June 30, 2012 ·43 Comments
BY ABDISAMAD MOOGE
As the scheduled deadline looms fast for Somalia to get rid of its already-worn-out transitional shirt after two decades on life-support – its transitional leader is seeking to reinvent his own image and leave his name on the history pages of Somali politics.
After three-long years being stuck on an unattractive shirt associated with symptoms such as terrorism, piracy, anarchy and archetypical failed state– President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed is looking for a new status. He no longer wants to be known as the “transitional” leader but as the permanent Somali President.
The international community hopes to resubmit a new Somali nation with a new constitution, parliament and a president to the League of Nations as of August 20th, 2012. In May of this year, Somali leaders meeting in Addis Ababa agreed to form a new parliament as well appoint a new speaker and a president in the span of less than 30 days.
Ahmed said he was ready for the challenges including ending the political process on time but he insisted that it was not the end of him vowing to continue his legacy in the battered nation.
While visiting Nairobi to sign the draft constitution, he made his intention all too clear saying he wants another term. “My services are available to Somalia if I am trusted with the job for another term,” President Ahmed told AFP last week.
The 48-year-old is tipped to win another term according to regional political analysts but have warned that it will not be an easy victory. Faisal Abdi Roble, a Somali writer based in California told the VOA that Ahmed’s candidacy sets up a likely showdown in the elections between himself and his current Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali.
“I think his number 1 challenger is the prime minister who is an American-educated professor of economics, and the first prime minister in the history of the transitional government of Somalia to have succeeded to show benchmarks and deliverables regarding the roadmap,” he said.
Another presidential hopeful, Dr. Saeed Issa Mohamud of People’s Party of Somalia denounced Ahmed’s candidacy last Friday in what he said was a plan to keep Somalia “in the hands of corrupt officials” by the international community.
Dr. Mohamud, also educated in the United States, launched his campaign trail last week outside Mogadishu ahead of all the other unknown number of contenders turning to local tribal elders for votes.
Unlike the Western elections and their battleground states, the Somali presidential election will be decided by 225 members of yet to be formed federal parliament. An arbitration committee, formed on 26th May, 2012, of Somalia’s four major clans and a fifth clan (an alliance of minority clans) are tasked to choose the 225 legislators based on a tribal power-sharing system locally known as 4.5 formula.
This means the four major clans will have to fill up their 50 allocated parliamentary seats from their own tribes while the remaining 25 MPs are to be divided between the minority groups. The 135 tribal-member arbitration committee must form a parliament before 20th July, 2012, the agreed swearing in day. Once sworn in a speaker and his deputy will be elected among the MPs, and then a new president.
Before the formation of a federal parliament, the arbitration committee faces the daunting task of establishing a National Constituent Assembly (NCA) of 825 clan-based representatives who are selected using the same 4.5 formula. According to the country’s timetable for transition, the NCA must gather in Mogadishu by June 30th, 2012, and deliberate and ratify the eight years in the making draft constitution.
This year tribal elders have more say in the political affairs of Somalia more than any time in its modern history.
This week president Ahmed, the former Quranic teacher, launched his own strategy to win the upcoming caucus vote. As the countdown clock approaches August 20, the former Chief of the Islamic Courts Union is wooing powerful tribal leaders and other key players for votes.
According to observers in Mogadishu Mr. Ahmed is striking deals with various players throughout Somalia, who will guide the votes of legions of their MPs. He is confident that he will secure majority of the vote from the Hawiye MPs and large proportion of the Digil and Mirifle (Rahawein) parliamentarians. If the two major clans do back the incompetent transitional president he will score at least 44 percent of the total vote.
Some observers say Mr. Ahmed enjoys a wide support throughout Somalia and amongst the international community, which gives him an easier path than his unknown opponents. The international community will definitely try to influence the vote without interfering in Somalia’s internal affairs. For the past three years he worked with them, he made considerable progress.
Ahmed, a member of south Somalia’s dominant Hawiye, is trying to secure the backing of the Dir, also a major clan, promising rewards. This week he met with the President of Somaliland, a northern region seeking independence, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud “Silanyo” in Dubai for two day talks for the first time in two decades between the two sides.
Even though Somaliland wants to maintain its own separate nation, most of the Dir clan representatives in the Somali parliament hail from the region and Mr. Ahmed wants their endorsement. Somaliland informed the international community that it will support Somalia’s transition process and accept its outcome. This support now means rallying behind its members of Parliament in Mogadishu and guiding their votes.
