National elections on track for 2016: Somalia leadership upbeat despite misgivings among Western donors

Saturday March 1 2014

By FRED OLUOCH Special Correspondent

The Somali government is confident that it will hold national elections in 2016. It plans to undertake a national political dialogue and enact a representative constitution by then.

This is despite intermittent Al Shabaab attacks in Mogadishu, as on February 21 when attackers using two suicide car bombs penetrated the perimeter wall of the presidential palace and engaged the security forces in a gunfight.

Abdirahman Omar Osman, the senior adviser and spokesman in the office of the president, told The EastAfrican that the new Cabinet led by Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed has struck up good working relations with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and is focused on ensuring that Somali people experience their first universal franchise after 25 years.

But this optimism comes amid growing misgivings among the country’s Western donors who are concerned that the  government has performed below expectation due to weak leadership and political infighting that saw the exit of former prime minister Abdi Farah Shirdon. 

President Mohamud’s government, which came to power in September 2012, is the only Somalia government to be recognised internationally in more than two decades. The government has since elicited aid commitments worth more than $2 billion.

In mid February, James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, said President Mohamud has provided “weak leadership,” and criticised the “persistent political infighting” of his 16-month-old government.

Analysts interpreted this tirade as a sign that Western donors see that the government of President Mohamud has largely failed to achieve its six-point plan, especially eradicating Al Shabaab from Mogadishu.

When he came to power in September 2013, President Mohamud unveiled a six-point plan that included establishing stability, economic recovery, peace-building, public service delivery, national unity, and improving Somalia’s international relations.

But Mr Osman maintained that the government has made significant progress, in that Mogadishu is now secure, Somalis in the diaspora are coming back, and new businesses are being established daily.

He however conceded that the lack of resources and Western governments’ delay in giving much-needed aid have led to the government not accomplishing what it had promised.

The prime minister is now promising to drive Al Shabaab out of its remaining strongholds across the country by the end of 2014, with the help of the expanded African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

Amisom currently comprises troops from Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Djibouti and Sierra Leone.

President Mohamud has faced criticism for being preoccupied with centralising institutions of governance, instead of harnessing the federal and decentralised system as per the interim constitution.

Mogadishu was initially opposed to the establishment of an autonomous administration in Jubaland led by Sheikh Ahmed Islaam (commonly known as Sheikh Madobe), and has been in negotiations with other autonomous regions like Puntland and Galmudug to get Jubaland to abandon their quest for self-determination.

The issue of regional administration has also brought about friction between Kenya and Somalia, with Mogadishu strongly believing that Nairobi is keen to influence local politics through Sheikh Madobe.