EDITORIAL | It is not every day that Somalis have emerged from smiles. That is why the whole country is celebrating the success of Prime Minister Hussein Roble’s marathon talks with federal presidents, which led to an agreement on Thursday.
Somalis have been so tired of the constant wrestling that a political agreement announced on Thursday looked like a monkey pulling our backs. It has taken more than eight months to try and fail. At one point, the stakeholders dug into each other’s heels and accused each other of having bothered the country’s political calendar.
And as we said here, the ultimate responsibility for achieving that always rested on the good will of the federal government. What was achieved on Thursday deserves a pat on the back from Prime Minister Roble and federal leaders in Jubbaland, Northeastern State, South West, Galmudug and Hirshabelle.
Still, the deal will amount to nothing if the country does not hold free and fair elections. It is true that the Somalis were tired of fighting and even more tired of the endless cycle of election delays. But no Somali wants a shortcut to the election.
The election agreement agreed on Thursday provides for indirect elections, which is the least that Somalis expect. The original intention was to have universal suffrage; which Somalia has not had since 1969. To say that everyone was looking forward to the day when they will vote and directly decide how to remove vacant leaders would be an understatement. It has been delayed.
Yet the reality in Somalia controlled that idea. The lack of political will from the federal government, quarrels between stakeholders, financial constraints and security challenges combined to stop the plan.
Still, it did not kill the idea. Agreeing on an indirect election has been the compromise of most people to ensure the legitimacy of the leaders without harming Somalia’s reconstruction project. And Roble’s choice as a mediator for the talks was accepted by all because he really seemed to be looking for a solution. But he also knew that any mistakes would have recreated enmity and presented him as President Mohamed Farmajo’s hands and feet.
Now that we are here, PM Roble must understand that he will still be in the spotlight again as we move towards the implementation of the agreement.
People will demand that he plan everything openly; financial arrangements, security insurance, voting, billing and announcements; will all be monitored to see if incorrect moves are tolerated.
One reason people were cautious about the indirect election was how regular votes were bought or voters bribed to support a candidate. In the past, these deeds have been overlooked, arguing that Somalia was still a work in progress. Despite their pitfalls, Somalis elected a new government every election period for the past two decades
But after being involved for more than a decade, there will be no excuses this time. Somalia will need to hold an open ballot and ensure that at least 30 percent of the seats go to women.
With the festive atmosphere in the country today, Prime Minister Roble’s biggest and most important gift will reward the Somalis with a free and fair election.