It seems as if the Somali election impasse has been prolonged for an eternity and what a pantomime it has been. It was in July 2020 that the talks between the Federal government (DFS) and Federal Member states (FMS) began to hit a roadblock. The leadership in Garowe and Kismaayo were vigorously against any form of direct democracy advocated by the DFS including full suffrage for Somalis and a multi-party system which the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT) was planning. Instead, suggesting an election model similar to that of the now expired 2016 model. This was eventually was accepted by the DFS due to the unwavering positions of Jubaland and Puntland to replicate the 2016 election model.
Following this, while the FMS of Galmudug, Hirshabelle and Koonfur Galbeed (South West) as well as Maamul Goboleedka Banaadir (Banaadir Regional Government) delivered on their agreed upon electoral committees to Mogadishu, the governments of Puntland and Jubaland refused to do so. In response, President Farmaajo sent a delegation with Prime Minister Rooble at the forefront to compromise with the uncooperative regional governments to no avail. One might ask themselves, with already such large scale compromises achieved in their favour, why would Deni and Madobe continue to hinder the election process? To answer such a question, one can only speculate. Nevertheless, the facts on the ground point to one direction: Dither and Delay.
By February 2021, it was clear that Puntland and Jubaland would rather see the country plunge into an unprecedented constitutional crisis rather than simply fulfil their part to the 17th September Agreement which they were a party to. One cannot blatantly ignore the strives President Farmaajo took to deliver an election. Farmaajo compromised following the Baydhabo technical committee meeting on February 16th, 2021 in which proposals were put forward and agreed upon by all sides, yet by the end of March, Farmaajo had already called for five meetings with FMS to discuss the recommendations, again to no avail. Instead, Deni and Madobe began a game of cat and mouse, first requesting the meeting to be only Mogadishu, then rejecting Villa Somalia and requesting specifically Xalane. Xalane is the headquarters of foreign ambassadors in Somalia. To request the meeting be in the UN headquarters rather than the Somali Presidential palace is an insult to the Somali Presidency as an institution. Despite this, once the request was accepted by the President for the greater good of the Somali people, things began to get a little more tricky…
Conditions, Conditions, Conditions
Conditions or ‘Sharuudo‘ in the Somali language is a word probably most Somalis are tired of hearing. We constantly hear of Deni and Madobe requesting a never-ending list of conditions that ought to be met before they could sign any agreement. However, what are these conditions? Lets look at them in further details.
- The President, the Government and the Somali Federal Parliament must relinquish power immediately
Under this condition, Deni and Madobe have requested all levels of the Somali Federal government to cease constitutional duties with immediate effect including the President before there can be a meeting regarding the Somali election impasse. They argue that the legal mandate of all Federal institutions end after four years and therefore, such institutions cannot continue to function constitutionally. Indeed, upon closer inspection of the Somali Provisional Constitution, one finds such arguments to be inaccurate. Under Section 136 of the Somali Provisional Constitution, the Federal Parliament can adopt a proposed amendment to the Constitution “only after approving it in a final vote in the House of the People by at least two-thirds (2/3)” and a final vote in the Upper House of the Federal Parliament “by at least two-thirds of existing members“.
On the 27th of September 2020, an amendment was introduced into the Somali Federal Parliament which stated an extension to all federal institutions in a situation whereby an electoral framework is not agreed upon. This passed through both houses of Parliament with a two-thirds majority and became Law 30. Consequently, this condition set forward by the regional governments of Puntland and Jubaland has no legal basis under the Somali Provisional Constitution. In actuality, the DFS and all other federal institutions have the legal mandate to continue constitutional requirements.
It was under the Presidency of Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud that the Federal Parliament passed Law 20 which enabled the Mahmoud Administration and other Federal institutions to continue functioning until another government was elected. Surprisingly, there did not seem to be the level of opposition from FMS members or another political organisation in comparison to the levels seen against the Farmaajo Administration, raising many eyebrows. Nevertheless, it is unequivocal that the temporary term extension of the Federal institutions is legal under Somali Federal law.
2. The International Community must chair, mediate and be guarantors to the Somali election
The regional governments of Puntland and Jubaland have also demanded that foreign ambassadors in Somalia chair, mediate and be guarantors of the meeting between DFS and FMS as well as the subsequent election. This demand was vigorously and rightfully rejected by President Farmaajo.
Somalia is a sovereign country under international law. This was re-affirmed by the UN Security Council recent statement that Somalia’s sovereignty must be respected. For the last thirty years, Somalia has suffered heavily from foreign interference and the last thing the Somali people need is dictations from foreign and unelected bureaucrats. Furthermore, the internal private affairs of the Somali state should remain only amongst Somali state officials and should not be shared with foreign bureaucrats, which are embedded with many who wish to see Somalia divided and weak. No nation in the world would allow any other country to interfere in its elections. Somalia is equal to every country in the world and deserves that upmost respect. Such a request by Deni and Madobe is a national security threat to say the least.
