Somalia: The politics of leviathan and the cluelessness of the PM

There are enormous factors that cause this perennial problem including but not limited a clan-politics which necessitates staunches rather than dissents.

Somalia is a nation in search of sustainable, functioning and stable state. To this effect, many attempts has been tried since the state collapse in 1991. From Arta-Djibouti to Mbagathi-Kenya, and within the country, plethora of reconciliations and state-building conferences has been held.

With all these endeavors, there are fundamentally flawed issues that has been frequently repeated; loyalty over competence and mediocre over meritocracy. From the legislative branch to the cabinet of Somalia’s successive governments, there has been always a huge number of incompetents.

There are enormous factors that cause this perennial problem including but not limited a clan-politics which necessitates staunches rather than dissents.

Lack of political parties where individuals contest within the party assembly before they are exposed to the public, is also another major factor. These unqualified people have dominated the political arena and jeopardized the development of the country.

Hassan’s government

Instead of official political parties that compete the politics, there are number of loose organizations. DamulJadiid and Daljir are among them. Especially, DamulJadiid has split from the bigger Islah movement in Somalia. So far, it has produced many prominent politicians including the incumbent president. President Hassan Sheikh was elected in his first term in August 2012.

During that period, his government had attained enormous issues including the formation of four out of the five federal member states; grading and ranking of the civil servants, public financial management PFM, relatively improved the foreign policy and others.

Equally, his government has done tremendous wrongdoings including rampant corruption in the public sector, patronage, nepotism, fought the nascent federal member state, Jubbaland, disbanded dissents and invited only inner-circles. As a result, and revolt, on February 2017, former PM, Mohamed Abdullahi, better known as Farmajo was elected as president of Somalia. 

In hindsight, Farmajo was a populist leader and media tycoon who has gained the layman’s support, but failed to solicit the support of the intellectuals or elites. His government has severed the diplomatic ties with the neighboring countries especially Kenya and Djibouti; and these mistakes has crippled his government.

DamulJadiid, Daljir, quasi-political parties, and other opposition groups have suffered drastically under Nabad and Nolol regime. Farmajo’s government has employed iron fist rule, tended knee-jerk actions and practiced extrajudicial power abuses.

The two presidents Sheekh Sharif and Hassan Sheekh were blocked to travel; attacked their residence, and the former PM, MPs, politicians and civilians were fired with live bullets while demonstrating peacefully by the notorious police unit of Haramacad (cheetah). These challenges faced by the opposition groups has created a political intermarriage between DamulJadiid and Daljir.

When Farmajo lost his re-election bid on 15 May, and superseded by Hassan, then DamulJadiid and Daljir revitalized. And now, they are tactically filling in the major public positions, and both are trying to flex their muscles.

Hamza’s Premiership

A longtime friend of Hassan, and member of DamulJadiid, Hamza Abdi Barre, on June 16 was appointed as Prime Minister for Somalia, and on June 25 got vote of confidence from the Somali parliament (House of the People).

He is a politically novice, but has grown up under the umbrella of DamulJadiid. President Hassan did not give any opportunity for him during his first term in 2012-17.

Hamza was despised during that era, and that has given him a competitive advantage and a point of negotiation as long as Hassan has felt a political guilt of not accommodating him before.

Hamza is not someone who has a deep-rooted connection to his constituency until 2019 where he became the chairman of the Jubbaland election commission, and halalized president Ahmed Madobe’s dubious re-election in order to secure his seat as an MP for his sub-tribe.

Khayre vs Saacid Style

President Hassan’s first term, has appointed Saacid as prime minister. Saacid was easy going, humble and a good servant. Because of his soft leadership, plenty of his cabinet ministers, especially those who were connected to president Hassan, rejected to abide by his guidance. After one year, he had encountered a motion, and the Somali parliament voted for vote of no confidence to his cabinet.

Khayre, a very flamboyant person was appointed as prime minister in 2017 by Farmajo. He was a very servile to his boss Farmajo, but harsh and bossy to his cabinet members. Khayre has succeeded to manage and control his ministers. As such, he is the longest-served prime minister since the state collapse.

These are the two types that most of the prime ministers of Somalia tended. Either they become true staunch like PM Saacid, yet he did not survive for his softness, or like Khayre who had employed “kiss up and kick down” and survived for three years and half.

I think, the Khayre style is more appropriate to the current context in Somalia. Because, PM Hamza is confronting challenges of disobedience from his cabinet. For instance, one of his ministers said earlier in an event “I say thanks to the president who has appointed me for this position”. This is a naked aggression against the PM, and at the same time indicates how the PM is somehow lame-duck.

To this effect, Hamza should and must convince the president that, he is a staunch to him, but he has to allow him to take a full control of his cabinet, so both the president and the PM piggyback each other. This would prevent any dichotomy and conflict between them, and pave the way a political stability in the country.

If the president disapproves to his suggestion, then sooner rather than later, they disagree. Because, the giants of DamulJadiid are back with bang. They made a mammoth Ill-gotten wealthy during the first term of president Hassan, and they are hankering for the same.

The youngsters of DamulJadiid are like what the Ghanaian economist and Author George Ayittey has called in his book (Defeating Dictators) as “Cheetah Generation”.

Remember, president Hassan is more macro-manager than president Farmajo. Farmajo used to delegate and give some leeway to his sub-ordinates, and control the head, while Hassan is a man of details, macro-manager, and tries to engage in the issues down-to-earth because of his academia background. That is why many of the people are trapped in deciphering from each other.

If president Hassan and Prime Minister agree to work closely and honestly, even Hamza would have an opportunity to be a good option for DamulJadiid for the next election.

Hamza should distinguish his friends, foes and freeloaders!

With the consultation of some of his charlatan inner-circle, Hamza has appointed several advisors to his office; most of them are Khayre/Farmajo team, infelicitously. The lingering question is, how these members who are staunch to his political nemesis, Nabad and Nolol can be loyal at the same period to him?

The biggest impetus for this unripe decision is, his advisor for politics and programs who himself is a close friend of former PM Khayre. 
It seems PM Hamza is wittingly or naively accommodating those who are going to uproot him.

He should fend-off those who have infiltrated into his government before they stifle him. Because, there is a nail-biting political competition between DamulJadiid and Nabad and Nolol.

Hamza is not even active in the local issues that matter like, he was denied by the thin-skinned president of Puntland Deni to visit Garowe and the opening ceremony of Garacad Port; equally he is not active in the ongoing fight against Al-Shabaab.

Though I give Hamza for benefit of doubt as he is still in a learning curve, but his government is older than first 100 days for the international benchmark.

Anwar Abdifatah Bashir is a Ph.D. Candidate in Diplomacy and International Studies at University of Nairobi, and senior lecturer at Somali National University. Twitter: @Anwaryare1000

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