Somalia Prime Minister Hussein Roble will be leaving his post once the new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud names his substantive government, in line with Somalia’s delicate clan balancing to ensure no clan dominate the government.
Mr Roble and President Mohamud come from the larger Hawiye clan although the PM is from the smaller Habar-Gidir sub-clan while the President is from Abgaal. As such, they cannot continue holding their positions at the same time, based on a formula known as 4.5.
The 4.5 formula, a loose arranged rotational democracy practice, means that Somali’s four main clans—Hawiye, Darod, Dir, and Digil & Mirifle (Rahenweyn)—share out power, alongside the smaller clans generally considered the .5.
Under the outgoing government of Mohamed Farmaajo, who comes from the Marehan sub-clan of the Darod clan, appointed Prime Ministers from the Hawiye. Mr Roble’s predecessor Hassan Khaire came from a different sub-clan of the Hawiye.
In spite of the clan balancing politics, Mr Roble may be exiting the stage after completing one of the toughest assignments yet: Holding an election in spite of improper legal framework.
“In the grand scheme of things, Roble can be rated as successful in his delivery on the most crucial task that fate assigned him: The national elections,” said Adam Aw Hirsi, a Somali political analyst, formerly a senior government official.
“However, where there are steps, there are also missteps. But when you compare his few missteps with the humongous, crucial and time-sensitive elections he oversaw, he comes out with flying colours.”
Abdalla Ahmed Ibrahim, the director of Somali think-tank East Africa Center for Research and Strategic Studies, praised Roble for “doing a good job” in succeeding to peacefully conclude the election.
“Without him the country would have gone to chaos,” he said. “He risked himself for this mission which the president and his team opposed or wanted to delay.”
Appointed in September 2020, Roble inherited a government that had planned for an election in February 2021, but which was lacking a model.
Somalia had earlier planned for universal suffrage, but lack of money, insecurity and absent laws meant the country had to fall back on indirect elections. Even that led to wrangles with political stakeholders unable to agree on how to nominate delegates. When they did agree on a model, further problems lay ahead forcing the country to miss its own electoral deadline.
In April, President Farmaajo attempted to extend his term by two years, arguing it will provide sufficient time to organise a proper election. All his opponents rejected the idea.
It took international pressure, and an opposition from the PM himself, to have Farmaajo rescind the move.
But that may have sowed a seed of discord between Roble and Farmaajo. In August 2021, Farmaajo banned Roble from engaging in or reaching deals with foreign entities until the elections were held. Later, Farmaajo suspended the PM’s functions, including those of handling election-related issues. The latter bit had been a function agreed upon by stakeholders to ensure candidates are not directly involved in the management of elections.
Roble defied both bans. In fact, he travelled to Mombasa, Kenya, to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta, yet at the time, the two countries had troubled relations, including severed diplomatic ties earlier in December 2020.
Furthermore, in their continual tiff, Farmaajo had accused Roble of land grabbing and corruption, saying those allegations were likely to taint the government.
“This decision to adjourn the powers of the prime minister is on the basis of an enquiry by Somali National Army in connection with an allegation regarding land grabbed by PM Roble, which belonged to the force,” Farmaajo’ s office said in December 2021.
“All state officials are instructed to refrain from abusing public properties and respect the laws of the country.”
But in doing that, Farmaajo had himself violated the principles agreed under the Somalia’s National Consultative Council (NCC) which was charged with overseeing elections.
Up until end of April 2021, the NCC was chaired by President Farmaajo and included the presidents of the five Federal Member States (FMS) and Mayor of Mogadishu.
However, following armed confrontations in Mogadishu after Farmaajo’ s attempted term extension, Farmaajo agreed to delegate to Roble the authority to lead the electoral process and related security matters.
Roble would continue to defy the President, including implementing a mini cabinet reshuffle.
His last public act of defiance was ejecting African Union Transition Mission boss Francisco Madeira from the country, in spite of a spirited defence from Farmaajo.
On Monday, Somalia’s international partners urged the new President to form an inclusive government to help the country deal with critical issues it faces.
“Somalia’s international partners remain steadfast in our commitment to Somalia. We look forward to understanding the new President’s priorities so that we can work together to advance peace, prosperity and sound governance in Somalia,” the partners, including the UN and the African Union, said in a joint statement.