Welcome to the first edition of our new weekly roundup of major political, economic, social and environmental events in Somalia.
Many Somalis at home and abroad are intrigued by events going on back home however do not have the capacity to find the latest news and analysis. This short weekly bulletin is intended to provide a concise overview of key updates across the Somali nation.
On this week’s bulletin:
New UAE Ambassador arrives as Emirati personnel land in Bosaso
Mogadishu, Somalia: On Sunday, President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud received credentials from newly appointed UAE ambassador, Ahmed Juma Al-Rumaithi at Villa Somalia. Ambassador Al-Rumaithi replaces Ambassador Mohamed Ahmed Al-Othman who served as Abu Dhabi’s top representative in Somalia since 2012.
According to Villa Somalia, the ambassador conveyed greetings and a message from Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE President and promised to work on the development of the diplomatic ties.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud congratulated Ambassador Ahmed Juma Al-Rumeysi on his ambassadorship and wished him success in representing his country.Villa Somalia
Ties between the UAE and Somalia have grown since the controversial decision made by former Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble to release $9.6 million that was previously confiscated by the Federal Government in 2018.
The Federal Government at the time argued that the delivery of the money did not follow the correct international and local procedures.
The money was found in three unmarked bags on a Royal Jet plane and its seizure resulted in an hours-long standoff between airport officials and UAE embassy staff in Mogadishu.
Royal Jet is an airline based in Abu Dhabi, aimed at the luxury market between the UAE and Europe which resulted in many questioning why this plane was discreetly flown to Mogadishu.
Since its release, the some of the $9.6 million remains unaccounted for.
More Personnel, More Bases & More Ports
Over the past four weeks, at least twenty aircraft arrived in Puntland from the United Arab Emirates carrying armoured vehicles and personnel with the aim of building a new military base in the region. Reports from Bosaso airport indicate that at least 90 UAE personnel arrived with over 10 armoured vehicles which are banned under the Arms Embargo imposed by the U.N. Security Council – this has not been independently verified by Horumar but by local sources.
Unconfirmed sources also indicate that the UAE has an interest in setting up bases in number of towns in the Bari region of Puntland which has a coastal border with the strategic Bab-El-Mandeb strait – a strait that acts as a doorway to the Red Sea, one the world’s busiest trading routes. The UAE has consistently considered Somalia as a threat to its economic interests in the Middle East as the nation has the longest coastline in Africa with a strategic location. UAE has already taken control of Berbera and Bosaso ports in Northern Somalia with Abu Dhabi now eyeing Jubaland and the coastal town of Kismayo.
Interestingly, none of the agreements and discussions held by Puntland State President, Said Abdullahi Deni with the UAE both during his secretive trips and vice versa have been put before the Puntland regional Parliament.
The aforementioned expansion by Abu Dhabi coupled with recent reports that Emirati-Egyptian governments have begun training a new independent unit of Somali soldiers demonstrates that the Emiratis are looking to exert ridiculous amounts of influence in Somalia’s internal affairs as seen in Libya and Yemen, while the Mahmoud administration watches on.
Eyebrows Raised as Mahmoud reshuffles the National Economic Council
Mogadishu, Somalia: In a statement released by the Presidential Palace last week Thursday, the President replaced all members of the National Economic Council via a Presidential Decree in a move that has shocked many.
Excluding the replacement of members, other changes to the Council include a complete reshuffle of the structural organisation which initially was of three layers but has now been reduced to two:
- The Political & Economic Decision-Making Committee: This committee remains unchanged and will comprise of the President, Prime Minister, Economic Sub-Committee of the Cabinet, Governor of the Bank of Somalia and Heads of the Federal States.
- The Advisory & Research Body: This is the committee comprising of 9-members that have been entirely replaced by the President. This body will now come directly underneath the Office of the President. In other words, no political independence, raising concerns.
The National Economic Council (NEC) was formed during the early periods of Somalia’s Debt Relief programme in 2018 under the Farmaajo administration.
Nevertheless, many have criticised the replacement of experienced members with those that have much less expertise. In the previous Council, the least experience individual had at least thirty years of research and practical experience working within government and non-government institutions. Many members served senior roles in international organisations including the World Bank, IMF and the African Development Bank – in fact, all had written extensively on the field of economics.
During the four year period, the NEC released a multitude of reports, held numerous conferences and released proposals on how the Somali Federal Government can utilise its resources to develop its economic forecast while successfully completing the debt relief programme including at least twenty reports and thirty unreleased reports.
Conversely, the same cannot be said about the new members of the 9-member committee. Unlike the previous members, the new members do not have nowhere near the experience. Many have not worked on the international scale and do not have much background in national economic governance and debt relief.
The decision to replace such expertise, reduce the layers of the Council as well as bring the NEC underneath the Presidency has raised questions as to why the President has taken such steps, especially at a time where the President also disbanded the Anti-Corruption Commission only a few weeks ago.
President Hassan Sheikh pays a second visit to SNA troops training in Eritrea
Asmara, Eritrea: Accompanied by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud paid a visit to SNA Forces that recently completed military training. The trainees were officially inaugurated last week Friday after undergoing intensive military training for four years, which begun during the Farmaajo administration.
The training opportunity you were provided shoulders you with heavy responsibility. The people and Government of Somalia have high expectation on the role you will play in the restoration of the Somali Air Force.President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud
During their stay at the Aviation College, President Isaias and President Hassan were provided a briefing on the current development stage of the college.
