EDITORIAL | After nearly a week of meetings in Dhusamareb, the capital of the state of Galmudug, Somalia’s leaders failed to decide which electoral model to choose. They could not agree on the date of the election or even the participants.
Instead, leaders allegedly ‘agreed’ on timely elections. With all the funfair and photo ops in Galmudug, Somalia’s political leaders failed to guide ordinary citizens about their political future.
There are those who claim that the mere acceptance of meeting by President Farmaajo, Prime Minister Hassan Khaire and leaders from Puntland, Hirshabelle, Jubaland, Southwest and Galmudug was an advertising coup.
Fair enough, this was a first physical meeting in more than a year. The last such meeting could not agree on national security priorities last year in May; leaves an empty area in a key policy for the country.
The events leading up to the Dhusamareb Conference, as this meeting has been known, had only portrayed uncertainty. Leaders farted about a place, and when they almost met, they did not begin to agree on an agenda. As an initial meeting was scheduled in Mogadishu, it could not be realized. another indication of mistrust.
So when they gathered in Dhusamareb, there were many things on their hill: Covid-19 ravaged the land with 3135 infections and 93 deaths; uncertainty over elections, a failing economy due to various natural disasters and al-Shabaab.
Yet Covid-19 was not even mentioned in the shipments in Dhusamareb. Was it an oversight? Some leaders argued that the biggest issue in the room was elections. But even that left questions. After days of talking, ‘Somalia’s leaders agreed that the election was not delayed. But they did not say when it would be held.
They agreed to form a joint technical committee to advise on the election model. They agreed to meet in fourteen days to discuss progress. We believe leaders used Dhusamareb to kick the can down the road. This was the summit on leadership in the country.
If there was any decision that needed to be made, it was now. The President came to the meeting with great awareness that the National Independent Electoral Commission had admitted that it was unable to hold elections on time, referring to lack of money, proper legal regime and quarrel between members of the FMS and the federal government.
That they had gathered for once was a better opportunity to tackle these concerns. So why could the president not publicly propose his preferred election model? Why did managers choose to use a technical committee whose recommendations may still not be agreed? If the leaders could not agree on a model this time, then can they change their mind in fourteen days? And will the NIEC now be forced to hold elections on a schedule that it has already waived?
The Electoral Commission will, of course, need plenty of reassurance and support, including independence.
Farmajo’s speech at the end of the federal government’s and federal state conference signaled that he was not happy with the communication and seems to need further consultations with his circle back in Mogadishu. His decision, we believe, can help the yet-formed committee to work fruitfully to study the modality of the election.
But there was further confusion. Prior to this meeting, the lower house had adopted electoral regulations that were apparently indicative of one-person-one-vote. No matter how controversial, the rules that Farmaajo has now approved constitute a legal arrangement. Will the technical committee approve them? Will the committee have the legal authority to ignore these rules? Therefore, the President should have risen to provide guidance on a national matter. Instead, his office issued a rally defense against allegations that he was interfering in the election commission or parliament. Of course, the President, like any other Somali national, retains the right to defend his reputation. However, we urge leaders to put national interest ahead of personality profiles.
Granted, this conference opened up important lines of contact for the future. But failure to address an ongoing issue that should have been the biggest issue means there was a failure on the part of the president and other leaders.
While leaders smiled and shook hands, Somalis cannot afford to be fooled now into thinking things will run smoothly. What is needed now is a commitment that elections can be held before the end of the year and that there will be sufficient political will to do so.
Otherwise, Phase II of Dhusamareb could end up creating false hope for Somalis.