3. Presidential Candidates must be included in the meeting as signatories
Another disputed issue between DFS and Puntland and Jubaland is the inclusion of the Somali Presidential candidates as stakeholders and signatories of the already signed 17th September Agreement. Indeed, as it is already signed and subscribed into Somali Federal law by Law 30 of the Somali Federal Parliament, one would logically concluded that such a request would require the re-opening of the 17th September Agreement.
The biggest elephant in the room regarding this particular dilemma is: Under which legal pretext do Presidential candidates (CPC) have a right to be in this meeting? The CPC argues that they are stakeholders as candidates, however with that reasoning, are any candidates considered stakeholders? If so, had there been 100 candidates, would all 100 have a right to be in every governmental meeting involving the election model? Evidently, such a pretext is not conceivable or practical in any nature. There is a legal framework in place for DFS which has the legal mandate to deliver an election. On the contrary, it cannot be said for the self-declared CPC.
Secondly, as the 17th September Agreement is already signed into law, those who are already signatories ought to sign the final document. The re-opening of an agreement would not only setback the Somali elections by many months but would also put the political, legal and economic stability of Somalia at risk. Somalia needs an election now, under the already legal 17th September Agreement supported by the UN Security Council (UNSC) and other International Partners (IP).
4. All Directors and Commanders of the Federal Security agencies must be removed
This is by far the most perplexing request made by the leaders of Jubaland and Puntland. Evidently, FMS governments have no legal right under the Somali Provisional Constitution to dictate to the Somali President who should be removed from office and who should not as much as the Somali President cannot dictate to regional governments on their security officials. To be specific, Deni and Madobe have requested six heads of security to be removed, including the Chief of the Somali Armed forces, the Chief of the Somali Ground Forces, Somali Police Force Commissioner, Director of the National Intelligence and Security Agency as well as Commanders of Haramcad (Somali Police Special Forces) and Gorgor (Somali Commandos). That would definitively dismantle the entire security structure of the Somali state and with the current raging war against Al-Shabaab as well as threats from neighbouring countries, such a decision would be detrimental to Somali security.
The argument proposed by Deni and Madobe surround the 19th February incident, which in itself is shrouded in smoke and mirrors. While the CPC and the duo of Deni and Madobe speak about the apparent firing of live bullets on the so-called protests, they fail to ignore the coup declared by their own General Indha-Cadde in the early hours of the 19th which resulted in an ensuing gun battle. This failed coup attempted is a crime against the Somali nation and an act of treason in itself. Nevertheless, irrespective of ones view point, everyone can agree upon the fact that there needs to be an open investigation into the events that unfolded that fateful day. However, that does not require that such preconditions proposed by Deni and Madobe ought to be fulfilled for an election. Firstly, it has nothing to do with the 17th September Agreement. Secondly, it would insinuate guilt before even an investigation has begun. This issue can be discussed another forum which includes the CPC rather than holding the entire election hostage during this dire time for the Somali people.
Indeed, with the recent decisive victory against Al-Shabaab, and continued campaigns in the Galgaduud, Lower Shabelle and Lower Juba regions, ground victory against the militants is imminent. Lets support our armed forces in this plight.
What is next?
Whatever comes next, the solution to this impasse must be brought by Somalis, signed by Somalis and implemented for Somalis. Any inclusion of foreign dignitaries or ambassadors would be an affront to Somali sovereignty. As outlined above, the 17th September Agreement has already been signed and passed through Parliament as Federal law, therefore if Deni and Madobe are serious about delivering an election for the Somali people, they must finish signing this agreement immediately without any of these unnecessary preconditions.
Of course, with the current situation, an agreement is unlikely. Therefore, the question becomes: what should happen next? The issue must be returned to the Federal Parliament as it is the lifeline of Somali law and democracy. This could include a repealing of some elements of the original Law 30 which legalised the 17th Agreement and replacing it with a ‘One Person One Vote’ model, underpinned by an extension of the Federal government until such a process can be prepared in detail. Ultimately, the Somali people should be allowed to decide their own destiny and future. It has been 52 long and gruelling years since Somalis were able to elect their own leader. The fate of 16 million Somali livelihoods should not be in the hands of five Somali men in a room somewhere in Mogadishu, it ought to be in the hands of every Somali man and woman. For many years, Somalis have been perceived as different to the rest of the world and have been treated accordingly, however, Somalis have awoken worldwide. It is time to let Somalis decide their destiny.