Villa Somalia has yet to directly respond to their joint communiqué but a statement from the Federal Minister of Information Culture and Tourism, Osman Abukar Dubbe, was telling about the government’s position. He was utterly dismissive of the contents of the communiqué, questioning how presidential candidates can demand the resignation of a person appointed at the discretion of the executive.
Abdirahman Abdishakur, leader of Wadajir Party and former Minister of Planning attended the November meeting. He says President Farmajo has become an obstacle to Somali state-building and is a a shrewd political manipulator who is usurping state powers to prolong his stay at Villa Somalia.
“We cannot have credible and fair elections unless there is consensus among all stakeholders. The president now has resorted to using state machinery as a way of consolidating his power to ensure he remains in that position,” says Abdishakur. But despite the election delays and setbacks, Abdishakur remains optimistic, adding that Ahmed Abdi Karie Qoorqoor, leader of Galmudug State is reaching out to all parties and acting as a mediator for reconciliation. The Wadajir Party leader says he remains committed to an amicable political settlement even if it means elections experience delays.
“Our political leaders are simply selfish, and it’s never about the country, it’s all about themselves,” says Ibrahim Hassan Haji, a member of the newly appointed electoral commission. “The Somali election bus has departed and it cannot be driven in reverse gear, all must board,” says Haji when asked for a solution to the impasse.
“Neighbouring countries are also looking forward to their own elections and this is having a spillover effect into Somalia as they all try to exert their influence here to achieve outcomes that favour their interests,” says Ali Abdullahi Egal, commonly known as Ali Bashi, a member of Somalia’s civil society and expert of local politics.
He singles out the competing influences of regional powers – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya – and their desire to have an ally at Villa Somalia as the major cause of Mogadishu’s impasse.
The recent expulsion of the Kenyan Ambassador and recall of its Somali counterpart was provoked by Mogadishu’s concern of Nairobi’s meddling in its elections. “Foreign embassies and their officials are protected by diplomatic immunity and can be channels of laundering money to bribe politicians, Farmajo was wise to undercut any external influences” adds Bashi.
Meanwhile, Washington announced at the end of last that it will pull out nearly all its estimated 700 troops in Somalia in the coming months. As Donald Trump wraps up his final weeks in power, he has begun a round of short-notice withdrawals.
Many Somalis view the presence of US troops as a means of ensuring some level of stability in the country, particularly during its election season.
Over the weekend, certain members of the political class tried to appeal to the US to reverse its decision. “The US decision to pull troops out of Somalia at this critical stage in the successful fight against al-Shabaab and their global terrorist network is extremely regrettable,” said Somali senator Ayub Ismail Yusuf in reference to the al-Shabaab insurgency.
“US troops have made a huge contribution and had great impact on the training and operational effectiveness of Somali soldiers,” he added.
Somalia is trying to avoid the potholes dotting its road towards democratisation and stabilisation as it seeks to build a responsive and responsible nation.
Recent controversies in the US presidential elections gave some comfort to Somalis as they seek to build consensus for their own delayed elections.
Disagreements are an indication that members of the political class are embracing dialogue to find a settlement that covers all interests. In that light, we can see how Somalia is finally building the foundations of a functional state.
So while the 2020 Somali elections’ impasse appears as a crisis, with a different light, it can seen as the success of state-building efforts. But those political elites must continue to advance their knowledge of state-building that includes a great role for civil society on educating citizens.
How this impasse unfolds into 2021 will reveal the state of the country’s journey.