OP-ED: Somalia’s Darkest Hours: How Farmajo Almost Collapsed FGS
We all know Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo (president of Somalia from February 16th, 2017 to February 8th, 2021) failed Somalia politically, diplomatically, economically, and domestically during his time at the Villa Somalia (Somali White House). Like most Somalis, I was energized to have Farmaajo as the new President after 4 years and 4 months of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s tumultuous stunt at the Villa.
What makes Farmajo very dangerous compared to the rest of the failed Somali presidents is his authoritarian demeanor; compared to Hassan Sheikh, Farmaajo isn’t dull or ignorant in his messaging or execution. Farmajo knows Somalis quite well, and his analysis of his citizens is unfortunately correct to a fault. Somalis, with all the chaos, destruction, and terrorism have endured more instability than one group of people should ever have to tolerate. Somalis are quite frankly sick and tired of instability, embarrassment, and civil war. With that information in his arsenal, Framaajo began his blunt assault on the fragile institutions Somalia worked to build over the past twenty years.
Farmajo used key populist-like rhetoric to amass popularity with the Somali people. Regrettably, my people never learn (I can’t blame them) from history, and maybe it’s the high illiteracy rate within the country, or we are just sick and tired of the status quo of Somalia. You can’t blame people that can’t see beyond the horizon. All we know is death, terror, famine, and corruption. So when someone comes down from the mountain with a message like “Somalia is for Somalis” or “Somali airspace is under Somali government,” we buy into the rhetoric.
The politically ignorant would easily miss the obvious (Somali airspace would always come back under Somali control) and equate such a move as patriotic. Farmajo weaponized patriotism and nationalism, like all striving authoritarians on this planet. His message was blue and white (the flag of Somalia) without delivering on the tangible change he promised. I know the majority of politicians are all talk and have no action, like Obama’s “Change We Can Believe In.” Weak authoritarians are hellbent on delivering the opposite of their message while being wrapped around patriotism and nationalism with the single viewpoint of holding on to power.
My awakening to this nightmare was Qalbi Dhagax’s (Somali veteran of the Somalia-Ethiopia War) rendition by the so-called “patriot and nationalist” at the Villa Somalia. This took place following the transfer of Abdikarin Sheikh Muse (Qalbi Dhagax), a member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, (“ONLF” are freedom fighters for occupied Ogaden Somali territory by Ethiopia) to Ethiopia in August 2017. Farmaajo’s government failed to prevent Somalia’s version of its September 11th; on the 14th of October, 2017, two truck bombings took place in Mogadishu, killing at least 600 people and injuring 300 others. The worst terrorist attack on the African continent.
With blunder after blunder during his legal and illegal tenure at the Villa Somalia, Farmajo’s main mission was to reassemble the Federal Republic of Somalia into a centralized organization under his management; he also wanted to forcefully take back Somaliland (a self-declared Republic after the collapse of the dictator Mohamed Siad Barre), after ending a longstanding line of communication with Hargeisa (Capital of Somaliland).
This May, Somalia could end the chapter of the would-be dictator at the Villa Somalia. Farmaajo successfully removed his political opposition by utilizing corruption, threats, assassinations, or kidnapping. Jawari (former Speaker of the Federal Parliament of Somalia) questioned Framaajo’s executive branch overreach, and with the help of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire they removed the speaker with a threat of a “no-confidence vote.” Farmaajo appointed Mohamed Mursal Minister of Defense as the new Speaker of Parliament.
Farmajo succeeded in removing a regional president of Galmudug, (Galmudug State of Somalia) Ahmed Duale Gelle “Xaaf,” who aligned himself with the council of regional presidents of Somalia (leaders of the federal member states of Somalia). They had a majority until the undoing of Galmudug, Hirshable’s flip-flopping of Mohamed Abdi Ware (former president of Hirshabelle), which led to his resignation due to an impending no-confidence vote within his state, by Farmaajo allies in Hirshabelle.
The Southwest State's bloody takeover, by Villa Somalia, orchestrated “elections,” was nothing short of handpicking the regional leadership and attempting an assault on Jubaland elections. At this point, the Villa Somalia tried airlifting military commandos into Kismayo (Jubaland capital) to repeat the situation in Southwest State. Luckily, Jubaland was more established than the Southwest State, so they were able to block the Kismayo airport with heavy military vehicles on the runway.
Puntland’s elections were also under scrutiny by Farmajo’s government as well. Unfortunately, for the Villa Somalia, Puntland is one of the oldest federal states with a standing army. Nevertheless, Garowe (Puntland capital) didn’t take a chance with the “mad king” and ordered all entry points of Puntland closed during the election.
