Bashir or Fahad Yasin: Who is Somalia's intelligence chief?
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The controversy surrounding the leadership of the National Intelligence Security Agency [NISA], Somalia's spy agency, could prolong given tough conditions from two factions, something which could potentially delay elections in the country.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble shook the agency, further creating confusion by temporarily kicking out Fahad Yasin, the defiant NISA boss, who also has close ties with outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo.
But the decision seems to have ignited a fresh political battle, creating loopholes in the institution, which is critical in the collection of intelligence besides presiding over the security of the country.
Already, Roble's actions have been hailed by a number of stakeholders, who believe that his decision would perhaps stabilize NISA, which has been often facing accusations of bias in terms of coordination of security within the Horn of Africa nation.
Puntland welcomed the decision by PM Roble to fire NISA chief Fahad Yasin as a move taken towards ensuring justice for Ikran Tahlil. The state has previously registered complaints about the spy chief, who at some point worked as an Al Jazeera journalist.
Also, Jubaland state welcomed the decision by PM Roble to sack NISA chief Fahad Yasin over the case of Ikran Tahlil. "Jubaland is satisfied with the steps taken by the PM in response to repeated calls from the family of Ikran for justice," said a statement.
The opposition team led by Wadajir party leader Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame also backed Roble's move, terming it "brave". He added that Farmaajo lacked "moral responsibility" following his response to the current squabbles.
It's paramount to note that the controversy was sparked by the death of Ikran Tahlil, a junior employee within the agency, who went missing for two months before NISA blamed Al-Shabaab for her abduction and subsequent death. But the militants have denied the allegations.
So, who is in charge of NISA?
As of now, it's now easy to tell who is in charge of the spy team given that both PM Mohamed Hussein Roble and outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo have sharply differed on the dismissal of Fahad Yasin.
Just after dismissal, PM Roble appointed Lieutenant General Bashir Goobe to head the agency albeit in an acting capacity. The PM said the move would facilitate independent investigations towards Tahlil's death.
Just hours after making the weighty decision, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble met with Bashir Goobe who he appointed as acting NISA director. The PM instructed police and NISA chiefs to work with military courts prosecutors in opening a former investigation into the case of Ikran Tahlil.
But despite the move by Roble, Farmaajo strongly defended Fahad Yasin, arguing that he remains the substantive NISA Director. He accused Roble of violating his mandate, adding that the constitution doesn't give PM such powers.
"The decision of the Prime Minister of the Federal Government of Somalia, Hon. Mohamed Hussein Roble is illegal and unconstitutional," read a statement from Villa Somalia.
"The Commander of the National Security and Intelligence Agency, Mr. Fahad Yassin Haji Dahir, is instructed to remain serving as the leader of the National Security and Intelligence Agency, in accordance with the Constitution and the Presidential Decree."
As of now, the country cannot tell who between Fahad Yasin and Lieutenant General Bashir Goobe is heading the spy agency. However, it is also evident that majority of stakeholders are supporting Roble's actions.
What do experts say?
Although Farmaajo remains defiant that Roble doesn't have powers to dismiss Fahad Yasin, many experts insist the PM was within his mandate. This could prove difficult for Villa Somalia to contest given that Farmaajo's mandate expired in February.
Omar Sharmarke, a two-time Somali Prime Minister, believes that Roble acted within the law in firing Fahad Yasin. According to him, the PM has powers to fire ministers or even security heads on defiance and contempt.
"On grounds of defiance and contempt, the PM within his constitutional powers can dismiss a cabinet minister, down the line, to heads of the Security agencies. Instead of triggering a crisis, the outgoing President should have met the family of Ikran Tahlil and assure them of due process," he said.
"Political crisis of this nature turfs out moderates and puts radicals into the position of influence. Failure to both agree on the NISA leadership issue and solve the Ikran Tahlil case can engender hard feelings that can rapidly escalate into uncontrollable accusations and violence," he added.
Rashid Abdi, a security analyst on the Horn of Africa affairs, believes that if Yasin wins, he will continue to distract ongoing elections in the country. He further notes that the victory of Roble will take Somalia to greater heights.
"If PM Roble resigns, Fahad wins and continues on his destructive path. If PM Roble wins Somalia has a great shot at credible polls and stability. It is as simple as that," he says, adding that Farmaajo and Fahad Yasin should be forced to resign.
On justice to the family of Ikran Tahlil, it might also take a little longer due to the current tussles. Her mother, Qali Mohamud, has since backed Roble's actions, adding that the president should recuse himself from the matter.