EDITORIAL: Somalia’s moment of glory should be rewarded with a free and fair election
EDITORIAL | It is not every day Somalis have emerged from meetings smiling. This is why the entire country is celebrating the success of Prime Minister Hussein Roble’s marathon talks with federal state Presidents, which led to an agreement on Thursday.
So fatigued have Somalis been the continual wrangling that a political agreement announced on Thursday looked like a monkey pulled off our backs. It has been more than eight months of trying and failing. At one point, stakeholders dug into each other’s heels, accusing one another of roiling the country’s political calendar.
And as we said here, the ultimate responsibility for achieving that always rested with the goodwill of the federal government. What was achieved on Thursday deserves a pat on the back from Prime Minister Roble and federal state leaders of Jubbaland, Puntland, Southwest, Galmudug, and Hirshabelle.
Yet the deal will amount to naught if the country does not hold free and fair elections. It is true that Somalis were tired of wrangling and even more tired of the endless cycle of electoral delays. But no Somali wants a shortcut to elections.
The electoral deal agreed on Thursday provides for indirect elections, which is the bare minimum expected by Somalis. The original intention was to have universal suffrage; which Somalia hasn’t had since 1969. To say that everyone looked forward to the day when they will cast their ballot and decide, directly, how to remove wayward leaders, would be an understatement. It has been overdue.
Yet realities in Somalia check-mated that idea. The lack of political will on the part of the Federal Government, wrangles among stakeholders, financial constraints, and security challenges combined to halt the plan.
Yet it didn’t kill the idea. To agree to an indirect election has been most people’s compromise to ensure the legitimacy of leaders without hurting Somalia’s rebuilding project. And Roble’s choice as a mediator for the talks was accepted by all because he seemed to genuinely seek a solution. But he also knew that any missteps would have recreated animosity and presented him as Farmajo’s hands and legs.
Now that we are here, it behooves PM Roble to understand that he will still be in the spotlight once again as we move towards implementing the agreement.
People will demand that he plans everything in the open; the financial arrangements, security assurances, voting, counting, and announcements; will all be monitored to see if wrong moves are tolerated.
One reason people were wary of the indirect election was the regularity with which votes were bought or voters bribed to back one candidate. In the past, these misdeeds were overlooked with the argument that Somalia was still a work in progress. Despite its pitfalls, Somalis ended up elected a new government every election time in the past two decades
But having been at it for more than a decade, there won’t be excuses this time. Somalia will be required to conduct an open poll and ensure that at least 30 percent of the seats go to women.
With the celebratory mood in the country today, Prime Minister Roble’s biggest and most important gift will be to reward Somalis with a free and fair election.