Amid political turmoil in Somalia, Farmajo turns sword to critics and independent media


MOGADISHU, Somalia - With over two months after the expiry of his tenure, Somalia's outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo seems relentless in his quest to continue holding power, despite constitutional limitations and other hindering legal frameworks.

The constitution strictly allows one to be president for four years and after that, he or she can seek a fresh mandate. The Horn of Africa nation doesn't have term limits, an indication that one can be president for life, until such a time death knocks, or he's abdicated.

For the last several months, the country has evidently struggled to make compromises on the model, members of the electoral committee among other serious factors which paves way for the free and fair electoral process which meets international standards.

A host of meetings between the federal government and federal states have often hit a dead end, further making it rather cumbersome for the international community to end the deadlock through intense negotiations which have been going on in Mogadishu.

For instance, the FMS and FGS talks which have been ongoing in Afisiyooni Center broke down early this week, following a tough-worded press statement which was issued by Villa Somalia, shifting blames to Jubaland and Puntland.

In the statement, FGS said, "our efforts to unlock the deadlock are in the public domain. From conceding that we have improved the clan-based model to sealing a deal in September, and supporting Baidoa recommendations. They just don't want us to move."

But in a rejoinder, Jubaland and Puntland accused outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo of "blackmail" and distanced themselves from the standoff. According to the leadership of the two states, talks were still ongoing given the agenda had not been settled, adding that "Farmajo should come back to the negotiating table".

Insiders had told Garowe Online that Jubaland and Puntland want Feb 19 deadly shooting targeting opposition supporters and the legitimacy of the current administration addressed in the agenda, a move that was declined by FGS, which is insisting on September pre-election deal.

The international community continues to pile the pressure on the country's leadership, calling for genuine dialogue and reconciliation. Jubaland and Puntland also want other stakeholders like the union of presidential candidates included in the talks.

Crack against critics

But to stamp his authority, the president has been regularly blamed for using security forces to target critics, who have often questioned his commitment to implement the September pre-election deal and many other agreements have been reached.

For instance, on February 19, security forces targeted demonstrators in Mogadishu where they used live bullets. Although the government would later apologize after meeting opposition candidates, the matter has continued to evoke political emotions.

The government has been trying to block protests and even failed to give security to protestors even after agreeing to a meeting. Elite Somali National Army [SNA] troops are said to be deployed in strategic positions to intimidate critics.

Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, the leader of the Wadajir party, recently accused Farmajo of "equipping security forces against anti-government crusaders instead of directing the energy to the war against Al-Shabaab militants".

But the government, through information minister Osman Abukar Dubbe, has often insisted that "security forces have a right to stamp authority on matters national security". National Intelligence Security Agency [NISA] is also accused of targeting critics.

And to win the war on social media, the government has strategically poised online trolls, most of who target the opposition team, by circulating propaganda and disinformation. A number of them create duplicate accounts for the government critics.

War against media

Not spared either in the current political storm is the independent media, which has been covering the country's political issues objectively and without coercion from state machinery and other government bureaucrats.

For over ten months now, cases of persecution targeting journalists have been rampant, with some of them getting slapped with sentences for reporting credibility on the government's incapacitation and maladministration.

One of the cases involved targeting Voice of America reporter Harun Maruf, who the NISA team had associated with Al-Shabaab, without tangible evidence. But even with the case dragging, the America-based reporter has been a victim of social media trolls.

On Friday, Garowe Online, a subsidiary of Garowe Media Group, was on the receiving end from the trolls, leading to suspension of her Twitter account after a spirited fight by the trolls. Twitter has since reinstated the account unconditionally.

Mohamed Abdirahman Farole, one of the founding members of the media group, quoted Potter Stewart in regard to what happened. He said: “Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”

The country is experiencing political stalemate amid the ongoing fight against Al-Shabaab militants, who control large swathes of rural central and southern Somalia. The international partners have been committal in the fight against the militants.


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