How the US Crushed the Struggle for a Somali Nation
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 20 Feb 2023
Ann Garrison | The Grayzone – TRANSCEND Media Service
As Somalia struggled to hold its first real national elections since the country collapsed in 1991, the US and its allies pushed separatism and undermined democracy so as to militarily dominate the country and plunder its resources.
14 Feb 2023 – An armed conflict is underway between secessionists and unionists in the city of Lasanod, where Somaliland state separatist forces have fired on civilians, reportedly killing more than 82 people. Somali unionists have now taken up arms to defend themselves, and issued a declaration declaring that Lasanod should be administered from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.
In the interview that follows, Dr. Abidiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad places the recent fighting in the context of the much larger battle to rebuild the Somali nation and hold national elections since the state was fully destabilized in 1991. As Abdisamad explains, the West is waging a war of its own to keep Somalia weak and fragmented.
Somalia’s 2100-mile coastline is so resource rich and strategically significant that a truly sovereign Somalia is anathema to the US and its Western allies. That’s why the US has filled the country with its troops, attacked it with drone bombs, imposed a Greenzone in its capital, overseen a failed UN “peacekeeping” operation, backed a puppet government to rule it, and organized the AFRICOM military alliance and an EU Navy patrol along Somalia’s coast.
The country has suffered for decades from rampant fish looting and toxic dumping. Some investors estimate that Somalia has the world’s largest untapped coastal oil reserves. It sits near the Bab-El Mandeb Strait and the Straits of Hormuz, through which 40% of the world’s oil passes through every day. It also boasts five ports at the interface between Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
The 2021 supply chain disruption caused by the container ship stuck in the Suez Canal was just a glimpse of what could happen if a war were to break out in these waters.
The problem of the Federal Member States (FMS)
Somalia has been plagued by a the struggle between secessionists and unionists, who also identify as nationalists. Officials in all six of its federal member states resist federal authority to some degree. The most separatist political movements reside in Jubaland, Puntland, and especially Somailand, even as it sends representatives to the federal parliament in Mogadishu.
Officials in Hergeisa, Somaliland’s state capital, have sought recognition as an independent state for the past 30 years, but neither the UN nor any of its 193 member states has agreed. Sentiment for Somaliland secession is reported to be strongest in the state capital, Hergeisa.
A section of the US 2023 National Defense Authorization Act informally recognizes Somaliland’s independence by outlining a plan for direct military cooperation between the US and the breakaway state. The NDAA’s violation of Somalia’s sovereignty is so blatant that the legislation’s authors went out of their way to claim that it’s not: “Nothing in this Act, including the reporting requirement under subsection (a) and the conduct of the feasibility study under subsection (b), may be construed to convey United States recognition of Somalia’s FMS or Somaliland as an independent entity.”
The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) appears to have outgrown its military base in Djibouti, which also rents land for military bases to China, France, Japan, Italy, and Saudi Arabia. Just to dock an aircraft carrier, a floating city of 5000 troops, it needs a wide berth.
Somali unionists are angered by the plan to bypass the national government.
The struggle for a popular vote
A popular vote is essential to the unionist struggle, which is why the US and its allies have prevented Somalia from instituting the one-person-one-vote electoral system practiced in the West. The US and its allies did so by engineering the defeat of President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed, aka Farmaajo, the massively popular president who was attempting to build a military capable of defending Somali sovereignty and remove foreign forces, including US troops, from Somali soil.
For most of the past 32 years, Somalia has lacked a government capable of securing its territory or its coastline. Dr. Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad, a Somali Kenyan and Chairman of the Horn of Africa Institute, complained that Somalia today is nothing more than a UN seat and a flag.
Federalism, he said, has fragmented the county to the point where it has lost any claim to sovereignty: “It’s the wrong concept, at the wrong place, for the wrong people, practiced by the wrong leaders, for the wrong reasons.”
However, he also said that if Somalia were able to hold a national, one-person-one-vote election, its puppet parliamentarians and puppet president, Hassan Sheikh Mohammed, would all be swept out of office, and former President Farmaajo would be elected in a landslide.
What follows is my conversation with Dr. Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad about the role of the US and its allies in undermining the Somali state and thwarting its struggle for a popular vote.
