Puntland President to make historic trip to Mogadishu amid political chaos in Somalia


GAROWE, Puntland - The political quagmire involving Somalia government and federal states could be fixed soon, Puntland President Said Deni has pledged, announcing his intentions to visit Mogadishu over the stalemate.

For months now, the federal government of Somalia has been at loggerheads with member states, with the strained relationship threatening to dismember efforts to build a functional state in Somalia after decades of shambles.

After holding his weekly cabinet meeting in Garowe on Thursday, Deni said he is committed to visiting Mogadishu and other federal states to "seek a solution to current impasse" which has "threatened" to lock down Somalia.

The intended visit, whose dates were not immediately availed, would be in compliance with the "Puntland consultative forum communique" which was released on Tuesday, Deni said.

Puntland hosted a three-day consultative forum which ended on Tuesday. Among others, Deni invited regional leaders, former leaders and the state's representatives to the federal government.

And now he said, "I will visit Mogadishu to lobby for another consultative forum between the federal government and member states. We shall focus on our differences in national issues".

The anticipated meeting, he said, would be held in Garowe as he positions himself as a Pan-Africanist who is keen to unravel the unending squabbles in Somalia, which have ideally stagnated development.

Since his victory in 2017, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has failed to strike a clear working plan with federal states, leading to persistent wrangles that creates apathy and disgruntlement in the process of rebuilding Somalia.

What are the contested issues?

For some months now, sharing of resources formula has triggered criticism from among member states, with Puntland calling for dialogue over the recently approved petroleum law.

Without much input from the states, FGS hurriedly passed the law, which gives Mogadishu veto to coordinate extraction and exportation of oil and gas, contrary to the states' expectations.

Already, Somalia has reached a deal with ExxonMobil and Shell, which have leased oil deposits for 30 years. But despite paying $1.7 million, regional states are yet to be involved in the program.

Also, electoral law and ongoing negotiations between Somalia and Somaliland are a thorn in the flesh. Although the law has been passed, several issues remain pending.

Somalia, Deni said, "is not ready for universal suffrage polls. This will delay the December polls and pave way for an illegal extension of terms". FGS and internal partners are keen to have a one-person-one-vote model, despite inadequate preparations.

Despite the hype of using the model, the law has not specified the model of identification of constituencies besides not giving guidelines on achieving the much needed affirmative action in Somalia parliament, thus the push for consultation by Deni.

In the law, it's now also clear how Somaliland will be incorporated into the system. And Puntland already had issued the demand to be included in the negotiations, after the consultative forum. Somaliland seceded from Somalia in 1991 after the civil war.

'Destabilization of federal states'

Should Deni's mission succeed, the current use of Somali National Army [SNA] troops to "conquer" regional states is also likely to feature, something which has even attracted retribution from international partners.

Jubaland, Galmadug, Southwest, and Hirshebelle have all reported alleged "infiltration" of FGS, through staged "forceful" takeovers which threaten the disintegration of the federal states.

Just last month, SNA troops unleashed on the ASWJ militia, which was critical in the fight against Al-Shabaab, during a crackdown in Dhusamareb that led to arbitrary arrest of the group's leaders.

In Jubaland, Ahmed Madobe has borne the brunt of SNA crackdown, leading to recent chaos at the border town of Balad-Hawo, which even saw Kenya dragged into the skirmishes.

Madobe, a key ally of Kenya, accused Farmajo of "establishing parallel administration in Gedo" to rival his government, warning that "this government is behaving like Al-Shabaab". But he called for dialogue.

The US is among partners who expressed concerns over Gedo chaos, in which they called for "immediate withdrawal of SNA" since their presence could "escalate" the situation.

Farmajo is accused of "imposing" his loyalists in federal states to predetermine December polls. Somalia partners believe ongoing antagonism towards federal leaders and opposition bigwigs would give room for Al-Shabaab resurgence.

What's Deni's game plan?

Seen as a silent but combative leader, Deni presides over one of the most stable regional states. His philosophy of empowering the semi-autonomous units even makes him a darling of many.

The planned visit to Mogadishu could set a stage for the much-needed dialogue, which could unlock the impasse that has grounded operations in Somalia, despite the willingness of the international community to support the country.

Abdulmalik Abdullahi, a researcher, says the visit is a "Good move. Good start. Potentially cooling off the political temperatures. Best wishes". He believes the solution lies in the outcome.

Mukhtar Ainashe, another analyst, termed Deni's announcement as "patriotic and courageous", calling for all leaders in Somalia to give it "unconstitutional" support.

"Said Deni’s initiative of going to Mogadishu and brokering a negotiated political settlement between the federal government and federal member states is both timely and needed," he tweeted.

While Farmajo has now been given room to perhaps stamp his authority as a statesman, depending on his anticipated meeting, a negative outcome could further escalate tensions.

During the Garowe Conference, Puntland leaders threatened to evoke article 4 of the constitution, which allows the state to secede, should the federal government fail to unlock persistent chaos and terrorism.

To secede, the regional assembly needs just two-thirds majority, after which the resolutions would be subjected to a plebiscite. But Deni is, however, keen to succeed in his quest to hold the dialogue, which is long overdue.


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