US expresses frustrations over Jubaland and Puntland's absence from election talks
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The absence of two federal states of Somalia from the ongoing Dhusamareb talks will not deter the Horn of Africa nation from holding timely elections based on the model which will be agreed upon, the US has said, in yet another stern warning which comes hours after the UN Secretary-General submitted a quarterly report on Somalia's progress at the Security Council.
For almost a week, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has been meeting regional leaders at Dhusamareb, the regional administrative capital of Galmadug, where they are set to agree on a particular model to be used for upcoming elections. The model has caused frustrations among stakeholders even as the term of the current administration gets to the final four months.
At Dhusamareb, however, only Abdiaziz Lafta-Gareen of Southwest, Mohamed Abdi Waare of HirShabelle, and the host Ahmed Abdi Kariye are present, in a meeting which was boycotted by Said Abdullahi Deni of Puntland and his comrade Ahmed Islam Mohamed Madobe of Jubaland.
But the absence of the two leaders seems to have irked the US, which is a major global financial partner of Somalia, in a move that could escalate the current political crisis. In a statement issued on Twitter, Thursday, the US seemingly condemned the absence of the two leaders, adding that the process will not be halted to harbor some people's "own ambitions".
"US embassy has worked for the inclusion of all views at the table in Dhusamareb3, but can’t help those absent," read the tough-worded statement. "Spoilers withholding participation sacrifice democracy for own ambitions. Parties will need to move forward with a timely model agreed."
Last week, Puntland and Jubaland insisted that for the genuine talks to take place, a neutral guarantor should be appointed, preferably from among members of the international community. The absence of an arbiter, they added, would still derail the implementation of any agreement that could be reached.
Earlier, the UN special envoy to Somalia James Swan had expressed "regret" over the absence of both Madobe and Deni in Dhusamareb. In his address at the UNSC, Swan noted that the ongoing meeting at Dhusamareb was "important" and wondered why the two leaders were hell-bent to boycott despite a determined appeal from stakeholders to attend.
A few weeks ago the country seemed to be on the right path after all the leaders attended the Dhusamareb conference, which would be followed by shocking dismissal of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire. Apparently, Puntland and Jubaland joined the opposition in condemning his removal, arguing that it was a strategy to derail the talks.
But the term "spoiler" could yet again raise concerns about the US's commitment to supporting democratic processes that need broad consensus and deeper examination of concerns raised by aggrieved parties. In the statement, the US failed to acknowledge concerns raised by the two federal states.
On Thursday, the US Secretary-General Antonio Guterres seemed to back the general feeling that Khaire was victimized, a position which is firmly held by both Deni and Khaire. Khaire, he noted, was vital in steering social-economic and geopolitical activities in the Horn of Africa nation.
"I am concerned that the abrupt removal of Mr. Khayre might disrupt the implementation of the agreements reached in Dhuusamarreeb, as well as the ongoing security transition operations and the political, security and economic reforms the Prime Minister was leading," read the statement.
The UN boss also echoed his concerns over the unprecedented stalemate in Dhusamareb, adding that it's vital for all leaders to embrace dialogue for the sake of peace and stability in Somalia, a country which has been eclipsed with inter-clan conflicts and Al-Shabaab menace.
"It is vital to continue to honor the agreements reached by the federal and state leaders in Dhuusamarreeb and the timelines for follow-up meetings, and to ensure that all Somali stakeholders, undertake urgent and concerted efforts to reach a broad-based inclusive agreement on the way forward on elections," he said in reference to political actors and civil society.
While the opposition and some federal states want timely elections, critics have been accusing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo of pushing for universal suffrage elections which they argue that will bring about an extension of term for the current administration. National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC] had adopted the one-person-one-vote model which would take some months to materialize.
At Dhusamareb, the technical committee from three states and the federal government is said to have proposed four models from among which stakeholders will come with a consensus. Constitutionally, the term for parliament and executive ends in November this year.
For months now, Farmajo has been at loggerheads with both Puntland and Jubaland with their differences narrowing down to resource allocation and local politics including the controversial electoral law. They had all pledged for a ceasefire during the second phase of Dhusamareb talks.
While the US still insists that the outcome of the talks must be implemented, the two states are critical in the realisation of Somali dreams, something which could further plunge the country into chaos should Washington stand with her position. America funds key institutions in Somalia.
However, this is not the first time Washington is being sucked into controversy in Somalia. Early this year, Ambassador Donald Yamamoto was quick to legitimize Galmadug elections which were marred with wide claims of malpractices in which Ahmed Kariye, a Villa Somalia-friendly candidate was declared the winner. He was forced to adjust the content of his affirmation following mass protests.
Similarly, the US embassy was put on the spot in 2018 after the controversial elections in the Southwest state. Washington endorsed Lafta-Gareen's victory despite the fact that one of the lead candidates, Mukhtaar Robow, who had defected from Al-Shabaab, was arrested and detained in Mogadishu, in an incident which left over 11 innocent civilians dead.