EDITORIAL: Here are the mistakes the next electoral forum must address
EDITORIAL | Somalia’s key stakeholders can now agree on the urgency of another meeting to discuss the way forward for the country. This desire, unfortunately, has been tampered with arguments on venue and date.
There are questions on just how far the term-ended President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo should remain the head of state, given the constitutional term of four years elapsed on February 8. By way of civility, it is traditional for leaders to leave office when new ones come in.
Somalia has no new officials and has had no elections, so Farmajo could be around still. The question is whether he will be a lame duck in this transitional period.
No matter the haggle, however, Somalia must learn from its past and the misdeeds that brought us here. For one, the current electoral impasse resulted from a lack of inclusivity. If we have to talk about the future of the country, the Federal Government must invite everyone, not just the federal state leaders to the table. Somalia is one large cake whose share must reach every corner of the republic.
In the past, the Federal Government appeared keen to push through issues only favorable to it. After the September 17 Agreement last year, we expected an agreeable membership to the electoral polling teams, followed by critical training, an elaborate listing of venues, and the dates for elections. All those came in a cropper.
The term-ended Prime Minister of Somalia, Mohamed Hussein Roble, seemed to drive the knife of divisions further. He named a team of electoral officials the opposition saw as biased. He then suggested partial elections, after his government had criticized the opposition for lacking logic. It is true, sometimes the opposition everywhere in the world may make noise to simply remain relevant.
The Federal Electoral Implementation Team [FEIT] was packed with spy agents, civil servants, and Farmajo's cronies to rig the election for the incumbent, according to the council of the presidential candidates, who demanded disbandment and form a neutral poll body.
But issues about elections in Somalia can be sensitive: What is the point of retaining an official whose impartiality is questioned or whose stance on the fairness of elections cannot be vouched? Farmajo must hold these talks, but the next consultative forum must not repeat the old controversial proposals.
What is more? Previous conferences convened in Dhusamareb, Galmudug state last year, severely sidelined other stakeholders. Somalia is not a perfect polity, but it becomes stable by listening to all.
For months, political parties were sidelined. Civil society groups could not take part in the talks as equals and other crucial portions of the society like religious clerics influential to their respective communities did not give their voice.
Most of these groups had later accepted the outcome of the Dhusamareb meetings, even though they did not give input. It may have been for want of compromise, not amenability to the contents of the Agreement. Sadly, the implementation of the Agreement brought forth the intentions of those keen to divide the country.
Somalia’s problems may be many, but their solution gets compounded if we choose to railroad the country to a one-sided view. Ahead of the next consultative forum on February 15, leaders must come to the table with an open mind to give and take.
We would be naïve to expect that all proposals can be acceptable. But we cannot bury heads in the sand to think that only the proposal from the federal government should pass.
The legacy of outgoing Somali President Farmaajo in particular could lie in avoiding mistakes of previous rounds of talks.