ANN GARRISON: So the parliament is selected by clan elders, but Farmaajo and his supporters were arguing that Somali citizens should all have the right to vote. What would happen if Somalia had a one-person, one-vote election?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: If today an election were called with one-person-one-vote, none of the current crop of politicians would come back! Not one! None of them!
ANN GARRISON: They would all be out?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Yes! None of them would come back to power! They would all be gone from the parliament and the executive! Not one of them would come back! Because these people have been handpicked by the enemies of Somalia and Somalis know that. These are stooges.
The people of Somalia are so angry because the Western world that claims to be the democracy world refuses to allow Somalis to elect their own leaders in a one-person, one-vote election. The West doesn’t want democracy for Somalis!
After 32 years of the conflict that followed state collapse in 1991, forty or fifty percent of Somalis are living in urban centers and camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). They can easily get to the polls to elect anyone they want. In Mogadishu. In Baidoa. In Kismayo. In Garowe. In Beledweyne. In Galkayo.
ANN GARRISON: What about the desert nomads who were, I believe, still the majority as little as fifteen years ago, and the farmers and fisherfolk in remote areas?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: It would be more challenging for them, but they could get to the polls or the polls could get to them.
Unfortunately, multinational companies, together with Western and other foreign officials, are not willing to let them do that. Because if they did that, none of these politicians they handpicked would ever come back to the statehouse or the Villa Somalia, where the president resides. Simple as that.
And I have no doubt in my mind that if today an election were called, based on one-person-one-vote, Farmaajo would win in a landslide. I’m telling you, there’s no question about that! But the Western world was against him. Kenya and the UAE were against him. Multinational companies were against him. Corrupt clans were against him.
So the current crop of politicians, including the president, has been handpicked by the enemies of Somalia. They are a bunch of pseudo leaders. They don’t have a vision or mission for Somalia.
ANN GARRISON: How did the US and other foreign entities engineer Farmaajo’s defeat? Multiple sources have reported that there was a lot of bribery involved.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Let me tell you. The state governors and clan elders of the federal member states are working for the Western world and their allies in the region, especially the UAE, but mostly the Western world. The state governors handpicked the clan elders who handpicked the delegates who elected the parliamentarians. Then the parliamentarians elected Hassan Sheikh Mohammed. It was a complex, cumbersome, and totally corrupt election. None of those members of parliament were elected by the people. And neither was he!
Most of the members of parliament today are there for the interests of the foreign countries rather than the interests of their own people. I’m sorry to say that, but it’s a fact. Money changed hands. Foreign governments and actors finance the activities of most of the Somali lawmakers today.
ANN GARRISON: Who are the foreign countries and what are their interests?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: The US, UK, EU and NATO countries want to keep Somalia weak and fragmented, so that they can continue the toxic dumping and fish looting and the oil exploitation that is now in its early stages. And because, as you said, Somalia is so geostrategically located.
The United Arab Emirates would like to annex Somalia’s Puntland state, where they already have economic and political power.
ANN GARRISON: You say that the current parliament and president are working for the Western world, but then you also say that the UAE and Kenya have been interfering with their own predatory motives as well.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: That is correct.
ANN GARRISON: Are they allies of the US, and are they collaborating in this?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: The UAE is interfering and bribing politicians in Somalia, mostly in the states of Puntland, Somaliland, Galmudug, and Hirshabelle, and in the capital, Mogadishu, and they are working with the US. Neither they nor any of the other foreign powers can go ahead and interfere in Somalia unless the US and the UK give them the green light.
Kenya interfered in Somali politics when Uhuru Kenyatta was president. There have been thousands of Kenyan troops occupying Jubaland since 2011 as part of the UN mission, but the new president, William Ruto, seems to be improving Kenya’s foreign policy towards Somalia and trying to change Somalis’ perception of Kenya. He just wants to be a good neighbor and good business partner with Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
ANN GARRISON: There seem to be endlessly destabilizing subplots.
The Kenyan military collaborates with Al Shabaab to smuggle charcoal from Somalia to the Gulf States. They cut down trees in a desert nation for this.
