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OPINION – In the face of deadly drought, Somalia’s amorphous election discourse could trigger armed conflicts.

OPINION – In the face of deadly drought, Somalia’s amorphous election discourse could trigger armed conflicts.

Already struggling with droughts, floods, famine, Somalia now encountering uncertainty due to long-delayed parliamentary elections

The writer is a Senior Lecturer at Somali National University and Horn of Africa Affairs Analyst


Somalia is encountering an uncertainty due to the long-delayed parliamentary elections. The country was already struggling with the protracted droughts, floods, famine and locust which jeopardized the development. The constitutional mandate of the executive and the legislative branches ended. Article 91 of the Somalia provisional constitution states that, “the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia shall hold office for a term of four years, starting from the day he takes the oath of the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, in accordance with Article 96 of the constitution”. According to this, the sitting president was elected and performed the oath of the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia in February, 2017.

The current dichotomy among the top-echelons and the security implications

During the election period, it is advisable that, the fragile countries should tighten the security as an antidote for instability. Militarily, Somalia is dependent on friendly countries including Turkiye and the US. Al-Shabaab has increased its attacks against the Somali army, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and the Turkish-trained troops during the political instability in the country. Turkiye has been training Somali troops for the last four years as part of a 2010 military training cooperation agreement between the two countries. As per assessment, one of three Somali troops to be trained by Turkiye. So far, more than 2,500 Somalia national army trained by Turkish military staff with target of 5,000. According to the Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu, two-thirds of the Somali national army were either trained in Turkiye or were given training at TurkSom, a military training facility run by Turkiye, which is Ankara’s largest overseas military facility in the horn of African nation.

Some of the Somali government partners have accused the Somali army for their involvement in the ever-morphing politics in the country, especially the dubious parliamentary elections. As a caveat, the UK and other Western countries admonished the national army to step aside the politics, otherwise they will cut their funding. Throughout the history, Somalia has a terrible experience on how a highly contested and contentious elections may result in uncertainty. For instance, the last time that Somalis went to the ballot was 1967, where the late Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was elected the president. Sharmarke’s government did not last too long, and he was himself assassinated by a gunman under mysterious reasons. In 1969, after days of chaos and instability in the country, the military took power via coup d’état. During the military era, Somalis did not witness any fair and square elections except elections-like events where the authoritarian government had blatantly rigged.

Root causes of the intermittent conflicts

Somalia is a toddler country which is recovering from the legacy of the civil war that erupted in 1991. It is the second term that, Somalia’s successive governments have failed to orchestrate One-Person One-Vote election since 2012 when Somalia was recognized as a permanent government since the civil strife in 1991. In 2016 elections, the federal government and the federal member states agreed on indirect election model. Though, that model was a blessing in disguise, but the process was relatively balanced. Former President Hassan Sheikh who was accused for meddling in the election process has failed to be re-elected. The sitting president who was elected in February 2017 was persisting that his government will deliver a universal suffrage infelicitously, this ambition has ended-up futile.

After several meetings between the leaders of the central government and the Federal member states on the model of the election, in 17 September last year, both parties have agreed on indirect parliamentary elections. Even this political agreement faced a lack of political will and commitment among the political leaders. On April 12, the House of the People unilaterally invalidated the agreement, and gave the executive and the legislative branches two more years of extension that resulted in public outrage, split of the national army, and widespread condemnation. The flip side, several battalions revolted the government and retreated from their positions. As a result, some confrontations have been witnessed between the government forces and troops loyal to the opposition. On April 28, the president drops the two-year term extension, and transferred the responsibility of the election to Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble. Two days ago, from now on, the president has suspended the powers of the prime minister which resulted a smear campaign against each other. This chronic conflict may trigger a full-blown armed conflicts because all sides seem to be lacking the political maturity that this country is currently needs.

Lack of integrated efforts among the opposition and lack of unified showcase

The efforts of the dissenting voices are limited by the division within. They just keep rebuking differently the sitting president’s knee-jerk actions while not offering a rationale options. This division has diluted the magnitude of their endeavors. Two presidents and a prime minister are among the opposition group under the umbrella of “Council of Presidential Candidates”. Their statements reflect a counterpunch when the government commits a political mistake. Unfortunately, they don’t showcase unified efforts and a workable plan beyond Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s government. The worst is, sometimes the opposition utters a nihilistic political rhetoric with clannish mentality that can usher a hostility among the clans.

The dithering role of the international community

The international community tended all bark and no bite. They just keep shouting on rooftops. Somalia depends heavily on the support of the international community. As such, they have an undeniable influence on Somalia’s policy makers. While respecting Somalia’s sovereignty, the international community may mediate in the conflicting sides in order to bury the hatchet.

For instance, Turkiye has invested heavily in Somalia since 2011, built the infrastructure, augmented the budget from the Somalia Airport and the Seaport, and trained the government troops. In this regard, the Turkish government would be a good mediator for this political deadlock among the top officials. But, if the Somalia’s partners are hesitant to this quagmire, then the conflict may take it longer.


In order to fix the intermittent political infightings, I suggest:

  • A ripe moment and momentum is needed drastically;
  • A cessation of hostilities is demanded desperately;
  • A negotiation for the disingenuous willingness among the top officials;
  • Turkiye and other partners should play their role as an interlocker and interlocutor. Especially, Turkiye has a deep-rooted influence on the Somali government due to their support. With this soft power, Turkiye, as an emerging middle power, may take a bold decision to pressure on the current government to hold the elections.

* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of EA Institute

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