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New Somalia PM should avoid entertaining political deal-making

Roble replaces Khaire who was kicked out in a controversial vote of no confidence in his government last July 25 [Photo: Villa Somalia]

EDITORIAL | Somalia finally has a new Prime Minister, exactly sixty days after Hassan Khaire was kicked out in a controversial vote of no confidence in his government.

This week, Somali MPs approved the appointment of Mr. Mohamed Hussein Roble to take over the hot seat. Things have moved so fast since Mr. Roble was picked from the crowd.

A fairly unknown name, the 57-year-old Roble has risen from a quiet regional office of the International Labour Organisation in Nairobi into the eye of Somalia’s political storm, and future.

We congratulate Mr. Roble for his appointment. But remind him that the new position comes with a price for his reputation and the future of the country. This week, we have seen a number of political heavyweights in Somalia change tack, supporting the new PM after weeks of demanding the appointment.

They have jostled to catch his eye too, perhaps knowing that he is due to appoint a cabinet and run the affairs of the country from now on. There are no legal barriers to political parties or their leaders showing up at Villa Somalia to shake the hand of the new Prime Minister. In fact, the appearance and laughter depict, finally, a country with leaders talking to one another. It should be encouraged.

The connotation, however, may be different. Some of these politicians have been, until a week ago, the fiercest critics of the government of President Mohamed Farmaajo. What is it that has made them change their tongues so fast? Is it the appointment of the new PM, a conviction that they were wrong in criticizing the government, or an offer to be a part of the very government they challenged?

In politics, anything is possible. But the Somalia Prime Minister will be making a grave mistake if he allows his office to be the center of political deal-making. First, it will betray the hope of Somalis who have hoped for a timely free, and fair election. The new Premier was appointed specifically to oversee that plan. Anything else will amount to betrayal.

Secondly, Somali politicians have the penchant for using appointed officials and damping them. Mr. Roble must look at the history of his predecessors to remain cautious. He doesn’t have much legroom to maneuver. His appointment will have no honeymoon and pressure will immediately mount as elections near and resources are needed to pull through an election.

It is true Somalia has already fallen short of the goals it set three years ago. Those goals included an election with the participation of all eligible Somalis in a safe and secure environment. Those goals have now been defeated by the underlying realities, even though the government and politicians, in general, are guilty as charged.

It may also be true that Mr. Roble was chosen probably because he could midwife a deal between politicians to attempt delaying elections by creating some sort of government of ‘national unity.’ Unfortunately, the public may lampoon him, not the beneficiaries of that arrangement.

Mr. Roble must, therefore, resist attempts to be used as a tool to secure politicians’ ambitions. His immediate, and legal, duty is to ensure uncertainties that surrounded the government in the past two months are removed.

The country needs to move fast to return to the electoral calendar. Only Mr. Roble, with the new untainted mandate, can help steady the course.