AU appoints ex-Ghana president as special envoy to Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Former Ghanaian President John Mahama will now serve as African Union Commission's Special envoy to Somalia, the commission announced on Friday, just days after the country's leadership rescinded President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo's term extension, which had caused rifts in the country.
Mahama will now serve as High Representative in Somalia, representing AUC chair Moussa Faki, a former Prime Minister for Chad. He's set to arrive in the Horn of Africa within the shortest time possible, where he will broker negotiations between the opposition and government.
Earlier, sources privy to the appointment had exclusively told Garowe Online about the planned appointment, adding that he is scheduled to lead negotiations between two warring parties in the country. The country is yet to hold elections despite the expiry of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo's term.
In a dispatch, AUC said Mahama will work with Somali stakeholders "to reach a mutually acceptable compromise towards an all-encompassing resolution for the holding of Somali elections in the shortest possible time". In fulfilling his mandate, the Commission said, the High Representative will be supported by AMISOM, "to ensure that the mediation efforts and the peace support operation work together seamlessly".
The African Union security team had condemned Farmajo's term extension, insisting that it's a recipe for violence, and would have eroded gains made by international partners in the country. It's part of the team that influenced Farmajo's decision to back down.
The High Representative, AUC added, will now work to ensure that a democratically elected government serves in Somalia, noting that elections should be inclusive, with the international community now expected to work closely with Somalia, to realize the much-needed peace.
"The Chairperson of the Commission calls on the Somali stakeholders to negotiate in good faith, and to put the interests of Somalia and the well-being of the Somali people above all else in the search for an inclusive settlement to the electoral crisis," the commission said.
"This should usher in a democratically elected government with the legitimacy and mandate to resolve the remaining outstanding political and constitutional issues that are posing a threat to the stability of the country and the region as a whole."
Who is Mahama?
Mahama, an eloquent speaker, is a former Ghanaian President who served from 2012 to 2016 and is a renowned mediator. He's among the respected eminent persons in the continent thus the decision to entrust him with the responsibilities.
He previously served as Vice President of Ghana from January 2009 to July 2012 and took office as president on 24 July 2012 following the death of his predecessor John Atta Mills.
Mahama is a communication expert, historian, and writer. He is a member of the National Democratic Congress [NDC], who was a Member of Parliament for Bole Bamboi from 1997 to 2009 and served as Deputy Minister for Communication between 1997 and 1998 before becoming the substantive Minister for Communications from 1998 to 2001.
His choice as envoy has been welcomed by a number of crisis experts, given his role in handing over power peacefully in Ghana after defeat to President Nana Addo, breaching the jinx which had long characterized African incumbent leaders as "power-hungry".
"Excellent choice. Mahama showed in 2017 that an incumbent can lose an election and accept defeat with grace, something that happens all too rarely on the continent," says Murithi Mutiga, a director with International Crisis Group [ICG].
"Good move from the African Union to get this process off the ground, especially as dynamics [both positive and negative] have been unfolding rapidly in Mogadishu over the past few weeks," adds Omar S. Mahmood, an analyst with ICG.
Such moves are common during a time of crisis. For instance, AU at one point appointed former Ghana President John Kuffuor to media the Kenyan crisis of 2007/08, before the former leader opted to propose former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the same role, leading to an amicable solution.