EDITORIAL: How Farmaajo cancel culture on PM Roble blots legacy

Somalia's outgoing president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo said he suspended PM's powers on Thursday [File photo]

EDITORIAL | Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo and Prime Minister Hussein Roble have this week looked like a stuck tape: repeating the differences they have had since last week.

On Thursday night, Prime Minister Roble rejected Farmaajo’ s decision to cut his powers on appointments and dismissals, terming the move by the President as one meant to cripple the executive.

Of concern to the public is the suggestion by Roble that the President’s powers in transition are in fact limited, because, ideally, Farmaajo’ s term ended on February 8, the last day presidential elections should have been held but didn’t.

Farmaajo claims Roble did not consult him and violated the constitution in making changes to the Cabinet and the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA). But the perception now is that Farmaajo is rushing to stop Roble to protect the President’s cronies at key agencies.

Here is the spark that lit the tensions: A spy agent disappeared in June. NISA later declares her dead but reveals no body or where she is buried. The family refuses and Roble intervenes to promise adequate justice for agent Ikran Tahlil.

He put the matter before the military court but Farmaajo also appointed his parallel team to investigate. Curiously, he included officials from NISA, which is now a body corporate in the dock. What is more, Farmaajo cancelled the suspension of NISA boss Fahad Yasin, who later quit to be redeployed as the President’s advisor on security.

Where does this tug-of-war take Somalia? By now, most people should have realised it will only take us to a review of Farmaajo’ s legacy. In all these decisions, Farmaajo has accused Roble of overstepping his mandate. But Somalia is such that we have no clarity in laws, and no institution to interpret those laws.

Farmaajo’s promises when he came to power in 2017 includes writing new supreme laws, preparing institutions for universal suffrage and improving security of the country. None of those were met and it is unsurprising that the public quarrel between Farmaajo and a man he appointed has gone on relentlessly.

Roble was appointed last year in September as a technocrat who everyone agreed will steady Somalia’s chaotic household. He replaced a man who had just been impeached by Parliament, Hassan Khaire in July 2020.

As the predecessor had been accused of obstructing Farmaajo’s legacy projects, it was expected that the new man would be let in unhindered. It turns out Farmaajo fears those who steal limelight from him. Roble managed to reach out to stakeholders, agreeing on an electoral calendar.

There should be no question that most of Somalia’s problems can be solved through dialogue. But an overbearing attitude by the President means Somalia’s programmes including elections are now on an uncertain path.

Even if Farmaajo wins back his presidency, the spat with the PM shows he is uninterested in cleaning his legacy. Having stifled the opposition, failed on legal targets and underperformed on security, perhaps delivering an election in a peaceful environment would mitigate the criticism. But he seems determined to cancel out his Prime Minister. He risks sinking with him.


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