The Gulf States and other neighboring countries are scrambling to control Somali ports. The UAE is already operating the Berbera port in Somaliland, the one where the US wants a naval base, without the agreement of the federal government. It is also in the process of buying into the Bosaso port in Puntland.
There are reports that the UAE also wants to develop and run the Kismayo port operations in Jubbaland, but that Kenya wants that port too. And Turkey seems to be buying into the Mogadishu port.
Uganda and Burundi’s governments make a lot of money by contributing troops to the UN peacekeeping mission that’s supposed to be fighting Al Shabaab, and the troops make a lot more money than they would at home. So the last thing they want to do is defeat Al Shabaab.
Local authorities strike illegal oil drilling deals bypassing the federal government in Mogadishu, particularly in Somaliland and Puntland, and Kenya inked a deal to drill in waters that the International Court of Justice has ruled belong to Somalia.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: And the private military security companies headquartered at Halane, the Green Zone, they do what they will. They run their own illegal mining and smuggling operations. They blow up mountains to get to the minerals.
ANN GARRISON: Last November, Middle East Eye reported that Egypt and the UAE had recruited a mercenary army of 3000 impoverished young Somali men. The purpose wasn’t clear, but Egypt’s involvement made Ethiopians nervous that Egypt could use these young men to destabilize Ethiopia because of their ongoing struggle over Nile River waters and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: That’s just one more example of how foreigners benefit from Somalia’s weakness and fragmentation. One more tale of 1001 lawless nights in Somalia.
ANN GARRISON: This sounds almost as bad as the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: It’s a similar chaos.
ANN GARRISON: I visited Somalia’s neighbor Eritrea, which seemed to be the opposite of Somalia. I saw a poor country on a slow but steady development path, with a calm, relaxed atmosphere. It was peaceful, no one was begging or sleeping on the streets, and I never once thought to clutch my pocketbook, but I can’t remember seeing any armed military or police. It may have just been so calm that I failed to notice a cop or two.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: I have been to Eritrea too and I confirm everything you say. Eritrea is not the way the Western media are reporting. They are wholly negative about Eritrea. But the opposite of everything they say is true.
Eritrea is working to become fully food sufficient in 2030 and so far, they have cultivated 600,000 hectares out of 2.1 million hectares of arable land. In Eritrea housing, education, and health are free or relatively inexpensive compared to neighboring states.
Eritrea is also a debt free country. It has escaped the debt trap crippling most African nations, but none of its countless Western critics ever mention that. They hate Eritrea being debt free because that means it can’t be strangled into submission by the IMF, the World Bank, and the other global banking operations.
ANN GARRISON: Eritrea also has only one military and command structure, as a sovereign nation should, unlike Somalia.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Yes, unlike Somalia! Where you couldn’t count the number of military forces and commands! In Somalia there are US troops, AFRICOM troops, UN troops, and clan militias — all of which are supposed to be fighting Al Shabaab. How could all those troops, with all that firepower, fight Al Shabaab for 14 years without defeating them? You won’t find an eight-year-old child in Somalia who believes that all those troops are really fighting Al Shabaab!
On top of all that there are the private military security companies I already mentioned, who run wild in every direction.
And meanwhile, the Somali Armed Forces are very weak and poorly armed because the UN has imposed an arms embargo on Somalia since 1992.
ANN GARRISON: I remember that the UN Security Council renewed that embargo last year despite Somalia and the African Union’s objections. Russia, China, Gabon and Ghana abstained in support of Somalia and the African Union.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Yes.
ANN GARRISON: What are the US troops doing there if they’re not really fighting Al Shabaab?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Al Shabaab is the US excuse for military presence to control resources and dominate militarily. But Al Shabaab would not exist if the US had not organized the Ethiopian proxy invasion and occupation of Somalia from 2006 to 2009, when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was still in power in Ethiopia.
Al Shabaab extremists emerged when the TPLF invaded and overthrew the Islamic Courts. The Courts were not extremist, but Al Shabaab is, and Al Shabaab emerged when the Courts fell. Many Somalis believe that the US literally organized Al Shabaab, but whether that is true or not, Al Shabaab would not exist without the US, and they are very well armed despite the arms embargo.
