Somalia’s government - Baby steps

Mogadishu (KON) - After the inauguration of a new parliament, Somalia may get a proper government soon. But do not count on it being entirely clean
Article Keydmedia Online
Somalia’s government - Baby steps

IT WAS hardly an auspicious start. The first formal Somali parliament in more than two decades held its inaugural session on August 20th at the airport in Mogadishu, the capital.

It was deemed the only safe place, thanks to a contingent of African Union (AU) troops. In attendance were only 211 of the 275 MPs. The rest were disqualified or failed to show up. Even so, the MPs were too numerous to fit into the main hall, so they swore their oaths in the car park (see above). Poorly prepared and overshadowed by security concerns, the day nonetheless marks a fresh start for Somalia.

Over the past 12 months it has seen the humbling of the Shabab, a once-dominant extreme Islamist group, a decrease in piracy along the coast and increasing co-operation among local power brokers.

The next step in the country’s slow transition away from civil war, helped by the West, is the inauguration of a national government. Some say it will come about through the first poll since 1967.

But regardless of the campaign posters promising hope and change that are plastered around the devastated capital, diplomats assume a government will be formed by a process of “selection not election”.

To lend some legitimacy to the process, it relies heavily on Somalia’s powerful clan system. Elders from each of the important tribal groups were asked to nominate their own MPs. A vetting procedure was then meant to weed out those with a history of violence or no basic literacy.

In practice, the “wise men” were largely chosen by existing leaders of the UN-backed transitional federal government (TFG), which has spent the past eight years stealing aid money while leaving AU peacekeepers to fight the Shabab. Money has also played a role in the selection of new MPs. Parliamentary seats were apparently sold for up to $25,000. The vetting procedure may have been compromised too; those asked to remove warlords from the list found their phones buzzing with death threats.

In July a UN report concluded that transitional leaders embezzled seven out of every ten dollars they received. Despite this, most of the old faces from the TFG are in the running for the leadership, including the current president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed; the prime minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali; his predecessor, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo; and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, who is the parliamentary speaker.

In a positive sign, outside competitors are able to attack them for their record. Abdurahman Abdullahi Baadiyow, a candidate for president, says that under the TFG’s stewardship Somalia has become a “world champion” in piracy, corruption and terrorism, and set a record as the longest-running failed state.

Encouragingly, fewer than a third of the new parliament’s members served in its bloated predecessor. Big donors such as America and Britain are hoping that new faces and a secret ballot will deliver a measure of change. The main question is whether Mr Ahmed, the current president, will manage to hold on to his job.

Away from the airport and other secure enclaves, the shattered capital is springing back to life under the watchful eye of AU troops. The private sector is flourishing and money is pouring in from the Somali diaspora.

“The only thing Somalis need is security, they can do the rest themselves,” says Mr Farmaajo, the ex-prime minister.

For now the clan militias, who for years wrought havoc in Mogadishu, have been behaving themselves. But one or more losers in the presidential ballot could ask supporters to dig up and load buried guns.

The Economist

Article 21 May 2021 10:14

I read your article on Foreign Policy with keen eyes and interest. While whining from public officials does not deserve response from any sensible citizen of the Republic of Somalia, I felt compelled to counter false narrative with more objective analysis.