajo chased them out of Somalia in 2018, they are angry and they want to come back. This re-establishment of diplomatic relations is a hijack by the UAE’s agents in Somalia. But they will not succeed. The people of Somalia are hostile to the UAE. This move will only increase the hostility and will of the people to resist external forces.
Originally published by Peoples Dispatch.
Author: Peoples Dispatch
Peoples Dispatch, formerly The Dawn News, is an international media project with the mission of bringing to you voices from people’s movements and organizations across the globe. Since its establishment three years ago, it has sought to ensure that the coverage of news from around the world is not restricted to the rhetoric of politicians and the fortunes of big companies but encompasses the richness and diversity of mobilizations from around the world. Peoples Dispatch also seeks to bring to you breaking news from a perspective widely different from that of the mainstream media.