ANN GARRISON: Eritrea has a strong state. It trains and controls its own security forces, refuses to collaborate with AFRICOM, and protects its 600 miles of Red Sea coast, despite relentless condemnation by the US/EU/NATO nations and their press. It was recently reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Eritrea talking to President Isaias Afwerki about logistical and transit opportunities presented by the Red Sea port of Massawa and its airport.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: If Somalia controlled its own coast, Eritrea and Somalia would control 3000 miles of nearly contiguous coastline in some of the most geostrategic waters in the world, with only Djibouti’s 230 miles between them.
That would be one of the West’s worst nightmares. That’s one of the main reasons why the US wasn’t willing to tolerate the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Cooperation Between Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea signed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, and then Somali President Farmaajo in 2018.
Clan versus modern state systems
ANN GARRISON: A popular vote would replace the 4.5 clan system in place now. Could you explain the 4.5 system?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: The 4.5 formula gives equal numbers of parliamentarians to four “major” clans, Hawiye, Rahanweyn, Dir (including Isaaq clan) and Daarood. Each of these clans have 61 seats in the Lower House, the House of the People. That’s 244 seats. The other 31 seats are reserved for minor clans, but there’s been no census since 1979, so it’s not really clear what the numbers in these clans are. The Upper House, the Senate, where there are 54 seats, is chosen by the states.
This system emerged during the Somali Civil War that began with state collapse in 1991. The war had been going on for nine years when the UN and the international community organized a regional conference held in Arta, Djibouti, to try to end it in 2000. At that conference, the former US-backed TPLF regime in Ethiopia, together with US-backed President Ismail Omar Geele of Djibouti, imposed this 4.5 formula on Somalia in order to widen divisions among the Somali clans and prolong the war.
ANN GARRISON: That was during the 20-year period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the US pretty much had its way with the world, including the UN, so I think we can assume that the US approved this plan.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: I agree.
ANN GARRISON: It’s probably important to say here that “clan” is distinct from ethnicity. This is no doubt oversimplification, but Somalis in large part share one language, culture, and religion, no? So I don’t think you suffer from ethnic conflict in the same way that neighboring Ethiopia does.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: That’s right. We don’t have competing ethnicities like those in Ethiopia.
ANN GARRISON: What purpose did the clan system serve before colonialism and national boundaries?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Clans once controlled and defended territory that nomadic pastoralists used to graze and water herds. But the population can now move freely from one region to another in nearly all of Somalia.
Where does the division and clan tension come from if the people can move freely, not worried about entering another clan’s territory? It comes from the politicians and the elites who abuse the old clan system, especially where clan identity is still strong, to attain power, resources, and land, and enrich themselves.
ANN GARRISON: At what point did clans stop competing for territory to graze and water herds? Or did they?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: The indigenous clan system of governance collapsed when the modern state of Somalia was born with independence in 1960. Between 1960 and 1969 it still existed but it was weak. In 1969, the military took power, introduced what they called scientific socialism, and launched a massive public infrastructure campaign to make Somalia a modern state. That further killed the clan system.
ANN GARRISON: I believe that the majority of the population continued the nomadic pastoralist life well into this century, so how did the state mediate competing claims for territory to graze and water herds?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: The state used its military might. It deployed security to the areas where clan wars were taking place. It reached out to the clan elders to facilitate mediation between the clans. In some cases, it used force to recover stolen livestock.
ANN GARRISON: There have been, I believe, two minority populations, farmers and fishermen, in addition to the nomadic pastoralist majority. How did the clan system apply to them?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: The farming and fishing communities which are the minority communities have no clan issues between themselves. Clan conflict is strong in the nomadic society.
The fishing communities settled in coastal towns centuries ago and the political allocation of power treats them as one clan. Most of them are originally from the Arab world, Persia, and even Portugal. And former slaves. These communities became part of Somali society.
The farming communities are Somali Bantu and are also treated as though they were one clan.
ANN GARRISON: “Clans” and “clan elders” have a positive resonance, suggesting local customs and traditions, but you’re describing a system thoroughly corrupted by foreign influence and selfish interest.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Yes.
ANN GARRISON: Do clans serve any positive purpose in Somalia now?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Clan elders serve the community well in some cases. They mediate between warring clans and tribes within clans. Clan members support each other financially and compensate families for the death of clan members in clan conflict.
