Somalia should make it costly for future Farmajo


EDITORIAL | At last, Somalia has a new President and will soon have a new government set up, ending a horrid chapter of five years in which the country was toyed with for one person’s liking. 

But how can Somalia prevent any future hatchlings of leaders that will tend to dictate the way we live or are governed? This is the question President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud may be dealing with.

He will be taking over from Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, a man who came on board with so much promise but overstayed his welcome when he lost last week in an electoral contest, a political end to a man who attempted to extend his term, misreading the public mood.

Of course, every politician has a weak side.

Mr. Mohamud himself had been voted out in 2017 for misdeeds he failed to correct. From the outset, we presume he is ready to learn from his mistakes and those of his predecessor, who incidentally had been his successor, Farmajo.

Mohamud promised this week there would be no score settling, pledging a reconciliatory tone we have missed for so long. The promise was good in setting the tone for a new kind of leadership, as it was about indicting Farmajo. 

The outgoing leadership created an environment where the dissent was treated as state enemies. Somalia must create policies that punish such leaders and make it harder for them to attain leadership positions.

By abusing the trust and hopes of the public, Farmajo not only scarred the public but also used that to whip up a false nationalistic mood to his advantage. He claimed to be working for Somalis. But his administration only became a club for the corrupt, looking the other way as al-Shabaab infiltrated government agencies.

The result? Continual deadly attacks and massive impunity. Can Somalia penalize Farmajo for this misstep? Some argue Presidents shouldn’t be punished for inertia or misjudgments once they leave office.

We think Somalia should make it in black and white that once you take power, you carry privileges and responsibilities, the latter of which must bear the burden of accountability.

A leader who curtails civil liberties, including freedoms of assembly, expression, and movement, as Farmajo often did against his political opponents, should be ready to face the judgment day. 

A leader who breaks promises he makes after the election should be presented to the public inquest and account for the stakes. A leader who takes advantage of nationalism but fails to reconcile ethnic communities must be reminded that he has sowed a seed of more profound future discord, which is a danger to the existence of the very nation.

Of course, Farmajo wasn’t entirely damaged goods. His government took a role in talks with the IMF on debt relief. But his tendency for shortcuts risked the very privilege by delaying elections. He claimed the credit for making biometric registration of the soldiers in the army, but he used the same security agencies as tools to tame political opponents. For him, a step forward was undercut by two backward, entrenching impunity.

Farmajo may never appear in a court of law to answer these misdeeds. But Somalia must pick lessons from this and pass a legal regime that will make it harder for bad apples to ever get into Villa Somalia.


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