EDITORIAL: Farmaajo’s self-cleansing drive will be his waterloo
EDITORIAL | Somalia’s Mohamed Farmaajo, whose term expired on February 8, continues to ignore the writings on the wall. And as things go, there may be a small window left to rescue both his career and the destiny of Somalia.
On Tuesday, the latest ominous sign came from a grouping of Hawiye clan members and professionals. Gathering in Mogadishu, they withdrew support for Farmaajo, expressing fury at his decision to assent to the term extension motion of parliament.
A voice emerged from 400 delegates of Mogadishu’s most prominent clan with interests in politics and businesses, which means they have sufficient influence in the capital. The participants include two ex-Presidents, a former PM, opposition and youth leaders as well as other special interest groups.
Well, some have argued, perhaps correctly, that the clan as a unit of politics in Somalia may be behind the perennial chaos. But Somalia’s nascent democracy borrows from its culture and history, which means that every son and daughter the clans have brought up to serve their country considers their clan as the basic unit of politics. It is the way Somalis have organized themselves for centuries and it is why we cannot throw away the bathwater with the baby.
This is why the clan, no matter its shortcomings in other times, will remain influential in Somali politics, and any leader who ignores it perishes politically. For the Hawiye specifically, their influence in Mogadishu means that any changes in the political stability of the country affect them directly and their displeasure simply means one more, big door, has been slammed in Farmaajo’s face.
There have been other protestations, more directly from Farmaajo’s rivals in the presidential contest. This week, the National Salvation Forum warned of political instability as the term extension goes on. And Presidents of Galmudug, Hirshabelle, and South West have recently come under pressure from their own clans to clarify their position. The donors and partners have all rejected the extension and warned of a reevaluation of the relationship, including suspension of crucial programs in security and humanitarian sectors.
Yet, even in the glare of these warnings, President Farmaajo has chosen to go on a charm offensive, seeking the African Union’s hand to endorse his ill-thought and controversial term extension.
He did not read between the lines, when, after meeting with President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, he was told that Somalia must pursue its own consensus to avert a crisis. Mr. Tshisekedi, the current Chairman of the African Union agreed to support dialogue in Somalia, an indication that the continental body is willing to step in.
But everybody knows Farmaajo’s game plan is to get an endorsement from the AU to sanitize his political dirt. Earning from his friends in Ethiopia, Farmaajo knows he can seek the involvement of the African Union because the body itself is flawed in operation: All leaders have hidden behind Article 4(g) of the AU Constitutive Act on “non-interference in internal matters” of members. In short, he can reduce the continental body into spectators, just as the neighbors did with the Tigray region.
This is not to say the African Union is a useless Organisation. In fact, Somalia has a lot to thank the AU for, having created the African Union Mission in Somalia, which has been guarding Farmaajo and his palace, the Villa Somalia.
We fear that Farmaajo has shown sufficient hypocrisy in the past. On one day, he insists on sovereignty when critics pour in. On the other hand, when he is facing local turmoil, he rushes to the African Union to be helped.
We think the flip-flopping is meant to waste time and the best thing Farmaajo can do now is to resume talks, which will be the surest way of ending this fiasco. It is beyond stretching the imagination to say Somalia can organize one-person-one-vote elections in two years. It hasn’t done so in the last 52 years and Farmaajo failed in the last four of his administration. What will happen if two years elapse and there is the inability to hold universal suffrage as planned? Will there be another call to extend? Our view is that Somalia’s indirect elections, however imperfect, offered a better sense of certainty, allowing leaders to gain the legitimacy needed to rebuild our torn institutions.
Having no election and with a President whose mandate is forever in doubt could be grounds for anarchy. Even his self-cleansing trips and calls abroad will amount to naught when chaos erupts. Everyone deserves a Damascus Moment, and we hope Farmaajo will come sooner.