Apprehension is building over the future of Somalia, after a missed presidential election on February 8. A three-day meeting between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), and the five Federal Member States of Somalia (FMS), to try to stave off a constitutional crisis earlier this month, did not yield tangible outcome beyond an agreement to defer talks to February 15.
Considering the fragile situation in the country, the fears are not unfounded. But focusing attention exclusively on interclan tensions, the international and regional community might be missing a point. Somalia is in peril, but the solution is not in Mogadishu.
Somalia failed to hold parliamentary elections on December 27, 2020 and presidential polls on February 8, 2021 primarily because two of the five FMS are against the polls. Jubbaland and Puntland, two of the five federal states that make up the administrative regions that are affiliated to the federal government in Mogadishu, are against holding the elections because Gedo, a region of Jubbaland, is under special administration by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohammed, popularly known as Farmaajo.
President Abdullahi Mohammed took over the administration of Gedo, a region in southern Somalia that falls under Jubbaland because of a rift between the clan heads who rejected Ahmed Madobe as the region’s titular head.
Madobe and his allies insist there will be no elections unless Gedo is handed back to him. The FGS says it cannot impose leaders on Gedo.
Looked at in simple linear terms, Somalia is supposed to be in crisis because, supposedly, both the president and the parliament which elects him, are in office illegally because their terms expired. That would be so only if one ignores the political agreement of September 17, 2020 that was ratified by both the Senate and Lower House on September26, 2020. Article 3 of that agreement provides continuity by stating that all federal institutions will continue to function legally until their successors are elected.
Jubbaland and Puntland agree that the life of parliament was supposed to expire on December 27, 2020. But they have no problem with its continuity or that of the other offices of the federal government, except that of the president.
The current impasse is not isolated from the proxy wars between Qatar and the United Arab Republic (UAE). While Qatar backs the federal government, the UAE is the real political and financial behind Jubbaland and Puntland. The UAE is suspected of influencing Puntland and Jubbaland, urging them to reject a deal with Farmaajo.
The FMS and the FGS are supposed to meet again on February 15, to try and resolve the electoral dispute. Without bringing Qatar and the UAE out of the shadow, it is likely to be another wasted opportunity. It also raises the risk of turning Somalia into a battleground for Gulf politics.
The only reason Somalia has not exploded is because there is little appetite for war among the local community. War-weary Somalis simply want peace.
The clans want peace so that commerce can thrive. That should be a cue for the international community to bring pressure to bear where it matters. Qatar and the UAE must not be allowed to turn Somalia into another Yemen.