Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, alias Farmajo, has extended his stay in office for a further two years. His term ended on February 8, after four years, and elections for a new president were supposed to have been held.
Farmajo used the deadlock over the mode of voting between the federal government and the federal states as the excuse to extend his term. His government and the governments of several of the federal states are unable to agree whether to continue with the delegate system used previously, or introduce universal suffrage of one-person one-vote.
Farmaajo has dug himself into a cul-de-sac, and there will be consequences. To begin with, the two-year period will not resolve the problem. The relations between the federal and state governments will only deteriorate further because of this impasse. There are five states, Jubbaland, Puntland, South-West, Galmudug, and Hir-Shabelle some of whom have rejected universal suffrage.
Those that want the delegates system even want it reformed to be more democratic and transparent, something the Farmajo government has rejected. The federal government has zero capacity to force the states rejecting universal suffrage to participate in an election they don’t want. Farmajo is facing an even more daunting challenge. His key international backers, principally the US and Britain, have rejected the extension of his term.
Unfortunately, despite mumblings by some Somalis this is interference in the country’s internal affairs, a government that fully relies on the goodwill of the international community for its very existence, needs to be more humble. Without these backers, the federal government would be overrun by Al Shabaab within days.
The way out for Farmaajo is talks, but he will have to recuse himself from running for another term to give comfort to those who think he is trying to put in place a system that favours his re-election prospects. He should have put in place a care taker government of national unity to reach a consensus, and organise polls during this extension period.
Worse for the Somali federal government, increasing challenges are compounding its problems. A resurgent Al Shabaab has intensified its bombing campaign in the capital Mogadishu in recent months, obviously taking advantage of an increasingly distracted government, and rising political tensions in the country. Somalia is in the midst of a second wave of the Covid, which has proved more deadly than the first wave.
Infections and deaths have shot up, at a time when the poorly equipped and poorly resourced healthcare system is pushed to the limit. The chickens of Kenya finally putting its foot down over the closure of the Daadab refugee camps, are coming home to roost. Kenya has demanded that the international community put together a time bound plan to repatriate home all the 200,000 Somali refugees, and has given deadlines. Settling the refugees in Somalia will stretch the resources and logistics of the Somali government to the limit.
And right now, its key priority is survival. The African Union has been very quiet over these developments. Normally quick off the mark to condemn military power grabs, it has refused to object as government after government has violated its country’s constitution for political purposes.
Unfortunately, Kenya cannot escape fallout from the ensuing Somali crisis. Kenya has been the focus of Farmaajo’s attempts at deflecting attention from his internal problems through hysterical pronouncements that Kenya is interfering with its internal affairs. Despite Kenya denying any such interference, the fact is that Kenya cannot sit back and let Somalia mess itself up, as it is always the country that bears the brunt of the resultant chaos.
Farmajo’s power grab by tampering with constitutional term limits needs to be seen against the broader context of the continent where presidents are now routinely over throwing constitutional term limits to allow them to run, and win, third terms.
This has drastically rolled back the democratic gains Africa made in the early years of this century, and it has been directly responsible for most of the violence and political tension that is now engulfing the continent.