25.12.2022: Baydhabo, Bay
On Friday, violence broke out in the transitional capital of South West State (SWS) Somalia, Baydhabo which saw numerous people killed.
Reports indicate that SWS security forces raided the home of an opposition candidate, Mohamed Ibrahim Farkeeti which resulted in a gun battle between clan militia loyal to the candidate and state government forces.
SWS State Security Ministry released a short statement outlining that security forces attacked “an armed militia” known as the ‘South West Salvation Force‘ (SWSF) that setup an illegal checkpoint on a main road. The statement asserted that any attempt to disrupt the peace will be dealt with “an iron fist”.
There were reports that the home was being used as a base for clan militia to orchestrate an uprising against the state government similar to one seen in Mogadishu last year. Security forces seized a stash of weapons as the residence was also allegedly being used for storing illegal weapons used by the clan militia. However, all reports cannot be confirmed as internet was shutdown during security operations in the area.
This would be followed by another statement released by the Chief of Staff of SWS State Presidency in which it was elaborated that “some sinister elements” decided to “create chaos” to derail the upcoming reconciliation summit planned by Speaker of the Lower House of the Federal Parliament, Sheikh Adan Madobe as well as the scheduled National Consultative Council (NCC) summit this week.
In response to events the Federal government of Somalia said it regretted the violent confrontation reported in Baydhabo; urged the political sides to resolve their differences through dialogue and avoid bloodshed.
“Targeting My Residence & Campaign Centre”
Opposition candidate Mohamed Ibrahim Farkeeti described the incident as “barbaric”, suggesting that the state government had illegally targeted his home that he described as a “campaign centre”. He further accuses the State President of attempting to “silence the dissent”.
Despite such statements, footage emerged online showing armed militia roaming the home and street around Fakreeti property threatening violence against state security forces if demands were not met.
It was just this week when a group of disgruntled soldiers and local officials defected from the SWS administration and declared the formation of the ‘South West Salvation Force‘ (SWSF) to became a physical challenge to the government on behalf of the opposition. Baydhabo has accused opposition groups in Mogadishu of directly funding this militia to fight security forces and destabilise the region.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the clan militia setup illegal checkpoints around the property which resulted in the initial confrontation.
State Information Minister Ilyas Ali alongside the State Minister for Interior & Deputy Labour Minister were fired by State President Laftagareen. Conversely, Minister Ali said that he resigned from office, stating that he resigned because he “was shocked” by what “was done to his people” and that he was not made “aware” or “informed about the operation”,
What is the Wider Political Dispute About?
The dispute revolves around two major elements:
- The 2021/2022 elections that took place in South West State Somalia in which some politicians claim to have been denied access to participate in the elections of Parliamentary seats. The most vocal of these dissidents is Former Speaker, Jawaari.
- The South West State regional Presidential election which has been disputed by the opposing political camps.
President Laftagareen was elected President of the Federal Member State on the 19th of December 2018. The regional constitution stipulated that a Presidential term would last 4 years with an election to follow.
However, the issue was that the Presidential term was 4 years whereas the Parliament and in turn the government’s term was 5 years which was politically not the most practical system. This would result in the South West State Parliament voting to provide an amendment to the constitution to alter the Presidential term from four to five years, in turn extending the administration’s term by one year enabling the terms of the government and parliament to coincide.
This has been disputed and rejected by Laftagareen’s opposition who are adamant for elections to be held immediately.
“It’s illegal for a sitting parliament to unilaterally extend its mandate.”South West State Presidential Candidate, Sharif Hassan
Opposition candidates are arguing that an extension by a sitting Parliament is not legally feasible. Indeed, while such an argument may seem plausible at first sight, it is important to understand that under Article 132-134 of the Somali Constitution – which the SWS State Constituency derives from- enables the legislative chamber of Parliament to amend the constitution including a term by a 2/3 majority.
This rift between South West State politicians has been brewing under the surface for a year prior to the election of President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud in May of this year.
