Somalia : Why Farmaajo can’t be believed now on Kenya tiff
EDITORIAL | Somalia, and Kenya are back to the old tiff, thanks to President Mohamed Farmaajo’s latest attack on Nairobi, accusing it of prevailing upon the Jubaland President to reject the electoral accord.
The accusations, which came after the two countries appeared to be repairing their relations in public, was somewhat curious, however. Nairobi has said it received no official complaint. And its timing coincided with a rumbling controversy in Mogadishu where 14 presidential candidates have pushed for the dissolution of the electoral commission and have a new one formed based on consultations between parties.
There was even a bigger threat; which is to run parallel elections if the federal government refuses to amend the lists of members of the electoral commission and other key polling committees.
Yet Farmaajo accuses Kenya of meddling in Jubaland affairs. The accusations raised by Somalia’s Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Mohamed Ali Nur came after Ahmed Madobe, the Jubaland President returned from Kenya last week.
Yet this wasn’t a new accusation. Since he took power, Farmaajo has accused Kenya of internal interference. And previously, it looked like Nairobi had been a bully. Over the last few months, however, Nairobi announced publicly it will enhance relations with Somalia as a whole; opening a new embassy building in Mogadishu and announcing the provision of visas on arrival. Officials from both sides said they would focus on people-to-people relations. Somalia renovated an old embassy building it owned in Nairobi before the civil war. In short, every side was boosting its diplomatic presence in the others.
This is why it cannot be believed now that the accusations from Mogadishu are devoid of political distraction.
In truth, Madobe, like many Somali politicians including cabinet ministers, spend most of their time in Nairobi, enjoying the tranquility and privacy needed to lobby for support or strategize. In October and November, nearly all presidential contenders were seen gathering in Nairobi. Farmaajo’s own cabinet ministers loitered in hotel lobbies, imbibing latte or meeting contacts of every kind.
It is possible that all these individuals were in Kenya on personal businesses. But it cannot be lost that Kenya has often helped build Somalia’s polity, rather than ruin it. Their presence alone showed the significance of Kenya. They wouldn’t be here if the government policy in Mogadishu forbade any contact with Kenyan government officials.
President Farmaajo, however, has often shifted stance on neighbors depending on when it suits him.
Farmaajo himself campaigned vigorously from his Nairobi base before he clinched the 2017 elections. At the time, he saw Ethiopia as an enemy of Somalia, speaking publicly about why Ethiopia ought to treat Somalia as sovereign. Indeed he maintained the same line on Ethiopia, and Kenya, in his early days in power, but shifted as soon as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. Addis Ababa did not cancel port deals it signed with Somaliland, despite Mogadishu’s protests. Instead, some four MoUs were signed in 2018 ostensibly roping in Mogadishu in some of the deals. It didn’t mean, though, that Ethiopia was no longer interfering. In fact, Ethiopian troops, not part of Amisom, have been stationed in Somalia for some years, despite having no approval from the Federal Parliament.
Yet there is every smell of politics on the accusation. As Prime Minister in 2011, Farmaajo fell victim to a controversial accord in Kampala that ended the tenure of the transitional government. That deal would extend the term of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed but would require that Farmaajo as PM resigned in 30 days. For two weeks, Farmaajo capitalized on the situation, accusing Uganda of curtailing Somalia’s sovereignty and in return gaining massive nationalistic support back in Somalia. Several days of protests in June 2011 saw at least five people killed. Farmaajo resigned later.
Today, Farmaajo considers Uganda a good investment destination for Somalis. Recently a Somali-owned sugar factory opened in Uganda, and Kampala did not necessarily change its foreign policy.
Kenya may have worked with Jubaland. But it did so in the past. But there is fear Mogadishu is scapegoating Nairobi to dodge another bullet: how to resolve the electoral committees’ fiasco.
Unless there is tabled evidence or tangible action from Somalia, the flimsy diplomatic dramas will just be seen as a decoy to avoid the big elephant in the room: free, fair, and credible elections.