In Mogadishu, leaders should approach conversations with honesty

EDITORIAL | The ongoing talks between President Farmaajo and leaders of Puntland and Jubaland need to be encouraged. From the beginning, there are many positive things that can come out of such meetings, but the most important is the hope it gives our country.

First, it has been the call of every stakeholder that political leaders approach discussions on election models and calendars with an open mind. Second, stakeholders have also called for leaders to work towards consensus and avoid unilateral movements that could harm any concerted effort to hold timely elections.

In Mogadishu, however, there are signs that this advice can be ignored in Villa Somalia. When the presidents said Abdullahi deni from Puntland and Mohamed Ahmed Madobe from Jubaland landed in Mogadishu on Wednesday, their offices said they came with an open mind. They said they expected the same approach from their host, President Farmaajo.

The first day began with a false start where the three simply ate dinner and ended the day without moving. The key question remained whether the other three federal state presidents should be present. It is true that Hirshabelle, South West and Galmudug had already signed the Dhusamareb III agreement, which stipulated how the next election should be held. The agreement did not say when elections will be held because parliament had to discuss it.

We believe that the presence of all federal heads of state can increase the credibility of any deal that comes out of Villa Somalia. If President Farmaajo was honest, he had no problem letting the other three be present. There are benefits for all regional leaders to attend this meeting.

First, the initial meeting in Galmudug, which resulted in the election agreement last month, may have received the support of some political opposition parties, but it still risked dividing the country into two halves: those for and those against. Somalia should not do things this way.

Second, the presence of the other federal heads of state could provide input into the decision the president is making with Jubaland and Puntland. There is no reason why an agreement with the two states cannot be met for the other three. In short, the presence of all these leaders can protect themselves from inclusion or problems that may cause disharmony in the future.

Third, the three federal heads of state can actually help update Dhusamareb III to include Puntland and Jubaland. We fear that their absence could allow Villa Somalia to divide and rule, something that could promote more disagreement.

It is true that Jubaland and Puntland had rebelled against the meeting in Galmudug because they feared that the environment prior to the meeting was not conducive. A prime minister had been fired, but he was tasked with overseeing a mixed committee.

By the time Dhusamareb III arrived, a new prime minister had not been appointed. This office still sits in a functioning property. And while Farmaajo retains powers to appoint a prime minister, he has not done so so far.

This has raised suspicions that the Villa Somalia meeting would precede his appointment, which in turn will paralyze the new prime minister to implement an election calendar. These suspicions could be true or false. But the president can help the case by explaining to all federal states why there have been delays in the appointment of a new prime minister.

By attending the meeting, Madobe and Deni have shown their intention to be statesmen rather than spoilers. But genuine honesty in Villa Somalia could be the most important thing to help the meeting.