Kenya’s protest note underlines discomfort with Addis’s role in Somalia

Tuesday August 20 2019

A man casts his ballot on November 16, 2016, in Somalia. Kenya has ejected the position held by the UN on Jubbaland presidential poll. PHOTO | SIMON MAINA | AFP


Kenya is rejecting the position held by the United Nations on Somalia’s Jubbaland presidential election, lifting the veil on its discomfort with the emerging role of Ethiopia in Somalia politics.

Ahead of the presidential election in Jubbaland, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) has recently been vocal in demanding more time for registration of candidates and discussions to relax some of the conditions to run.

On August 16, the Jubbaland Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (JIEBC) agreed to extend registration time by 72 hours, nearly three weeks after it shut the window.

The commission said the polls, which had been scheduled for August 19, would be held on August 22.

But UNSOM boss James Swan, who is also the special representative of the UN Secretary-General in Somalia, insisted that the time given was too little.

Mr Swan said he was making the demands on behalf of the UN, regional bloc IGAD, Italy, Kenya, Denmark, the US, the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Ireland, the European Union and France.


Now, Nairobi is protesting to the UN Under-Secretary of Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, accusing Mr Swan of selectively, ignoring Kenya.

Of the neighbouring countries and African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) troop -contributing countries, the Special Representative kept only the embassy of Ethiopia informed, says the letter attributed to Kenya’s foreign ministry.

“As a member of the international community and a key stakeholder in Somalia’s stabilisation process, including as Amisom troop-contributing country and neighbour to Jubbaland, the government of Kenya, which was not consulted at all, does not accept the position by Ambassador Swan as the position of the international community,” the letter states.

Insensitive demands

Swan has persistently written to the JIEBC, asking for a single process that all the candidates would accept, and Nairobi says most of the demands are insensitive and should be withdrawn as were there is no consensus among Somalia’s key partners.

Kenya and Ethiopia have contributed troops to Amisom, both of who operate in Jubbaland in Sector II and Sector VI.

The complaint comes as reports emerge that Ethiopia is siding with Mogadishu to front some candidates in Jubbaland.

Officially, Somalia’s federal government says it only wants a legitimate process. An Ethiopian diplomat in Somalia told The EastAfrican that his government would only be involved through the federal government in Somalia, to help stabilise the country.

Kenya says delays on the election date and making demands on the JIEBC could create a leadership vacuum and an opportunity for Al-Shabaab to re-emerge.

“The election in Jubbaland cannot be expected to be perfect. However, the JIEBC has, in the face of daunting challenges, done its best to ensure that the elections are as fair, inclusive, transparent and credible as humanly as possible,” says the letter dated August 18.

“Kenya is concerned that the United Nations would hold a position that is insensitive to the circumstances within which the Jubbaland elections are being conducted.”
The commission says it has consulted everyone involved in the polls before deciding the three-day window was sufficient for anyone to enter the race.

Some 27 federal parliament MPs, Puntland State President Said Abdullahi Dani, former Galmudug state President Abdulkarim Gulled and ex-Somali presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed have since endorsed the work of the JIEBC.

On Saturday, the JIEBC conducted elections of the speaker, which saw Madobe’s allies win seats. Abdi Mohamed Abdirahman retained his speakership seat, deputised by Adan Khalif Yusuf and Abdi Baley Hussein.

Some Kenyan and Somali politicians, including Federal Senator Muhidin Sheikh Ali, and former Fafi MP Barre Shill attended the session.


Sheikh Madobe is competing against Mohamed Omar Gedi, Mohamed Abdille Magan, Anab Mohamed Dahir, Abdi Hiis Udan, Ahmed Abdi and Abdirahman Ahmed Rabi. A final list of candidates is due on August 21 evening, following an extension of registration.

The JIEBC has already sworn in 73 MPs, out of the possible 75. The elders who were to nominate people to fill the two remaining slots, but refused to take part.

On August 19, one of the protesting elders, Ugas Hussein Mohamoud Qorane returned to the JIEBC, announcing he was doing so for the sake of peace and stability.

Normally, elders picked from the major clans nominate three candidates for MPs after which the JIEBC picks one for each of the 75 slots.

On August 17, MPs sworn in on Thursday elected their speaker, who will in turn conduct the elections in which legislators vote for the state president.

But a parallel group also swore in their “MPs” and elected a speaker. Kenya has warned that a parallel election could plunge Jubbaland into anarchy, leading to a resurgence of Al-Shabaab.