Somalia: Jubaland president strikes deal with rivals amid Gedo tensions
NAIROBI, Kenya - Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe has reached a truce with his two main rivals, sources say, in a move that could change the matrix of the geopolitical landscape of the ever fragile state in Somalia.
Madobe has been struggling to contain his challengers Abdinasir Seeraar and Abdirashid Hidig, both who lost to him in August 2019 polls, which were marred with claims of violence, rigging, and external interference.
Although details of the truce between the three leaders remain scanty, sources say Kenya played a major role in brokering the deal, but it's not clear who pushed for it or when it's likely to be signed.
Since his re-election, Sheikh Ahmed Madobe has been facing an onslaught from federal leader Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, who refused to recognize the victory. To date, Madobe is yet to name a substantive cabinet.
"A deal has been reached, it's a matter of signing. As to how they prefer it implemented, it's upon them," a source said. "Both parties have agreed that the interest of Jubaland supersedes their personal quests."
For the better part of January and February this year, Madobe has spent his time in Nairobi. It's not clear whether or not his opponents met him there. However, his close ally Said Deni, who is the President of the semi-autonomous state of Puntland, visited for closed-door talks.
Kenya was accused by Somalia of "interfering" with its domestic affairs, although Nairobi went on to recognize Madobe's victory. During his inauguration in September 2019, Kenya dispatched a delegation under National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale.
Jubaland is used as a buffer zone by KDF troops in the fight against Al-Shabaab. The Kenyan troops serve in Sectors II and III, mainly in Jubaland, where they have succeeded in flushing out Al-Shabaab militants.
But a furious Farmajo dispatched a contingent from Somali National Army [SNA] a few weeks ago to Gedo, a troubled region within Jubaland, further fueling conflicts between the two sides.
For almost a week, the SNA troops clashed with JSF near the border town of Balad-Hawo, which saw the latter seek refuge in Kenya. Madobe accused Farmajo of "behaving like Al-Shabaab" but called for dialogue to end the impasse.
Yet still, SNA troops remain holed up in Gedo, and there are reports that they have sought reinforcement from non-AMISOM Ethiopian troops, who have since crossed over the border. The US termed the deployment "unnecessary" and called for "immediate" withdrawal.
The actions in Gedo are likely to put Kenya and Ethiopia at crossroads, despite the fact both nations are indispensable partners in Somalia's domestic security affairs.
Rashid Abdi, an analyst on the Horn of Africa affairs, says the deal if it happens, "could complicate FGS's plan to split Jubaland, overthrow Madobe". "Whether this creates a context for a Madobe-Farmajo deal difficult to know," he adds.
But for Khalif Yusuf, the deal gives Madobe an upper hand and "will see him through to final months". Further, he discourages deal with Farmajo arguing that "his aim is to illegally overthrow Madobe and appoint his clansmen from Garboharey".
However, Abdulmalik Abdullahi, another analyst, now says that Madobe should reach out to FGS, extend talks to Jubaland stakeholders, besides addressing "the deep issues and solid grievances" of Gedo.
In KDF records, Madobe is held dear to Kenyan hearts due to his role in defeating Al-Shabaab and the historic liberation of Kismayo, a seaport city that had traditionally been used to generate sources of income through illegal taxation.
Tensions between the former allies have further exposed security arrangements in the region, within Somalia's international partners warning that escalation would pave way for "resurgence" of Al-Shabaab.