Somalia's federal regions face further uncertainty after President Mohamed Farmaajo reignited a row with his predecessor Hassan Sheikh Mohamud over the future of Galmudug state.
Fresh from taking opposing sides in the Jubbaland elections which Mogadishu refuses to recognise, the two clashed last week over whether the federal government should control impending elections in Galmudug, one of the five federal states in Somalia. Others are Jubbaland, Hirshabelle, South West and Puntland.
Several political stakeholders gathered in Dhusamareb in the state last week for a “reconciliation’’ conference after which they issued a communique calling for a conducive environment to establish an inclusive regional government.
But, the group also suggested that the federal government forms a technical committee to oversee the creation of the regional administration, including creating regulations and procedures for elections of representatives and the new president.
While President Farmaajo’s government endorsed the move, former President Mohamud’s Union for Peace and Development Party (UPD) argued that the move contradicted the law, and does not allow local residents to determine their future.
“The statement clearly contravenes the federal system in the country, the provisional constitution and the Galmudug constitution, both of which make it clear that the Galmudug State shall independently lead its own regional elections,” said UPD in a joint statement issued with Wadajir, Ilays, National Progress Party and Nabadda parties.
“Galmudug has own Constitution and administrative structure. That the current administration's term in office has lapsed only means that new parliament members, a speaker, a president and a vice president need to be elected,” they added.
Based on an earlier political calendar, Galmudug should have held election in July this year. But political factions disagree on when the four-year term of the current leadership actually began.
Galmudug President Ahmed Duale Gelle ‘Haaf’ insists that elections should be held in December 2021 because in December 2017, he signed a power-sharing arrangement with moderate militia group Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama‘a, essentially starting a new term in office.
Early this year, tensions between Mogadishu and the local administration saw federal government operatives take control of key installations in the area. But it didn’t resolve the question of whether elections should be held.
The sea-saw of affairs has seen the local parliament split along factions with Haaf in May once ‘suspending’ cooperation with Mogadishu to protest ‘interference’.
Observers now say the actual idea of having stakeholders meet for talks is promising. But the suggestion that the Federal Interior Ministry should create guidelines for Galmudug elections is controversial.
“Constitutionally, such is reserved for the federal member states. Already some groups are raising eye brows and developing reservations,” Abdimalik Abdullahi, a Somali Political Scientist and Researcher said.
“Galmudug elections are considered to be a litmus test and a prediction of 2021 elections trajectory. Both the federal government and the opposition groups are eager to show their fists and deploy their manpower and cash to the region in the eve of elections. This is the place to watch,” he argued.
Politically, Galmudug is cosmopolitan with diverse backgrounds, making it almost difficult to win without coalescing between the 11 clans.
Since march this year, the region has technically been run by the federal government, weakening the incumbent whose opponents claim has already run past his term.
A former Ministers Abdirahman Odowa, Abdi Abdullahi Ahmed and Ahmed Abdi Kariye and civil servant Kamal Hassan Dahir have indicated interest in running for presidency.
In May this year, a gathering of President Farmaajo and federal state leaders in Garowe, Puntland failed to produce a key electoral plan for 2021 elections.
And when Jubbaland held elections last month, President Farmaajo refused to acknowledge the results which declared Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Madobe the winner. Mogadishu subsequently ordered a repeat, which was ignored by Madobe. Former Presidents Mohamud and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed endorsed Madobe’s victory.
But Mr Abdishakur Mire, a member of the Federal Parliament of Somalia thinks the parties criticising Galmudug move are hypocrites.
“The so-called political parties who supported the very unconstitutional and undemocratic electoral process in Jubbaland, are now criticising the outcome of Galmudug reconciliation conference,” he said.
“These contradicting positions reflect their double standards and opportunistic approach.”
Critics charge that Farmaajo is using chaos in federal states to entrench his nationalistic credentials, and weaken the federal system which the international community endorsed as one way of reducing clan rivalries that had caused a three-decade civil war.