During the meeting hosted by the government of UAE, he met with President Silanyo from the dominant Isaaq clan and Somaliland opposition leader Dahir Riyale Kahin of Samaroon clan – both clans are members of the larger Dir clan.
According to insiders, the deal between Silanyo and Ahmed covers many areas including politics and trade of many things. On Friday Mr. Ahmed reportedly signed a multimillion dollar deal with Somaliland and Dubai Ports World, which will see the logistics company manage the Somaliland port of Berbera. The agreement is a joint venture between Somaliland, DP World, Somalia and Djibouti. As well asking Dir MPs to vote for Ahmed, it is believed that Somaliland will also financially contribute to his re-election. President Ahmed has told sources close to him that he needs about $50 million for the election.
If the current president is re-elected in post-transition Somalia, a lot of people believe he will positively contribute to Somaliland. Even though he will not grant them their diplomatic recognition wish, he is expected to sign agreements that pave the way for direct foreign investments.
The deal does also mean Somalia will not fund nor support Somaliland’s own separatist groups who claim that they are fighting on behave of the government in Mogadishu. This argument becomes invalid as now Mogadishu can deal with Somaliland directly.
Upon his return from Dubai on Saturday, he met with Somali clan elders in the Somali capital informing them that he issued an apology statement to the northern Somalis for the past military abuses.
“If your brother voices a complaint against you, the right thing to do is to say sorry. We are happy to discuss what happened in the past; however it was a system that its faults have touched everyone. Who was responsible for that act?” he told them.
During the Siad Bare regime, southern forces killed about 50,000 people from mainly the Isaaq clan who began a decade-long war against the socialist government. The fact that Sheikh Sharif not only acknowledges the abuses but also makes his responsibility to apprehend those that we responsible including general Hersi Morgan. The Isaaq people will welcome this development who were seeking the south to acknowledge the massacre.
While the TFG president took a low profile delegation with him to Dubai, Silanyo brought with him some heavy artillery including Muse Bihi Abdi, the chairman of the ruling Kulmiye party, Faisal Ali Warabe, opposition leader of UCID, Dahir Riyale Kahin, former President and opposition leader of UDUB and parliamentarians and special advisers.
Despite their internal differences, the Somaliland delegation spoke in one voice and fully embraced their southern negotiators.
Before the vote, Sheikh Sharif is expected to embark on a campaign to rally his supporters and Somali clan elders. Many say that he is on track to emphatically confirm his hold on the leadership as several elements of his re-election strategy seems to come together all at once. The backing of the Dir clan will mean he now has support in South Somalia, Djibouti, Somaliland and Ethiopia. If re-elected an insider closed to the Somaliland side said, he might visit Hargeisa. No leader from the south has been to Hargeisa for over twenty years.
The talks between President Ahmed and his counterpart have been mainly welcomed by the Hawiye and Dir clans. On Friday a large crowd rallied throughout Mogadishu in favor of the dialogue while regional leaders of Hiiraan described as a “step in the right direction”. A spokesman for the administration said President Ahmed’s re-election is must in order to continue the dialogue.
After more than twenty years of failed state, Sheikh Sharif hopes to become the first official Somali president since the ouster of Dictator Mohamed Siad Bare in 1991. This will mean he will no longer have to go through so many committees, foreign approvals and meetings just to carry out his responsibilities. No more transitional mandate.
He has the backing of all Somalia’s major and minor clans including PM Abdiweli’s Darod and thus his re-election is imminent. He has not only started negotiations to form a national unity government to overcome deep political divisions but he is also reaching out to everyone in Somalia.
The international community has warned with sanctions anyone who maybe an obstacle to Somalia’s long awaited reconciliation and a permanent government.
Unlike the previous election rallies, this year’s vote is more crucial than ever in the modern Somali political history. Whoever is declared a winner by the Somali tribal caucuses will no doubt cement his name forever in Somali history.
As the deadline approaches Somali leaders are racing to the finishing line. So far Sheikh Sharif, the under estimated Qur’an teacher and black-horse of the Somali politics seems to have all the momentum for a second term. Currently he is rallying the NCA to quickly ratify the constitution before its expiry date.
By Abdisamad Mooge “Kayse”
June 30, 2012Follow @somalilandpress
By Sahra Farah