In this piece, I juxtapose two-prime ministers who share plenty of characteristics. Namely, the incumbent PM Mohamed Hussein Roble and former PM Mohamed Hawadle Madar.
Prime minister Madar was appointed in September, 1990 by the former president of Somalia Mohamed Siadbarre. PM Madar, was originated from the current Somaliland, the then British Somaliland. In profession, he was engineer.
He was a member of the ruling party Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party. He served several cabinet portfolios from 1975-86 including Ministries of Public Works, Communication and Post, and Planning. Apart from that, he was not an eloquent person, rather quiet man.
His nomination as a prime minister came when the oppositions were spreading the whole country, and the government’s power was shrinking and vanishing. The most prominent opposition factions at that time include, the oldest opposition faction Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) which was founded in 1978.
Followed by Somali National Movement (SNM) which was established in 1981 in the United Kingdom. And then, followed by the other factions such as The United Somali Congress (USC) and Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) respectively. All these rebel factions were against the iron fist rule of Siadbarre regime. These rebel groups were organized in a clan-wise, and they launched all-or-nothing attacks against the Siadbarre regime. When the Siadbarre regime felt that his government is losing its teeth and weakening by day, he appointed PM Madar in order to negotiate the rebel movements.
Many people had believed that, PM Madar can convene the oppositions and reach-out an agreement. Unfortunately, Madar didn’t accommodate the factions, rather he launched draconian actions against them. Since then, the situation became intractable and blowback.
The people fizzled-out and became desperate. Finally, PM Madar was replaced by Omar Arteh Ghalib in January, 1991, and then Somalia undertook civil war, anarchy and internecine clan-violence.
Same, PM Roble is an engineer in profession. He was appointed in September, 2020. He is a quiet man. He is confronting almost similar challenges which his predecessor PM Madar has faced, especially the transition challenges. Though, Roble is a novice in the politics, unlike Madar who was veteran politician.
But, PM Roble has competitive advantages including, he has a trust from the oppositions, the international community (IC), there is somehow a fledgling democracy in the country, federalism which limits the power of the center, and finally the people are more educated, civilized, and open-ended compare to the Siadbarre’s era. Unlike PM Madar who didn’t get the rebel factions’ trust, and the so-called International Community was not in the house at that era.
The flipside, during the former central government, Siadbarre was oppressing specific clans, and those clans established movements accordingly. For instance, SSDF was dominated by Majeerteen, SNM was dominated by Isaaq, USC was dominated by Hawiye, and SPM was dominated by Ogaden.
In this contemporary era, Puntland, Jubbaland, and Council of Presidential Candidates (CPC) are the dissenting voices against the incumbent president. So, we can see the similarities.
Clashes and scuffles against the Extension!
Constitutionally, both the incumbent president and the parliament have expired their mandate in 08 February, 2021, and 27 December, 2020 respectively. After several futile gatherings among the incumbent federal government and the federal member states +Mayor and Governor of Benadir, they signed “17 September Agreement” in 2020 as a breakthrough. Unfortunately, this agreement becomes dubious.
Because, the points in the agreement are fathomable, yet both sides started mutual-demonization and smear campaigns. As the English people say “The devil is in the details” which means, there are untold and unseen issues in the agreement such as Gedo administration and the 16 seats allocated; the Somaliland case; and the latent Electoral Commission.
After plenty of discussions among the FG and FMS which ended-up in vain, the parliament, especially House of the People unilaterally extended in 12 April, 2021 the mandate of the legal institutions including the Federal Parliament, the president, and the executive branch. Since then, the two FMS namely Puntland and Jubbaland, and the copperhead opposition group freaked-out and boycotted such extension citing it’s against the constitution and the democracy wise.
Additionally, the international community en masse rebuffed such extension, and urged to go-back the discussion table. The FG didn’t give any consideration the international call. The opposition group engaged mobilizing their clans, recruiting and buying weapons in order to resist the incumbent government. Several army personnel became mutineers including the notorious General Sadak John. Several battalions withdrew their camps, especially the Middle-Shabelle region, and joined the mutineers. Since then, the situation becomes chaos and amok.
In late May, this year, scuffles have been witnessed which led casualties and displacement.
Then, the incumbent president realized that, the extension is a pipedream in Somalia. Fortunately, in 1 May, this year, the House of the People canceled the extension, and endorsed to go-back 17 September agreement. In the meantime, the president handed-over the electoral process, and the security to the PM Roble. It was breath of fresh air that day, and it collected public kudos and much accolades from the International Community. The PM also received a collective reception from the oppositions and the restive FMS namely Puntland and Jubbaland.
May 20, 2021: The long-awaited!
The innocuous PM Mr. Roble engaged reconciliation and healing because of the trust-deficit among the FG and the oppositions. Roble received much appreciation from the Somali people, oppositions, and the IC. He announced in 20th May, this year a conference among the FG and the FMS, and more likely the opposition umbrella may participate the meeting. That conference will decide and shape the long-awaited election of Somalia. Also, Mr. Roble’s political weight will be realized.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar: Proxy war is imminent!
Since the PM Roble takes the lead, he travelled twice. Once he went to Saudi-Arabia with the camouflage of Umrah, and the other one attended the inauguration ceremony of Djibouti’s president. Many of the talking-heads including me believe that, Saudi-Arabia and Qatar are competing diplomatically in Somalia. The two-gulf states severed their ties since June, 2017.
Since then, Qatar was encountering diplomatic isolation. As many believe that, Qatar has a deep-rooted political clout to the sitting federal government of Somalia. Earlier this month (May), an envoy from Qatar arrived in Mogadishu-Somalia. He met with the sitting government and majority of the opposition members.
The envoy’s trip has multifaceted purposes, he convinced Somalia-Kenya to restoring their diplomatic ties. Apart from that, as long as the sitting government’s extension has been canceled, it is possible that Qatar disfavored the incumbent, and is looking for another competitive candidate. Same, it is viable that, Saudi-Arabia is trying to offer a support the incumbent government and supersede Qatar.
With all these ragtag politics and slippery-slope election process, the PM Roble has the highest responsibility to manage the issues with coolheaded, especially the Upcoming election. Yesterday, 16 May, the Council of the Presidential Candidates (CPC) accused the PM that, he is not engaging the gist of the issues, instead swamped with persiflage (Joyful Meetings).
I prod the PM to accommodate all the political stakeholders in order to reach-out any kind of political settlement, based on 17 September Agreement as a blessing in disguise.
As a caveat, I urge the PM Roble, don’t become like PM Madar who lost the trust of the Somali people in 1990, and by his faults the country undertook civil war. You have all the political opportunities that someone can have, the public trust, the international appreciation, and the opposition’s trust. Don’t waste this unique golden opportunity. Tie your waste with scab (Show Determination). I wonder Mr. Roble, if you can hear and heed me!
Anwar Abdifatah Bashir. Author and Horn of Africa Affairs Analyst
Email: email@example.com Follow him on Twitter: @Anwaryare1000