Saturday, February 17, 2018


By Faisal Roble

On February 8, 2017, Somalia witnessed a soft revolution led by Mohamed A. Farmajo, and subsequent euphoric waves following his victory were felt throughout the entire Somali speaking world. An underdog candidate, Farmajo won the 2017 presidential election by a substantial margin and defeated hands down the well-oiled incumbent at the time, former president Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud. Somalis felt that night as if hope arrived within their reach.

President Farmaajo (left) with former President Hassan

Where are we a year later?  As we all reflect on past year’s challenges and gains, objectivity is a must.  Real tangible policy programs are often impossible to realize within one year.  Because of that reason, I rather highlight some high level issues that had captured the imaginations of the nation (positive and negative) that represent gains and losses. I will conclude with short remarks on a way forward.

On that eventful evening of February 8, 2017, electing Farmajo was akin to a soft revolution; that revolution is in many ways similar to the revolution of Salvatore Allende in Chile. Allende was a popular president of a unity government, but went to office without an organized cadre, thus making possible for the US-supported military anti-Allende Coup d’état in 1973.

Similarly, Farmajo won popularly but entered Villa Somalia without his own organized cadre, thus making impossible to implement his vision right away. On assuming power, Farmajo put together an administration dominated by three groups: those who served in the previous administration, a very small group called “Isbedell-doon” (or pro-change individuals), and a bunch of incompetent ministers who came by way of the notorious 4.5 system.  In the end, a disheveled and one of the largest cabinets in the history of Africa was seated. In less than a year, most of “Isbedel-doon” ministers were dismissed by the Prime Minister.

Farmajo was expected to be a transformational leader for he had a huge political capital.  Many Somalis are asking whether he lived up to his expectations, or came short of managing the huge expectations created at campaign rallies.

Just consider how some of his predecessors within the Somali landscape pivoted to articulating transformational issues.

The late Mohamed Siyyad Barre took the bull by the horn when he declared the equality of man and women in Somalia only 18 months into his rule. Also, Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Igal pivoted and undermined radical elements in SNM when he declared in Hargeisa that to be “Faqash” is not a clan identity, but an association with a regime that hurt the nation. He said this while Ahmed Silanyo, a former minister of the military regime who recycled himself as a clan radical, was standing behind him.  That day marked the beginning of the end of SNM. To bring the matter to current era, on February 9, 2018, Musse Bihi of Somaliland banned the anti-women crime of Female Gentile Mutilation (FGM). All these moves are transformational public policies in defiance of reactionary forces.

Farmajo has yet to pivot and discard his recluse maverick nature that characterized his leadership for the last one year.


Fiddling with the Somali vision: Arresting and handing over Qalbidhagax to Ethiopia was a huge political mistake committed by the administration.  The founding fathers established a vision for what it is to be a Somali.  Grew out of a long struggle that has been waged by Somalis to establish their own nationhood in the Horn of Africa, Mogadishu became the cradle of that vision.

The kidnapping and subsequent illegal transfer of a former Somali army member to Ethiopia is a violation of the essence of the Somali existential philosophy. It is also a violation of international law per 1958 Geneva Convention. The false accusation of Qlabidhagax as a member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and a terrorist by NISA is a breach to the Somali national contract.

We recall that in September, 2017, chaired by the PM, the cabinet took a position that handing over the prisoner was “right” and “ONLF is a terrorist collaborator with Al-shabab.”

On the contrary, answering on February 9, 2018 to a question put to him by a BBC reporter – which the Somali parliament as the highest legislative body ruled on the matter – the president distanced himself from the Qalbidhagax decision and indirectly indicted NISA and the cabinet.

This issue is settled and the nation must move on.

Pillaging national resources: A second violation of the Somali vision by the current administration is its obliviousness to the pillaging of what is left of Somali sovereignty.  Case in point is the aloof stance which the administration assumed thus far in the peddling of Berbera and Bossasso ports.  The acquiescence by the administration to the handing of the country’s resources to the highest bidder without any transparent public process is antithetical to Farmajo’s patriotic campaign pledges.

Forgotten sovereignty: A related item to the violation of the national vision is Villa Somalia’s evasive nature on the question of Somaliland. True to its philosophy, Somaliland has implemented what it calls “changing the reality on the ground,” and recapturing what used to be former British Protectorate.

