The political impasse between Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmajo’ and regional federal leaders is being attributed to suspicions that Mogadishu is sponsoring candidates to depose the regional presidents in the forthcoming regional elections.
Experts say this is one of the factors that led the latter to announce a severance of links with Mogadishu on September 8, a move that could derail efforts to liberate areas still held by Al Shabaab.
The regions are supposed to hold presidential elections progressively from November till the end of 2019.
The South West State will go to the polls in November, followed by Puntland and Hirshabelle.
Abdilatif Maalim, a strategic communications specialist based in Mogadishu, told The EastAfrican that with elections coming up in most of the federal states, the incumbent leaders are facing stiff competition from candidates said to be sponsored by Villa Somalia.
But Mr Maalim added that besides fear of the outcomes of the upcoming elections, another bone of contention is that since President Farmajo took office in February last year, his government has paid little attention to the grievances of the federal states.
He has instead planted cronies across the states who have made life difficult for the incumbents.
The five regions
All the five regional leaders boycotted a National Security Council meeting that was called by President Farmajo on September 17, demanding a third party mediate talks between them and Mogadishu.
Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre, however, rejected the demands, saying Somalia has gone beyond third-party mediation and that all differences can be solved through compromise by Somalis themselves.
The regional leaders, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas (Puntland), Ahmed Duale Gelle (Galmudug), Mohamed Abdi Ware (Hirshabelle), Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden (South West State) and Sheikh Ahmed Madobe of Jubaland accuse the president of interfering in their internal affairs, failing to defeat Al Shabaab and falling behind in the legislation process.
The Upper House (Senate), which represents the interests of the federal states, has formed a committee to mediate between the centre and the regions, but this effort faces the challenge of perception that the Senate is pro-regions.
Somalia charge de affairs to Kenya, Ali Mohamed Sheikh, told The EastAfrican that the government is talking to the leaders individually before convening a meeting with all of them.
Let Amisom be
Still, Somalia experts are concerned that prolonged wrangling will affect the preparations for the one-man-one-vote election of 2020, which is dependent on the federal states’ co-operation with the centre.
But of more concern is that the wrangles will reverse the gains made by the African Union Mission in Somalia, which has driven Al Shabaab from all the major towns into rural enclaves, despite unpredictable funding and sufficient levels of troops levels and equipment.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, while addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, appealed to the global body to increase funding to Amisom so that it can play a bigger role in supporting the government of Somalia.
In January, President Kenyatta opposed Amisom’s phased withdrawal following a directive from the UN Security Council, saying that the timing was unfortunate because the government of Somalia is not yet ready to take on full responsibility for security.
In the meantime, the World Bank on September 25 approved $80 million in grants to Somalia to fund public finance reforms, marking its first disbursement to the government in 30 years.