How Farmaajo "killed" federalism in Somalia, "promoted" Al-shabaab
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo has abdicated his duties as the master guide towards democratization of Somalia, a top political analyst has sensationally claimed, adding that "he promotes Al-Shabaab instead of the people".
In a detailed opinion at The Elephant, Matt Bryden, a co-founder of Sahan Research Group, says the biggest loser in Farmaajo's administration is federalism, which was introduced as a remedy to political chaos in the Horn of Africa nation.
Ever since taking over in 2017, Farmaajo has been at loggerheads with federal states leadership and has been accused at times of engineering victories of some FMS leaders contrary to the will of people. In his piece, Bryden gave the bungled 2018 regional presidential polls at Southwest as a classic example.
At that time, Farmaajo supported the current leader Abdiaziz Lafta-Gareen, who was facing a tough challenge from former Al-Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtar Robow who would later be abducted and placed under house arrest.
To date, Robow remains in prison and it's only recently he told VOA that his life is in danger. Robow, Bryden notes, was the most popular candidate at that time and this necessitated Farmaajo's decision to use AMISOM troops to disperse his supporters killing 11 people in the process.
"Farmaajo’s administration was in the early stages of a plan to dismantle Somalia’s nascent federal architecture and centralize all power in Mogadishu. To pursue that aim, he needed weak, pliable proxies in charge of each of Somalia’s Federal Member States [FMS]. Villa Somalia made no secret of its opinion that Roobow didn’t fit the profile," he notes.
It's not just in the Southwest, in 2019, Farmaajo was also placed at the center of conflict in Jubaland when regional leader Ahmed Islam Mohamed Madobe was seeking reelection. Keen to topple Madobe, Farmaajo went on to dispatch Ethiopian commandos, forcing Madobe to seek help from Kenya Defense Forces [KDF].
"Villa Somalia was not to be deterred by a little bad publicity: in August 2019, the FGS attempted to hijack elections in Jubaland, unsuccessfully financing rival candidates and ultimately declaring the re-election of state president Ahmed Madoobe null-and-void," he says in his piece. "Later the same month, in collusion with Villa Somalia, the Ethiopian army secretly attempted to airlift several hundred commandos from Baidoa to Kismayo, with a view to ousting Madoobe from office."
This ended in a tense standoff between Ethiopian and Kenyan troops at Kismayo airport that could have easily ended in armed clashes between the two erstwhile allies. In fact, Farmaajo is on record for accusing Kenya of "interfering with our internal affairs".
While Madoobe, with the support of AMISOM’s Kenyan contingent, continued to dig in and defend his seat, Villa Somalia deployed troops to Jubaland’s northern Gedo region, wresting most of it from Madoobe’s control [with Ethiopian help] and arresting Jubaland’s Minister of Internal Security Abdirashid Janaan.
Through coercion, Janaan has since decamped from the Jubaland administration and joined FGS. But for months, Madobe has been under onslaught from Villa Somalia, forcing him to reconcile with local leadership which is closely working with Mogadishu.
It's not just Jubaland or Southwest but similar state capture has been witnessed in Puntland where the regional administration of President Said Abdullahi Deni has opened rebuked Mogadishu for external interference.
At the center of this is former NISA Director Fahad Yasin, who has since been deployed to Villa Somalia as Farmaajo's security advisor. In the process of killing federalism and pluralism, Bryden adds, Farmaajo has given too much room for Al-Shabaab resurgence.
"Whereas the shambolic state of the federal security forces might be explained by a combination of incompetence, inexperience, and a mediocre monocracy, the unchallenged expansion of Al-Shabaab’s influence on Farmaajo’s watch suggests a far more sinister explanation: tacit collusion between Villa Somalia and its putative adversaries," he says.
"Indeed, the jihadists are possibly the only authority in Somalia that the FGS hasn’t chosen to pick a fight with. Al-Shabaab is steadily extending its influence, not only in the interior but even in territories nominally under some form of government control – including Mogadishu. As Farmaajo entered the latter half of his four-year term, a consensus was emerging that the terror group taxed more efficiently, raised more money, provided greater security, and dispensed higher quality justice than the FGS did."
Violence in Gedo escalated, and casualties mounted through early 2020, threatening to draw Ethiopian and Kenyan troops into a confrontation on behalf of their local allies. This, stakeholders warned, would give more room to Al-Shabaab and erode gains made in the country.
In February 2020, as the situation threatened to deteriorate even further, the US government expressed its concern in a statement to the UN Security Council, describing the deployment of federal forces to the Gedo region as an unacceptable “politically motivated offensive” that diverted resources away from the common fight against Al-Shabaab.
For years, Farmaajo has dismissed claims that he has weakened federalism, thwarted pluralism besides hampering the democratization process. However, his decision to drag polls in the Horn of Africa nation and persistent fights with local leadership has been a major weakness of his administration.