EDITORIAL: In collapsed election talks, how will Farmajo pick up his pieces?
EDITORIAL | But this should never have surprised anyone. From the start, it always looked like a dance of grasshoppers forced by a watching crow.
Now the biggest question should be whether outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, whose term expired in February, has any sliver of legitimacy and confidence left to salvage the boat.
When these meetings began, this platform was categorical that any solutions found from that dialogue will have to be an outcome of free exchange of views. We warned that any supposed deceptive moves could be counterproductive.
It is disappointing no warning signs were heeded. Instead, it obviously became a project for survival. Farmajo chaired these meetings well aware that his term was ending. It was only him, among the elected leaders in the National Consultative Forum, whose mandate had ended.
Yet he chose this opportunity to push his levers to stay in power while blaming federal state leaders for refusing to compromise. We understand there may be personal differences between leaders of Puntland and Jubalaland on one side and Farmajo on the other. But it is Farmajo who let his personal ambitions hoodwink him.
Instead of seeking an agreeable solution with the Federal member states, and at least have his mandate renewed under a constitutionally acceptable process, he played a cloak-and-dagger game.
These leaders had gathered in Mogadishu since the start of March. If they were unwilling to find a solution, as suggested by Villa Somalia, they would have avoided the venue altogether.
On the other hand, Farmajo’s first strike of betrayal arose when he galvanized MPs to push through a controversial extension of his term. That he did allow this idea to be first discussed among the NCF shows there was no consensus, and he certainly knew it could be rejected at the session.
For him, influencing MPs and barring rebellious ones from sittings did not just hurt his leadership credentials. It showed his intention to weaken the Somali legislature, the only functioning watchdog in Somalia, given courts are near-dead.
The failed meetings also showed something else: That Farmajo thrives on weakening other arms of government. It is not just Parliament he has tried to manipulate. Federal member states who go against his word are routinely branded traitors.
Those that side with him have leaders who cannot attempt to defy him. Galmudug, South West, and Hirshabelle; all have leaders elected in the last two years. Their election was controversial, even unfair. These states remain stooges of the federal government.
Farmajo’s recent moves have also shown he is uncomfortable with a federal system. By imposing leaders in federal states, he knows the federation will only exist on paper. As long as he pulls the levers, and obtains loyalty through dictatorship, he will be fine.
Yet Somali’s own history teaches us that those who try to force their way pay the penalty. Siad Barre, whose fall caused Somalia’s decades-long collapse, tried to force his way, punished the dissent but still lost everything.
If there are painful lessons learned, then it must be that Somalia’s wounded generations should never accept bulldozing. There are reasons why a federal system was opted for. The idea was to grant sufficient autonomy to regions while ensuring the center functions properly.
We fear that Farmajo’s recent arm-twisting could reopen old wounds. And healing those wounds might require another heavy price to pay.
Farmajo has two options to rescue the sinking boat: He can swallow his pride and provide a conducive environment for discussions. Or he can continue forcing his way, and pay the price.