Dr. Mohamud Uluso
On February 8, 2021, the Federal Republic of Somalia (FRS) descended into leadership crisis after the members of the federal parliament and president Farmajo lost the mandate to govern because of the end of their terms in office on December 27, 2020 and February 7, 2021 respectively.
President Farmajo and members of the federal parliament are “usurpers of authority,” and they lost the legitimacy to act like elected leaders. Federal Member State of Puntland, Council of Presidential Candidates, and majority of the Somali people declared that they do no longer recognize Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo as President of the FRS. This declaration challenges the legitimacy of the security protection and political support the African Union forces (AMISOM) and the United Mission for Somalia (UNSOM) provide to the usurpers of authority.
Farmajo as president failed to prioritize, lead, and organize the mandated elections on time because he wanted to remain president beyond his term limit of four years through fraudulent elections. He disregarded the fundamental significance free and fair elections have for the stability, security and governance of Somalia. Fortunately, this dangerous power grab was frustrated by internal and external events such as the gulf and Ethiopia crisis, the foresight and resistance of the leaders of Jubbaland and Puntland states, PM Kheire jumping ship at the last minute, public resistance, courageous opposition leaders speaking out, and finally the change of global politics as a result of the American leadership change.
The concern for turmoil in Somalia is real. The Somali citizens and international partners are nervous about the provocative, inflammatory, and invective statements and speeches of president Farmajo. For example, in an inflammatory speech delivered on February 6, 2021 at the House of the People, he blamed and demeaned everyone including the international partners but himself. He didn’t have the will, interest, and capacity to conduct, promote, and facilitate negotiations and consensus among Somali stakeholders on the implementation of free and fair elections. International partners had to intervene to break the impasse that stalled the cooperation between the federal and state governments for more than 2 years.
President Farmajo, for four years, focused on replacing members of state parliaments and presidents of the FMS with loyalists in order to ensure his undisputed stay in power for life. He brutally forced state leaders to leave offices before the end of their term so that the federal government – the National Security Intelligence Agency (NISA) and the Ministry of Interior, federal, and reconciliation- conducts sham elections with foreknown results. The experience from the federal government’s misappropriation of the FMS elections inhibits the trust between usurper Farmajo and other stakeholders for serious negotiations.
Despite repeated warning and categorical objections by the majority of the Somali people and by the international partners against term extension, the federal parliament adopted a resolution intended to approve the indirect election model agreed between the federal government and FMS on 17 September 2020 but included a clause that extends the term of the federal parliament and implicitly the term of the federal president until new parliament and new president are elected on an indefinite date. The extension clause included in the resolution violates the articles 60 (term of Office of federal parliament), 91 (term of office of the President), and 132 (Provisions applicable to amendment to the constitution after the expiry of the First term of the federal parliament) of the provisional constitution. Therefore, the illegal parliamentary resolution has no relevance for consideration.
The delay of elections through deceptive maneuvers has become a political strategy used to achieve term extension or in other words to stay in power by all means necessary. The continuation of the tenure of the members of the federal parliament and the president in office beyond their constitutional term limits constitutes a dangerous practice that undermines the consolidation of the democratization process in Somalia.
Therefore, it’s crucial to ask both the members of the federal parliament and the president to relinquish their authority as required by the constitution. President Farmajo should vacate the presidency with immediate effect in order to stabilize the whole political situation. The removal the usurpers from office will settle forever the obligations to hold elections on schedule and will strengthen the respect of the rule of law and the democratic governance in the future. It also shuts down the ongoing illegal deliberations of the House of the People of the federal parliament after its term ended.
Somali experts and opposition groups have suggested how to address the vacancy at the federal parliament and presidency until elections are conducted. The suggestion was to establish a “transitional national council or provisional sovereign Council” to fulfil the functions of the federal parliament and president. However, the main challenges are the identification of the members of the council in addition to the presidents of the FMS and the allocation of transitional responsibilities and powers. After four year of chaos, dereliction of duties, corruption, and lack of accountability, elections frauds, and social divisions under president Farmajo’s rule, Somalia needs brief pause to reflect on the past and on the way forward for better future in the post-Farmajo turbulent presidency.
One possible composition would be the five presidents of the FMS, the Speakers of the federal parliament, and the Prime Minister. According to article 57 of the provisional constitution, the Speaker of the Upper House will chair the Council and guard Villa Somalia.
The immediate tasks of the council will be: 1. To find solution to the crisis of Gedo region which is part of Jubbaland State; 2. To settle the crisis of Hirshabelle state; 3. To stabilize the political and security situation of the country before elections; 4. To develop clear rules for holding free and fair election in accordance with September 17 electoral agreement. The council must issue transparent procedures for the selection of voters for each seat, verification and validation procedures, voting process, rights and obligations of candidates, process for proposing the candidates for senate seats to the state parliament, consequences for corruption, and mechanism for dispute resolution; 5. To oversee the executive and judiciary performance.
After suspending the legislative sessions of the federal parliament, the standing committees of both chambers of the federal parliament will remain as caretaker bodies for the parliamentary administrative businesses. Similarly, the Council of Ministers should continue to serve in a caretaker government capacity and fulfill only the responsibilities mentioned in paragraph (f) of the article 99 of the provisional constitution. Those responsibilities are to implement laws, ensure national security, and protect state interests. All other responsibilities under articles 99 and 100 are suspended until after elections.
Considering the politicization and misuse of the security forces, it is necessary to review the integrity and professionalism of the commanders of the security institutions – Military, Police, NISA, and Custodial corps –for their adherence to the constitution and rule of law. Tainted Commanders should be relieved from their positions quickly. This strengthens the integrity and trust of the federal security forces and the elections.
The international partners of Somalia should play active role in this turbulent time Somalia finds itself and should cooperate with the Council and the FMSs for restoring good governance and preventing fraudulent elections. A unified role of the international partners is a precondition for impact, public trust, progress, and strengthened democratic system of governance in Somalia.
Dr. Mohamud Uluso