OPINION: Insecurity and political impunity threaten Somalia’s key elections

3 min read

By Abdirashid Hussein 

I was recently in Somalia and had the opportunity to meet politicians, businesspeople and civil society groups to collect insights about the ongoing political situation in the country. An unstable Somalia is a security threat to Kenya. Therefore, Kenyans should keenly follow the electoral process in Somalia so as to prepare for any eventuality.

The ongoing House of the People (HOP) elections can point at who will become the next president at a critical juncture in Somalia’s history. The past few weeks have seen Federal Member States (FMS) conduct a majority of their HOPs elections, which have been mired by serious allegations of rigging and electoral malpractices.

Weak security structures have only exacerbated mistrust between the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and the FMS. This has been compounded by lack of communication between the president and the prime minister.

Al Shabaab has taken the opportunity to highlight glaring fractures in Somalia governance by conducting coordinated attacks, suicide missions and assassinations. Last Sunday, two elderly delegates supporting a popular candidate from one of the major clans in Puntland were killed in a bomb blast at a hotel in the commercial city of Bossaso. The next day, there was an attempt to assassinate the president of Puntland State.

Security lapses are due to two main factors. First, the Somali president and prime minister are not on talking terms – systemically weakening an already fraught election process. Second, weak security infrastructure to oversee the elections provides ample opportunity for election saboteurs to undermine the election cycle.

Somalia is at a critical juncture in its history. International partners are losing interest in the country. No serious international investment will ever occur without stability, security and real law and order. The population has long lost faith in its leaders. Another sham election cycle could well confine Somalia to the dustbin of history.

Various presidential candidates are currently preparing their HOP supporters and delegates throughout the country, and it appears that there is strong competition at the regional state level to control the process of selecting the delegates who in turn will select the lower house members.

It is these lower house MPs who will elect the president of Somalia in an indirect election format, which will be observed and endorsed by the international community in Mogadishu.

Outgoing president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, who remains highly unpopular, is still considered the front-runner due to his incumbency, and its benefits. He is facing a host of other candidates, most of whom have made political errors that have significantly damaged their chances amongst likely lower house members.

A few – less than a handful – have the knowledge, experience, and credibility to win a lower house vote and lead Somalia with vision and balance.

One of those candidates is Abdulkadir Osoble Ali. A vibrant leader who has served Somalia as the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee for the past two parliamentary terms. He is an educated, seasoned businessman with more than a decade of government and foreign policy experience. Critically, amongst the Somali political elite, he is instantly recognised as a voice that must be considered, and he is trusted even by his political competitors.

The current electoral process is being conducted in an insecure environment that has been plagued by political impunity. This means the selection of lower house candidates has been staged-managed by regional state presidents and their cronies. It has meant the selection process has been necessarily slow, and fraught with political intrigue at every turn.

It is now very unlikely that the February 25 deadline will be met and this will create doubts as to whether a presidential election will ever be conducted without drama. This process will continue to be slow-walked unless the UN and international community decide to take action against election saboteurs.

Al Shabaab, criminal groups, and political opportunists will continue to disrupt and de-legitimise the election process at every turn. It continues to be in their interest to ensure a weak and unstable presidency, legislature, and government apparatus. This will force the international community to walk away.

That would be good for Somalia’s majority youthful population that is frustrated, largely unemployed and idle. Sham elections will also be a regional security threat and especially to Kenya which hosts the most Somali refugees anywhere in the world.

The threats to Somalia’s future are all too real. At this consequential moment, Somalia needs a visionary leader to make a paradigm shift toward sustainable peace and prosperity. 

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