Villa’s Somalia’s utter silence on the belligerence of Somaliland in its deliberate attempt to undermine National Stabilization Program is a major slight to Sovereignty. Villa Somalia behaves as if it accepted a de facto disintegration of Somalia.

On the unity question, So far Villa Somalia has stayed the same disappointing path as its predecessor.
President Farmajo needs to realize that he is the only one entrusted to speak on behalf of the country, and thus needs to raise his voice on this matter.

Nepotism and corruption: The culture of nepotism, cronyism and corruption still persists.  Office seekers’ credentials are substituted for political clientelism.

Such a political culture erodes legitimacy and good governance, that which in the last one year narrowed the support base of Farmajo.  He needs to show a change in direction about this matter.

About 40 years ago, Crawford Young, one of the most recognizable political scientists in the African studies field, carefully documented political clientelism in Zaire under the late Mubutu Sesse Seko. Today, the impacts of past political nepotism haunt Zaire.

I have a deep and substantiated fear that impacts of nepotism and corruption are as bad as the terror carried out by Al-shabab. Simply look at what a recent senior political advisor and a minister said: whereas the first said he was under the impression that Puntland was more of a secessionist entity than Somaliland, the other said any highest bidder can sit and participate at the coveted weekly cabinet meetings!


Tangible results are also achieved.  The list of the achievements  that Minister Hosh articulated on behalf of his administration speaks for itself.  Some of the regulatory and programmatic achievements are all welcome.

Maturity at the top: The absence of open squabble between President Farmajo and Prime Minister Khayre that was hitherto nauseating in the previous administration stands out. 

A discernable discipline inside Villa Somalia is maintained, in spite of Mogadishu being awash with roamers – and reliable information – that President Farmajo, following his successful trip to Puntland and Galmudug, has put a leash on the unfettered authority of the PM. Reliable sources informed me that Prime Minister Khayre confided in some ministers from his camp about the new tough attitude Farmajo assumed since he returned from his well-executed tour to Puntland and Galmudug.

Never mind that most of it was a feel-good, the recent tour by the President to Puntland and Galmudug was a huge political gain for him. A shining result from the tour is his successful effort to reconcile the nagging division between Cadaado and Dhusamareeb; his predecessor failed to do this job.

On the security front, one has to be a bit generous to the administration because of the complex nature of terrorism. Despite the October 14, 2017 terror mayhem that killed about 500 civilians at the bustling Zobba center, the overall security of the country is tangibly improving and Al-Shabab is more and more morphing into a long term guerrilla movement. Moving Ethiopian and Djiboutian embassies out of Villa Somalia is a reflection of the security sector improvement.

Economic revival: So are improvements seen in the economic fundamentals, and the credit partially belongs to the previous administration.  As a recent article put it, banking is improving, collection of revenue is increasing, and government salaries are paid in full for the first time.  Taxing all UN operations is also a timely assertion of the police powers of the government. If Farmajo’s administration continues to improving the economy, there could be a huge windfall from the remittance the diaspora sends – estimated at more than $1.5 billion.

A way forward:  One way to move forward for Farmajo is to pivot and recapture some of his patriotic pledges that he articulated on the campaign trail. He needs to go back drawing board and reassess what his heroes such as Aden Abdulle Osman and Abdirazak Hussein stood for: we know they stood for a well-defined Somali-centered existential philosophy buttressed by a government that was committed to democracy.  In the last few weeks, Farmajo’s government slipped and violated the civil rights of opposition leaders (invading the house of Senator Abdi Qaybdid and the headquarters of one of the opposition leaders, Abdirahman Abdishakur).  He needs to disown this illegal culture.

He could also benefit by articulating a clear practical vision pertaining to the territorial integrity of Somalia, both in terms of safeguarding its natural resources as well as reinforcing Villa Somalia’s uncompromising commitment to the unity of the Somali Federal Republic. For the last one year, Villa Somalia has been an absentee guardian of the sovereignty.

In the short term, he must come up with a system where Mogadishu can elect its own mayor and cede the current federal mandate of hand-picking the mayor for the residents of that city. Mogadishu as a city needs a mayor that represents its legitimate residents. This should be done without upsetting the constitutional balance of power of regional states.

Another area that his predecessor ignored is finishing and ratifying the draft constitution, invigorating the work on fiscal federalism, and putting regional governments within his power. Releasing funding for the constitutional process is a welcome step toward realizing the goal of one-man one-vote by 2020.

Faisal Roble

Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.

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