Somalia: Jubaland president strikes deal with opponents to end political stalemate
NAIROBI, Kenya - Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe has signed a deal with his political opponents in Nairobi, almost eight months after his contested re-election, effectively ending a protracted political impasse.
Thursday's historic deal came just almost 21 days after they reached a preliminary deal in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, with the truce brokered by Kenya, which uses Jubaland as a buffer zone in the Al-Shabaab war.
Both Abdirashid Hiddig, Abdinasir Seeraar and Dahir Ahmed Sheikh, who has been robustly critical of Madobe, signed the deal in a Nairobi hotel at around 2 pm local time, in what could redefine the history of Jubaland and Somalia at large.
The three rejected the outcome of August 2019 polls in which Sheikh Madobe was declared winner, citing "intimidations, bribery and rigging" in a protest they had lodged. Thursday's agreement was a culmination of behind scenes activities that commenced in October last year.
In a statement released shortly after signing of the agreement, the three fierce politicians "recognised" Madobe's 2019 victory, adding that "we shall work with the administration for the benefit of Jubaland people".
They also pledged to rally for "unity within parliament" and "across the state" as one of the fundamental steps towards steering economic growth. This, they added, "would bring about equitable distribution" of resources.
Also topping their agenda was "concerted effort" in the fight Al-Shabaab Al-Shabaab militants, who control large swathes within Jubaland. Al-Shabaab was earmarked as "existential" enemy of Jubaland.
In return, Sheikh Ahmed Madobe pledged to form a "government of unity" which shall have representatives from all regions across the state. The opposition will be an integral part of the administration, the agreement notes.
But of more compelling is Ahmed Madobe's decision to forfeit his future political plans. In the next state's elections, Madobe will "not seek" a third term, effectively ending his reign as a regional leader, albeit on paper.
For the last eight months, Madobe has been operating an almost unconstitutional cabinet given the political squabbles. One of his ministers, Aw Hirsi resigned recently, further dealing a blow to his efforts to unite the region.
The agreement could sabotage Federal President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo's influence in the state, which has largely been anchored in the pre-existing political feuds. He has been using the Gedo region as a battlefield for his rivalry with Madobe.
Rashid Abdi, an analyst on the Horn of Africa, believes that Madobe "achieved a major coup" following a deal with his opponents, adding that "he must now work to repair cohesion build inclusive politics".
"Unpalatable as it may seem, Villa Somalia has little option but to de-escalate in Gedo, cut its own separate deal with Madobe," Abdi added, noting the disadvantage of the deal for FGS.
"Federal Government and Jubaland and Puntland leaders also need to reconcile; Somalia needs it an election to happen actors have to work together," added Abdirashid Hashi, another political pundit on Somalia affairs.
Apart from Kenya, Puntland President Said Deni has been instrumental in arbitrating the Jubaland political crisis. He was part of the team along with US officials who met the rebellious politicians in Nairobi two months ago.
The unprecedented deal comes just a day after ugly clashes between Somali National Army [SNA] and Jubaland troops were witnessed in Gedo, within the vicinity of Balad-Hawo town which borders Kenya.
Although it's not clear which side opened fire first, Jubaland forces were accompanying regional security minister Abdirashid Janaan, a close ally of Madobe, who has been at loggerheads with the federal government.
The minister had been arrested last year after the Jubaland polls, with FGS accusing him of "committing crimes" although he would later escape in January from a Mogadishu prison, terming his incarceration "political".
However, the deal could also define Kenya's relationship with Somalia, which has been tested in recent weeks. In March, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Farmajo agreed to meet and iron out the differences after SNA clashes with Jubaland forces in Balad-Hawo.
While KDF supports Jubaland leadership, Ethiopian troops have been siding with FGS, a situation which the US warned that could eventually pave room for Al-Shabaab resurgence in the ever fragile Gedo region.