Somalia: With the transition ending, the fight for political power is in progress

March 1, 2012

President of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (left) and TFG Prime Minister Dr Abdiweli Mohamed Ali (right) at the London Conference on Somalia, 23 February 2012. Source: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The new political dispensation beyond August 2012 points to a positive ending of the transition in Mogadishu. However, a political squabble between President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali is likely, as both men will contend for the presidency once the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) term ends.

This, in the view of many Somali political analysts, may make the internal Somali political process bumpier than envisaged in The Roadmap and reiterated at the recently concluded, London Conference on Somalia at Lancaster House on February 23.

Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has publicly declared his intention to run for the presidency of Somalia. Similarly, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali has put together a team that will manage his campaign including cabinet ministers.

With each man vying to become the next president of Somalia, each will try to insure that potential members of parliament are loyal to their respective sides. Not only that, but each will try to influence the Interim Independent Electoral Commission.

This political squabble, if it comes to fruition, will undermine any political stability in Mogadishu and will serve as a catalyst for Al-Shabaab to regroup. As reported by Reuters, “(Al-Shabaab’s) fate depends on internal political struggles that have little to do with the West’s fight against militancy or even with the multinational drive against pirate communities believed to have tactical tie-ups with some in the insurgency.”

In other words, the inevitable political crises between Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, which arises from certain contradictions in the Somali Roadmap, which will create condition that will allow the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, to pose an even greater threat to the Somali national government.

The Roadmap, agreed to by the major Somali political actors seeks to bring some form of stability to Somalia. Under the direction of the United Nations, key Somali actors gathered in Mogadishu last year to find a path forward once the transitional period concludes. The meeting, “Consultative Meeting on Ending the Transition,” included, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), religious leaders, members of Somali civil society, the business community and international actors like the European Union, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Firstly, the problem is that for a post-transitional period to be effective and productive, with tangible results, the Somali people must own the process, and that its outcome has a lasting impact. One of the reasons that it is important to create a public culture of dissent is that this allows issues to be debated. In other words, dissent creates a space for people, who are otherwise unable to, to present their views.

In that context, the Kampala Accord, and subsequent conferences that resulted in the current Roadmap, which was hailed as success by the United Nations, was never a Somali owned processes. From a Somali perspective, these developments are viewed as an imposition of a political process by the international community.

Secondly, the principles agreed upon, as stipulated in The Roadmap, to end the transition are ambiguous and are not attainable. Further, it is not even possible to meet the benchmarks laid out in The Roadmap before the transitional period ends.

Moreover, there is no clear and transparent way to end the transitional period as the August deadline looms.

The Roadmap signed in Mogadishu on September 6, 2011 sets tasks and timelines.

The Roadmap clearly sets a timeline for appointment of members to the Interim Independent Electoral Commission by September 19, 2011, in order to prepare for upcoming elections. Already, it is March 2012 and the selection of the IIEC has not yet started. Those who are going to contend for these appointments will try to influence the outcome of the selection process

Another ambiguous task in The Roadmap is reforming the TFP to begin by September 19, 2011 and completed by 19 November 2011. Of course, after it was realized this was an unrealistic timeline, dates were subsequently changed.

Conversely, with respect to the task of good governance, none has been achieved. For example, among the various tasks that had to be completed, a report on all TFG revenues and expenditure by January 20, 2012 and a National Fiscal Budget by December 31, 2011.

Dr. Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College, in an interview with Reuters, said, “We know for a fact that rushing processes produces bad results.”

Menkhaus went on to say, “This very accelerated end of transition process is going to face a lot of very critical decisions about representation and ultimately about who rules. That will create unhappiness and some of the Somalis who are unhappy will defect (from the process).”

Importantly, there are intrinsic contradictions in The Roadmap, which will make the end of the transitional period more uncertain.

The Garowe II Principles states that the signatories of The Roadmap, assisted by civil society groups and traditional leaders, will select IIEC members. The problem is that there is no interpretation of who will qualify as a member of Somali civil society and traditional elders.

Another problem associated with the selection process is that two or more of the signatories to The Roadmap are vying to become Somalia’s next president and each will try to influence the outcome of this selection process.

One may argue that this will be based on a 4.5 quota. The fact that in Somali clan politics, is that it is all about individual interest and none of those selected to the IIEC on the basis of 4.5 quotas will cater to the interest of their respective clan.

The daunting task is how to reconcile the selection of the IIEC and members of the parliament, with those entrusted in that task are all contending to be the next president of Somalia and hence will try to influence the selection process directly or indirectly.

Moreover, reconciling a fair process that is independent of the signatories of The Roadmap will require more time than the allotted deadline of August 20, 2012, for the process to be open, transparent and owned by Somalians.

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Very interesting analysis, I knew it sounded too good to be true that the transitional period will end in August, and now the "two big heads" are both aiming for the presidency and this will be an open invitation for Al-Shabab. The question remains: Is Somalia ever going to see a leader with a vision of bringing Somalia on her own feet without his own personal agenda?

This is excellent piece. As we all know the dire political situation in Somalia. I bet the transition will not end in Somalia as long as they've corrupt politians