EDITORIAL: Janan ‘surrender’ was a political game, but can it be useful for Somalia?


EDITORIAL | There was an air of glee this week from the Federal Government of Somalia officials after they received Abdirashid Janan who had reportedly ‘surrendered’ to authorities.

Janan, branded a fugitive a year ago, was Security Minister of Jubbaland state until Monday this week.

Until Tuesday this week, officials in Mogadishu had branded him a militia leader, a fugitive, a thug, and a murderer who killed and ran away from justice. Those accusations, suddenly, have been swept under the carpet now. And it is not that Janan went through court and got exonerated.

It is also not for being found guilty and pardoned. He just became a good political weapon and Federal Government of Somalia [FGS] officials realized he could be strategic ammunition.

For the background, Janan had been a loyal man to Jubbaland President Ahmed Madobe. He had been fingered by the former UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (now known as the UN Panel of Experts on Somalia) for killings, illegal detentions, and torture between 2014 and 2015.

Simply put, Janan carried a load of international criminal accusations and could be liable for a heavy punishment if found guilty. Arrested on August 31, 2019; Janan reportedly escaped his house arrest in Mogadishu in January last year where the Government had accused him of “serious crimes.”

Yet there was always politics playing ahead of legalities. As a leader of a militia group propping up Jubbaland in Gedo, Janan was both President Mohamed Farmaajo’s political and legal enemy.

There is no region in Somalia that Farmajo has tried to conquer, and failed, like Jubbaland. He tried to annul the election of Ahmed Madobe in 2019 and failed. Instead, FGS termed him interim President, another likely failure given Farmajo’s own term has expired and Madobe desires to run a full four years from 2019.

So when elders brokered a deal for Janan to switch sides, Farmajo might have rubbed his hands in glee. Janan who had been hiding in Kenya, which Somalia no longer has diplomatic relations, was suddenly the subject of back channels between the two countries.

His decampment means Farmajo has one less trouble to worry about’ the Janan militia which had been targeting Somali National Army forces in Gedo would cease-fire.

Overall, the FGS must be willing to learn that not every of Somalia’s problems can be solved with legal hammers or tongs. Janan’s ‘escape’ or ‘surrender’ will still anger the victims and families whose kin he maimed or killed. And it suddenly angered donors starting with the European Union itself.

But soon after Janan, a man who has rarely smiled in photos released to the public so far got a warm reception, FGS officials were all over beating back critics on social media, including accusations foreigners had no understanding of events in Somalia.

It is true that foreigners have interfered in one way or another. To shut out inquiries on a man listed in a global report would be to raise suspicions, however.

As a political solution, Farmajo may have scored some battle victory. Nationally, the FGS will be required to hand out similar gestures to those who disagree with Farmajo, without necessarily being branded evil unless they back him.

With the knowledge that his term expired and legitimacy dwindled, Farmajo must not make any demands, labels, or ultimatums. Puntland and Jubbaland leaders have specifically expressed worry at the continual arm-twisting by Farmajo to extract favorable decisions whenever he organizes a meeting with federal member states

On the contrary, we expect that lots of horse-trading and compromise are what is going to help the country.

And we hope that a technical committee formed on Wednesday night to try and have all federal state presidents attend another session on electoral plan follows a similar philosophy.


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