In May 2022, President Laftagareen summoned all MPs and Senators representing South West State to discuss political events that were unfolding in Mogadishu including plans to remove him from office by this coalition of South West State politicians.
Speaking to the media at the time, MP and former Commander of the Custodial Corps Mahad Abdirahman Aadan said: “we know there are meetings being held in Mogadishu and we will defend President Laftagareen.”
What is the Role of the Federal Government?
President Hassan Sheikh perceives Laftagareen as a clear ally of former President Farmaajo. It is reported that Hassan Sheikh wants an individual that he can work with and will not oppose his government or policies. Indeed, Laftagareen is a politically vocal figure.
The government would release the former Al-Shabab Deputy Leader and Spokesman, Mukhtar Roobow – a man that was in direct competition with Laftagareen during the 2018 elections before his detention by the previous administration.
In fact, Roobow would be offered a senior cabinet post in the government led by PM Hamza Abdi Barre, a decision that has sent shockwaves in Baydhabo.
Some analysts have argued that Villa Somalia has the intention of replacing Laftagareen with Roobow in the upcoming elections as we have began to see Roobow embed himself within the opposition coalition aforementioned, giving a speech during an event held for him in Mogadishu a few months ago.
Roobow originates from South West State, having previously hid in the Bakool region alongside his militia of fighters he led following his rift with Al-Shabab in the early 2010s before surrendering to the government. It is reported that militia is still present in Bakool and has allegiance to Mr Roobow. So to Laftagareen, the empowerment of Roobow is a direct threat to himself and administration.
There have been reports that some of the clan fighters that engaged the SWS security forces on Friday and Saturday were members of the militia that defected from Al-Shabab led by Mukhtar Roobow that were based in the Bakool region.
If this is concretely proved by the SWS administration, that would directly implicate the FGS and its Minister in a conflict to derail peace and stability within a FMS of Somalia. One cannot argue that FGS was not or could not have been aware of the actions taken by Minister Roobow because the Minister was willingly appointed by President Hassan Sheikh and PM Barre with full knowledge of his background and intentions. The simple fact that Roobow has embed himself within the SWS opposition demonstrates clear allegiance in a political dispute he ought to have been neutral as a Federal Minister.
We have also seen a major role played by State Minister of Interior, Ilyas Hassan. Mr Hassan is a member of the Himilo Qaran party led by Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
Hassan setup the current fake news factory machine, Arlaadi Media which has been at the forefront of producing inaccurate disinformation to label and categorise the SWS government as a “dictatorship” while supporting SWSF as well as opposition figures as saviours to save SWS from “tyranny”.
This is clearly a second FGS Minister openly attacking the SWS administration and actively supporting opposition in Mogadishu to topple Laftagareen. Therefore, one has to ask themselves how much of a role Villa Somalia plays in this political dispute?
‘Badbaado Qaran’ Clan Militia 2.0?
It seems as though all actions taken so far are an identical replication of the fake news and espionage that took place in Mogadishu to weaken or topple the Farmaajo government which ultimately failed but did force Farmaajo to hand power over to PM Roble in April of 2021. Have a read of my article in which I discuss Espionage, Fake News and Unrest in Muqdisho and Orchestrating a Civil War: a Series of Events, dissecting how some sinister opposition groups used clan politics as well as rogue international support to cause bloodshed and violence in the capital.
It is clear that opposition candidates in SWS are attempting to utilise the same methodology to topple the Laftagareen government. For instance:
- We have seen the creation of a fake news media outlet initially created to under the pretext of providing news to “Maay speakers” only to be reformed to become a disinformation factory.
- We then saw the formation of a joint opposition group representing a particular group which accused the government of illegitimacy using flawed and inaccurate legal arguments intertwined with clan politics.
- We now see the formation of SWSF which has began arming clan militia to fight the government while accusing the government of oppressing dissent.
- More regular press conferences calling on the international community to intervene enabling foreign meddling.
Speaker Adan Madobe has travelled across SWS and organised a reconciliation summit supported by State President Laftagareen set for January. We can only hope this ends in dialogue.
If peace and stability is genuine from the opposition, they must sit down for talks.