ANN GARRISON: What do clans war about now, if not about territory for grazing and watering herds?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: The clans now are fighting power at the local and national level. They are struggling for power and influence in the political system.
ANN GARRISON: Farmaajo, in his master’s thesis, wrote that some of the population came to seek political power in government rather than clans, but without abandoning clan alliances. I believe the two of you agree that Somali citizenship will have to supersede clan identity and alliance in order for Somalia to survive, much as Ethiopian citizenship will have to supersede ethnic identity for Ethiopia to survive.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Yes, that’s how it should be. To safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia, the nation must put citizenship before clan identity. That’s the only way the state of Somalia can survive.
ANN GARRISON: And a popular vote—one-person-one-vote—is essential to that project?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Yes, if citizens, not clans, elect their leaders, that will minimize the clan division and corruption in Somalia. Citizens need to be able to make their own choices regardless of their clan, based on a candidate’s principles and ability to lead. That would destroy the domination of the 4.5 clan formula, which has become a kind of political mafia system, including the corruption by foreign powers.
ANN GARRISON: I studied the reports about the struggle for a popular vote going back to 2017, when a national electoral commission began planning a one-person-one-vote election to take place in 2021, before Farmaajo and the sitting parliament’s terms expired. So maybe you can tell me what you think of my summary.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: I’ll be glad to do that.
ANN GARRISON: In December 2019, the lower house of parliament voted to implement one-person-one-vote.
In February 2020, the upper house passed the same legislation and Farmaajo signed it into law two weeks later.
In May 2020, UN News reported that Somalia was on a path to holding its first one-person-one-vote elections in 51 years, despite COVID-19, but then the plan started going South. Governments of the Federal Member States started refusing to cooperate, especially Somaliland, Puntland, and Jubaland, the three states most allied with the US, UK, Kenya and the UAE. Tensions mounted and election deadlines were missed.
in November 2020, the Brookings Institution reported that Western powers had bullied Farmaajo into giving up on one-person-one-vote elections:
“Under pressure from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations, Mohamed gave up on the one-person, one-vote ambition in September 2020, and Somalia’s political leaders accepted the so-called Mogadishu Model: Clan elders, nominated by clans and verified by federal and state authorities, select electoral college delegates. These electoral colleges, set up for each lower-chamber parliamentary seat, select the parliamentary representatives; the parliamentary representatives then select the president. State assemblies select members of the upper chamber.”
Nevertheless, Mogadishu and the Federal Member States continued to clash, unable to agree to a process. Election deadlines were missed again, violence broke out, and by April 7, 2021, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) wrote:
“Somalia’s parliamentary and presidential elections are set to take place amidst a general climate of political tensions and violence. A constitutional crisis stoked by months of political deadlock between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmaajo’ and the opposition threatens to escalate into a violent conflict pitting federal forces against state-based militias, as well as armed clans with competing loyalties.”
Within another week, the sitting parliament passed a measure extending their terms and Farmaajo’s for two years until one-person-one-vote elections could be held. Farmaajo signed it into law, and the US immediately condemned him, threatening sanctions and aid cuts, without acknowledging that a popular vote was at issue.
Did you approve of this measure to extend terms for two years? Did you believe it was sincerely intended to renew the commitment to one-person-one-vote?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Yes. Farmaajo and the sitting parliament were still trying to defend one-person-one-vote.
ANN GARRISON: OK, then six months later, in September 2021, you were abducted by Kenyan police working as mercenaries, held for 12 days, then released with warnings to stay out of Somali and Ethiopian affairs, to stop supporting Farmaajo, to stop opposing Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, and to warn your colleagues to do the same. Who is former Prime Minister Roble?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Mohammed Hussein Roble was the most corrupt Prime Minister Somalia ever had. He became fabulously wealthy in 18 months, taking bribes from foreigners and regional member states to implement their corrupt deals. He turned the Office of the Prime Minister into his personal business operation, and opposed one-person-one-vote.
ANN GARRISON: So I take it you were abducted by mercenaries working for him and his cronies?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: By Kenyan police working as mercenaries.
ANN GARRISON: In December 2021, the US State Department demanded “credible, transparent, and inclusive parliamentary and presidential elections,” again without acknowledging that a popular vote was at issue.
