Somalia: Inside Farmajo's failed Foreign Policy
NAIROBI, Kenya - Building strong foreign ties with neighbors is one of the approaches that make nations survive for long or even expands cooperation and better their social-economic and geopolitical stability. Countries come with good foreign policies for sustainability.
A nation with dependable foreign policies keeps thriving. However, in Somalia, this has been evidently missing for the last four years, defining the ruthlessness of outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo's administration which has been struggling over time.
If not at loggerheads with neighbors, Somalia has at least had a challenge with her citizens living elsewhere, something that paints the administration of Farmajo in a bad light. His critics have often poked holes into his foreign policy that has weakened over time.
"My administration had established a strong and viable foreign policy based on zero outside enemy since Somalia is fragile and can't tolerate foreign interference," said Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Farmajo's immediate predecessor.
The former president was the chief guest in Garowe Online's Twitter Space on Saturday where he addressed a number of issues both national and local. In fact, he's not the only one to have raised serious concerns about the country's foreign policy.
Over years, Somalia has been fighting a number of challenges, ranging from the Al-Shabaab war, floods, finance pitfalls to even inter-clan militia, which rule sections of the country. The aforementioned myriad of challenges is also coupled with political instability.
Ideally, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was set to leave office in February but the failure to hold elections in time keeps him still in office. Elections will be held within the next two months based on a political deal that was signed last month.
The trouble with Nairobi
There is no nation that has borne the brunt of Farmajo's struggling foreign policies other than Kenya. Over the last four years, Somalia's relationship with Kenya has diminished, at times leading to nasty retaliation, including shutting diplomatic offices.
A few weeks ago, Nairobi shut airspace for Somalia-bound planes just days after Qatar brokered a truce between the two nations. This was the third time in two years Kenya was at loggerheads with Somalia, over issues that could have been amicably solved.
On Thursday, Kenya said through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the change of heart was necessitated by mutual interests of the two countries, in the hope that full normalization of bilateral relations will occur.
"The Government of Kenya has taken due consideration of intercessions made and has decided to re-open Kenya's airspace to all flights originating from Somalia and emanating from Kenya to Somalia," the statement said.
In a statement dated June 10, 2021, Mogadishu termed the move as an important step in the process of enhancing bilateral trade, communications, and the movement of citizens between the two countries.
Somalia, while welcoming the resumption of flights, affirmed its commitment to restore and accelerate diplomatic, trade, and people-to-people relations for the prosperity of Somalia and Kenya.
“The Federal Government of Somalia, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation avails itself at the earliest opportunity and proposes formation for a joint committee with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Government of Kenya to come up with modalities leading to full restoration of diplomatic ties between the two nations,” Somalia said through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It added that the positive gesture from Kenya is a starting point to commence negotiations aimed at full normalization of diplomatic relations.
“The two brotherly nations have always collaborated in security, trade and mutual cultural relations which are based on common interests, good neighborliness, respect for sovereignty and political indolence.”
But it's not just the airspace or banning of Miraa [Khat] in Somalia, which seemingly targeted Kenya, a leading producer. The two nations are also embroiled in the Indian Ocean maritime border case, which is currently being arbitrated by the International Court of Justice [ICJ].
Also, the activities undertaken by KDF in Jubaland have often degenerated into nasty exchanges between Kenya and Somalia. Last week, Somalia accused KDF of waging indiscriminate airstrikes without minding the population, adding that "from now, you have to be cleared before carrying such airstrikes."
The whole matter in Jubaland may not necessarily entail KDF's pursuit of Al-Shabaab, but there are claims that Kenya uses Jubaland to "undermine" Somalia, something which Kenya has denied over time. But the two countries never seem to agree when it's necessary.
So what about the Horn of Africa?
While Somalia has a cordial relationship with most countries in the Horn of Africa, it has also come with its own fair share of challenges. It's just a few years ago Somalia fixed its strained relationship with Ethiopia and Eritrea, which had been her traditional adversaries.
But despite the normalcy, Ethiopia and Eritrea have been dragged into Somalia's security sector, further leading to mistrust among many opposition leaders. For instance, Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] has been often accused of helping Farmajo to unleash on opponents.
For instance, in 2018, ENDF is said to have arrested Mukhtar Robow, a former Al-Shabaab deputy leader, who was running for the Southwest presidency. At least 11 people were killed in the deadly clashes, raising questions about Ethiopia's interest in Somalia.
Last year, ENDF non-Amisom contingent was also accused of working with Somali National Army [SNA] with clandestine plans to overthrow Jubaland President Ahmed Islam Mohamed Madobe. The plot, critics said, failed due to Kenya's influence in Jubaland.
For Eritrea, it has been a tough week following claims that Somali troops training there fought in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. A report done by Special Rapporteur indicated that Somali troops crossed over to Axum in 2020, a claim which government denies.
President Farmajo has been accused of plotting to prolong his tenure, and the 5000-7000 soldiers training in Eritrea are said to have been recruited purposely to help him overstay in power. It's not clear why the government has never published the names of those youths.
Isaias Afwerki, the president of Eritrea, and Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have often been accused of compromising the security sector in Somalia to the detriment of the country's internal politics. Farmajo's term expired on Feb 8.
It's not only the Horn and Kenya. A similar trend of Somalia's unpredictable foreign policy has been witnessed even in relation to the Middle East, where Mogadishu heavily over relies on Qatar, leading to nasty retaliation from the United Arab Emirates, which also has interests in Somalia.
Experts have questioned the approach and even warned that should the country fail to come up with tangible foreign policies, it would struggle to relate with other nations. The ministry of Foreign Affairs and that of Information are notorious for releasing statements regularly.
"During Farmajo’s 4-year chaotic presidency, Somalia has had the worst foreign policy in confusion that was Confined to personal feelings and not national interest," says Mohamed Farole, a senior security advisor to Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni.
"Our country's foreign policy has turned into a tool used by President Farmajo to attack everyone, with reckless and hurried statements coming out from the Foreign Ministry every other time. These statements and decisions have no institutional source or reference," adds Abdishakur Warsame, the opposition leader.
Actually, the inconsistent Foreign Policy was also manifested on Saturday when Farmajo unfollowed India in Kenya on his Twitter. He had followed the page despite the fact that India does not have diplomatic offices in Mogadishu.