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EDITORIAL: Leaders should place security issue at centre of the election plan


EDITORIAL | Somalis now have known their upcoming elections timelines for lawmakers and Senators in the next Parliament, as well as the new President, all process will be done by using indirect voting after the country's leaders, failed bid for universal suffrage due to political disputes that wasted all chances.

It is a reflection of how fast and smooth things can move when leaders sit down to discuss. More importantly, it is a result of compromise.

This week, President Farmajo referred to compromise when, at an event organized by the RAAS Institute for Policy Analysis, he argued that give-and-take had prevented foreign mediators from intervening in the country’s political discussions. That, he suggested, had prevented a possible interference.

Indeed, Somalia’s problems have been frequently blamed on outsider interference either in conditional support or in using specific entities to cause chaos.

But Somalia’s real challenge ahead of the elections may lie in security weaknesses. Despite the wrangling between the Federal Government in Mogadishu and the Federal States, all levels of government have faced the same problem: Al-Shabaab.

We note that there is some semblance of communication between these levels of government which may help prevent any possible attacks on civilian installations. The country must not, however, forget that the Al-Shabaab challenge is the very reason the country has been unable to hold one person, one vote elections.

The tentative timelines indicate that elections for MPs should be elected in December. That depends on a number of factors. The elections will need money, at least $50 million. They will need continued dialogue between different levels of government and Somalis will hope that no pandemic will stop them from holding elections.

But al-Shabaab’s shadow lingers in all of these. First, for a couple of years now, reports have emerged that the group changed tactics to morph and mingle with ordinary civilians. There were even reports that some of the elders, who would help nominate delegates, had been forced to follow Al-Shabaab commands. More importantly, Al-Shabaab’s financial muscle strengthened through the infiltration of government arms, which means it could still front candidates to compete for elections.

These reports, if true, suggest that al-Shabaab is no longer just the renegade fighters. It could involve very delegate voting. How to prevent infiltration of this political calendar by the Al-Shabaab will be the government’s biggest challenge.

At the Mogadishu event on September 26, President Farmajo told his audience that his government had “inflicted the hardest and toughest loss” to Al-Shabaab, and recovered strategic locations from the terrorist group.

It may be true that the Somali National Army [SNA] had beaten down those locations. But it may also be true that the Al-Shabaab simply changed tactics to win the war, rather than the battles.

This is why we call on leaders at all levels of government to include security issues at the center of the election plan. There will be more polling venues this year, compared to 2016-2017. The new electoral deal approved last week by the joint session of the Federal Parliament indicates that at least two cities in each state will hold elections.

That could provide more security challenges to the security forces. The African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM], despite its apparent weaknesses, has pledged to help support the program. But leaders ought to agree on which foreign entities will be welcome to support Somalia’s own security agencies.

Turkey, the US, and the UK have made significant contributions to the rebuilding of the SNA. Granted, Somalia’s military, which was among the strongest on the continent some 40 years ago, has only recently been revived from the dead.

Operating under an arms embargo from the UN, the SNA had been unable to re-equip or the country enters arms deals with outside entities.

It makes support as the SNA has received necessary. Yet it could be a double-edged sword. Outside helpers often come with their own interests. This is why we call on Somali leaders to sit down and sieve through the list of foreign entities and see those agreeable to assisting local security forces.