Also in December 2021, in the House Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, Somali American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, asked US Under Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee to deploy a “carrot and stick” approach to pressure Somalia to hold “proper elections.” Like the State Department, she failed to acknowledge that a popular vote was at issue:
Ilhan Omar: Speaking of the East African region, we know that Somalia has failed to have elections for over a year now. That conflict is still happening. What is the US position on trying to pressure the Somali government to engage in a process that allows for proper elections to take place?
Molly Phee: We agree with you absolutely that the elections are critical, first to complete the parliamentary elections so that the state is set to move to the presidential election. That is a part of our engagement with the government, all the parties in Somalia, and with all the many regional and international actors who are also active in Somalia, so that there’s a unified message.
We’re also looking now, as you know the AMISOM [the UN “peacekeeping” operation] mandate is about to expire, and we’re looking at how that mandate can be reconfigured to support both the political process and the fight against Al Shabaab. So there is no neglect of that situation. It remains tough to convince the parties to move in the right direction. There has been some progress in the parliamentary elections, but it needs to be more and it needs to be done more quickly to help Somalia get on a path to self sufficiency. So that is an area of active discussion, again, with Somali leaders and with our partners in the African Union and in Europe, who are financing part of AMISOM.
Ilhan Omar: And to my colleagues point earlier, with the carrot and stick, what mechanisms are we using to make sure that Somalia understand what our position is and takes the proper course?
Molly Phee: I think one of the lessons that we learned from Afghanistan that I personally learned, and that Secretary Blinken learned, is doing more of the same is not necessarily sufficient, so there’s a real effort to make clear to the Somalis that they cannot depend indefinitely on international assistance and that they need to play a role in leading and managing their own country. So that is a spirit that is infusing our approach to Somalia.
On December 27, 2021, she tweeted that Farmaajo should go:
Farmaajo is a year past his mandate. It's time for him to step aside, and for long overdue elections to proceed as soon as possible. https://t.co/f08bSjOJrm
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 27, 2021
In January 2022, the US again threatened sanctions, and in February, it imposed sanctions on Somali officials because of the election delays.
In late February 2022, the International Monetary Fund, where the US has veto power, finally threatened to cut funding that Somalia depends on if it didn’t complete the clan-based elections by May. The Caravel, Georgetown University’s international affairs publication, reported:
“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has threatened to halt their program in Somalia after a long-postponed national election. The IMF program supports funding for military wages and other essential services in Somalia and it is set to expire in May if there are any further delays to the presidential election. That review of the IMF supportive program for Somalia needs to be completed by May 17, if it is not completed by that date the program automatically terminates,’ declares Laura Jaramillo Mayor, the fund’s mission chief for the country.
“If these funds are terminated, it would severely impact the country’s budget and threaten an agreement to reduce their debt from $5.2 billion in 2018 to $557 million, Mayor explained. Somali Finance Minister Abdirahman Beileh, however, dismissed those concerns, stating, “We are confident that elections will be concluded in time so as to not affect the reform program. There have been no major challenges in meeting the IMF conditions thus far, and we do not anticipate any.”
In April, 2022 the parliamentary elections were finally completed. The BBC produced a report on the years-long process titled “Somalia’s elections – where the people don’t vote.”
On May 16, 2022, the day before the critical IMF funding was set to expire, the new Somali parliament elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the infamously corrupt previous president, to replace Farmaajo.
Throughout the process, the US had posed as defenders of democracy by insisting that elections be held, when in fact it:
1) thwarted a popular vote by encouraging the Puntland and Jubaland governors to resist one-person-one-vote,
2) pressured Farmaajo and the sitting parliament to give up on one-person-one-vote in the face of the resistance,
3) insisted that the corrupt, clan-based parliamentary elections go forward, so the corrupt parliament could elect the corrupt president, and,
4) finally threatened to cut off the IMF funding that Somalia depends on if a parliament and president were not in place by May 17, 2023.
Did I miss anything important?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: No, that is a very good summary of what happened.
ANN GARRISON: OK then, just a few final points.