The two Presidents also visited the technology workshop of Segen Construction Company in Biet-Gergis.
This was President Hassan Sheikh’s second visit to Eritrea to assess Somali soldiers after his first visit in July where he promised to bring the soldiers back to Somalia. Four months down the line, the soldiers are yet to return. It is not yet clear if President Mohamud intends to bring the soldiers back during this visit as Somalia faces a tough battle against Al-Shabab militants as the Federal Government relies on local clan militia known as ‘Macawisley’ to support the limited SNA troops in Hirshabelle and Galmudug.
Interestingly, during the Presidential elections in 2021, Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud was a leading voice among a crowd of political figures that made baseless claims that SNA forces trained Eritrea fought and died in the Tigray War.
Ironically, following his first visit in July as President, Mahmoud’s spokesman, Abdikarim Kaar denied reports that SNA forces fought and died in Ethiopia, rather categorising them as “rumours”.
Villa Somalia appoints Lt Col. Abdiqani Muse as Navy Chief
Mogadishu, Somalia: President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud has appointed Lieutenant Colonel Abdiqani Muse as the new commander of the Somali Naval Forces replacing General Abdihamd Dirir.
State media reported that Lt Col. Muse became the first soldier trained in Eritrea under the security partnership in 2018 to serve as a commander of major branch of the SNA.
“President Hassan Sheikh instructed the new Commander to continue with the national plans for the reconstruction of the Somali Navy, in order to have an army capable of securing the security of the country’s waters and the defence of our extensive coasts,” said Villa Somalia in a statement.
The previous Naval commander, Gen. Dirir caught national attention when he accused the former Prime Minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble of using his position to acquire land owned by the Somali Navy for constructing private business. This would result in the SNA Chief, Gen. Odowaa Yusuf to appoint a committee to investigate allegations made by Gen. Dirir however no findings were ever produced publicly.
Former Prime Minister Roble has denied all allegations made against him.
Political Unrest in Hargeisa as opposition declares ‘No President’ in Somaliland
Hargeisa, Somaliland: The opposition parties in the autonomous Somaliland region of Somalia have declared they do not recognise the sitting President, Muse Abdi Bihi as being President of the Somaliland region as his legal term expired on the 13th of November.
Opposition figures went on to argue that the extension was not permissible under the Article 88 of the Somaliland Constitution and did not follow the correct procedure while simultaneously ignoring the plight and interests of other political actors and parties. Instead, opposition figures argue that they will only accept the original framework put forward by the regional electoral commission.
We recognise Muse Biihi Presidency as expired. A President that does not have the confidence of the public or the Chairman of Kulmiye (Political Party)Abdirahman Irro, Somaliland Presidential Candidate 2022
Opposition parties conveyed that they recognised the governmental institutions including the security forces but have argued they do not recognise the Presidency and administration.
On the other hand, Somaliland’s Interior Minister Mohamed Kahin Ahmed said that it was “unfortunate” that opposition parties categorised the Somaliland region as without government while Somaliland Police Chief, Mohamed Adan Dabagale said that security forces will take “the necessary steps” against anyone considered to be a security threat.
It was last month when Upper House of Somaliland’s regional parliament known as ‘House of the Elders’ voted to extend Presidential and government terms for another two years, an act which was previously predicted and condemned by opposition parties.
In August deadly protests broke out in the region with demonstrators demanding elections be held in November amid suspicions President Muse Bihi Abdi wanted to delay the poll and extend his term. Clashes between security forces and opposition protesters killed at least five people and injured another 100 which was the region’s most deadliest clashes in a decade. Opposition politicians and human rights groups condemned the police brutality against civilian protestors by the Bihi administration.
Recently, images emerged on social media showing civilians in a number of pro-opposition towns that were carrying weapons while this has not been verified independently.
Federal Parliament convenes for only its second sitting in six months
Mogadishu, Somalia: Both Houses of the Federal Parliament of Somalia held a joint sitting at Villa Hargeisa to mark only the second Parliament sitting since the Presidential elections in May of this year.
Parliament was opened by President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud in which he gave a speech to Parliamentarians outlining his government’s plans while also pleading with legislators to vote in favour of his government’s agenda which includes ‘tackling security and environmental disasters’.
The biggest elephant in the room remains the National Security Act which has remained a controversial bill that has failed to pass through Parliament over the past decade. What makes this all the more dire is that Somalia is currently in need of national security laws to outline the powers and role of the National Security and Intelligence Agency (NISA) as well as giving more power to the Somali Police Force (SPF) to tackle not just terrorism but also target businesses and individuals they deem to be in cahoots with Al-Shabab, now known as ‘Khawaarij‘ according to the Somali Government.
Many individuals are concerned that the lack of accountability in Somalia means that it would be quite dangerous to provide such extensive powers to a few senior officials in the security apparatus. Businesses have consistently raised concerned about possible usage of the powers to coerce money or force actions.
It is quite shameful and a disservice to Somalis that the so-called semi-democratic Parliament of Somalia which somewhat represents Somalis indirectly fail to even convene to discuss the important constitutional, security, financial and environmental issues facing Somalia, a country that lacks the basic laws to compete in the modern globalised financial world. The biggest hindrance facing Somalia is an incomplete constitution which does not seem to a priority for Parliamentarians.
Each MP/Senator receives $3,000 per month while doing absolutely nothing! The money could’ve easily been used to support Macawisley fighters across Somalia as well as drought victims in IDP camps in Banaadir and beyond!