Villa Somalia declared Nicholas Haysom, United Nations envoy to Somalia, "persona non grata" for questioning the government about the legal basis used in the arrest of the political opposition leader of Southwest State, Mukhtar Robow (a former al-Shabab who defected in 2017) and whether UN-funded Southwest police were involved in the killing of citizens including a member of the regional parliament and critic of Farmaajo.
The Villa has also removed Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire as he was representing Farmaajo during the election process proceedings in Baidoa (Capital of Southwest State). As he was traveling back from Baidoa to Mogadishu, parliament triggered a vote of no-confidence under the order of the president “The Mad King” believed Khaire was undermining him by overstepping his position in the Villa Somalia’s hierarchy.
Khaire’s communication skills and marketing of Farmajo’s government were seen as a new era for Somalia’s dysfunctional relationship between the prime minister and president. Just 5 months shy of finishing a full term, Villa Somalia pulled the plug on Hassan Ali Khaire, the longest-serving post-civil war prime minister of Somalia.
During his flagrant violation of Somalia’s post-civil war legal doctrines - to keep the peace and check the power of the presidency in a fragile country - Farmajo marketed these political, criminal, and dictatorial maneuvering as restoring dignity to Somalia. All this as he befriends Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, and President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki. Both were accused of human rights violations before and during the Tigray War in Ethiopia, in which Farmajo was allegedly accused of sending Somali military personnel to Eritrea to help in the Tigray war.
With the collapse of the federal system in Somalia nearing, and opposition presidential candidates exhausting all options, Farmaajo’s speaker of parliament, Mohamed Mursal, decreed a two-year extension (which would give Farmajo until February 8th, 2023) for the usurper that sits in the “Kursiga Madaxweynaha” (the presidency). This careless and dangerous behavior almost erupted in violence. The opposition had nothing left in their political toolbelt other than calling on the Somali way of doing politics. A group of armed soldiers calling themselves “Defenders Of The Nation” rolled into Mogadishu. With that in mind, Farmaajo believed he could manipulate the opposition by appointing the new prime minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, to deescalate the situation in Mogadishu and slowly move the election process.
The unforeseen circumstances: Farmajo believed he could handle the new prime minister and shield himself from the opposition. During a visit to parliament, Farmajo handed all election and security-related powers to Roble. With that in mind, Roble assumed the role of the caretaker of the nation. He started hosting the regional leaders of Somalia in Mogadishu and came up with a timetable for the new election system.
Prime Minister Roble had the confidence of the opposition leadership to deliver a timely election for the Somali people. But no one ever said it would be a smooth and easy mission. Nay! Prime Minister Roble had his work cut out for him. Undoing almost 5 years of authoritarian infrastructure wasn’t going to be easy. Plus, Farmajo and his political subservient were in full survival mode.
This included, but was not limited to, corruption, threats, assassinations, or kidnapping. One of the major kidnappings and assassination accusations was related to Farmaajo’s number two man in Villa Somalia. Fahad Yasin, Somalia’s Director-General of the National Intelligence and Security Agency, was accused of kidnapping and murdering one of his employees, 24-year-old Ikran Tahlil Farah, who worked in NISA’s cybersecurity department.
The mission of intimidation and threats of violence was not limited to low-level government employees. Prime Minister Roble himself was threatened with removal from office by a military subdivision loyal to Farmajo. This came after the multiple attempts Farmajo tried to curve, block, or stop the prime minister from proceeding with the election process. Nevertheless, Roble marched on with the task at hand, in the middle of dealing with Africa’s most complicated elections (tribal selections).
The African Union special representative for Somalia, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, was declared persona non grata "for engaging in acts that are incompatible with his status as representative of the African Union Commission" (Spat over AU, 2022, para. 2). Ambassador Francisco Madeira was recorded as having personal viewpoints in support of Farmaajo, at which point the Villa Somalia tried to contradict the prime minister's persona non grata, calling it “unconstitutional” - which is laughable coming from an illegal-term-extended president.
But Roble pushes on, this past April, Prime Minister Roble concluded all necessary processes to start the presidential election this May, 15th. With Mohamed Mursal no longer speaker of parliament of the new session, and the current members overwhelmingly voting for a non-Villa Somalia sponsored speaker. The road back to the Villa Somalia isn’t as clear as it was for the Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. Long Live Freedom!
By Iman Ali.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Garowe Online's editorial policy.