Western style elections with a popular vote are also infamously corruptible. In the US we have government corrupted by political campaign donors, but it’s not called corruption because it’s legal and out in the open. In a 2010 interview, Everything You Are Not Supposed to Know about Eritrea, the Somali Ethiopian Belgian scholar Mohammed Hassan said:
“In Africa, political parties don’t exist and multi-party democracy doesn’t work. This is above all because this political model gives rise to divisions. In the Congo, for example, there are almost as many political parties as inhabitants. The aim of all that is to divide people, no longer according to their tribes as in the past, but according to their political parties. These are low intensity democracies.
“Besides, the multi-party system doesn’t work in Africa because this model is a Trojan horse for the imperialists. The neocolonialists fix the democratic game by financing candidates that best meet their requirements: access to raw materials for their multinationals, support in foreign affairs, etc. With the multi-party system in Africa, the imperialists tell you every 4 or 5 years, ‘Go and vote for the candidates we have chosen for you. They will make you poor and kill you. Vote for them!’”
What makes you think the multiparty, one-person, one-vote system will work in Somalia?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: A popular vote will greatly expand participation, letting the people elect their leaders, and those elected will be judged on their performance, whether in the parliament or the presidency. The only other way out of the 4.5 clan system would be a military coup.
The political leaders will perform knowing too well that after four or five years they will be back to the citizens seeking another term to serve if he or she didn’t perform, then he or she knows they will be voted out. Such elections would reveal what the public value and want to see their government do for them. With the kind of election system we have now we don’t know what the people want because they are not voting.
ANN GARRISON: Does this mean that you disagree with what Mohammed Hassan said in that interview or that you think Somalia is suited to make a success of a popular vote at this point in its history?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: I think Somalia is ready for one-person-one-vote at this time. It can succeed because Somalis have seen the negative impact of the current electoral system where few have a say. People are eager to vote; they have been demanding the right to vote for years.
ANN GARRISON: It is difficult to steal an election from a candidate who would win in a landslide, as you say Farmaajo would. That kind of popular will would be difficult to hide.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: The people would elect parliamentarians who would elect Farmaajo. There is no doubt about that.
ANN GARRISON: What makes Farmaajo so popular that you say he would win in a landslide?
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: Farmaajo is a nationalist and a patriot who loves his country, not his own selfish interests. He strengthened the federal parliament and reduced the power of the federal member states.
He set out to build a sovereign Somali military under a single, unified command. Under his leadership Somalia trained between ten and twenty professional soldiers. It sent 5000 Somali troops for special training in Eritrea.
He tried to stop the UAE’s direct deal with the breakaway state of Somaliland.
He seized $10 million that the UAE was smuggling into Somalia to pursue its own ends.
He kicked Kenya’s ambassador out of the country for continually interfering in Somalia’s internal affairs.
He refused to sign an agreement to the continuation of Project Atalanta, the European Union navy patrol off Somalia’s coast. He thought Somalia should have its own navy and its own coast guard to stop all the fish looting and toxic dumping that this EU navy has no interest in stopping. Many Somalis believe that Project Atalanta actually facilitates all this mostly European coastal aggression.
He negotiated the gradual departure of the UN peacekeeping mission that’s failed to keep the peace in Somalia since 2007. Now, with Farmaajo gone, the drawdown of 2000 troops scheduled for December 2022 has been postponed to June 2023 and future deadlines will likely be missed again.
He told foreign interests that Somalia belongs to Somalis, and blocked an agreement with the US firm Coastal Oil Exploration. That agreement was back in play within a week of his departure from Villa Somalia.
During his tenure Somalia secured debt relief.
And unlike the current president, who greatly enriched himself the first time he was in office, and the whole clan-based system, Farmaajo is not corrupt.
ANN GARRISON: Not having enriched himself in office, Farmaajo was renting a place to live in Mogadishu when he left office. The people of Somalia organized a GoFundMe campaign to build him a house with an office and a library so that he could continue to be effective in Somalia’s political life. That’s a pretty strong testament to how the people feel about him.
ABDIWAHAB SHEIKH ABDISAMAD: He is the best leader that Somalis have known.
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She attended Stanford University and is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. In 2014 she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at @AnnGarrison, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
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Tags: Africa, Bullying, Corruption, Hegemony, Horn of Africa, Imperialism, Somalia, USA
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